Mania Grade: A+
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- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: B-
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: D
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: All
- Region: All Region DVD
- Released By: Other
- Running time: 98
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Starblazers / Yamato
Starblazers: Quest For Iscandar Part 1
December 09, 2003
What They Say
It's 2199 and radiation from constant Gamilon bombing threatens to destroy life on Earth. Space Cruiser Argo races against time to find the planet
Iscandar and bring back Cosmo-DNA, which can reverse the contamination
The Argo engages in spectacular battles with an enemy fleet commanded by
Desslok of Gamilon. On board, officers Derek Wildstar and Mark Venture wage their own private war. Chief Mechanic Sandor is revealed to be a cyborg, and Captain Avatar, weakened by radiation poisoning, is kept alive by Dr. Sane, the ship's doctor. A quirky robot called IQ-9 takes over when the human crew needs help. All this while Queen Starsha waits on Iscandar with a man from Earth the Star Blazers have given up for dead.The Review!
Derek Wildstar - Kenneth Meseroll
Nova - Amy Howard
Mark Venture - Tom Tweedy
Leader Desslok - Eddie Allen
Queen Starsha - Lydia Leeds
It's been nearly a year since I wrote the well-received Star Blazers primer back when Voyager Entertainment announced the "impending" release of the series on DVD. It's been a long wait. Was it worth it?
The audio is crisp and clean. I noticed a couple of instances of distortion, but I went to check them against my VHS tapes, and the distortion existed there as well. Lows registered nicely, and highs were crisp. Not exactly a state-of-the-art soundtrack, but this is a 20-year-old mono soundtrack, and I didn't expect miracles, so I was pleasantly surprised.
The video suffers from "shovelware syndrome." Ported directly from the VHS masters of the Collectors' Edition (five and four episodes per tape for a total of six tapes in each series), it leaves a bit to be desired. If the fabled broadcast masters had been used, perhaps the video would have fared better (and the audio could have been remixed into stereo). Nevertheless, I'm not convinced that any significant improvement could have been done without extensive (and expensive) remastering, short of getting a new master from Japan, which would have necessitated the need for re-cutting the footage not seen in America to synch with the existing audio. In short, Star Blazers is an old show with a first season that was produced on a shoestring budget and under the wire. The high resolution of DVD shows its age and flaws (scratches and fingerprints on the animation cells, etc) much more than the VHS version ever did. I did, however, notice a couple of minor compression problems. The first was quite a bit of pixilazation during an explosion in the opening monologue. The other was the Yamato suffering from a minor case of the ragged jaggies when it emerged from its first space warp.
My biggest complaint is held over from the VHS releases - the removal of all openings, endings, eyecatches, and previews in an effort to string the episodes together into a single movie. Not good.
The menu pretty much is useless, giving you only two choices, either start or chapters. And the chapter selection is rather bizarre, popping up at the most illogical places you could think of. If it had to be done on a budget, I would suggest the Bandai method - Opening, Part A, Part B, Ending, for each episode.
The packaging is attractive, showing the Yamato/Argo blasting off into deep space, with a couple of stills on the back (one from season 2, actually). However, if Kiseki follows Voyager's lead and recycles the same packaging for all volumes, that B will rapidly fall to an F.
So… all that said, let's get to what really matters. The content.
In my opinion, Star Blazers/Space Battleship Yamato is, quite simply, the greatest anime ever made. Brought over to the United States in 1979 for afternoon children's programming, Star Blazers astonished many by the sophistication of the script and faithfulness of the adaptation.
It has been my experience that to really hook someone into Star Blazers, you need to show them the first five episodes (conveniently, the ones on this DVD). We are immediately thrust into the desperate year of 2199, a year in which planet Earth is in a war for its own survival, having been bombed to the brink of extinction by the Gamilon Empire. After Earth's last stand at Pluto, what little remains of the Earth Defense receives a message of assistance and hope. The assistance comes in the form of new technology, enabling Earth to finally travel beyond the confines of the solar system. The hope comes in the promise of a device that will rid the Earth of the radioactivity brought about by the Gamilon bombing. The catch? The Earth has to go to the distant planet Iscandar to retrieve the device. For that journey, the Earth will need a ship unlike anything it has ever produced, and a heroic crew unafraid to take risks.
We are introduced to all the main characters - Derek Wildstar, the hotheaded young officer angry at the world, and specifically for his brother's death at Pluto; Mark Venture, Wildstar's cool-headed friend and rival; Nova, possibly the most versatile character, who fills many roles from radar technician, to cook (don't try her coffee, trust me), to nurse; Dr Sane, the "potato-head" character who's constantly sauced on "spring water;" IQ-9, the self-proclaimed "genius robot," who tries to be human; Captain Avatar, the wise leader of the Star Force who Wildstar blames for the death of his brother; and Desslok, the despotic leader of the Gamilon empire. There'll be more on him in another review.
Right out of the gate, we see that this is much more than another space shoot-'em up show. Dramatic, character-driven moments begin almost immediately, most notably when Avatar calls Wildstar to his quarters to explain about his brother's death, but instead just looks at the young officer and says, regretfully, "It's nothing."
The dub cast also is spot-on with their characters right from the first episode. Star Blazers is, in my opinion, the best English-language anime dub, and the yardstick that all others are measured by. The chemistry between the actors is readily evident, as is the pride they took in their work, along with the fun they had doing it. Scenes like the one mentioned above would not have been possible with any other cast of the time. And the amazing thing is, they get better.
Of course, any review of Star Blazers would be incomplete without mentioning the battle sequences, however this volume does not even come close to showing the scope of combat we'll be seeing later, as the Gamilons become more desperate to stop the Star Force and begin throwing more artillery at them. The Pluto battle mainly serves to show us how far behind the Gamilons the Earth really is, and how "gee wiz" the Yamato is going to be. Once the Yamato (I know it's renamed the "Argo" in the dub, but I'm in the habit of using the original name, and it was hard enough to get into the habit of using it, nevermind trying to break it) is completed and rises out of the dried-up seabed, it takes out a Gamilon carrier with a single shot.
Which brings me to the last character we are introduced to - the Yamato herself. Like the Enterprise in Star Trek, the Yamato is as much a character as any human (or alien), and is the embodiment of the show. For a Japanese audience, the symbolism is probably akin to us having a show where the USS Constitution is refitted for space flight. Whether you understand the symbolism or not, the ship is one of the best in Sci-Fi, and has the classic Wave Motion Gun, which we see for the first time in episode 5.
So now the bottom line - is it worth it? Rumor has it that VEI is working on a domestic (US) DVD release which should show up "in a few months." Should VEI finally release a Star Blazers DVD, and it is better than the Kiseki version, I will be the first to recommend it. However, "a few months" is what they've been saying since last August, and I'm tired of holding my breath waiting for them to deliver. Ideally, I wish some other company (are you reading this, Bandai, ADV, and AnimEigo?) would pick up the series and release it in perfect-collection style, on dual-sided DVD's with the English-language Star Blazers on one side and corresponding subtitled Yamato episodes on the other. Barring that, this UK version is a nice price for a regionless, NTSC format, easy-to-get release. If you do not mind the early-CPM-style soft transfer, lack of Japanese track (or any other features), and bare-bones format, I would recommend it to replace your old, worn out tapes, or if you've been waiting for a DVD to get a taste of the series. If you're on a budget, rent a few VHS episodes first, and decide from there. Star Blazers is a big investment, and if the negatives will outweigh the positives, I'd hate for you to be turned off from this great series by them.
Sony 23" Trinitron TV, Sony DVP S360 player, "Jury-rigger special" audio set-up, KLH speakers.