Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 16 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Bandai Entertainment
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 65
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Stratos 4
Stratos 4: Return to Base
By Chris Beveridge
June 27, 2005
Release Date: June 28, 2005
Stratos 4: Return to Base
What They Say
© Bandai Entertainment
The four gorgeous girls, the elite interceptor force known as the “Meteor Sweepers,” return to base on beautiful Shimoji Island to relax and celebrate their latest success. Annette and Chizuru fly in to visit while their orbital station is taken offline for repairs. Their brief time off soon turns to tragedy when an accident in space sends Orbital Station 7 hurtling on an uncontrollable crash course to Earth! The visiting girls are quickly launched back up to the station to help: however, the station’s lifeboat leaves without them. It’s now up to Mikaze, Shizuha, Ayamo and Karin to save the planet! But, will they be able to save their friends during the process!The Review!
Capping off the TV series, a two part OVA series brings some new revelations to light and closes a few questions that still remain.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The Japanese mix is a good sounding stereo mix that has a number of good moments of directionality due to ship sequences and some of the more action oriented scenes. The English 5.1 track sounds good but it's noticeably lower at times, particularly during the opening sequence, in comparison to the Japanese stereo mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.Video:
Originally released in 2004, Stratos 4 has a very vibrant looking full frame transfer. Mixing scenes between a near-tropical island, a command base and some satellites, the colors are fairly varied and well chosen. Backgrounds make out good with a very solid feel and no problems of macroblocking or color banding. Character animation itself looks great with some really vibrant pieces, often mixed into hair colors or eyes, while avoiding the usual issues of cross coloration and aliasing. The digital animation in the show manages to blend really well also with only a few areas that come across in a bad way very briefly.Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, the front cover goes with the shot of the four girls wearing their flight suits without helmets while the background is of the beautiful blue skies they have and a couple of the Sweeper jets. The back cover is a basic layout with some light images done as a collage for the background mixed in with a lot of black while each episode gets one image from it along the side. The summary is given a decent sized paragraph of discussion while the discs features and extras are all nice and clearly listed. No insert is included with this release but the cover has artwork on the reverse side. The two panel spread has all seven of the main girls in front of a row of trees wearing nothing but their bathing suits. This needs to be a poster with logo on it and sent out everywhere. That'd get some more sales to be sure.Menu:
Shifting from what the TV series had, the menu here is a simple static piece that's split into three; one a shot of Mikaze in her flit suit, the middle a close-up of the front cover and the right a partial of the reverse side cover, all set to some of the instrumental music. It's a bit busy but it allows for the selections to be spread out to the four corners and not cover up any artwork. Access times to submenus are nice and fast and the layout is easy to navigate. Unlike other Bandai releases recently, this one did not start up with my player defaults but instead went for the English 5.1 mix with sign/song subtitles on.Extras:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Stratos 4 TV series was one of those gems in the rough that was easily overlooked even as it was promoted due to the particular talents of certain voice actors working on it. Beyond that, the show itself was something that while playing up the slice of life angle of young women in the military service of sorts, it had a much darker and sinister storyline running underneath it that was slowly exposed and played out in a rather engaging way that wasn't quite the norm. The series hit some high marks and came to a very enjoyable conclusion. But there's still more to be told.
Like many follow-up OVA series, the fanservice level is upped a few notches and Stratos 4 is now exception, though they don't exactly make it something that the show is entirely about but rather a fun little excursion. The four women make their return from the orbital station to Shimoji Island but there isn't too much of a celebration going on since they can't exactly tell the world what happened. A sizeable cover up is currently being performed since the entire thing about the aliens and what happened would cause a massive panic. This doesn't exactly bother them too much since it keeps them from bragging as well as maintaining a level head about the entire experience. What they've done is known by those in charge though and there's surely something that will be done for them one day about it.
So with a bit of down time and nothing to do at the restaurant, they're able to take a break at one of the interior swimming holes, which is amusing as Kisaragi and her assistant are there as well, so we get plenty of really good fanservice with so many women there in varying types of bikini's and swimwear. And plenty of compromise positions at that. But all of this doesn't last too long as Annette and Chizuru have come to visit unofficially with the base commander and the famous Jet Rin to show them something that discovered. It's a data disc that's a video recording of Miharu from when she discovered she was pregnant and it covers the changes that she underwent while on the military base. It's an eerie and creepy piece that sets the stage for what happened to her in the TV series and closes that avenue – somewhat – and raises some new questions at the same time.
More of this is explored lightly as the mysterious bureaucrat keeps showing up, claiming he's on vacation, and tweaking things so that those on the base are able to learn more secrets along the way. All of this gets pushed to the side though as setup for a follow-up series as one of the orbital stations is suddenly hit by some random fragment, something that wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been understaffed and dealing with the fallout from the incident. It gets set on a collision course with Earth so a new mission is set forth to rescue the team that's on board and to destroy any of the pieces that are too large. This brings about a lot of interesting material with the girls as they're forced quickly back into action and they have to make some decisions about their futures as this is the last action before their paths open up in a number of different directions and they have to make a choice.
With the TV series being of such good quality, the OVA series doesn't look all that much more impressive but it maintains the slick and colorful feeling of it while adding a few more CG elements in each episode than they could have done otherwise probably. A lot of the fun here though is the characters and how they all interact with each other. Some amusing little revelations are made such as the Jet Rin thing and the connected pasts of several of the people on the island, but it also does some great set-up for moving the characters to the next stage of their mission..In Summary:
Stratos 4 was such a fun little TV series that delivered some unexpected surprises that getting a couple of more episodes in an epilogue fashion like this was just worth every minute. Though the cast isn't hugely memorable, they are fun to spend more time with as is the entire location and general setup of the show. They've done some nicely creative work here and getting to spend more time in this particular world is very enjoyable. With this being a follow-up, it's pretty much a must-get for fans of the TV series but those coming in fresh will find themselves pretty much confused. This is heavily connected to the TV series though someone new could figure it out enough, but probably not enough to really enjoy it. I'd definitely recommend it as much as the series itself however.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.