Vandread Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Vandread

Vandread Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     January 28, 2002
Release Date: January 22, 2002

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

What They Say
Brand new animation from GONZO, the studio that created BLUE SUBMARINE NO.6 and GATE KEEPERS!
Women are Monsters! For generations, the men of the planet Tarak have waged a valiant war of survival against their fierce enemies of the planet Mejale - women!

Hibiki finds himself completely out of his depth first as a stowaway on a space battleship then as the prisoner of the women who hijack it! A strange missile send the hijackers into a remote corner of the galaxy where the women and their prisoners encounter a mysterious new enemy that may force them to join forces! Can men and women actually work together without killing each other?!

The Review!
If there's one thing that can be said about the folks from Gonzo, it's that they know how to churn out shiny looking shows. Whether you'll find it a retread or something new will likely depend on how long you've been watching anime.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The show features a very nice pro-logic track here with some good use of the entire soundstage. Music and sound effects regularly are thrown to the rear speakers while there's also a good amount of directionality across the forward soundstage. The rear channels aren't exactly getting a workout, but they're used much more than normal and are well done.

My love/hate relationship with Gonzo continues here. While they've done one of my favorite things by doing this show in widescreen, thereby using a larger canvas for composition and layout, they missed the boat by not making it anamorphic. The transfer we get here is identical to what they got in Japan, so my complaint is to them and not Pioneer. Beyond that though, this is a gorgeous looking disc. The show features some of the freshest looking animation around with very well rounded characters and probably some of the better CG mixing of recent shows. Colors are lush and vibrant and the blacks look nice and solid. As an added bonus for HDTV folks who are going to want to zoom in on this, Pioneer was extra careful and made sure that the subtitles all take place inside the picture and not the widescreen bars, so you won't lose subtitles during the zoom.

Using the same technique as they did on Soultaker, Vandread's cover is part holofoil that changes colors depending on the angle with which you look at it. The foil part is mostly used on the mech in the background and with various areas on the back. It's a neat effect and works well with this show. The back cover has some small character headshots and a decent summary of the shows opening premise. Episode titles and numbers are provided since there's no volume numbering and the discs features are clearly listed as well. Amusingly, the bottom listing of features list this as the English Dubbed version, but it's definitely bilingual. Looks like a misprint got through. The insert provides a shot of one of the female cast alongside the episodes and their respective chapter listings.

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. 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.

There's some good extras included with this release. We get a number of good looking pieces of conceptual line art for the various characters. There's a couple of promo clips that were used to advertise the show prior to its airing (though they're unfortunately not subtitled or dubbed, so we just get the nice visuals). With each of the openings having small changes to them by containing bits of animation from that particular episode, we get four textless openings here to reflect what's in the show itself..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
From listening to those who have already seen this show, it's going to be another one that's going to be very much a split among the fan community. Much like Gate Keepers, another Gonzo show. Is it more of the same or does it have some originality to it? Well, that's the question that will get answered, but it's not the question I'm asking. I'm asking if I'll enjoy it or not. If I didn't like "more of the same", I wouldn't have bought American Pie 2.

The shows 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 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.

To me, this sounds like an interesting updated twist on the male/female aspect from Macross: Do You Remember Love. So the hook is there, but the real test comes in whether they'll actually do something with all of this or whether it's just a stage dressing for more of the same silliness.

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.

One of the things that will affect a lot of people is the amount of CG used in it. The CG is generally restricted to the exterior starship sequences and the mecha/fighter combat sequences. The quality of the animation for it is probably the best I've seen inside an anime and the best that's mixed with the regular animation. But for some, that's not going to really say much. The mixing of the two are just taboo to them. Outside of one or two things, such as one of the combat mech's having the oversized eye and sweatdrop, I thought it worked really well. My wife hated it though, much like she did Pilot Candidate (though she did admit the quality is leaps and bounds better than that).

I'm not sure why, but we both agreed that there is something intriguing about the show that will keep us watching it and looking forward to more. The shake-up in the male characters stereotypes works well, with Hibiki being the only one interested in piloting. He's not a bad character overall, but does suffer some from being overly-male. But it's to be expected based on their society, which helps. I'm just not able to put my finger on it, but there's just something about this show.

Unless the CG animation completely makes you curl up in a ball of nerves, it's definitely worth checking out. Just the whole male/female setup is enough to pique our interest.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Original Textless Openings (4),Promotional Clips (2),Character Line Art

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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