Neo Tokyo - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 50
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Neo Tokyo

Neo Tokyo

By Chris Beveridge     November 03, 2004
Release Date: September 14, 2004


Neo Tokyo
© ADV Films


What They Say
Rintaro's Labyrinth Labyrinthos is an elegant fantasy exploring a little girl?s impressionable imagination. Kawajiri's The Running Man, as seen on MTV, is a high-octane futuristic thriller revolving around a deadly Formula-1 race. And Otomo's Construction Cancellation Order is a Bradbury-esque allegory speculating on the dangers of man's over-reliance with technology.

The Review!
Back when Kadokawa used to make a lot of mini films and OVAs that tried to do something different, they road the crest and produced Neo-Tokyo, aka Mani Mani.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The mix is pretty old but it's a fairly serviceable stereo mix. The result is that we get a more full sounding mix as opposed to one that really uses any full sense of directionality to it but it still sounds quite good. Music tends to be one of the key elements here in addition to the sound effects, much more so than dialogue, and it's well handled and pretty much problem free. The dialogue itself is clean and clear to understand and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released theatrically back in 1986, Neo-Tokyo is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for anamorphic playback. This indicates that it's the second pressing of the release as the first pressing was encoded as a 4:3 transfer. With this being nearly twenty years old, the transfer here looks very good. Presumably, this is the fresh transfer that was done for the Japanese release two years ago as all prior US releases from Streamline and Orion were full frame VHS releases. The print here looks to be in really good condition. There's nothing visible in terms of cross color and since it's very much a traditionally animated show things like color gradation are simply a non-issue. Aliasing is very minimal in general and only affects a few small areas. The colors look good as they shift between the stories with each going with a different base palette and design. Some of the blacks didn't maintain well in upconversion but looked fine when kept at 480p. Overall, this is a good looking transfer with a very clean look to it that lets the amount of detail and budget shine through.

Packaging:
Split into many sections of artwork for the three shows on the disc and having the title strip go right through the center, the cover here looks good and has some prominent designs from folks like Kawajiri and Otomo that should catch people's eye. While it's not hugely vibrant, it's done well in that each of the episodes is solidly represented here with some key pieces and they all look good and clean, if somewhat dated at times. The back cover provides a good summary of the shows concept and has a few shots of the characters for each show next to the title for them. The discs information is clear and easy to read – though note that it's still listed as a 4:3 release even though it's 16:9 now, so that doesn't help in finding corrected copies. The insert works on the same style as the front cover but uses different artwork and has a cuter title strip I think. The reverse side breaks down all three episodes and gives you the idea behind all of it.

Menu:
The main menu layout is nicely done where it's split into four sections. The top section has a really nice fireworks display going on with some still images from the first episode. Below it there are three sections where each of the episodes are selectable and it contains a close-up of a characters face from that episode. The menus other selections are listed at the bottom left of the first episode. The look of this is really nice with very vibrant colors for the static artwork combined with the really good looking mix of colors and effects for the fireworks, all of it set to the catchy little tune from the first story. Access times are nice and fast but this release proved to be tricky for us in that for the first time in recent memory, an ADV disc did not read our player presets correctly and played in English with no subtitles. This is due to the Japanese language track being mislabeled as an English track in how the player reads it.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Neo Tokyo, originally called Mani Mani, is one of the older releases here in the US as it was picked up by Streamline way back in the day. When it was brought out, there was no subtitled version and only the dub version (which is used here; the show was not redubbed) up until this release. While the feature overall was pretty popular, the first of the two stories on the disc gained an extra bit of fame during it's showing on MTV's Liquid Television during the early 90's. That helped boost anime up just a bit more and while it probably only gained a few converts, it did become one of the few truly mature natured shows to get on TV.

With this release, I'm finally able to not only see the other story and the bookend tale to it for the first time, but I get to see the first story in Japanese for the first time. The dub for the show is pretty good and with it not being dialogue heavy it means that there aren't a lot of problems in terms of getting good performances. I've enjoyed a good number of Streamline dubs over the years and listening to this one just confirms again that they did some really good work back in the day.

Much like a number of other short story tales done in the 80's, Neo Tokyo has its opening story that also serves as the bookend to the two tales. Directed by Rintaro, it's pretty much the weaker of the three in my mind as it's done more just for artistic style than for actual story. It follows a young girl and her cat who get drawn away by a clown that leads them into the maze like streets of her city and eventually to the circus tent. Once inside there, the big lights come down and the tent opens to reveal the two tales of the show that they want the girl to see.

The more famous episode of the three is the Running Man episode, as directed by Kawajiri. The piece is very much all his style just applied to racing and the idea of man being corrupted by machine. A lot of the focus here is on the style of things, such as the pretty much trademarked way Kawajiri has a cigarette fall to the ground or how his characters faces scrunch up when they scream out loud. The tale is a decent piece but there's little in the way of real meat to it, letting it be more of a visual story than something that you can really connect with.

It shouldn't be any surprise that my favorite tale here though is the Otomo tale. Though he continues along the same riff as other stories where it's man trying to deal with machines gone awry and doing things without human supervision, it's done again on a large scale but given much personalization. This tale has a project manager sent to a third world country where the company has a huge project underway that's under the watch of one human foreman and hundreds of robots. The country just changed governments due to a coup and they have to cancel the project, but the foreman doesn't respond. So the manager is sent in there to find out what happened to him and to stop the robots. It's a fairly standard tale but with Otomo's style applied to it both in terms of characters and robots but also in the large epic scale of the project and what's being done, it just appeals very much to me.

With an overall running time of fifty minutes, the three shows do go by pretty quickly, but the first two had me checking the running time to see how far along we were in it. The third tale that didn't happen and I was actually disappointed when it ended. Though there are varying animation styles throughout them, they all look quite good and you can tell that there's a good budget behind it. While I found Rintaro's story to really be the weakest of them all, I will say that I liked his designs a lot for the little girl that the clown entices into his tent. The artsy style used for it worked well plus the fact that the cat avoided looking like most typical anime cats.

In Summary:
Neo Tokyo is one of those titles that is going to please a lot of old timers and fans of shows from way back in the day. All three of these creators are still doing high profile projects today and I love seeing works from almost twenty years ago that show just how their styles have changed or not changed in the duration. This release, while slim in features, is definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of any of the three directors and are even mildly curious about the others. This is a release that you take out and show to other people and use to try to get them hooked on something different.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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