Starblazers Vol. #2 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A+

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Menus Rating: A
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Voyager
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Starblazers / Yamato

Starblazers Vol. #2

    May 15, 2001
Release Date: May 15, 2001

Starblazers Vol. #2
© Voyager

What They Say
Relentless planet bombing from outer space forces Earth's survivors to live underground - if they want to live at all. When the deadly radiation starts penetrating their subterranean cities, Space Cruiser Argo is launched on a 148,000 light-year quest for the planet Iscandar. The legendary ship's mission is to return with the technology that will neutralize the contamination. An elite force of Star Blazers has only one Earth year to do it. During this intergalactic race against time, they engage in spectacular space battles with Gamilon fleets from another galaxy, now based on Pluto. In addition to the overwhelming odds and superior destructive power of the invaders, the Argo's other enemy is deep space itself.
In this classic adventure, the ship's doctor is able to keep the captain alive, although he grows weak from radiation poisoning. The Star Blazers discover that one of their force is a cyborg. They are also surprised to learn that their robot has a sense of humor. Two friends resolve a bitter feud. One falls in love. And the biggest surprise is sprung when the surviving crewmembers see who greets them when they get to Iscandar.

The Review!
Well, nice of VEI to put spoiler warnings on the back of the box.
I'm being sarcastic, of course.

In all seriousness, now that VEI's first "official" Star Blazers DVD has arrived, how does it fare compared to the repackaged (in a box featuring characters who don't even appear until after the second series, no less!) UK disk?

Note, I do not own the VEI version of volume 1, but I have it on good authority from people who do own both that VEI's version is simply Kiseki's UK disk with the serial numbers filed off.

Video is much better than volume 1, and the chapter stops make sense this time out. There is a bit of "creative weirdness," though - on the menus they list Opening, Part A, Part B, Ending. Pretty standard stuff, but when you play the DVD through, the opening and ending play only at the very beginning and very end, exactly like the VHS releases. However, pick the opening of an individual episode, and the disk goes *back* to the beginning, plays the opening animation, then jumps to the beginning of the chosen episode. However, it only works half-right, and instead of jumping ahead to the ending credits at the end, it flows seamlessly into the next episode.

The transfer itself is still a bit on the soft side, apparently the fabled broadcast masters were not used as VEI claimed they would be some time ago, and is basically another direct port of the VHS tapes. That's not to say it's necessarily horrible, I'd stack this volume up with, say, an early CPM release like Iria. If this is all that is available, then that's fine and I'll deal with it. But if the broadcast masters do still exist as has been claimed, VEI should spend the extra money and use them. Is an honest answer one way or another too much to ask for?

Finally, as I said in my review of the UK disk, Star Blazers/Yamato 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.

My biggest complaint is still the removal of openings, endings, eyecatches, and previews. But at least this time VEI tried to find a way around the lack of openings and endings, even if it only worked half-right.

The audio is clear throughout the disk, but due to the age of the source material is in mono. This in and of itself isn't bad, but younger fans expecting a remixed stereo track will be disappointed. Personally, due to the superior dubbing and softness of the video transfer, the audio is one of the best things about this disk.

A step up from volume 1, the front cover sports a picture of the Yamato blasting off. No characters not found in the first series are on the cover this time. However, the background graphics clearly show the Andromeda and several other second series ships. A little homework could have prevented this slip up, but I guess the average fan who'll be picking this up out of nostalgia isn't as hard-core as I am (and won't go bananas over things like VEI's use of "Space Cruiser" on the package, even though "Space Battleship" is the correct translation of "Uchu Senken," and the one used in the dub, besides. But again, this is just me). VEI still includes pretty major spoilers on the package description however, and the text is merely regurgitated from volume 1. Nice looking, and the picture of the Yamato is sure to catch more than a few eyes, but with problems.

They do use adapted names of the Japanese episodes on the menus and inserts ("Argo Braves Death! Destroy the Gamilon Reflex Gun!"), which was unexpected to me. I don't know if this was the case on disk 1, and I rather doubt it since it wasn't included in the UK release. In the "big oops" department, on the insert, episode 6 is listed as "Space Destroyer Yukikaze Sleeps in the Icefield," but on the menu it's "Space Destroyer Paladan..." I know the name was changed in the English-language version, so someone should've proof-read the insert. Still and all, it is a nice bit to have, and is the sole reason why the packaging rating didn't slip to a C or lower. If VEI follows their VHS tradition and simply reproduces this package for subsequent volumes, this grading will fall rapidly.

Menus are much improved this time around. The main menu shows the traditional "sky-cam" screenshot of the main bridge, with an animated asteroid field out the viewports. It also plays the instrumental version of the opening song, along with Captain Avatar calling a red alert. There are 4 options, "Launch," which plays all four episodes through, "Navigation," which is your scene selection menu, "Features," and "Credits." Access times are quick, with no out-of-control animation and/or audio to bog it down. It's the best of both worlds between "fancy-for-the-sake-of-fancy" and "functional - and that's it." I won't be disappointed if the menus for subsequent volumes retain this design. It works, its attractive, and it's quick.

