Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Visual USA, Inc.
  • MSRP: 49.98
  • Running time: 87
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series:

Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     November 29, 2007
Release Date: November 27, 2007


Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO Vol. #1
© Bandai Visual USA, Inc.


What They Say
The epic story of Gundam is taken into a new realm, where it takes the viewer deeper behind the lines of the One-Year War than ever before. See how the war was portrayed on the side of Zeon. Who is the true evil?

Episode 1: The Vanishing Serpent of Loum
Amidst the battlefield filled with mobile suits, a gunner's agonizing scream pierces through space. A flash from the soul spears through the fierce battle in Loum!

Episode 2: Howls Stained in Dusk
Underneath the scorching sun, a soldier's elegy lingers on the battlefield of fiery sands. The mobile tank's vengeful cannon fires at its archenemy Zaku!

Episode 3: Dance of the Orbital Ghosts
The phantom fighter rockets through space flooded with defeated soldiers. Buried in history, the prototype mobile suit Zuda's engine roars!

The Review!
There's a reason that many people call Universal Century Gundam series the real Gundam and even MS Igloo proves that perfectly.

Audio:
Universal Century Gundam series have had an odd time of it in the US and MS Igloo only adds to that. While the original TV series came over in dub only form, the movies were sub only and the OVAs were bilingual. MS Igloo goes with the subtitle only route and utilizes both a stereo mix and a 5.1 mix. Bandai Visual USA puts just about everyone else to shame as I believe this is the first time I've seen a stereo mix encoded at 448 kbps, the same as the 5.1 mix. Both are quite good overall when it comes to the forward soundstage in terms of placement, directionality and depth. The 5.1 mix is one that feels like it should have been stronger with the rear channels and bass though as the potential is there but not followed through on. Some of the scenes have big battle moments to them that would have more impact if they'd done so. The end result though is both mixes are quite good and they convey what was intended.

Video:
Originally given a limited DVD release in Japan back in 2004, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Being an all CGI series, there are different things to look for here than with most other anime series. In general, this is a very slick looking production which has an average bitrate of 8.5 and several peaks into the mid 9's. Most of the time everything looks fantastic and what few issues there are seem to be source related. The most prominent one is the banding that's visible during certain sequences. These have the advantage of not causing any blocking or severe noise but the effect of the show is lessened. The first episode is the worst for this when it comes to the "glow" that many ships give off in the space scenes. The other is that some of the backgrounds, which use the drab military greens for walls, tend to show a touch of noise in some of the busier scenes. It's very minimal but on our setup it was noticeably from time to time.

Packaging:
With a stark white background, this cover stands out as it doesn't have the feeling of most other Gundam series. The white draws a lot of attention to the mechanical designs which don't give off much of a CGI feeling to them. This installment presents us with the massive cannon as well as several Zaku suits, including an infamous red one. The back cover is well laid out with a brief premise along the top and a pair of lengthwise shots from the show that again really don't push the CGI angle that strongly. Each of the episodes is listed by number and title with a brief sentence or two of what they're about. The staff listing takes up a good chunk of space which abuts the bonus features listing. The technical grid is a very tiny strip that lists everything in a quick to read format if you hold it up close. While there is no reversible cover here, there is a booklet included with the release. While not a thick booklet, it has some real weight to it, enough so that you feel it when you pick up the keepcase. The first half of this all color piece goes through the stories of each of the three episodes and a rundown of the primary characters and the engineering challenges of the stories. What really makes this special though are the nine pages that goes through the series piece by piece with the director and how they approached many angles of it. With no big merchandising push behind this release, he's able to talk about how much freedom they had in the project. The remainder of the booklet is made up of episode highlights and a full staff breakdown.

Menu:
The menus for this release are pretty good though I continue to dislike how it stops the disc if you sit in the menu for too long. The initial load up isn't too long as it plays a few very short pieces from the show itself before settling on a dark and somewhat murky background image of various mechanical elements from the series. There isn't any music associated with it so no atmosphere is really built towards the show before you begin. Episode selection is at the top level as well as audio and subtitle options which isn't that bad considering its only one language. Navigation is pretty good throughout and I like that it defaults to subtitles on and the 5.1 language mix as well.

Extras:
The extras aren't anything that's going to wow anyone but they're welcome inclusions here. The bulk of it comes in the form of the next episode trailers for each of them and the clean versions of the single opening and all three endings. The endings are all similar in a way but having them in clean form is a plus so we can see the detail a bit more. The image gallery is interesting in that it's filled with character selections that have one or two pieces each as well as a mechanics section which covers the pieces from these three episodes, be it mecha or ships. It's actually split into two sections for each with one for the Zeon side and one for the Federation side. The Federation side is obviously far smaller, with only one page total, but these are really good looking design images.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With my original introduction to the world of Gundam being the 0080 series many years ago, I'm always overjoyed when I get to take a trip back to what I consider "real" Gundam – the Universal Century. This particular part of the massive franchise has always appealed the most to me because it seemed to play things more serious than many of the alternates and spin-offs that came out throughout the years. While there have been occasional touches upon the UC, notably Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team in 1999, the UC realm is largely untouched. And this continues to be a shame because there are simply so many good hard war stories that can be told. MS Igloo fills some of that need perfectly.

