If you can't go home again, can you revisit an old favorite and have it hold the test of time?
What They Say
The feature contains English and Japanese stereo for the TV episodes but Japanese stereo only for the OVAs. For this review the Japanese track was used. While it is a fairly basic stereo track it does make use of the rear speakers well and there are no drop outs or distortions noticed. Spot checking the English found no problems there either.
The feature was made in 2001 and has a number of flaws. There is considerable noise, line aliasing, some banding as well as haloing to be found within. The CG also shows its age in a few places as some of it doesn't always mesh with the cell animation fluidly. On the positive note though the colors are bright and vibrant and the darker colors are solid and defined.
The collection comes in a clear keepcase. The front cover presents Hibiki in the center with Meia, Jura and Dita on the left side with a later form of Vandread on the right and a close up of the head of Vandread Dita underneath that. The back has six shots from the feature on the upper half and the lower contains a group shot of the majority of the main cast from the first season with the image of the Vandread Dita behind them. The inside left contains a disc/episode list and the right has all three of the main Vandread forms.
The menu for the first disc has a scene of Hibiki and Dita in the Vandread cockpit under attack layered on top of a scene of the same Vandread in action. The second disc features a large image of Dita as well as 5 of the other women from the series also superimposed on the same Vandread in action. Disc three Has Dita standing in front of Hibiki's profile superimposed over a scene of the ultimate Vandread form flying in front of the Nirvana. The fourth disc has the three main women standing in line on the left while the right has Hibiki in the front with most of the cast who has more than a handful of lines behind them superimposed over a scene that has the Nirvana and all three of the Vandread forms. The final disc has one of the Dita Vandread copies in the center with Hibiki's Vangaurd charging and a Dread fighter flying overhead. All the menus are set up the same are rather simple but they are quick to respond. All of them have the same piece of music playing behind them which starts sounding almost like a military march but picks up the pace and adds a number of instruments. It is a fairly upbeat if not terribly memorable track.
The feature contains no extras-The OVAs are reviewed below.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The feature opens on the planet Tarak in a future where humans have moved into space yet in the case of two planets men and women have come to live separately with little knowledge of the other outside propaganda and no knowledge of a time when the sexes lived together. The story introduces the young protagonist Hibiki Tokai who is sick of his factory life making parts for the men's war machines called Vanguards and goaded into making a bet to obtain one of the finished models with a piece that has a mark he put on it. This rash act has Hibiki breaking onto the the military's newest warships which is also combined with one of the original colony ships-just as it is suddenly launching to bring war to the women. Hibiki is discovered and thrown in a jail but makes his escape as a group of women pirates launch a raid on the warship. Deciding to keep the new part of the ship from falling into enemy hands the captain detaches that part and prepares to destroy the old part. As this is happening Hibiki makes contact with one of the enemy who boarded the ship- a high spirited, clumsy and alien obsessed young woman named Dita Liebely who pursues him. As the pirates realize the ship is going to explode they try to flee but both those on the old ship and the pirate ship are drawn in when there is a reaction in the energy source of the old ship. This reaction results in the pirate ship and the old ship merge into a new ship as well as the ship being flung a great deal of distance through the galaxy.
Now the mostly female crew of the new ship must form an uneasy pact as the three men on board turn out to be invaluable in the operation of the ship. Bart Garsus is a braggart but also the only one capable of merging with the ships navigation system. Duelo McFile is the only doctor on board and Hibeki who it turns out is the only person who can operate the only Vanguard that was changed along with three of the female pilots Dread fighters by the old ships power source. These modified fighters can each combine with Hibiki's Vanguard to form a unique Vandread fighter which turns out to be the best weapon the castaways now have against a new enemy none have ever encountered before.
The crew must now somehow learn to cope together and overcome their fear and dislike of the other sex in order to try to make it back to their home worlds and warn them that a new danger approaches. The series then travels through many of the problems Hibiki has dealing with two alien races-one he has no preparation on how to communicate with and one that wants him harvested. As the series progresses Hibiki learns more about each of the three Dread pilots he teams with as well as does a large amount of growing up himself as he faces challenges unlike any he has known, though he isn't alone as many of the other ship members also have much growing up to do to fit into the new role fate has thrust upon them. The group experiences both joys of discovery and friendship and sorrows of war as they acclimate to these new roles and try to stand between the new enemy they have discovered and the horrific nature of the enemies true identity and goals.
The big bonus to this release is finally after the Vandread franchise being available on DVD for years the OVAs have finally made it onto DVD. Both of the OVAs are sub only and feel more like an extra as they are mostly recaps of the two TV seasons with a few minutes of new footage added. Integral adds a new background pop song (Spacy Spicy Love) as well as a few minutes showing the female pirates assembling at their base before launching their attack at Tarak. What follows is a very abridged version of the first season which skips over much of the character development parts and focuses more on the action aspects with some events shifted to play up the dramatic nature or get some introductions done earlier. A nice bonus is that both the original opening and closing songs for the first season are present in their entirety as background tracks for those who enjoyed them but want to hear the full versions.
Turbulence covers the second series and has new animation of what happens when a pipe breaks and there is flooding in the ship that creates a hot spring. This is used to create a bit of additional humor and add something to characters who are a bit dry with what was taken out as far as character development in creating the abridged version. There is also a new background song at the beginning and some new footage that is used to create the end of the OVA. For those wondering it is both a bit more touching that the TV ending but it also is even more limited in terms of "what next" than the TV series end.
The series characters are a fun collection of odd ball characters who each have their own problems and strengths they bring to the table. The CG and animation hold up very well for it's age and the sound is still good for its 2.0 mix. On the down side some of the novelty has worn off and watching it all in a short period of time makes some of the transitions between what they are trying to do standout rather than mesh together well.
Vandread is a series that stands the test of time fairly well with some parts now seeming a tad bit stale while others seem a little more meaningful. It has some very nice characters and some interesting events that take place during the feature. It also has some very nice CG work and the animation still looks good even measured up against many titles today. The addition of the OVAs make it an easy to label as the definitive version to own for those who don't yet but those already owning the series may not find that a few minutes of new footage in the OVAs make it worth purchasing again. It is an easy recommendation of a fun series to spend time with that covers both humor and hardships though it likely won't feel groundbreaking as much of what is done in story progression is a bit generic and not always memorable.
TV Series: Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
OVAs: Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Reciever with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, JVC DVD player XV-FA95GD