Virtua Fighter Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 39.95
  • Running time: 300
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Virtua Fighter

Virtua Fighter Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     June 17, 2003
Release Date: May 27, 2003


Virtua Fighter Vol. #1
© Media Blasters


What They Say
Legends speak of a great constellation of stars, only visible to those who possess true strength. Having lost his ability to see those stars, Akira walks the earth in search of answers. His quest pits him against powerful fighters like the Koenkan and the mysterious Kage Maru, and lands him in the center of an international conspiracy.



For the first time on DVD, come the adventures of Akira, Jacky, Sara and Pai. Facing off with the greatest martial artists from all over the world, all the top characters from the best-selling video game are ready for action!

The Review!
In the long line of games to anime conversions, Virtua Fighter manages to stand out by not sucking completely

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a pretty basic stereo mix that does a decent job with the forward soundstage but provides little in terms of real depth to it. There’s some nice directionality to it and some oomph to various fight sequences, but nothing really strong or outstanding. Dialogue was clean and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing back in 1995, this first installment of the series has twelve of the thirty five episodes spread across two discs. The twelve episodes are actually rather good looking here with a solid transfer. The series actually looked to have something of a modest budget, which keeps things such as characters going off model to a minimum. There isn’t a lot of detail to the characters, which means there’s pretty much no issues with cross coloration here and even aliasing is minimal, but it does cause the characters to be a bit bland. Colors are nicely saturated, though one segment had a villain in a purple top that bled all over the place. Some scenes are a bit grainer than others and there is an occasional nick and scratch here and there, but otherwise this looks good.

Packaging:
Presented in a single keepcase with the flippy hinge to hold the second disc, Virtua Fighter’s packaging is pretty good looking. The front cover provides the various cast members in as detailed an image of them as you’re going to see and pushes hard for the logo recognition. There’s a number of characters scattered about here so it’s fairly busy, but it keeps you looking at it. The back cover provides a few animation shots, some of which are a bit weaker than they arein the show itself, as well as providing a simple summary of the premise. The credits are pretty minimal and there’s the usual grid of information (though the running time is padded by about 30 minutes due to these episodes running shorter than normal, just over two hours per disc. The insert uses both sides this time with each one covering the chapter stops for a specific volume.

Menu:
The main menu is an extremely simple static piece with basic setup and access being the only things to really go and do, not even trailers. The image uses the traditional Akira picture of him in a stance with the logo above him and selections in large print along the right. Access times are nice and fast and getting around is extremely easy.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
My history of enjoying video game anime conversions is unfortunately small, though the list of ones that I hated is painfully long. Virtua Fighter manages to find that middle ground of not making me cry about watching it, but doesn’t really get me excited about seeing more.

Based off of the Sega arcade series of the same name, we have a bunch of varied and powerful fighters who for various reasons come together. Similar programs, more often than not, have been done as short OVA series or single episode OVAs. With Virtua Fighter going the full series route, and hitting thirty five episodes at that, they smartly realized that they were going to need a plot.

The series focuses around a young man named Akira Yuki, a very talented and highly skilled martial artist. He’s traveling around America to achieve something that he’s lost, his ability to “see the stars” at any time of the day. This harkens back to something in his past when he was trained by his grandfather in Japan. As he got older, he eventually started participating in martial arts contests and began winning constantly, proving himself to be undefeated through all of that. But after realizing that he had lost his way after finding his grandfather at one point, he left the scene and now strives to regain what he lost.

We’re introduced to Akira as he enters Chinatown and he takes up very quickly at a small Chinese restaurant. After getting involved in a “eat all this and get it for free” contest, he becomes entangled in a fight with some black clad martial artists chasing a young Chinese girl. Though he manages to defeat them easily, he’s now finding himself having to deal with this girl named Pai. She’s being chased by a group known as the Koenken, a mafia-like school that has expanded across the globe and utilized their skills for thuggery and other illicit gains.

Akira, through the coercion of the restaurant owner, ends up dealing with the trouble that young Pai brings to the scene, trouble that eventually also involves the brother/sister pairing of Jacky and Sarah Bryant. Jacky’s a race car driver while Sarah handles other things for him, such as wearing the race queen outfits that the sponsors want her to be seen in. Both are also quite skilled in the martial arts, so when they get entangled in Pai’s problems, we get a nice foursome of folks who become reliant on each other but also spar frequently.

The Koenken, being after Pai, try a variety of attempts to get her away from Akira’s protection. This brings in a series of increasingly stronger “leading” villains but also offers a glimpse into the structure of the Koenken. As each fails, as you know they will fail, they’re eliminated by the one who will take over their battle. And as we get to know the structure, we find out how the groups past is tied to Pai and that there is a much larger goal in mind with the current aspiring leader to be of the group, the man that Pai is to be engaged to.

Through the twelve episodes, we get to know the primary four characters pretty well as well as seeing their abilities in action. The group forms nicely after the first few episodes and the show moves around from Chinatown to New Las Vegas while other aspects take place elsewhere in the world. The introduction of some of the other fighters from the game series is very slow and done in a way to not make them stand out as glaring as they could be, such as the “ninja” character that’s hired at one point to snatch away Sarah for their experiments.

The animation for the show is pretty decent. Though the character designs are fairly minimal and being light on details, they’re still very much in the anime mold and avoid feeling cartoony like Power Stone did. There’s some occasional skimping in the backgrounds and Akira has a “transformation” sequence that he uses frequently early on, but that’s lessened later in the volumes. Overall, it’s not a bad looking show and has a certain charm and appeal to it since it avoids trying to be “western”.

This was originally released in the US as a dub only VHS release, so it’s been a long time in coming to get the Japanese language track. There’s a few oddities with it though, such as after the opening sequence where you would have the episode title card, it’s there but the text area is completely blank, with the episode title simply being voiced (and subtitled). The end credits are fairly minimal and don’t list the voice actors until several episodes in but after the actual credit sequence, done up as a black rolling scroll. I believe they show up every four episodes or so, but I lost track of where they were showing after awhile. And while they do a good job of listing the English voice actors, the Japanese ones are completely absent.

Virtua Fighter was mildly amusing at times and very low impact on the cranial resource meter. With the episodes running just under twenty minutes each if you skip past the openings, endings and previews, you can really crank through the episodes fast. The series really has little downtime to it and only a couple of really filler style episodes in these first twelve episodes. Fans of the series are likely to enjoy this release and those who have low expectations for game to anime conversions will probably be pleasantly surprised if they take the chance on this title. There’s two more collections coming and while I’m not exactly looking forward to seeing more, there’s a base curiosity to see where it’s all going to go.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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