Najica Blitz Tactics Collection (Thinpak) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 300
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Najica Blitz Tactics

Najica Blitz Tactics Collection (Thinpak)

By Brett Barkley     September 20, 2005
Release Date: August 02, 2005


Najica Blitz Tactics Collection (Thinpak)
© ADV Films


What They Say
A nose for fine scents has made super-sexy Najica Hiragi’s world famous as a perfume designer, but it’s her nose for finding trouble has made her equally infamous as a secret agent who fights to save the world from depraved criminals and dangerous androids. While on a mission for the CRI intelligence agency, Najica rescues the Humaritt Lila, an android with super-human strength, but not a lick of common sense. Lila becomes Najica’s partner, and together they begin taking on the bad guys! But be warned, wherever Najica goes, large quantities of panty shots are sure to follow! For the ultimate in action, whether scented, scentless or indescent, don’t miss Najica!



The Review!
Saving the world in a short skirt, armed with style AND substance, Najica Blitz Tactics is series that surprises.

Audio:
The Najica Blitz Tactics Thinpack set is presented in Dolby 5.1 in English and Dolby 2.0 in Japanese with English subtitles. The English track is very sharp, making great use of the rear channels. The dialogue is clear and well handled and the fantastic musical score is brilliantly reproduced. Understandably, the Japanese Dolby 2.0 comes across much flatter in comparison. I found the English dub to be very acceptable and would not hesitate recommending that for the sound quality alone.

Video:
With an original Japanese air date of 2001, Najica Blitz Tactics looks clean and crisp enough to have been released only yesterday. In fact, I could find nothing wrong with the transfer and was, throughout my viewing of the set, very impressed with the video quality. Repeatedly, I found myself remarking of the brilliance of the blues and oranges, the colors appearing to jump off the screen. Along these lines, Episode 003 was particularly brilliant. From the deep and radiant blues of the sky, the sea to the earth from space, I was very thoroughly impressed. I found the fight scene in the blazing aircraft hanger to be a particular standout. The glow of the flames, the effects used for the heat, the cooler contrasting skin tones, all set against a beautiful blue sky really made this scene one of my favorites in the series. Further, considering the quick camera pans and the speed in which most of the action was shot, I was very impressed with the absence of blurring and aliasing.

Packaging:
I was very impressed with the graphic design employed for this set. A crisp, cotton white maintains the consistent color scheme for the box. The front and back covers feature Lila and Najica respectively, set against a colorful grid of screen captures from the series. As I mentioned earlier, I was very impressed with the adept use of color in this series. The box carries through with that idea. When factoring in the font used for the title on the spine and covers, the overall design is very classy and clean. The Najica Blitz Tactics Thinpack set does a great job of reinforcing the idea that simple, solid graphic design can be great design. I had occasion to check this set out on some retailer’s shelves and with the large number of jumbled, blood spatter-inspired covers with nearly illegible text, it really stands out.

This design sense is carried over in the design of the three discs included in the set. Primarily white, each disc echoes the title precisely as it was used on the box, doing a nice job of unifying the design. The covers are each very simple and effective, the first featuring Najica and Lila, and the final two featuring Najica in two of her many different outfits. The rear cover for each disc features a brief paragraph detailing the individual episodes, a list of cast and crew, and three screen captures. This becomes an issue on the first disc, as the reverse is a bit jumbled and the episode description too abbreviated. Because a series description was omitted from the box (a major reason the box appears so clean—it lacks text), that had to be carried over to the first disc. The design standard of using three screen captures doesn’t do much to aid the viewer searching for his or her favorite episode, as there are four episodes on the discs. This is genuinely a minor issue, however, as the set looks incredibly sharp.

Menu:
The menu for each disc is very simple, but again nicely designed. Featuring an audio loop from the series’ excellent opening theme, each disc employs a different image of Najica to the left of the screen. The right half is largely white area, with the episodes listed clearly in descending order. Below this is the Languages option, with the title along the lower edge of the screen. Design elements from the box and individual discs are employed here to again unify the set. The menu has a great look and is very straightforward and easy to use.

Extras:
N/A

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Najica Blitz Tactics is a fast paced globe-trotting, action/adventure series of twelve episodes from the fertile imagination of Katsuhiko Nishijima. Set in the near future, the series follows Najica Hiiragi, the world’s best perfume designer in her work for CRI, a huge corporation pioneering advances in the field of bio-cosmetics. But Najica serves another capacity for CRI-- that of lone wolf secret agent, carrying out missions in the company’s interests all over the world. However, after successfully undertaking a mission to rescue what she believes to be a kidnapped child, the nature of Najica’s future missions change as she learns of the humaritts—incredibly lifelike androids with superhuman abilities. Lila, the rescued girl, is a humaritt and has been assigned as Najica’s new partner. It seems Shinba Industrial, the manufacturer of the humaritts, has terminated the project, and as a result humaritts have found their way in to the wrong hands across the world. Begrudgingly, Najica accepts her new partner, and she and Lila set off on a series of exciting missions to retrieve the humaritts.

Initially, having never watched the show, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. After the first episode, in which fan service is taken to a new level, I mistakenly anticipated the entire series would follow the same lines of all flash and little circumstance. But while the series never passes an opportunity for the panty-shot, the character-driven storyline definitely has a destination, and I was very pleasantly surprised with how it was resolved.