This three part OVA series, subtitled The Hidden One-Year War provides a departure for the franchise when it comes to the lead. The main character is a young man named Oliver May, a Lieutenant in the Principality of Zeon who is part of the Engineering corps. His mission across the three episodes is to test out and evaluate various devices of war just as Zeon is launching its war on the Federation. In fact, the series is one that showcases battles that were only talked about before, such as the early stages of Operation British and the Battle of Loum. The events that take place in the 0079 TV series are part of the essential backdrop to the show as we see May and his team working to solve issues or getting caught up in events.

These tangential events are little more than teases, but they're wonderful teases for old time fans of the show. The initial episode deals with a massive cannon that's being tested as the Battle of Loum gets underway. In the midst of it, we see not only the huge fleet battle that plays out like the days of old but the movements of the Zaku's as they join the battle for the first time. This includes a well known red Zaku piloted by Char Aznable, though we don't see the character himself. The third episode plays to the battle at Odessa in which the Federation fought back to push the Zeon into space. This storyline is particularly interesting as it revolves around a suit that fell to politics and maneuvering from becoming a reality. The Zaku went into production yet the ostensibly more powerful and useful Zudah ended up becoming a joke. The trial run of the new model comes at a time that the Zeon are about to lose their main stronghold on Earth and propaganda abounds from both sounds.

The core elements of what makes the UC Gundam so enjoyable are all present here. It's a serious show, one that looks at the technical side of things. The fact that the lead character isn't a mobile suit pilot of any kind but rather an engineer is quite different. Even Al from 0080 managed to get into the cockpit a few times. With the focus being on untested or poorly performing equipment that's undergoing evaluation, there's a strange sense among those involved. They want to help do something for the Principality to further the war efforts but they're working with things that are going to be ignored in the long run due to politics and corporate issues. The various mechanical devices used are certainly fascinating. The massive cannon has plenty of uses as does the ground based tank and the Zudah. Yet there was such a push by Zionic about how the Zaku was going to change the face of war that so many other things started to fall off.

What sets MS Igloo apart from just about every other Gundam release out there (and yes, we're ignoring G-Savior thank you very much) is that this is an all CGI production. I was very leery about this going into it since more often than not, shows done in this manner feel little like a lengthy cut scene from a video game. MS Igloo doesn't escape that feeling all the time but with the length of the episodes and watching all three in a row, it does grow beyond that eventually. The growth of CGI productions over the years isn't a surprise and I continue to expect to see more of these as time goes on. They haven't won me over from "traditional" anime in the slightest, but for a show like Gundam and the UC in particular, they're able to blend it well enough to make it work. Half the time I keep wondering if they'd make a great live action version. Then I remember G-Savior.

All of the mechanical designs here are really top notch. The details are amazing and the fluidity is quite good. The only time it felt a little off was in watching the Zaku's run across the Arizona desert. It's hard to really see them move in what you could call reality and not find it a little jarring. The character designs are quite good as well but my issues with those come more from direction than anything else. There is such a need to showcase the level of detail and realism in them that we end up with too many close-ups and a lot of motions that seem unnecessary. The close-ups aren't too distanced from the anime versions but with this kind of animation it just feels more like they're showing off. Some of the character movements in space feel a touch off but they're trying to recreate low gravity environments so I'll give them a bit of wiggle room there. What amused me the most, and maybe it's just a "western" point of view, was how much Monique reminded me of a Russian political officer, something that wasn't helped by the design of the ships captain.

In Summary:
MS Igloo was a series that had me wondering of my enjoyment of the UC based series would finally end. The various movies and OVAs as well as the 08th Team series provided a good deal of enjoyment over many years and I kept wanting more of it. What I didn't expect to get was a CGI based OVA series and one that played to the Zeon more than anything else. And engineers of all things. Where's my heroic teenage pilots spouting off melodrama? Thankfully, they're not here. What I get instead is a wonderful little series that presents a tiny fragment of the massive number of stories that can be told about the One Year War. The CGI aspect played out a lot better than I thought, the designs were great overall and the stories really worked well for telling these smaller yet very significant tales about the Zeon side of the war. The CGI will likely throw some folks off but for those with a love of the UC era, it's definitely worth checking out.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Next Episode Trailers,MS IGLOO Gallery

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 480p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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