In a far flung future when men and women live separately, it's the pirate life that changes everything for a group of young people.
What They Say
The battle of the sexes may seem bad on Earth, but in a space colony far, far away, things are even worse. Men and women haven't seen each other for decades, so they don't just argue in the future - they go straight for each other's throats. Enter lowly Hibiki, a little guy with big dreams of adventure, who finds himself in the middle of a firefight after stowing away in a top secret mech designed to purge the galaxy of estrogen!
But as the gender war rages on, a mysterious crystal weapon forever links their starships – and their destinies. Time is running out as men and women explore their sexual differences, struggle to suppress raging hormones, and fight to survive the threat of a deadly common foe!
Contains all 26 episodes of both Vandread Stages 1 & 2.
The bilingual presentation for Vandread is what we had seen in the previous release from Pioneer in that we get two stereo language tracks encoded at 192kbps. The series isn't all that exceptional when it comes to its presentation, certainly reflective of its release time, but it has a good solid stereo design to it. The forward soundstage is well used throughout, more so when it comes to the actions scenes and opening and closing sequences, but the dialogue makes out well as well. There isn't a lot of serious placement or depth to it, but it fits with the show and it all comes across cleanly and clearly without dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2000 and 2001, the transfer for this twenty six episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 but is not enhanced for anamorphic playback. Vandread was one of many series from Gonzo that was done in widescreen but without anamorphic masters and that holds true here as well as it's letterboxed. Within that frame the show looks quite good with strong colors and a smooth animation throughout. The show is done across four discs in a 7/6/7/6 format for the two seasons and because of it being non-anamorphic it manages to work well with the bitrates. I alternated in watching the show zoom and normal and both modes looked pretty good without any real issues outside of some noise here and there. The CG animation to me looks like it's holding up fairly well all things considered and the set overall is appealing in its visuals.
Vandread mirrors other double thinpak collections from FUNimation as it has a simple slipcover to hold the two cases. The slipcover is bright and colorful with the front cover featuring most of the core cast in their usual outfits all over each other. One of the dreads is in the background but it's generally all given over to character artwork which is nicely appealing. The back cover has more character artwork but more of the mecha as well to give it some balance. There's a few small shots from the show and a decent summary of the overall premise of the series with a good sense of style to it. Inside the slipcover we have a pair of clear thinpaks where the outward facing side has a mixture of mecha and characters while the interior goes for pure mecha pieces in CG form. The interior also lists the episode numbres and titles for each of the discs as well which is a nice touch. The packaging overall is pretty solid and it covers everything just right with a good mix of character and CG mecha artwork.
The menu layout for Vandread is kept very simple but it works nicely as each disc has a different piece of static artwork that mixes up the cast in various configurations. The artwork looks rather fresh and vibrant here for the short duration that you're using it. The releases have nothing to them outside of the language setup and the episodes themselves so there isn't a lot to do. Submenu navigation is quick and easy to use and episode selection when you get into it is straightforward. As is the norm with FUNimation releases, our players' language presets weren't used and it defaulted to English language with no subtitles.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the more popular shows that Pioneer released early on has found its way into FUNimation's library and they've given us a rather good collection with this release with only one shortcoming. And that's the mild lack of extras that we had on the previous release. Reduced from eight volumes to four, Vandread's two seasons here manage to flow much better when taken in marathon form compared to the lengthy single volume release we saw several years ago.
The series premise starts off very interesting, especially for this old time viewer. The planet Tarak is introduced to us as a world of men only, the third generation there in fact. The social structure is presented as multi-tiered with the elites at the top, mostly military, and with the third rate citizens down at the bottom being the builders of it all. We're also given a crash course on what women are, as they are currently en route to Tarak to pillage, plunder and to extract men's spines for their pleasure. The women are presented as the ultimate evil in the universe that must be vanquished, which the men of Tarak are preparing to do by launching their original starship back into space to take them on.
Through the introductions on the male side, we meet three in particular. The third rate citizen is Hibiki, a young lad whose mouth has gotten him in trouble. He claimed he could get a particular piece of gear from the military combat mechs and finds himself about to get it when the ship launches early. Another character is Bart, the son of the family in charge of providing the worlds food pellets. He's the sort of stuck-up character you'd expect. And finally, we have Duero, the long haired good looking guy that you expect will be the challenge to Hibiki when the fighting starts. Bzzt, he's the doctor.