Najica Blitz Tactics has a wonderfully subtle way of asking the viewer to suspend his or her disbelief. While the series doesn’t rely on anything supernatural, the mythical, the magical, how much the viewer is willing to buy this world will determine his or her enjoyment. This is a world of secret agents, sexy women, diabolical world-dominating schemes, advanced android technology and skirts ten inches too short. This is James Bond in a short, short skirt. Najica has all the weapons, the hot car, the military helicopter (did anyone else find it ironic Najica’s helicopter was a HIND model?), the same break-neck action, and the same driven villains. But in this interpretation of the secret agent genre, the inhabited world is one in which the would-be conquerors and terrorists employ huge numbers of women foot soldiers. There really is no such thing as a henchMAN in Najica Blitz Tactics. Here there is only room for the henchWOMAN…also in a very short skirt.

As a fan of anything spy-related in general, and the James Bond series more specifically, I thoroughly enjoyed the spy aspect of the show. But there’s actually more to it all than skimpy costumes, exotic locales, and the villain of the week challenge. In the humaritts, I found an interesting subtext very reminiscent of the replicants from Blade Runner. Though they appear remarkably human, they are robots at heart and as such, struggle to react in ways genuinely human. But often the humaritts cannot reconcile the vast differences of being human and being created to appear human. This creates some very interesting dilemmas and eventually establishes a major plot thread for the series.

With the exception of the final two episodes, each represents a single mission (and are numbered following the double ‘0’ convention from the James Bond novels and films—a nice homage) in Najica Blitz Tactics and as such, the series moves pretty quickly. After the first episode, in which Najica rescues Lila, the two are immediately assigned to one another as partners. While Lila is gifted with a number of physical skills as a humaritt that would benefit she and Najica greatly as a secret agent, I was a little surprised she would be assigned to that role so easily. It’s a small plot device, however, and certainly easy to overlook, particularly in lieu of the high level of action that follows.

Occasionally the missions are more overt, the targets clearly indicated, leaving capable duo to simply infiltrate and subdue and recover the humaritt. Other missions are less clear. In Episode 004, which happens to be one of the wittier social satires in the series, Najica and Lila are ordered to investigate a group of teen pop idols. They were briefed that one of the group is likely a humaritt, yet when administering the secret logic test on the girls (again an homage to Blade Runner), each girl fails the test. Somehow each girl is so vacant even the advanced equipment can’t discern the humaritt from the human being!

But as each mission offers valuable insight in to the mind and workings of the humaritt, what they come to discover is not entirely positive. Humaritts are as capable of violence, rage, jealousy, and murder as their human counterparts. One humaritt, having developed an unhealthy bond with her master, was actually driven to kill her master. Some have become so closely bonded with their masters, they actually believe themselves to be that individual. It seems the technology, though brilliantly advanced, is not without its flaws. But what does this mean for Najica and Lila? As Lila is steadily developing a stronger bond with Najica, emulating her gestures, her personality, is she too heading for tragedy? It’s a terrific subplot and actually serves to resolve the series in a way I was very pleased with.

As the series is primarily character-driven, the growth and development of both Najica and Lila is pivotal to the story. Najica begins the piece as the tough-as-nails professional, unwilling and perhaps unable to deal with the child-like innocence and inexperience of Lila. Initially, Lila assumes the role of the doting little sister, always seeking to emulate and learn from Najica. Together, over the course of their missions, the two develop a bond and a genuine understanding of one another, growing to depend on each other, each willing to lay down her life for the other. As the series begins to wind its way to the inevitable conclusion, I was very pleased to note how these characters developed and how their bond changed to reflect that.

So yes, there is a very large amount of fan service in the form of near constant panty shots. And yes, after watching a run of episodes, I got so used to the up-angle camera shots that I began to think I was only sixteen inches tall, but there’s more to Najica Blitz Tactics than up-skirt shots. There is a depth in the series I think most will overlook based on the fan service alone. The action is very well done. The fight scenes are nicely choreographed, and really bring the viewer in to the action. I was also thoroughly impressed with the way in which the characters showed actual growth and development. This series definitely surprised me with its heart.

Najica Blitz Tactics has a really great feel, taking obvious inspiration from the 60’s spy genre films. The character designs, as handled by Noriyasu Yamauchi work toward this end. While Najica often dons various costumes to fit the job, she typically wears a fairly simple white tuxedo skirt suit. Similarly, Lila typically wears what resembles a schoolgirl outfit. Obviously, however, the most attention in design was not paid to the costumes, but to how the lead characters (actually, this works for all characters in series) look in them. With the very overt use of fan service, this isn’t entirely surprising.

I found the art and animation to be fairly standard, with a few exceptions. Considering the emphasis placed on action and fight scenes, I was pleased to find it handled very well with a great deal of attention paid to the subtleties of hand to hand combat. I only noted a few instances of recycled art, the most notable being the satellite and Earth from space as seen in Episode 003 and 011, but it wasn’t really enough to distract from the viewing experience. In terms of the art, what stood out most for me was the magnificent use color. The vibrant hues and tones really pop and when coupled with the dynamic action make for some very exciting visuals.

The sound work for the series may even be slightly more successful than the visuals.

With music by Jun’ichi Kanezaki and a fabulous opening theme performed by Diligent Circle of Ekoda, Najica Blitz Tactics beautifully captures just the right feel of the 60’s spy films from which it draws so much inspiration. Making use of a jazzy, up-tempo soundtrack that seems to always be easily winding its way through the series only to explode in time with the action on screen, the soundtrack never feels out of place.

In Summary:
This one was a total surprise for me. But it’s easy to see how Najica Blitz Tactics could be underestimated or dismissed for its liberal use of scantily clad women. However, there is a decent plot somewhere amidst the panty shots, and the characters are certainly endearing. From the jazzy, retro opening sequence, to the equally stylized soundtrack, flashy colors and exotic locales I enjoyed this series far more than I expected.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
34” Sony FD Trinitron Wega HDTV KD-34XBR910 and Sony Dav-FR9 progressive scan Home Theatre System with 114 watts per channel to each speaker and 115 watts to each of the subwoofer's two woofers.


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