Starblazers Vol. #4 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: B-
  • 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. #4

    June 19, 2001
Release Date: June 19, 2001

Starblazers Vol. #4
© Voyager

What They Say
As the Star Force is about to learn, the vast emptiness of outer space can be deceptive. The 148,000 light years between Earth and Planet Iscandar teems with dangers no human being has faced – or even imagined – before now!

But beyond this lies even greater peril when Desslok, leader of the cruel Gamilons, sends his deadliest Commander, General Lysis, to deal with the Star Force personally! Add to this the emotional tug of war that is part of daily living on board the Space Vattleship Argo, and you have a mixture for one of the most dramatic stores ever told!

Contains episodes 14-17.

DVD Features: a complete overview of the Gamilon Empire; coming attractions for Part V.

The Review!
After the promising developments with Volumes 2 and 3, how does volume 4 hold up? Unfortunately… read on.

The video is my biggest problem with this volume. It smacks of laziness, as if VEI thinks that because the previous two disks more than made up for the lackluster reception of the first one, they can stop trying. Nope. Doesn’t work that way, guys.

My biggest gripe is during Episode 15, when the Star Force are rescued from the “galactic anomaly of the week” by Queen Starsha. There is a pretty obvious flaw. Looking at it frame-by-frame it’s a physical defect on the source tape. I was immediately reminded of those early Bruce Lee two-on-one disks that looked like they were ported directly from someone’s aging VHS collection. Thankfully, this volume isn’t that bad (and it still looks better than my beat-to-hell-and-back VHS tapes), but after the minor restoration work done on the last two volumes, it begs the question, why were these episodes seemingly slapped onto the disk?

I’d like to say that was the only video flaw, but unfortunately, overall the transfer suffers from graininess and shovel-ware syndrome. It’s not disk 1 bad (colors are sharp and full, none of disk 1’s wash-out is evident), but after the standards set by the last two disks it’s that much more obvious.

As you probably guessed, the openings, endings, eyecatches, and previews are still conspicuous by their absence, and VEI used their "work around" for the openings and endings again. It still doesn’t work exactly right, either.

I don’t blame the authoring house, Creative Digital Solutions, for this. The compression is good (at least on my setup), and they did their best with what they were given (which is why the grade is as high as it is). The fault here lies squarely with VEI (if anyone has any info as to what other DVDs Creative has done, so I can compare these disks with something with a halfway decent source, feel free to e-mail me, or post on the forum).

OK, the video took a dip, how about the audio, which has been a major selling point of these disks (even the horrible disk 1)? Well… it’s taken the same dip in quality as the video. Some of the quieter musical sections suffer from quavering, and the tonal qualities in the speech passages dips from way down in the bass range to extreme treble.

Again, it’s not the fault of the authoring house (and my grade reflects this).

The packaging is probably one of the best things about this volume, with Desslok and his top generals toasting their plans to destroy the Yamato (which is on a monitor in the background). Ironically, Desslok doesn’t appear in any of these episodes, though his presence is definitely felt. My usual gripe about the background graphics applies here, but we’re at disk four of six, so let’s just leave the background as it is for consistency’s sake. The spine is also different, with yellow lettering on a dark purple background. Yeesh!

Menus are exactly the same as disk 2 and 3, which to me is a good thing.

This time we get a history of the Gamilon Empire, complete with ships, other mecha, and Desslok’s biography. I was extremely worried that we’d get some of the more bizarre fan speculation (stories about Desslok’s mother, Desslok’s first meeting with Starsha, etc) that’s been bandied about in the last few years, but kudos to Tim Eldred for sticking strictly with what’s known, and using logic instead of wild speculation to fill the gaps.

If you haven’t seen series three yet, be forewarned that there are some slight spoilers in this section. While not entirely surprising, if you want to get into season 3 unspoiled, you may want to skip the history section.

Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The filler-ish nature of a couple of these episodes brings the content portion down somewhat, however the story arc can still be felt moving forward.

Episode 14 brings the Wildstar-Venture conflict to a head. After being stranded in the midst of the “galactic anomaly of the week” (the Octopus Star Storm), Venture and Wildstar both begin to crack. Wildstar, due to his gung-ho attitude, begins to get fed up with Venture’s more careful approach. Of course, Venture is fed up with Wildstar for exactly the same reasons. It all comes to a head when an incomplete reconnaissance mission turns into a personal grudge match and the two duke it out. But the crisis that comes to a head causes the two to put their differences and pride aside. Also of note are the brief scenes where Lysis takes over the Gamilon base on planet Balan, paving the way for the major conflicts during this stretch of the show, and will play itself out until the beginning of the final arc. Of particular note in the character department has to be Wildstar's nightmare of the Planet bombing of his home. It was unheard of back in the late 70's for the main character in any adventure show (much less a "space cartoon") to show any kind of human weakness.

Episode 15 finds the Yamato caught in this week’s anomaly, a “galactic whirlpool,” which is explained to be the beginnings of a black hole, between when a star explodes and before it collapses on itself. Made up science at its best! This is probably the only 100% arc episode on the disk, as it marks both the beginning of the Star Force's battles with General Lysis, and the first time since leaving Earth that Queen Starsha actually goes out of her way to help the Star Force. Several other plot points are introduced which will play themselves out over the next several episodes.

Episode 16 deals with IQ-9's crush on Nova, and is an early forerunner of anime that asks where is the boundary between man and machine. Although I have to praise the script for handling this subject matter, and the American adaptors for tackling it (the censors probably saw it as a lesson against prejudice, and gave it the OK), there is a bit in the plotting that should've been executed better. Nova obviously didn't pay attention during her First Contact classes! This episode also suffers a bit more than usual from the censor's knife. IQ-9's lifting of Nova's skirt was cut, along with the screams from the captured Bee People as they were mashed into "Leader Desslok's favorite food."

Finally, Episode 17 brings in several different plot points and places them onto the main story arc. First is General Volgar's jealousy of General Lysis, as the older general attempts to defeat the Star Force on his own. Second, Captain Avatar collapses again, his physical condition worsening. Surgery is now the only option to keep the Captain alive. Finally, Wildstar's development from the archetypical hothead into a real leader begins in earnest. As the Captain is undergoing the surgery, Volgar attacks with his newly trained space monster (yeah, it's pretty ridiculous, but so is Volgar). The senior officers all argue as to how to best dispatch the monster, as the main guns had no effect. Venture wants to warp out of its path, but Wildstar suggests the final option - the Wave Motion gun. He sticks with it until the rest of the crew agree with him. The monster is destroyed, and the Captain awakens from the surgery, congratulating Wildstar for saving the ship.

It is also worth mentioning, filler as these episodes are, hardly one of them goes by without introducing some arc element. Even seemingly one-off conversations add to the overall plot. Nothing goes by which won't be brought to a head by the final episodes.

Disk 4 is definitely a disappointment compared with the previous two disks. I was hoping VEI would continue in the positive direction shown by disk 2 and especially 3, but it seems they've slipped into what many fans thought we would be getting from the time it was announced - a lackluster, semi-lazy presentation. Disk 5 is supposedly out on June 26th (and I promise my review won't be delayed so long this time!), so let's all hope that this disk is the exception for the second half of the season rather than the norm and that disk 5, which goes deep into the main story arc, is back to the standards set by disk 2 and exceeded by disk 3. That disk is begging for a better presentation than this one.

English Language

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


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