Moonlight Mile Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV MA
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Moonlight Mile

Moonlight Mile Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     April 24, 2008
Release Date: March 04, 2008

Moonlight Mile Vol. #1
© ADV Films

What They Say
For daredevil mountain climbers Goro Saruwatari and Jack "Lostman" Woodbridge, conquering the highest peeks on Earth is just the beginning. When a virtually limitless energy source is discovered on the moon, and the world's space agencies join forces to launch a mining operation, Goro and Lostman see their next frontier. But can the super powers of the world really share such a valuable resource? As yet another war erupts in the Gulf, and shadowy government agencies vie for underhanded supremacy in this new frontier, our two adventurers must face their own hardships in their struggle to make their dreams of reaching the moon a reality. Who will make it there first? Just how far are they willing to go? What will be waiting for them when they get there?

The Review!
When all the challenges they think of are accomplished on Earth, two men set their sites on the stars.

Moonlight Mile is a rarity for a TV series in that it has a Japanese 5.1 mix to it. It and the English 5.1 mix are both done at 448kbps and are pretty good throughout in terms of clarity and directionality across the forward soundstage. Rear channels aren't heavily used but what gets a decent workout in several scenes is the bass level. Moonlight Mile isn't an out and out action show as it's more intent on dialogue and atmosphere - as well as various quiet space scenes - but when it is active it works pretty well.

Originally airing in the first half of 2007, the TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. While a recent series with some solid source materials, the show is one that looks like it's done on a budget and has some noticeable distracting issues. The main one is that there's a fair amount of gradients visible during a lot of the single color backgrounds, notably in space at times. This causes a bit of blocking in a few areas as well but never to a really bad level. Colors in general look solid but there are sections, again in the darker areas like the blues and blacks, where it's noisier than it should be. While Moonlight Mile isn't a standout show because of its source materials, the end result is fairly decent.

Designed to appeal to a particular kind of audience, the cover artwork here captures what the show is going to be about beautifully. I hope. The central image of Goro walking on the moon with others behind him is a solid enough visual but they've pushed it stronger by having the Earth behind them which adds a lot of vibrant colors. The logo itself is the only thing that feels a bit out of place since it has the sun rising over the moon which provides quite the disparity with the actual background artwork. The back cover is oddly laid out with a lot of text to it. Each side has a small strip of shots from the show inside of TV monitors while the center has the basic premise of the series and these episodes. Below that are some mediocre taglines about the show which is followed up by the production credits and technical grid. The overall background image is that of a moonscape which fits in nicely. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for Moonlight Mile isn't a surprise as it uses a lot of great looking space shots with the moon. What is problematic is that instead of letting the majesty of the scene speak for itself, they decided to use very large text for everything in addition to the already big logo. The font for the navigation text even goes for the obvious angle of using the NASA style which just makes it look all the more ugly. This was a design where less would have been better unfortunately. On the plus side, the menus are all very quick to load and submenus are easy to access and work with. Individual episode access is available from the top level and like just about every release from ADV Films we had no problems with our players' language presets.

The only extras that are included with this volume are the clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Yasuo Ohtagaki which began in 2000 and is still ongoing as of this writing, Moonlight Mile is a twelve episode series that wants to be serious and decides that one way to do so is to be rather overtly sexual. Taking a fairly serious approach to moving out into space, the show has a lot of potential as we can see by the opening of the first episode. The downside is that it wants to spend the first four episodes here introducing us to the Earth bound characters and putting them on the right course to get out into space.

With such a tease at the beginning of the series that points either towards some sort of space military with robots or aliens, having the show spend so much of its time going through basic character drama is somewhat rough to get through. It's a necessary evil however as we need to understand why these two lead characters are so set on making it out into space and what motivates them. The show primarily revolves around mountain climbers Goro Saurwatari and the singly named Lostman. Both men are shown climbing Everest and dealing with a French expedition team that meets an unfortunate fate on the mountain. There is a beautiful moment as the two men sit on top of the mountain and look up into the sky to see the new space station that's being built there and wondering if that's where the real new challenge lies in their life. At the same time, a pair of workers in space are looking down at that general area and talking about the beauty and majesty of what they see.

