Vandread Second Stage Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+/A-
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98/34.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Vandread

Vandread Second Stage Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     October 05, 2002
Release Date: September 24, 2002


Vandread Second Stage Vol. #1
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Eat or be Eaten!

The discovery of a drifting escape capsule leads to new threats to the survival of the Nirvana, two new crew members and the secret to the aliens’ origin! The aliens continue to adapt themselves and attack the Nirvana in new ways. As the crew struggles against these developments, the Nirvana itself undergoes a transformation and a tragedy causes the unthinkable – Bart grows up.

The Review!
After a successful first season, Gonzo goes back to bring another short season of Vandread after listening to what the fans liked and didn’t like. The result is definitely a much sharper show.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The show features a solid stereo mix with some good moments of directionality across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is nice and clear and the music and ambient sound effects come across well. Spot checking the English track, we noted no dropouts or distortions.

Video:
The transfer here is pretty much the same as the first season, featuring a non-anamorphic letterbox picture that looks great. The shows colors are even more vibrant and sharper than the first time around, providing a much more enticing visual treat. Cross coloration is pretty much non-existent and aliasing is extremely minimal. And much like the first series, the subtitles have been placed within the image and not in the letterbox area, giving HDTV owners the ability to properly zoom in.

Packaging:
The foil style covers continue here with one of the new variants for the Vandread configuration getting the main cover. It’s definitely eye-catching between the color scheme and the foil effect itself. The back cover features a couple of bits of animation and a brief summary of these episodes. The discs episode titles and numbers are clearly listed (as there is no volume numbering) as well as the discs features. As this is a promotional copy, we did not get an insert with this release.

Also available was the first volume with a box for an additional $5. The really nice thing about the box is that it's designed to hold both the first and second stage series, so it'll hold all eight volumes. It's a good solid hard box that doesn't fold down at all. The artwork is a full wraparound piece with the blue/purple starry sky background to it. One side has half of the cast, the back has one of the mecha taking up the whole are while the other side has the other half of the cast. The top features just the logo against the background.

Menu:
Very much in the style of the show, Nightjar provides another set of great looking and great sounding menus that are also functional and easy to navigate in the style of one of the ships control panels. Moving between the menus is a breeze and access times are nice and fast. The menus are also done in the widescreen mode to keep in line with the show itself, so zooming here results in no loss as well.

Extras:
There’s a small but good selection of extras included that will keep the die-hard fans happy. With each episode pretty much continuing to tweak the opening sequence, we get textless versions of each of them. The only other new extra is a promo clip that shows off the highlights of this season of the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this opening volume, Vandread hits the viewer over the head repeatedly with plot. Plot and more plot. While the stories are in essence standalone, to reacquaint the viewer with the show, they are definitely following their overall arc and provide many new pieces to the larger puzzle that they’re trying to solve. It’s all done quite well.

One of the first major developments of the new seasons revolves around a distress signal that the Nirvana decides to answer. In their attempt to retrieve the capsule that contains the only life signal left, the Harvesters sneak close to their attempt and being a sizeable attack. A good portion of the battle sequence is a reflection of a shared dream the pilots had the day before of a red light that nearly killed them all. When the light begins to appear and ends up causing massive damage to everything it hits, their anxiety level goes up, but they still manage to do what needs to be done.

The capsule reveals something new for the crew in the form of a young Earth woman named Misty Cromwell. Her awakening (with everyone onboard in the room apparently) is an amusing segment since Hibiki falls right into the capsule. She immediately declares him her prince and plants one big kiss on him. Oh, the way Dita and everyone else reacts… it’s just priceless. Misty’s arrival comes with a message from some renegades on Earth who are showing them what the world has transformed into and why it became what it did. It’s final message is imploring those who’ve settled elsewhere to fight against it, to try and restore the proper balance.

In another effort to show the progress of time, things get really rolling with one woman who’s pregnant. The amusing aspect to the show is watching the doctor learn everything he needs about birthing babies from a book called “Hello Baby”. Of course, no baby birthing on a TV show is going to be easy. The entire ship is subjected to massive power outages as well as an enemy attack. This lets things be setup so Dita and Hibiki are the only ones with her in the elevator when the baby is ready to be born, causing the doctor and the captain to have to give them instructions over the intercom. Hibiki’s reactions are priceless, but it’s the growing respect between the men and the women over their lives that’s the bigger story here.

The third episode is the strongest episode of this series to date, and surprisingly the focus eventually comes mostly to Bart. There’s little to say about this episode that won’t give away much, but the interplay between many of the characters is just spot on here, and while they do play with your heartstrings at appropriate moments, it’s well done and provides a great set of motivations for a couple of the characters.

One of the noticeable differences with this season is the apparent knowledge that it was going to be going overseas. In a nod to this, the opening sequence’s credits have both English and Japanese on it, with the exception of the music credits which are English only for some reason. The end credits are completely swapped out though, as there was likely all Japanese for those plus the need to add in the English credits.

The quality of the animation for this season is definitely up several notches as well. The CG work for the dreads and the enemy ships is vastly improved, but still not really fully seamless by any means. One of the things that I found myself really liking here, and it’s something that started cropping up towards the end of the first series, is the absolutely gorgeous space backgrounds that they’ve been using. They’re so rich and full of color and design that I can’t stop just looking at it as opposed to the action.

Vandread continues to be something of a guilty pleasure, but less so of one as the series progresses, becoming more of just a pleasure. The initial premise was pretty much a one-trick idea, but they’ve managed to twist it into something pretty good for generating conflict and story between the characters. This season looks even more plot heavy, so I’m definitely along for this ride.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Openings,Bonus Clip,Version available with box to hold series for 34.98

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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