Mania Grade: B
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B-
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B-
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: 3 - Southeast Asia
- Released By: Odex Private Limited
- MSRP: S$89.90
- Running time: 325
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Vandread
By Chris Beveridge
June 07, 2002
Release Date: June 06, 2002
What They Say
The Universe is changing…but war remains eternal. The Terak and the Mejale Empires had been at war with each other for generations. The new era brings an escalated war front. But now, an alien threat lead a trio of Tarak refugees to work with a band of Mejale pirates, who must combine their efforts so that the universe can survive the ordeal. An excellent anime punctuated by full 3D CG and digital effects, it brings stunning visual battles right to the television screen of the viewers.The Review!
The entire first stage of Vandread with its thirteen episodes is presented here across four discs. Taking in the entire run of the series in one whack definitely changed the perception of the show.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese, and it’s also the only language presented on these discs. The track is a pretty straightforward stereo mix with some occasional bits thrown to the rears. These episodes were watched later at night so we didn’t exactly have the volume cranked, but we didn’t notice any issues with dropouts or distortions and everything seemed to be very clear.Video:
The transfer here is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is non-anamorphic (as no anamorphic masters exist) and looks great. Outside of some aliasing in a few areas and some minor cross coloration, this transfer is clean and vibrant. Colors are strong without being oversaturated and only a few instances of color banding, noticeably in some of the darker blue hallway sequences. The only downside is that unlike the region 1 version of Vandread, the subtitles move between both the animation and the letterbox section, which will keep some HDTV owners from being able to zoom in.Packaging:
Coming in two clear keepcases, each with an inserted hinge to hold a second disc, the covers for each volume feature a Vandread-ish border and shows off just the CG artwork. The back covers show a number of animation shots on each, but they’re also of the CG segments of the show. The back covers provide a list of Japanese production credits as well as a bar detailing the technical information. Some of it’s misleading though, as it’s listed as 4:3 full screen (instant panic upon seeing) and that the discs are DVD 5 X 4 and 120 minutes. This is actually meaning that there are 4 DVD-5’s, which there are across both volumes since they’re being sold as a set. The 120 minutes, I’m not sure where they got that from.
The reverse side of the covers feature full color images here, using the Vandread-ish borders to showcase actual animation shots and provide some nice large images. Each of the discs features the laser style etching we’ve seen on previous Odex discs, utilizing the CG artwork from the series. Menu:
The menus on all four discs are identical with just a starry background and the music playing. Options are minimal outside of chapter selection and language setup, but the menus are quick to load and moving between them is seamless.Extras:
The final volume features the only extra to be found on this release and it’s a nearly 3 minute long “Special Point” feature that showcases some new CG battle sequences with music. Another thing that could be considered an extra is that each episodes opening and closing sequence is done creditless throughout, meaning that the back cover of the keepcase is the only way to get any production credits. Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having seen parts of Vandread previously, taking it all in during a two day mini marathon got me more interested in the series than before, but didn’t massively change my mind about the problems I have with its CG. It does admittedly get better as it progresses however.
If there's any real flaw with this release, it's that the subtitles take a dip in quality compared the rather good Pretear release. While I won't argue the differences between some character names, such as Diita becoming Di-ta, there are some noticeable areas where the wrong words are used, such as have instead of how, out instead of our, and so forth. I'd say on average, there's a couple of these in each episode. This will bother some people more than others though. But after Pretear, I had hoped things were getting better in this regard.
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.
As the series progress, we get a number of episodes that are self contained. One brings some nostalgia to mind early on as the crew comes across a new planet where they may get some supplies. It’s an entirely marine world, meaning covered in water. But there’s one island where there’s life an people going about their business. The nostalgia factor comes in as I’m reminded of the (corny) issue 80ish run of the original Star Wars comic which also had an entirely marine world, but underwater people. None of that hear, but it brought a smile to my face.
The main focus of the episode tends to be the ongoing “feud” between Hibiki and the girls that want to combine with his Van-type. Jura’s pushing harder and harder. When they check out a strange orbiting ship, Hibiki fights her off for quite awhile as they battle some strange little alien robots. It’s only when they’re thrust through the atmosphere do they combine, and we get to see what their combo looks like. It’s just hilarious, especially Jura’s reaction to it.
The episode plays out in a fairly brief Trek-like fashion as the Captain deals with the inhabitants and their Logan’s Run-like devotion to the Harvest whose coming for their Spiral Code, i.e. the strange orbiting ship. While this segment of it is pretty hackneyed, the action sequences are great fun with the new combo team and how the entire battle plays out. I really got into Jura’s character during this episode and enjoyed the way she dealt with it all.
What I didn’t like was that while on this island city, there are men and women living together and nobody comments on it. Yet in the final episode, when the crew discovers some ancient visuals of a male/female family unit celebrating Christmas, they’re all shocked by it. There’s a real lack of internal consistency when it comes to the whole gender thing here.
Another episode had some fun with the whole relationships game when a roguish trader male with an ape got involved with the crew. Though he seemed there mostly to figure out what their ship was like and how capable they are, he took advantage of the situation and charmed the ladies and sold them make-up. Rabat is an interesting character, though for some reason Utan the ape just doesn’t sit right with me. His impact overall seems minimal, unless it’s just setup for later in the series.
And as with every series it seems at times, there’s the infamous Christmas episode. This actually was a fair bit of fun since we got some good lines about how the men’s world of Tarak isn’t all that keen on celebrations. There’s the usual bits with Meia feeling like she doesn’t belong, Hibiki and the other men not quite understanding and the women in general just having a blast with the entire event. There are some good tender moments throughout though that help you to like the characters a bit more if you’re still feeling like they’re too one-dimensional.
Vandread doesn’t come to a full out conclusion at the end, as it really is just a prologue to the larger plot to come in the Second Stage. The final episodes do play out well though in dealing with the conflicts between the men and women and then the need to band together against the larger evil. Vandread doesn’t fall into the category of a guilty pleasure, but it’s something that I’ve gotten some enjoyment out of while watching.
Japanese Language,English Subtitles,Chinese Subtitles,Special Point Segment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.