Mania Grade: A
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- 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 Sean Broestl
February 18, 2002
Release Date: July 25, 2000
This was probably my most anticipated disc of the second quarter of the year. As you can see from the scores I gave it up above, it delivered. I saw the original OAV's of Sol Bianca a while back, and they quickly became among my favorite titles in the anime universe. When it showed up on my doorstep a day early, I liked it even more.
The video quality on this disc is incredible, easily tops Lain in terms of clarity. I was wide-eyed during the entire disc. It's eye-candy, to be sure, and for once I can use that term in a positive light. The fantastic video quality is complimented by some fantastic animation. Sol Bianca is another title that combines traditional animation with CG animation. This isn't a CG/traditional animation combination like Blue Submarine (thankfully), but the CG is far more pervasive than in other titles. You'll notice it everywhere.
The best part of the way they did the animation is that it really fits in well with the traditionally done animation. There were a number of areas where you can't tell the difference at all. There was only one part I noticed in episode 2 as being obviously computer animated. With this quality of animation, you can see why this series is a mere 6 episodes. It would have gotten too expensive after a while.
The Audio quality is excellent as well. I don't really have the system to test the 5.1 track here at school, so I had to stick with the Stereo track. It was still very clear and impressive to listen to. The voices were clear the entire time, even when the scene was full of gunfire. I definitely prefer the Japanese voices in this series as opposed to the English dub. The dub is certainly tolerable if you want to show this to some of your non-otaku friends, and you'll recognize voice actors from the dub of Lain and El Hazard. The subtitles are standard Pioneer quality, well-timed and easy to see.
There are 6 chapter stops for each episode, including the opening and ending. It seems that Pioneer has strayed away from the larger number of chapter stops they had in Lain, which I found handy, but it works well enough. I had no real problems skipping around to different points of the disc.
The last technical aspect of the disc, the menu, was one of the coolest things I've seen on an anime DVD to date. The first time you see it, you'll be saying, "What the Hell?", but after seeing episode 1 you'll realize how appropriate and well thought out it is. Menu selections are fast, and the different options you can set are clear.
The packaging is very, very good looking. Sure to grab some people's attention sitting on the shelf. The back cover has some nice screen captures, and offers plenty of information about what's on the disc. One question is my mind though, is the crew of the Sol Bianca is five ladies, and this is a three disc series. With only April on the cover, it makes you wonder if they plan to do only one character per disc on the cover art treatment. My favorite character Janni better get her own cover. :)
Now, the content. As I mentioned above, I am a big fan of the original Sol Bianca, and was ready to absorb some more. It would be my recommendation that if you've seen the original Sol Bianca, go at this with an open mind. A few things were changed from the original, some name spellings are the most notable, along with some slightly different character designs. Also, it is an "Alternate Universe" story or a prequel in relation to the original.
In terms of the style of show it is, think Bubblegum Crisis in space. The characters are really fun to watch, and are what drive the story more than anything. The way they all interact and cooperate toward a common goal (treasure), is what makes this series so fun to watch. Janni is a violent gun-lover, Jun is a technical expert, April is the serious-minded leader, Mayo is a young stowaway, and Feb is a drunk.
I really enjoyed the first two episodes of the series, they are fast-paced, and I enjoyed every minute. They do a good job of introducing some character background, and developing them some. They also introduce a villain, although he doesn't seem to evil quite yet. I'm sure he'll get more interesting as the series goes on.
Overall, this is probably one of the best discs to be added to my collection so far this year. It has a solid story, entertaining characters, and fantastic visual and audio elements. Go ahead and order it, you won't be disappointed.
Homemade AMD K6-3 400 MHz PC, ATI All-in-Wonder 128, Toshiba SD-M1202
DVD-ROM drive, Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live!, 17" Trinitron Monitor