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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+/B-
  • Video Rating: B+/C-
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Manga UK
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 400
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Macross Plus

Macross Plus Ultimate Edition

By Kim Wolstenholme     April 19, 2005
Release Date: June 24, 2002


Macross Plus Ultimate Edition
© Manga UK


What They Say
2040 AD Planet Eden. The Ministry of Defence is testing and developing a transforming super-sleuth aircraft: an advanced defense vessel to counter alien attacks. Isamu Dyson, the jet fighter maverick, is assigned as a test pilot competing against his old rival Guld. As a tale of technological espionage, computer generated pop stars and double crossing unfolds, Isamu must first win the battle of the skies before tackling Guld in the battle for his childhood sweethearts Myungs affections.

The Review!
Audio:

OVA
You have a choice of two audio tracks for the OVA as Manga have provided both the original Japanese 2.0 track as well as the remastered English dub in 5.1. I watched the whole of the OVA with the Japanese language track and noticed no problems with the sound. Dialogue was clear and the sound effects were represented well. This track will not show off your speaker setup by any means, but it does contain some directionality in the front sound stage.

The English 5.1 track also impressed me (and I’m not usually a fan of dub’s). The cast used for the dub were for the most part well chosen and replicated the emotional tone of the dialogue impressively well. However the main plus point for this soundtrack is the use of the surround speakers, especially during the aerial sequences. Overall an excellent remastered soundtrack.

Movie
Again Manga have provided you with a choice of the Japanese 2.0 or 5.1 soundtracks. A dubbed soundtrack was never done for the movie – so you obviously don’t get one. The 5.1 track is again quite impressive, but does not seem to be quite as good as the English 5.1 soundtrack for the OVA. This might be more to do with the fact that the movie is more dialogue driven with only a few aerial sequences. I did notice a couple of sound dropouts in the 5.1 track, and although they only lasted for a couple of seconds (at most), they were quite obvious.

The Japanese 2.0 track is comparable with the track provided for the OVA, mainly a functional soundtrack that does little to show off your speakers but still sounds good with clear dialogue.

Video: B+ / C-

OVA
There is certainly nothing wrong with the picture quality for the OVA’s. The picture is well defined and the use of the rich and vibrant colour palate comes across well with no colour bleeding or edge enhancement to be seen. The only slight problem with the picture is that sometimes shadows can come across as being too dark which leads to a loss of detail, however I only noticed this a couple of times.

Movie
Where the OVA excels in picture quality the movie is sadly lacking, which is a shame considering the movie uses many of the same animation sequences. Where the colours in the OVA are vibrant and rich, in the movie they are dull and almost lifeless. The picture is also very grainy and there were some instances of artifacting and edge enhancement. Overall this is disappointing when compared to the picture quality of the OVA.

The movie also has burnt in subtitles (i.e. there is no way to switch the subtitles off). This is not too much of a problem as the only soundtracks provided are in Japanese but it might annoy some people who prefer not to have burnt on subtitles.

Packaging: B-

The packaging on this release is 2 standard amaray cases covered with a thin cardboard sleeve with the Sharon Apple logo on the front. The first case is a 2 disk case and contains the OVA’s the second case contains just the movie. Both cases have the same design with the Sharon Apple logo taking up half of the front cover with 3 screen shots displayed underneath. The back of the OVA box contains a brief description of the series, whereas the movie box has a statement from the director about the movie. The packaging is not exactly imaginative, but it’s perfectly functional.

It’s worth pointing out that if you own the original pressing of the release you would have noticed that Manga failed to label the disks correctly. The disks are labeled as Episodes 1 & 2, Episodes 3 & 4 and The Movie. However the disk labeled as The Movie is actually episodes 1 & 2, the disk labeled episodes 1 & 2 is episodes 3 & 4, and finally the disk labeled episodes 3 & 4 is the movie. This is unfortunate as a bit of preproduction checking by Manga would have highlighted this error. Later pressings have all the disks labeled correctly, however if you do have the original release you’ll just have to put the disks in the correct order in the cases and ignore the labeling.

Menu: B

OVA
A nicely animated menu is presented with the Sharon Apple logo taking up the centre of the screen. The menu is quite stylish and an added bonus is the fact that you can select a specific chapter from an episode without having to go to another menu. The theme of the main menu is carried through all subsequent menus, although the other menus lose the background music. This same menu design is used for both disks that contain the OVA.

Movie
Another nicely designed menu can be found on the movie disk. The menu’s image is a close up of Sharon Apple in computer form with her central ‘eye’ taking up most of the screen, this is used to display sequences from the movie. The menu options are around the edge of the screen and are easy to select. Once again music from the movie plays over the main menu screen.

Extras: C-

Although this is a 3disk set there is not really that much on the extra’s front. On the disks containing the OVA’s there are a number of trailers for other Manga releases. These include Macross Plus, Blood the Last Vampire, Perfect Blue and Street Fighter Alpha.

Also included on the OVA disk are profiles for the main characters and the fighter planes. There is not much to say about these profiles other than they are very brief.