The women's ships then arrive in the system with blazing speed, surprising the men. The men prove to actually be very unprepared for all of this while the women are like a well oiled machine, swooping down and taking out targets and capturing ships left and right. It's not long that the main men's fleet is taken out and done with for the most part. The women remove their armor pieces and begin to round up the male crew and to check over what they've captured. From what we see of the women from here, we get the usual gamut of stereotypes, such as the somewhat ditzy pilot, the serious pilot, the glamour pilot, the older woman leading the group, the maid-ish one whose the doctor and the rough and ready one that handles supplies.
Part of the problem with the women, which translates to the show in general, is that the cast feels just a bit too large. It's fairly easy to start forgetting names during the show, never mind when reviewing it the next day. It's around this time that the male in charge of the fleet decides to use one of their new weapons before they're completely taken down and fires it at the women's fleet, which also takes the three men as well. The weapon isn't all that clear, but it ended up sending the ships something like a light-year away into unfamiliar space. It also created some kind of crystalline entity that's worked between the ships to rebuild and restructure them.
So now they're far away from home. A new kind of alien race discovers them and attacks them, and leads into the basic storyline of the ship, with the help of the men, must return to the women's home system to warn of this new alien menace that's coming. There's a lot going on here, as most of what's described above skims the first episode and the first couple minutes of the second. With a large cast, there's a lot of interactions going on and a lot of locales for them all to be in. There's also a sizeable number of "extras" so to speak, which is just more women in the background doing various jobs.
The second half of the series takes the foundation of the first half and builds on it rather nicely. The revelations about this new alien race that is made up of machines is very intriguing as it starts to pain the bigger picture of what’s been going on. Lost in a lot of the show in the first half was that the lives of people on Tarak and the women’s world has only been that way for over a hundred years, but it’s brought back to the fore as this season progresses. With the knowledge among the pirate crew that the enemy is made up of harvesting ships meant to scour the worlds of humanity and bring them back to Earth for supply, well, it has them wanting to shout it down to every world and get them to stand up for themselves. Having seen worlds ravaged by this and the way some of them go so willingly – reminiscent of films like Logan’s Run in fact – the crew almost has a feeling of desperation about them as the want to save so many.
The Second Stage plays out with a bit more action to it as the crew moves about from different places and they start to see the larger scope of the problem at hand with the harvesting ships. A message from the past lands in their laps after some effort (along with a new crewmember) and everything takes on even more importance after that. As would be expected from this series and this season in particular, it does push forward to a more action filled ending as it wants to deal with everything at risk. The issues that caused all of this are given a bit of a glossing over, as is the way Earth is now and its inhabitants, but that lets it stay very cool and without serious risk because the enemy is made up of automated machines. There’s a certain freedom in doing it that way since they aren’t concerned with real character deaths, but it also lessens the drama as well since the enemy is taking things in their own hands.
The character drama of the Second Stage is really well done and it made it a lot more enjoyable for me. While Hibiki has been working his way through all the women with the merges, there are still some nice moments with him and Dita as they are growing closer together. But I really enjoyed his time with Jura the most since she played against type a little bit and was very emotional throughout a lot of things. There’s a nice mild side story of some importance when it comes to one of the crew that’s pregnant as well and that has everyone interacting a bit more. Hibiki is the one that grows the most of course as he understands who he is and finds the words that move and shape him along the way though. His role in everything becomes much clearer as it progresses and it admittedly makes sense with the final revelations.
What surprised me was one of the other characters in their growth. While Duero was decent throughout and he has some nice moments here and there, the one that I liked the most in the end was Bart. From his playboy-ish image from the start and the way he’s a bit flamboyant, when he found his heart and his reason for being in a sense he became a much more fun character to watch. As he watches a young girl hover close to death, his realization about the world and how things work – and the connections that we make – strike deep at him and it changes him profoundly. Both emotionally and physically which is what made it so much more fun. He wears his change on his sleeve and he lives with it that way, making it known. I liked the cast in general, but once Bart goes through his change he became a favorite.
I sort of waffled on my feelings about Vandread back during its original release but at that time I wasn’t exactly a big Gonzo fan and I wasn’t a fan of the mixture of CG and anime that was sweeping so many shows then either. Time and distance has helped as well as watching it all in the space of a couple of days. It’s a light and fun show with plenty of pushed up angst and emotion at times set against a big space epic backdrop that’s not all that detailed or fleshed out in a way that makes it fully workable. But it is fun and I have to admit that I did like it this time around in a way that I don’t think I did before. FUNimation’s presentation of the show is solid throughout though I wish it retained some of the extras. Priced right, packaged right and essentially a good bit of early Gonzo fun, Vandread’s an easy pick-up if you don’t have it and are looking for something of this nature.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.