Project Arms Vol. #1 - 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: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Project Arms

Project Arms Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     October 17, 2002
Release Date: October 08, 2002


Project Arms Vol. #1
© Viz Media


What They Say
From the creators of SPRIGGAN (STRIKER by Viz Comics) comes a new tale of nano-machines, cybernetic assassins, powerful telekinetic opponents, and a secret organization dedicated to bring forth the next evolution of man. Ryo Takatsuki thought of himself as just an average high school student, until he learned that his arm had been secretly replaced with a powerful nano-machine driven weapon called “ARMS.” Designed to be the ultimate integrated weaponry, ARMS is insanely powerful and, in inexperienced hands, can often go out of control.

Now a powerful, secret organization is after the only living samples of this technology, and the strangely enhanced assassins who are sent to get them are ready to kill anyone who gets in their way. As a result, Ryo is quickly ripped from his ordinary life into one of mayhem, where he must face those who try to obtain his power by any means possible.

The Review!
The first three episodes of the first season of twenty six episodes, Project Arms does a good job of setting up the premise and getting the stage set. Unfortunately, the apparent internal confusion about what Viz wants to be ended up simply, well, offending me right from the start of this volume.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The audio track here is a pretty standard stereo mix with some good moments of directionality across the forward soundstage, but otherwise a basic stereo mix. Dialogue was nice and clear and there were no noticeable dropouts throughout.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2001, this is a very recent show with some excellent production values and solid animation. The transfer replicates this very well with only a few minor quibbles. The main area where things don’t look as good as the rest tends to be the dark blue interiors during the second and third episode, where the characters are in abandoned buildings at night. The blues for the light have a slightly grainy and less than solid feel throughout, but this tends to be problematic for a lot of shows. Aliasing shows up in a few areas and is slightly bothersome while cross coloration only seems to lightly ring the logo during the opening and eye-catches.

Packaging:
I rather like the cover for this release, since it sets it as a dark and violent show right from the start, but the character design is something more eye-catching than normal with the short spiky hair and then the massive claw hand that he has. The large red/fire laced bad guy visage in the background doesn’t hurt either. The back cover has a number of small animation shots along the side while the main area is made up of the two summary paragraphs. The episode numbers and titles are listed here as well, and is the only way you can tell what part of the series it is – no volume numbering elsewhere. The discs features and production information is clearly listed as well, and oddly enough, the 13Up sticker was underneath the shrinkwrap, so it’s on my keepcase itself. The insert is a simple black and white piece with the chapter listings on one side and some Alice in Wonderland quotes on the back.

Menus:
The menus are nicely done here, with some animation playing along the left side while the right side has the episode numbers that you can play right from there or go to specific scenes. Submenus are also easy to access and load times are nice and fast. The layout is pretty standard with no surprises, but works well and was problem free.

Extras:
For this first volume, there’s some good extras here. The primary good ones to me at least are the clean opening and ending sequences. There’s also several pieces of line art from the series production conceptual stages. The larger extra here, and the most spoiler-ific, is the promotional trailer. It runs over seven minutes long and effectively tells you what a mid-point series recap episode does. Don’t watch it unless you want all the basic surprises for the first several episodes spoiled.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Project Arms is a series that looks like it’s got a pretty basic premise, but also takes it out of the typical pretty/bright/shiny high school world and gives it a darker edge, pushing it into the growing category of more mature themed violent TV series that have started to push back against the massive amount of cute that’s been prevalent over the past few years.

The story centers around Ryo, a high school guy whose nature isn’t exactly clear. He’s not one of the bad guys, he’s not a popular/everyone’s friend type, but he’s an important part of a particular clique of friends. During one sequence he’s sought to help deal with some real school thugs, but we also see him just admiring some baby birds. Essentially, he’s not a clear cut stereotype right out of the gate. Ryo’s got a decent life going, though he seems to have lost his father some time ago and lives with his mother. A kindergarten accident many years ago has resulted in his right arm being quick to heal, or at the least, less susceptible to pain.

