SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers: The Next - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Visual USA, Inc.
  • MSRP: 54.99
  • Running time: 40
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers: The Next

SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers: The Next

By Jennifer Rocks     April 11, 2008
Release Date: December 11, 2007


SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers: The Next
© Bandai Visual USA, Inc.


What They Say
Summer, 2006. A 5th grader Ryuhei discovers a notebook entitled "Tokyo Exploring Records." It was a journal kept by his father, Shohei, when he was around Ryuhei's age. Ryuhei forms his own exploration party with his friends Shun and Yoshio. One summer day, the party and Ryuhei's younger brother Sasuke who happens to tag along, heads to the dungeon looking for a treasure indicated on the father's map. Soon they encounter some weird but good-natured grown-ups who live underground. The kids are welcomed by the underground residents; but then the dungeon turns into a combat zone involving an old, self-claimed Japanese soldier... Would the kids be able to discover the real treasure hidden underground?

The Review!
When four friends go exploring the underground labyrinth of Tokyo, they find a treasure more bizarre then they could have hoped for.

Audio:
The audio is only available in Japanese, though it is presented in a 5.1 mix. There isn't too much going on sound wise, other than one crazy fight scene, which definitely stands out. Overall this is a quiet show, befitting the trepidatious exploration of the characters. The audio has no issues, and all of the dialogue is crisp and clear.

Video:
The video looks great, though the style definitely takes some getting used to. The backgrounds are traditional 2D animation, beautiful and very Ghibliesque. The 3D characters use techniques to give them a hand drawn feel, but there is no avoiding the creepiness of being able to see inside their mouths and the odd rigidity of their hair. Aside from style, the transfer looks great with a few small issues with line noise here and there.

Packaging:
The cover artwork is a collage style featuring the four kids in adventure mode, looming behind them is the shadowy figure of the soldier, and Momoyo is in the upper left heading off into the distance. The upper half of the background is Tokyo at sunset and the lower half is a manhole cover. The image is set over a bright aqua background that contrasts nicely with the red and yellow title. The aqua color carries onto the back of the case, where there is a description of the film, a handful of images, the list of features, film credits, as well as the technical specs. Also included is a twelve-page booklet, which covers the history of the film, some trivia information on different scenes, and a round-table discussion with director Shinji Takagi, animation director Hidekazu Ohara, and original creator Katsuhiro Otomo.

Menu:
The main menu image uses the same components as the cover art, in a slightly different layout. The menu options are very clear and simple, and appear below the title. The sub menus all use the same background image of a manhole cover, and have the options listed as stops on metro map style lines. There is no music accompanying any of the menus.

Extras:
The makings is nearly twenty minutes of interviews with various crewmembers and informational bits about the process of creating the characters in CG. The information bits are fun to watch not only for the understanding of the amount of work involved in creating the characters, but also for the interesting English used in the voice over. The Interview feature is and interview with original creator Katsuhiro Otomo, director Shinji Takagi, animation director Hidekazu Ohara. Though the interview feature less then ten minutes long, it covers a broad range of topics, from the origins of the manga to decisions on how to keep a hand drawn feel to the CG characters. There is also a feature length commentary by director Shinji Takagi, CGI director Masashi Kokubo, and chief animator Tomonari Nakajima. The theatrical trailer for is also included.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers: The Next is a reunion of much of the team who brought the 2004 Steamboy feature to the screen. In this outing, they experiment with how much they can do with 3D character animation, in another adaptation of one of Katsuhiro Otomo's works. The running time for this film is pretty short, clocking in at forty minutes, giving the feeling that this really is an experiment.

The film is a Boys Own adventure story, about three fifth grade boys who team up during a school beak to explore underground Tokyo. Ryuhei, the unassuming leader, has a map he discovered among his father's childhood memorabilia. His father had teamed up with a group of friends and done some exploring, discovering a treasure left over from World War II. Ryuhei and his friends, the chubby but polite Yoshio and the bespectacled camera-wielding Shun, set out to discover the treasure for themselves. Their plans are immediately disrupted at the appearance of Ryuhei's enthusiastic but annoying kid brother, Sasuke, who tags along for the adventure.

Following the map, the kids open up a manhole and descend below the streets of Tokyo. A nosey fourth grader, Momoyo, follows them into the sewers, after snooping in on their online planning chat. Momoyo is the most unique and entertaining personality of the group of kids, she is sharp as a tack and very cutting in her opinion of the others. She totes along a table saw type tool that comes in handy several times.

As the group is exploring, the story takes a strange turn. Suddenly, Sasuke goes missing and turns up under the nose of a wild old man who is still waiting for the end of World War II. The rest of the group runs into a shantytown of societal refugees living underground. Before long a crazy confrontation happens between the two groups, culminating in a raucous action scene. The kids are reunited and team up with the old man, who happens to be protecting the treasure the kids are looking for. Things quickly conclude, with the kids all separating to return home.

The story comes to a pretty crash bang conclusion, with quite a few interesting plot points left unresolved. But with such a short running time, the story moves swiftly and leaves little room for extraneous story. It definitely feels like there is a larger story to be told here, especially as things really seems to be gearing up when it suddenly ends. Despite the brevity, it is a charming and engaging story.

In Summary:
Though SOS! Tokyo Metro Explorers: The Next is a cumbersome title, the film itself is very simple and entertaining. With the details put into the world, and the interesting connections made as the story develops, it feels a bit short at forty minutes. The experimentation with the 3D animation style is interesting, but certainly has a ways to go. It will be interesting to see what future projects this team takes on.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Commentary Track,Behind the Scenes,Creator Interviews,Theatrical Trailer

Review Equipment
Samsung HLT6187S 61" DLP HDTV, Sony DVP-NS975V Progressive Scan Up Converting DVD player, Pioneer Elite VSX-81TXV DD/DTS receiver, HDMI cable, JBL Multi-Channel Speaker System with 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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