Strange Dawn Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: A
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Urban Vision
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 92
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Strange Dawn

Strange Dawn Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     January 24, 2002
Release Date: January 22, 2002


Strange Dawn Vol. #1
© Urban Vision


What They Say
What would you do if you found yourself in a world half your size? Nothing can be more surprising for Emi and Yuko, a couple of regular middle-school girls, when they discover a whole new land at their feet. To make matters even more complicated, the inhabitants of this world think Emi and Yuko are the legendary protectors of their country! It’s a fantastic adventure as Emi and Yuko struggle to find a way back to normal-sized life!

Contains four complete episodes!

Episode 1: Walking in the Desert
Emi and Yuko have landed in a world of trouble! On the way to class, they find themselves magically transported to another world! Is it a hidden part of Earth, or a planet in a whole other solar system?

Episode 2: Surrounded by Silence
The girls have been brought to Bellzagle, suddenly becoming the ‘Great Protectors’ of the village, when all they really want to do is to get home! Shal decides to help the girls even though problems are creeping up on the village!

Episode 3: In the Darkness
Reka and Mani can’t stand the situation in the village, so they set off after Shal and the others, only to be captured! Who are friends, and who are enemies? Who can tell?!

Episode 4: A Storm Rolls In
Is there another force creating chaos in all the countries? Alone, Emi finds a strange magical being with a mysterious message. Is this a good witch, or a bad witch? Without Yuko, what will Emi do?

The Review!
Strange Dawn, the first title in Urban Vision's new line called Lil Vision, is possibly one of the more bizarre shows I've seen in awhile. It's not that it's blatantly bizarre, but that there's just an underlying feeling of something very wrong with everything.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. This stereo track is pretty decent with some good sound thrown to the rear channels, mostly music, but also good use of the forward soundstage. The characters voices feel like they come from them instead of just filling up the area entirely. Also included is an English 5.1 track that does a great job in improving the clarity of the music, though it loses some of the warm feeling to it. On the, well, I wouldn't call it a downside but a weirdside, the English dub features the two leads speaking some strong Australian accents and the rest of the characters adopting variations of it. The 5.1 track does some nice directionality, but there's just something unsettling about the accents.

Video:
Being a recent show and making excellent use of the computer cel painting techniques, Strange Dawn looks great for the majority of the disc. Colors look great and the digitally added in things, such as a brook or the water along the river, looks like an excellent meshing of animation and cg. But there are some minor things to note. Some of the night time dark blue skies come up with some blockiness to them and there are a few areas where you can see some cross coloration around the edges of some of the characters. And depending on your setup, there may be a general level of fuzziness to the show. On our Skyworth, it wasn't noticeable at all, but on our TV/DVD combo it showed up prominently.

Packaging:
Presented in a white keepcase, Strange Dawn has an amusing cover with the two tall lead characters and a small horde of the small characters rushing forward. It's a bit busy, and the character designs are definitely going to throw people. It's going to be really easy to consider this a kids title, especially if people equate the white keepcase to kids stuff. The back cover provides some more character shots and a brief summary of the show. The discs features and production credits are also listed. The insert provides another shot of the front cover while it folds open to provide specific episode summaries as well as a focus on one of the characters. The back side lists the chapter stops for each of the episodes and lists the features again. For those getting the first pressing, a special bonus is included of stickers for the main characters of the show so far on one full color sheet. A very neat little bonus.

Menus:
Utilizing the animation from the show, the menus here are very slick. Focusing on one of the trees from the show, characters move in and out of it while the soft music plays. When you move to another menu, the animation morphs to the new scene, such as rain falling and then shifting to a close-up of some leaves. While the transitions aren't fast, they're very well done. The menus are set up pretty logically and we had little trouble with it other than in the language selection section where what you select isn't visibly checked in some way.

Extras:
The only extras included in this round is a number of great looking color pieces of conceptual artwork for the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
To a lot of people, Strange Dawn looks like a kiddie title. It even smells like one. The two lead characters are Yuko and Emi, high school girls in their school uniforms wandering a mysterious land. They don't know how they got there. One second, normal day, next second a flash of white light and they're out in this barren place.

The two aren't sure what's happened, but they decide to keep walking until they can find something. Emi's something of a talker when she's nervous, so she's talking continuously about their various school projects and teachers and such. But while they're walking down a canyon, they suddenly find themselves under attack by what look like two foot tall dolls. The dark dressed ones on flying creatures are actually going after one on foot wearing white (that you might mistake for a tomato). The attack catches Yuko and Emi in the middle and Yuko even takes an arrow to her leg.

When the dark clad ones actually come upon the tall girls, they flee in panic. The white clad one introduces himself as Shall and names them the Great Protectors he has been expecting to arrive. Though confused, the girls agree to go to the village where he lives to see if someone there can help them find a way home. The village doesn't exactly welcome the Great Protectors though. Several are just unsure that they actually are the Protectors, while one of the soldiers there, looking out for his own personal gain, tries to twist the arrival of the girls as an impending doom from other forces who will want to capture them.

For what seems like an eternity, we get the girls meandering through the village and meeting various villagers and trying to figure out their own way about things. One of the biggest challenges appears to be where to find a bathroom for Emi while Yuko has decided to simply not eat any of the strange food, so she's starting to waste away a bit (which is terribly hard for an already thin to the bone anime female). There's also the introduction of some of the politics of both the village and of the realm as an opposing force attempts to invade the village and throw it into chaos.

The show plays the standard shtick of your average people dropped into a strange world that meet up with some people and end up going on a quest to find their way back home while helping along the way. While we haven't gotten to the helping on their way part, the travel part begins here one we start getting the background on things. A whole lot of things are being left unexplained here, but there's something very intriguing about it all. It's written in such a way that you really have to pay attention to things and not something that's constant flash and style. There's very few moments of real excitement here that will cause many to find it boring. But an equal number will likely find it more compelling for this reason.

There is definitely something intriguing about it, but as I listened to more and more of the English track, I really have to recommend the Japanese one. Once I heard "loo" used for bathroom, I have to wonder just what they were going for here. But in a technical sense, there's plenty to like here and plenty of hints of something grander to come.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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