Mania Grade: C-
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: D+
- Packaging Rating: D
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: All Region DVD
- Released By: Image Entertainment
- MSRP: 24.95
- Running time: 87
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Project A-Ko
By Ethan Butterfield
February 16, 2002
Release Date: July 06, 1999
After several months of delays and missed release dates, the heavily anticipated Project A-Ko Region 1 DVD is here! So, was the wait worth it? Sadly, if you were one of those waiting with bated breath for this title, you're in for a disappointment. A host of small flaws, plus one major subtitling problem, make this a DVD release that you don't want to write home about.
Briefly, A-Ko is a comedy flick, action movie, and anime parody rolled into a neat package consisting of three high-school girls. A-Ko possesses superhuman strength and agility, and is constantly being challenged by B-Ko, technical genius and daughter of a wealthy tycoon. The girls fight over C-Ko, a short crybaby who dotes on A-Ko (much to B-Ko's chagrin). Toss in some mecha, a 5-mile long spaceship, tons of wanton destruction, and parodies of anime like Yamato and Fist of the North Star, and you've got Project A-Ko.
Visually, the DVD is mediocre at best. The film looks its age (it was originally made in 1986), and seems to be of the same quality as the older VHS release. It is my guess that the film wasn't re-mastered at all, and an old master was just transferred to DVD. Many scenes look dull and faded to the eye, and while not outright blurry, some places definitely seem indistinct.
On the serious side, I counted three separate parts in the DVD where the brightness of the film abruptly dropped off for a split-second. They don't last very long, just enough so that you notice that the film has gotten very dark, before it's back to normal.
The problems above are troublesome enough as it is, but they make the white, borderless subtitles that much harder to read. Several times during the film I had to rewind and pause so that I could have the time to squint and make out the subtitles. Worse yet, for the last 20-30 minutes of the film, the subtitles are mis-timed! During the last part of the film, subtitles appear on the screen from 2-3 seconds before they're supposed to, with the end result being that the subtitles are disappearing before the character has even started their lines! This is completely inexcusable on Image's part, and displays either a complete lack of quality control, or the fact that Image did not care about this release at all. It is my hope that Image will re-master A-Ko and fix the mis-timed subtitles, but I'm not holding my breath.
The sound is, for me, the high point of the film. It is extremely good, even for a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack, and displays an impressive range and clarity that I normally only hear in Dolby 5.1 soundtracks. There was also a startling amount of bass, much more than I had heard in the VHS release. At least Image got this right.
The menu is quick, but sparse. There are only three selections: starting the film, chapter selection, and language selection. The menu background is a very sharp rendering of the title, and is, by far, the best graphic on the entire disc. Pity the film wasn't of this quality.
The packaging is very weak. Not a keepcase, but cardboard. This is why I keep extra cases around, though, so after a few minutes with a scissors I had re-packaged A-Ko into a proper keepcase.
All in all, Project A-Ko is a very disappointing release considering the amount of time it was delayed. Image should have at least detected the subtitle problems before it was shipped, and all of the problems put together give one the impression of either a rushed job, or one that Image didn't really care about quality on. I'm still glad it came out, because I didn't have a copy of A-Ko until now. I can only recommend picking the A-Ko DVD up if you *really* want a copy, especially due to the subtitling problem.
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.