Though they list four extras, there's really only two worth mentioning. The first is the extensive scene which was cut from episode 2 that gives the history of the battleship Yamato. However, this is the version from the compilation movie of Yamato I, not the TV version (which I understand was longer). VEI does give a disclaimer and lets us know where this is from. This is not in English, it is in Japanese with hard subs. Looks like it was ported directly from the VHS, as the transfer is quite a bit softer than the main program, dipping into the range of the UK disk. It does beg two questions, however. 1) Where are the DVD's of the movies? And 2) where are the Region 1 DVD's of the original Yamato series?

The other bonus feature is a "crew roster" which uses the names and bios (Abraham Avatar, Steven Sandor, Nova Forrester, etc) from the comics by Bruce Lewis and Tim Eldred (who is credited as a "special consultant"), along with their corresponding Japanese names. A nice feature, and in keeping with the standards set by other companies. Here's the strange part - the artwork for each character is Matsumoto's new character designs from the Playstation game. So if you're wondering what the new "Great Yamato" anime may look like, here's your chance. I'm also hoping that VEI continues with this feature in Volume 3 and gives us the Gamilons.

Four episodes this time, and the first story-arc reaches its climax. Unfortunately, they should've put one more episode on this disk, which would bring the first arc to its ending. Episode 6 begins with the Yamato low on energy after the test firing of the Wave Motion gun in the previous episode. The crew is ordered to Titan, where they're sure to find "Titanite," an energy conduction element. As cheesy as it sounds, it actually only serves to get Derek Wildstar to the site where the wreck of his brother's ship is located. This is much more of a dramatic episode than an action story, and credit must be given to Ken Meseroll (Wildstar) and Amy Howard (Nova) for their fine performances.

Episode 7 is the first part of a two-parter, where the Star Force discovers that there is a major Gamilon base on Pluto, and it is from this base that the Planet Bombs which have wrecked Earth's surface have been launched. The Yamato closes in for attack when the Gamilons release their new weapon - the Reflex gun, which succeeds in sending the Yamato to the bottom of a frozen ocean.

Episode 8 is the second part of the two-parter, where Wildstar, Sandor, Conroy, and IQ-9 infiltrate the Gamilon base to destroy the Reflex gun. It's basicaly an animated version of "The Guns of Navarone." Still, it's a great action-filled episode, and the only one to feature Bridge #3 functional and not getting blown off.

Episode 9 features science officer Sandor in the lead as the Star Force hide in the outer asteroid belt franticly repairing their ship after the pounding they took on Pluto from the Reflex Gun. An asteroid belt beyond Pluto's orbit, you ask? Some of the science that is shown in Yamato isn't so far-fetched today as it was back in 1972. In fact, Pluto's moon hadn't yet been discovered. Who knows what's waiting on the other side of its orbit? They explain that there was another planet beyond Pluto that the Gamilons destroyed (actually, in Yamato-verse, there are eleven planets in the solar system). Some fans have even theorized that they used this new asteroid field as a mine for the planet bombs. This is a tense episode, full of cat-and-mouse tactics, and features the ultra-cool asteroid ring.

Final Thoughts
Basically, VEI's done another "just enough, do what's expected, nothing more" release. Personally, I'm of two minds about this. I'm glad these DVD's are coming out, so I can retire my tapes (which, frankly, look like hell from endless hours of repeated viewing and being loaned out), but I really hate giving VEI money to not do the release properly. Don't get me wrong, this disk is a step in the right direction as VEI now knows what's really expected after the fall-out over the mirror-release of the UK disk.

Content-wise, this disk is a winner. Star Blazers is a far cry from some of the TV hack-jobs we get even today, and its dubbing is still the yardstick to judge all other dubs (TV and otherwise) by. In fact, I would say that the only dub job to even come close in the quality of acting is Cowboy Bebop. And the translation is faithful, for the most part, only changing what was necessary to get it on TV. Star Blazers is a far cry from Robotech.

However, the real bottom line is that VEI is really missing the boat (and a good number of sales) by not packaging this as a two-sided disk with SB on one side and the corresponding subbed Yamato episodes on the other. Heck, even short interviews with Amy, Ken, Eddie "Desslok" Allen and other members of the cast would be welcome. Region 2, even unsubbed, is becoming more and more inviting as time goes on. Maybe someone could bug Robert Woodhead about it.

English Language,Deleted Scenes,Character Bios

Review Equipment
Sony 23" Trinitron TV, Sony DVP S360 player, "Jury-rigger special" audio set-up, KLH speakers.


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