Mania Grade: NA
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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: N/A
- Packaging Rating: N/A
- Menus Rating: N/A
- Extras Rating: N/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 Roman Martel
February 12, 2002
Release Date: January 22, 2002
Overall Rating: 3.9
(on a scale of 1-5)
I was not a big fan of Blue Sub. It was the first series that I never finished buying. So I was a bit leery about checking out this disc. But the whole premise sounded like it could be fun. I also heard some people comparing it to Nadesico (which I really enjoyed). So how where does Vandread fall in the whole scheme of things? It's better than Blue Sub, that's for sure.
Pioneer has always been getting the high scores on their DVD work since the old days. So I always expect great work from them. The sound and picture are very good, and they should be, this is a recent show. The menu has a great style and uses music perfectly. That's right it's another Nighjar menu! The keepcase is all foily and shows off a Vandread and the cute Dita! The back has all the information you need including, number of languages, number of episodes, number of channels used by the sound, region code, rating, and extras. It's only missing a volume number. Pioneer has done this before on long series, and I find it to be annoying. But if you look at the back the episodes should be numbered properly so if you are buying these at an actual store you should be able to figure out which disc you are getting. In the way of extras you get two Japanese promotional shorts. One is like a extended trailer for the series and the other is basically a techno music video using the CG space battle scenes. There is a character design gallery. And finally you get textless opening credits for all four episodes. That's right each episode has a slightly different opening sequence and they are all included here. Go Pioneer! Overall this is a great disc, almost a perfect score except for that volume number thing.
I can see how people can compare this series to Nadesico. You got the big ol' ship, the crazy characters, mecha flying all over the place and semi-goofy situations. But this series seems to be taking itself a bit more serious than Nadesico. It's more of an action with some comedy, rather than a comedy with some action. And boy, are there a ton of characters.
The first of the four episodes is all set up. Our hero Hibiki is tired with his life as a 3rd class citizen on his world totally populated by men. He decides to sneak aboard the newest battleship and steal one of the new mecha fighters on board. This proud new battleship will go into space and face the most dangerous enemy of all... women from a planet complete populated by women. Of course Hibiki runs into more than he bargains for. A pirate group (all women) shows up and attempts to steal the ship, and the men do their best to fight back. They're not very good. In the chaos that follows the pirate ship and a good chunk of the new battle ship are hurled into the deep wilds of uncharted space. So you got three men, the prettyboy doctor, the chatterbox helmsman, and of course Hibiki the overzealous mecha pilot. The women that populate the ship range from the tomboyish tough girl, to the super pink girly girls. You can see the set up for the comedy right? Then of course there is a new mysterious enemy that attacks the group with strange ships and weapons. Luckily (because of some crystals, and I'm not sure where they came from) the mecha that Hibiki stole, and the star fighters that the women pilot can combine. Hey you got your mecha in my star fighter, you got your starfighter in my mecha... now it kicks some serious butt!!
The animation is your mix of 3D computer animation and 2D computer animation. It's rather jarring to watch at times, but it looks quite a bit better than Blue Sub did. The 3D stuff is mostly used during the space battles and for stuff on computer and hologram screens. So in that way it's not too bad. The character design is pretty average. Most of the women are wearing revealing outfits that leave little to the imagination. So there is plenty for male audiences to enjoy. The actual design of the ships and mecha are done in that super cool, flashy fashion. Don't be expecting the gritty detail of Gasaraki or Votoms here. It's all shiny and sparkly. The CG looks pretty good on it's own. The characters tend to look funky at time and at certain angles, and it makes me wonder how much time was spent working on them and how much was spent on the CG. Overall it's not bad, but it's not the best I've seen either.
The sound is actually pretty good, and in some ways better than the animation. It seems like some thought went into what the different mechas, space ships, and weapons would sound like. It does add some actual "reality" to the visuals, especially in the battle scenes. It's pretty solid sound design all the way around.
The actual plot is kinda strange. As I mentioned above, I was expecting more of a comedy along the lines of Nadesico and instead this is more of an adventure series. The actual set up was done in a very rushed way. In fact the first three episodes fly by at an incredibly brisk pace. The result is that you can barely catch anyone's name, and their relationship to the other characters. It seems like a bit too much time is spent showing off the cool 3D CG and as a result the characters are all pretty flat and 2D. The actual situations themselves are pretty standard to the "crew lost in space" idea. The last episode was the best of the bunch because it slowed down a bit and you got to know Hibiki a bit better. Oh yes, I hate that damn robot. He's not funny, he's annoying and should have been left to rot in the first episode. There, I said it. I'll say it again if I have to :-)
The English dub is just above average. It took me a while to really be able to listen to their acting mostly because there is so much mecha action going on that you don't get to hear the characters interact other than shouting orders and directions at each other. Hibiki is doing a pretty good job, and his new friend Dita who keeps calling him "Mr. Alien" is amusing. She's teetering right on the edge of obnoxious and cute (much like Yurika from Nadesico). If the next disc moves along a bit slower I should be able to make a better judgement of the acting. So far no one is really standing out, for good or bad and that's a good thing.
The opening and ending themes are typical J-pop and are catchy as usual. The score is pretty average. It doesn't stand out in any good or bad ways. It supports most of the visuals and there were only a few moments were it seemed to be a bit over the top.
This series really didn't pull me in too much. It was entertaining to watch and pass some time, but it wasn't nearly as funny as Nadesico or as fun as Outlaw Star. I think my mind was ready for a comedy and found it to be lacking in that department. But even as a space adventure series it really isn't doing too much for me. I think the accelerated pacing and massive amount of characters can be a detriment, but the forth episode proved that it can be done well. Maybe the next disc will work with the characters some more and lay off the "look what we did on our computers!" sequences.
Roman J. Martel
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Phillips Flatscreen (27 Inch), Sony DVP-NS300