His high school life appears to be pretty uneventful, until a new transfer student arrives in the form of Hayato. This dark looking character arrives in their class with his left arm in a cast and a scowl on his face. When he passes by Ryo’s desk, Ryo’s arm sends off a massive and surprising tingle, and the two simply lock gazes. The animosity is quick and apparent, and it’s no surprise that the two end up later going at each other until Ryo’s friend Katsumi manages to stop things. The fight sequence between the two is one of the highlights of the first episode and shows that this is going to be a violent but beautifully choreographed series. The animation up until this point is good, but looked like they weren’t going for much. When this hits, the fluidity is just perfect.

As we later learn, there’s a group of people, mostly ex-military, who are seeking four people known as ARMS. Obviously, Ryo and Hayato are two members of this group but Ryo hasn’t a clue what it’s all about. When Ryo goes out to find the missing Katsumi later that night, he’s pursued by the goons and uses good old traditional knowledge to effectively defeat them, knowledge gained from his father about trapping and staying calm in these kinds of situations. He eventually comes across Hayato and gets ready to take him on for Katsumi, but the two are then facing the real villain of this small introduction arc, and things get nasty from there as the ARMS piece that was installed in Ryo many years ago activates for the first time, giving him horrendously strong powers in that arm.

With only three episodes, we don’t get all that far into things here beyond the initial introductions and some basic background information. In one extremely bad spot of storytelling in an otherwise very well done piece, the villain ends up telling the two boys about the other two existing ARMS subjects and that only if they work together can they defeat him. It may be part of his character, but it just rubs me wrong in how it’s done. So you can see how Ryo and Hayato somewhat reluctantly start working together to find the other two so that they can take care of this problem.

The character designs are something of a mixed bag, and part of that is just due to the coloring of these episodes. Things are done in a more real-world style with lots of blacks, grays and dark greens and the like, keeping it from being the bright buoyant world we normally see with the chipper sparkly pretty boys. In some essence, things feel more like Fist of the Northstar than anything else, and I mean that in a good way. These guys aren’t wispy thin, they’ve got some meat on them and their bodies are moving with that feel to it. When they hit something, you can sense there’s some real weight behind it. While they’re a little off-putting at first, by the end of the three episodes I was really liking how Ryo and Hayato look and the non-glamorous look of Katsumi.

So what’s ticked me off with this release? After the very well done release of Inu-Yasha, with only one or two minor annoyances, I had high hopes for their other releases being done in just as good a fashion. Outside of episode count at least, since Project ARMS suffers just as badly. With 52 episodes between both seasons, we’re talking about seventeen volumes here. But that’s not what got me right from the start.

When the opening plays, there’s no Japanese credits in sight. I don’t mean the original credits like Bandai does. I mean any credit to the original creators. What shows here in the opening sequence is all of the English credits, from the producers to the video editors and audio remixers. This flies completely in the face of, well, every other release by every other company. When it comes to the end credits, we do finally get the basic Japanese credits, but only the English dub cast is given credit for the vocals. With this release being ONLY on DVD, there’s absolutely no reason to not do this properly. I was willing to give VIZ concessions on catalog stuff like Ranma , but for a brand new release that was not being done on multiple formats, it’s pretty much offensive.

Songs are not subtitled. Again.

Subtitles are smaller than normal and are white. The timing almost feels off, but that’s due to the size and that they’re putting more text on screen at a time because of it. At times, it felt more like a digisub than a DVD release.

Some people don’t even want their full name in the credits. That doesn’t bother me when it’s hentai actors, but for this, it’s the producer of this release that doesn’t want their name to be known. Of course, T. Ledoux is one most regular can figure out easily enough. But come on, if you don’t want your full real name on a product you’re working on, either find another field or realize that the message you’re sending to people is that you’re not happy with what’s here. Just go the Alan Smithee route if anything.

There’s quite a bit good about this release, but there’s also quite a bit bad. It feels like a real fight between the accountants and the production crew to get things out, and both sides made concessions. That’s led to a weakened product to me. I don’t know what others will think about these complaints. I’m not hopping up and down mad and raving, but I know that I did not like what I saw. I have one more volume on order, and that will be my last purchase of Project ARMS.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Ending,Promotional Trailer,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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