Project Blue Earth SOS Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 90
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Project Blue Earth SOS

Project Blue Earth SOS Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     March 26, 2008
Release Date: March 04, 2008

Project Blue Earth SOS Vol. #1
© ADV Films

What They Say
Aliens have begun their invasion of Earth. Fortunately, scientists have developed the Sky Knight, a fighter plane capable of defending the world, and a group of teenagers has stepped forward to lead the resistance.

Contains episodes 1-2.

The Review!
When aliens suddenly begin to invade the world, everything that's been going on in secret is revealed and humanity learns to fight back in this pulp style OVA series.

This OVA series has some great production values to it that extend to beyond the video side as the Japanese have actually ponied up for a 5.1 mix. ADV Films has complemented that with an English 5.1 mix that uses the same elements and both tracks are solid overall. Unsurprisingly though, the rear channels aren't used all that often overall but there is a greater sense of placement and clarity with the dialogue in general. While the mix overall isn't terribly aggressive nor does it really stand out in a way that sets it apart, it is pretty well done for a mix that uses the rear channels on occasion but keeps its emphasis on the forward soundstage. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released throughout the second half of 2006, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Project Blue Earth SOS has some fantastic production values when it comes to the animation itself and it really shines beautifully throughout the ninety minutes it runs here. The animation is very clean and crisp with some wonderfully fluid moments that remind why OVAs generally are considered to be better than TV series in this regard. The mixture of the CG and regular animation comes across very well and the overall presentation is very clean. Beyond some basic aliasing going on during zooms and pans, colors are vibrant and solid with very little noise in general. While the bitrate doesn't run terribly high for the most part, it looks really good on our setup.

With an awkward title like this one has, there's only so much you can do and it's hard to say they used it well here. The lengthy and awkward title is kept to the center of the cover while the top half features character artwork and the bottom has a bit of science fiction action going on with ships. There's lots of colors at work here and the logo through the center is pretty dominating and surprisingly dark. The back cover is a bit cleaner and smoother as well as showcasing some of the lighter campier aspects of the shows origins with the taglines. A series of shots from the show are along both sides and a decent summary covering the basics of the premise. A bit of production information is along the bottom as well as what features are on the disc while the technical grid lists everything clearly, though the aspect ratio isn't exactly done in the best way. No related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu layout for the show is pretty nice even if it is a simple static shot of an action sequence of the aliens attacking with their ray guns. The background has a soothing image of the sky, ocean and some of the city as well as a few of the lead characters along one side. The bottom strip features the navigation with an amusing cursor choice all set to a bit of the upbeat instrumental music playing along. The layout is very easy to navigate with individual episode access at the top and quick loading submenus. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets which was a definite plus in ease of use.

The only extra included is a clean version of the opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally published as Earth SOS by Shigeru Komatsuzaki, Project Blue Earth SOS is a six part OVA series that's broken up into three discs with two episodes on each. This is a bit deceptive though as each episode runs forty-five minutes so it's like getting a twelve episode series with very good looking production values to it. Project Blue Earth SOS is an unusual show as it's something that feels like it owes more to 1950's science fiction serials than anything else. While there are some basic anime trappings here, it's fairly light in that regard.

Project Blue Earth SOS is an odd show because of its western trappings when combined with the sort of chaotic opening episodes that are more common with anime series. The show takes place in a slightly different 1995 where mankind has been making progress with a new kind of engine known as the G-Reactor. This new method or propulsion has the potential for achieving mach nine and could open up the possibility of traveling around the world in just over an hour. During the first major test flight of it though, strange rainbow lights appear behind the test pilot known only as James and he ends up disappearing from what seems to be the first major UFO contact.

Flash forward five years later and we're introduced to a pair of young men who meet at the launch of a new train that's using the G-Reactor engine. Billy Kimura and Penny Carter are changed by this experience as they see the train undergo the same incident that the fighter plane test dealt with five years earlier and it disappears in a blaze of rainbows before their eyes. Neither young man is ready to just roll over and accept this and they're helped by some strong perceptive skills and a fair bit of financial backing from unusual quarters. Both are strangely arrogant in different ways but the end up complementing each other pretty well as they try to unravel the mystery of the disappearance and the discovery of the aliens.

It doesn't take them long to get caught up in the bigger mystery as others who were involved in previous incidents, combined with more incidents occurring, bring people together. With so many events occurring, everything moves along quickly as Billy and Penny figure out a way to track what's happening and end up helping to bring to light that there really are aliens that are invading the planet. This isn't exactly a surprise to the governments of the world though but they are surprised that it's happening sooner than they expected. When the incident occurred in 1995, a massive organization called the Labyrinth Alliance was created to prepare for what was to come. With the aliens now uncloaked, they've begun to push back against them.

It's here that the show takes on an even stranger turn as they roll out something called Metropolitan X, a massive city state that they intend to use as the new world capital to spearhead their war against the invaders. The scale of everything goes out the window as all sorts of advanced projects get pushed out as a slow understanding of the aliens and their intentions becomes clearer. It's still very early on in all of this considering there are four more forty five minute episodes left so the creators aren't showing their hand all that early yet. What we do get here is certainly intriguing enough, especially as it keeps to the old fifties style science fiction concepts and storytelling designs.

As simple and fun as the story is since it reminds me of the kind of science fictions stories I grew up with, there are some simple basic faults that makes it hard to get into the show. The characters are pretty much all ciphers at this point which isn't too much of a surprise but hardly anyone is worth watching. The ones that seem to be the leads are saddled with horrid names like Billy Kimura and Penny Carter. Even worse is the one girl who is the same age named Lotta Brest. It's just bad in that sense that you can't believe they did something so bad on purpose. Some of the other characters are just poorly named in different ways such as the test pilot we see at the start who we know only as James and the man who knew him from when that mission went bad known only as Captain Clayton. One named characters aren't a bad thing in some shows but ones like this they just don't feel complete or rounded.

While the characters left me with little to be excited about, I really came away charmed by the visuals of the show and the overall animation quality. There's a really solid production here that you can see with how the characters move about and interact with the world around them. The detail to some of the backgrounds and the characters themselves is quite good and it fits in with the nature of the show. The CG aspect of it with the fighter craft and the aliens is also pretty good though it does take a slightly odd turn once they get inside the alien island and we see some of their robots. It almost has a Futurama quality to it at times, both there and with some of the driving scenes. If there's one thing that will bring me back to this show it's the animation quality.

In Summary:
Project Blue Earth SOS sets into motion a number of events with these first two episodes but it's filled with some chaotic moments and less than compelling characters. It's a fascinating take on 1950's Western science fiction done with beautiful animation and design work. This first third of the series sets the stage for what's to come but it does it in a way that raises a lot of questions and throws out only a few haphazard answers that aren't exactly clear yet. At the end of the volume I'm finding myself pretty ambivalent over it but enjoying it from a purely visual sense. The storyline may grow on me as it plays out but it's going to be difficult to take some of these characters seriously based on their names alone.

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

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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