On the movie disk you will find an image gallery. This displays a slideshow of stills from the movie that are set to music. On reaching the end of the gallery you are automatically returned to the main menu.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Macross Plus is an extension of the original Macross universe set 40 years after the events in the original series. This box set from Manga consists of a 4 part OVA, and a movie, both of which cover the same story. This means that the two can be watched independently, and neither requires any prior knowledge of the Macross universe.

The story is set in the year 2040 where young hot-shot pilot Isamu Dyson is returning to his home planet of Eden. Isamu has been assigned as a test pilot for a new range of transforming fighter planes that are being developed, but what he doesn’t know is that an old acquaintance of his, Guld Bowman, is also taking part in the fighter trials in a rival plane. Bowman and Dyson used to be best friends, but something happened in their past that changed their friendship to rivalry and almost hatred of one another.

The tension between Bowman and Dyson only gets worse as Myung, another old acquaintance, arrives on Eden as the manager of the new virtual idol Sharon Apple. Bowman and Dyson end up not only competing for air supremacy but also for the love of the girl they both swore to protect no matter what happened.

The OVA comprises of four 45-minute episodes. While these episodes take their time to introduce characters and situations they never feel slow or boring. In fact it has quite the opposite effect as you get to know the characters and their back-story quite well during the course of the OVA.

Of the 3 Dyson comes over as by far the most infantile - he’s the embodiment of a hot-shot pilot who lives life on the edge but enjoys every minute of it. In contrast to this Bowman is a man of few words and is very methodical, but he is also quick to anger, especially when confronted by Dyson.

Myung comes across as a more complex character than either Dyson or Bowman. She is obviously unhappy in her job as Sharon Apple’s manager, but manages to hide her disappointment in order to provide the emotional centre for the virtual idol. Myung was expected to become a talented singer, but instead she lives the life of a pop-idol second hand through Sharon.

This is the major strong point of the OVA. By taking time to introduce the characters you get to build up more of a relationship with them and actually care what happens. Indeed while quite a few characters are introduced, all of them have some part to play and are (for the most part), more than just 2 dimensional stereotypes.

The other strong points for the OVA include the many aerial sequences where we get to see the transforming fighter planes in their full glory. These sequences are incredibly well executed and actually come across as fairly believable, as are the two Sharon Apple concerts. It’s nice to see an idea of how concerts may look in the future - although the monitoring of the audience by the Sharon Apple team is a little off-putting. Both of these aspects are also included in the movie version although they are slightly abridged due to the shorter running time.

As mentioned above the movie tells the same story as the OVA, with the same characters and plot only in a condensed form. The movie does include some additional scenes, but for the most part the same animation sequences are used in both.

The movie was made in order to ‘realise the directors ambition’, although it’s not clear as to what he wanted to achieve with this. Recently it has become more common for popular TV series to be revisited or reimagined in the form of a movie. Whilst this is not always a bad thing it sometimes feels as if the studios are cashing in on the popularity of a series without really adding anything to the original, and this certainly feels to be the case with the Macross Plus movie.

The movie lasts for just under 2 hours, which seems more than adequate, however I felt the pacing to be very inconsistent. The first 50 minutes cram the majority of the first 3 OVA episodes in, whilst the last hour seems to drag on. While there is enough happening to keep your attention many of the additions feel as if they are only there to fill the time.

For me the movie also lacks the ‘emotion connection’ with the characters that was built up during the course of the OVA. This really is a great shame as Myung, Bowman, Dyson and even Sharon Apple are great characters that deserve to be fleshed out.

This review would not be complete without mentioning the other major factor that both the movie and OVA have in common, which is the fantastic soundtrack by Yoko Kanno. The soundtrack is a highlight for both the OVA and the movie and, as with many of her soundtracks, Kanno manages to match the action on screen with the music perfectly. The standout track on the Macross Plus soundtrack is the song Voices. A hauntingly beautiful track which perfectly matches the themes of both the OVA and movie perfectly.

Macross Plus the OVA has a perfect blend of animation, story and soundtrack, unfortunately the movie as a result of the shorter running time, does not really do justice to either the story or the characters.

In Summary:

Macross Plus Ultimate Edition is a bit of a mixed bag. The OVA is highly enjoyable and looks fantastic, while the movie seems pale in comparison. The few added scenes in the movie do not really add that much to the overall story, although they do add a slightly more emotional charge to the ending. Maybe it depends on which one you watch first as to which you prefer, and I know that there are many fans who prefer the movie to the OVA, but as with many things it’s all down to personal preference.

With this in mind kudos must go to Manga, who decided to release the movie and OVA as a single package, which allows the viewer to decide which they prefer without having to pay a premium. In fact this is one of the better priced anime DVD’s on the UK market with a fairly low price point of around £20 for the 3 disk set.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Soundtrack (OVA and movie),Japanese 5.1 Soundtrack (movie only),English 5.1 Soundtrack (OVA),Character Profiles,Macross Plus Musical Photo Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic 42” Plasma, Arcam 88+ Prog Scan DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.

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