While the series is about both men, the bulk of the show tends to focus on Goro. With the formation of the International Space Agency that is going to integrate all space agencies across the world in a few years, there's a number of new opportunities abound to get out into space. Goro takes his skills and puts the focus into dealing with various crane operating technologies that are going to be key in building out in space once they get there. His skills go so far as to be the one who wrote the bulk of the manual on the crane that will be used to help put the new energy collection devices into proper orbit for construction. While he continues to go through normal training at the same time along with dozens of others who want to get out into space, it's his knowledge here that helps him get where he really wants to go.

The focus on Goro isn't a bad thing since he qualifies as one of those unusual characters with his personality quirks. He's not exactly "out there" in that sense but he lives his life in a sort of carefree way knowing that he'll find the challenges he's looking for. During a good portion of this, he's living with a woman and her daughter that he's grown close to but not in a way that he could ever truly be committed to. That doesn't cause problems when her brother arrives as he's an astronaut himself and he can understand the kind of mindset that Goro has. The two men have an interesting understanding coming about as time goes on which also shows the kind of bond that men in these situations can have with each other. It's all very transitional in its own way and seeing that everyone understands it gives it a very surreal feel at times, as if it's almost just a dream before the reality of the real dream.

The less interesting story, but the more human one in a way, involves Lostman after the pair split up from Everest. His journey into the military has him eventually making a treacherous journey across part of the middle east where he has to deal with a man who is trying to clear his family name after a tortuous history. His son is along with him and he laments about having his life defined by something like this and begs Lostman to take him to see the outside world. It's a very slow story arc when it finally hits this point but it's a great counterbalance to Goro's storyline which is a bit more free flowing in its nature. During his desert trek, Lostman have a very dark and depressed nature to him which is striking after seeing how he was with Goro when the two were dealing with the tragedy and triumph at Everest.

Moonlight Mile is the kind of show that wants to go in a serious direction and the animation for it works in its favor for the most part. There's a budget feel to it at times with some corners cut and some missing fluidity in needed scenes, never mind some poorly integrated CG animation at times, but for the most part it really does feel like it's trying to push the science side over the campy science side. The character designs are decent though there are some oddities to a few of them at times which gives them an overly rough feel. But even that fits in with the style and tone of the show as it goes on. Moonlight Mile is the kind of show that wouldn't benefit from a Planetes kind of animation style but rather something that's aspiring to it without quite reaching it on the budget that it's on.

And interesting twist to the series is that it's surprisingly sexual at times. While there are some shows that utilize such things for shock value or to give the impression of being "mature," I'm not quite sure where Moonlight Mile fits into this just yet. Astronauts of yore always had the cowboy allure to them and there was plenty of ribald stories told over the years so it's not a surprise that it's made its mark here either. The women don't seem to be strong main characters here, and there are a few "slut" moments here and there, but for the most part the inclusion of nudity or sex just seems to fit within the context of the moment. Usually there are scenes similar that imply such things, but it's a welcome change of pace to deal with it in a straightforward manner, even if it is just used to gain a few extra viewers. I certainly didn't expect to watch a show called Moonlight Mile and go, "mmm, boobies."

In Summary:
Moonlight Mile is a show that feels like it's following in the steps of Planetes with the way it wants to approach the science in a serious manner. With a second season planned according to all reports I can find, and the manga still ongoing, there is plenty of material here to work with and the show is certainly intent on taking its time to get to what should be the good stuff. What this series reminds me of are the small manga series that never seem to get brought over to the US or are rarely made into anime series in general. It's the kind of material that is never hugely popular but draws a small devoted following that will long remember it. Material that will leave a long lasting impression. Moonlight Mile isn't there yet, but it certainly has the potential.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

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


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