Sol Bianca: The Legacy Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: A++
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 60
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Sol Bianca: The Legacy

Sol Bianca: The Legacy Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     July 25, 2000
Release Date: July 25, 2000


Sol Bianca: The Legacy Vol. #1
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
The all-girl crew of the pirate ship Sol Bianca is not afraid of anyone, so when they cross paths with the most powerfully armed power in the known universe, it is sure to be a wild ride!

The Review!
The second full new series that Pioneer is releasing in region 1 is the updated revamp of the Sol Bianca show, which was previously released back in 1992 by ADV Films. With the number of years in between, the creative team of this version has made a complete break from the past and has started over. With a vengeance.

Sol Bianca is presented in both Japanese and English 2.0 and 5.1 soundtracks. For the purpose of this review we listened to the Japanese 5.1 soundtrack, which was quite well done. The majority of both episodes are dialogue but the digital soundtrack is used well for ambient sounds and to add a good depth to the front soundstage when required. The action sequences do use the rear directional channels quite well, but it's not extremely active. Future episodes may take better advantage of the capabilities. Dialogue is very clear and there was no noticeable distortion to anything. The only thing missing from the audio on this release from the Japanese release is the DTS 5.1 soundtrack.

While this is an OVA series and OVA's generally get a better budget for animation than other things, this show goes beyond that. A vast majority of the scenes and action sequences on this disc surpass OVA quality and are firmly in the theatrical vein. The fluidity of the animation, both the 3D computer generated and the traditional, are very detailed and vibrant. The meshing of the computer animation with the traditional is done very well for the most part, though a few sequences don't come out too terribly well, but it's definitely few and far between for that. The character designs by Naoyuki Onda is just gorgeous. The animators put in an great amount of effort to make this show look as gorgeous as it is. With the added benefit of the digital transfer and everything associated with how it was originally filmed... frankly, not only can't I imagine how poor it would come across on VHS, I don't ever want to see it that way.

With this release Pioneer continues to mix things up a bit with how their packaging is done. The front cover when it was first viewed on this site drew quite a reaction from people and intrigued many who had no initial plans to buy it into thinking twice. The back cover shows off the features and several pieces of the animation as well as talking about the show as well. The insert is pretty basic though with it listing the chapters for the two episodes on the disc. Also included in this release, Pioneer is going for the card decks again just like they did with the El-Hazard Alternative World release. While you won't get another deck of playing cards by sending in the redemption forms included in each release of Sol Bianca, you will get a Sol Bianca: The Legacy Tarot Card Deck. This is pretty slick. I figure they'll just cover the major arcana and that's it, but it's still something that my wife, an avid tarot deck collector, is really keen on acquiring. Kudos to Pioneer again for coming up with some good omake.

For the menus, the folks at Nightjar, LLC really took the content of the show and ran with it, producing what is probably one of the slickest anime menus yet. With the show having a pretty advance starship and a pretty unique control system, the folks behind the menus reproduced those menus and applied them onto the DVD. Selections are accessed quickly and are laid out well. Some folks may cringe at the font type used for it, but it's definitely in keeping with the animation and what the creative team behind the show envisioned.

As with anything, you can wrap it in gold, but if what it contains isn't worth anything, then it doesn't matter. When I saw the original Sol Bianca show oh so many years ago, it wasn't something I found myself interested in at the time. I simply didn't care for it or how it looked. Since this release retains nothing from that, I tried my best to go into it with as open a mind as I could but not really expecting much.

As the ratings above will attest, I enjoyed it a lot. The opening episodes introduce you to the cast and the crew of the Sol Bianca, an apparent relic of sorts from a war some time ago. It's been several centuries since the expansion by man into space and the frontier feeling that it once had is no longer there. Humanity isn't as passionate about things as they once were.

The crew of the Sol Bianca are treasure hunters, a group of women who seek out artifacts from the various worlds. One of the somewhat cute things that is held over from the first incarnation is that the main crew are named after months of the year, such as Jun, April, Feb. Thankfully not everyone has some sort of cute name like that and the rest of the characters in the storylines seem to have "normal" names.

The first episode focus on the leader of the Sol Bianca, April, and her attempts to get back one of her more personal treasures from an illegal auction house. A lot of groundwork is laid down for the universe the characters inhabit here with hints as to what once was and how things work. One of the interesting turns with the concept is that while mankind is among the stars, they've forgotten about Earth and where it is, almost relegating it to myth. One of the first things that this reminded me of was Isaac Asmiov's fantastic Foundation series. There are some similarities between the two that I definitely like, which added to my enjoyment of it.

For most of this episode, it's dialogue without too much action. When the action does start, as the mysterious Terra Force group who seemingly represents the interests of Earth arrives, things kick into gear with plenty of fighting. The person to person fighting was very well choreographed and provided some very fluid pieces of animation. The starship combat (while in the atmosphere) was a bit stranger as it goes into those kinds of SF concepts that seem to be more prevalent in anime than any other form of SF. That's not to say it wasn't enjoyable, but it's very visual and fascinating to watch.

The second episode, which opens with a brief widescreen piece, is more character driven. The crew lands on a dead world in search of some powerful and valuable artifact. Landing inside a large structure that leads to the artifact, Jun introduces a lovely piece of techno wizardry that will aid them in getting it. A graphical user interface. Yep, a GUI. The GUI is presented as a mostly formed genie named Sancho. Sancho's actually a lighter character but was very well done and fun to watch. I'd almost say he has more personality than some of the other characters we've seen so far, but the stories haven't focused on them yet.

As this is Jun's story, there's lots of superiority in everything she does. She's definitely the confident one with an ego to match it. She and Mayo get trapped inside the building, which Sancho realizes is a version of Dante's Inferno. He keeps trying to help her avoid traps, but with her ego, it doesn't help much. During their trek through the building, the Terra group arrives after the Sol Bianca. A somewhat brief but well done dogfight sequence ensues while the resolution to the main story comes to a close.

There's a lot of small details to this show that really helps flesh it out much more than I'm going to go into here. Bits of the past are revealed and each of the characters is pretty well done, though some don't get much play. The animation is gorgeous, probably one of the best looking series to come out from Pioneer since Lain. One of the interesting things I noticed was that in the credits section, Yuji Moriya is listed as producer in both the Japanese and English version, which may indicate that Pioneer USA had some involvement in the creation of this series and invested in it. This would explain the lower episode count than some may like, but with the quality of the animation and the quality of the disc itself, I've got no complaints at all. I'll definitely be revisiting this disc.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Animetronic clip,3D model test clips,Character designs,Special extended length trailer

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.

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