Mania Grade: B
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: A
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: All
- Region: 2 - Japan
- Released By: Beam Entertainment
- MSRP: ¥4800
- Running time: 90
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Virus
Virus Buster Serge Vol. #1 & #2
Virus Buster Serge Vol. #1 & #2
What They SayThe Review!
© Beam Entertainment
Virus Buster Serge Vols. 1 & 2
Ah, Masami Obari, who can easily forget the distinctive character designs in Battle Arena Toshinden or Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer, even if the stories themselves were much easier to put out of mind. His overall unique style and bold interpretations of the female figure can make for an interesting viewing experience, to say the least.
Fans of Obari's artwork won't be disappointed with Virus Buster Serge, and thankfully fans looking for a story worth watching probably won't be disappointed either. Virus Buster Serge is a solid SF title that reminded me a bit of Bubblegum Crisis dressed up for the nineties, probably no small coincidence considering Obari himself directed certain episodes of the original OVA series back in the eighties, and it seems to have rubbed off on him.
Virus Buster Serge takes place in 2097, in a little place called Neo Hong Kong, which I thought was rather cool -- finally a bit of a departure from constant Neo Tokyo references. The denizens of earth are currently being threatened by an entity that calls himself the Incubator, who has created an evil virus which can infect both man and machine. Infect machines? Sound rather weird? At first I thought so as well. The virus does infect mecha, called Armored Gears in this series, taking them over. This is very much like how some Boomers in Bubblegum Crisis were able to absorb machines, though. Bubblegum Crash probably had the best example of this when a Boomer took over the entire AD Police headquarters.
So who you gonna call when your favorite Armored Gear decides to pound on you without your permission? Enter STAND, a group of elite individuals encased in really cool powered armor suits called Variable Gear. The Knight Sabers ... err, wait ... STAND ... uses these suits to great effect fighting rampant virus infected Armored Gears.
Serge himself enters the scenario against his will, as all reluctant heroes must. He has been plagued by really bad dreams, which have convinced him that STAND's leader, Raven, should be dead. He decides to make this happen by assassinating Raven himself, but only succeeds in earning Raven's attention. Raven decides Serge is quite a potential fighter and manages to snare him through cunning and trickery into joining STAND to help fight against the Incubator's viral attacks.
There is obviously a much deeper story than this going on, but it is presented as a mystery that will unfold as the series progresses. Since I'm still pretty early on in the story line, I'm a bit lost myself!
Each disc in this series comes in a keepcase, though it is a bit different than a standard Amaray branded case. Still, these are very well built and solid cases, though they lack the keepers on the inside cover to keep the extra liner notes from floating around in the case (to dump on your lap or the floor after opening it). Each disc comes with a flyer explaining the feature set and operation of the DVD menu on one side and staff/cast credits on the other, and a color postcard of the keepcase cover artwork.
Both discs contain well presented menus which allow you to select scenes by episode, play through all episodes in sequence, select specific episodes and view that discs extras.
Virus Buster Serge Vol 1
Disc One collects the first three episodes of the series; "Cutthroat Puppets", "The Path Via Hell" and "We Stand Alone". This is the disc that sets up the basic premise and finds Serge an unwilling STAND member. Picture quality is decent, with no pixellation noticeable, even in low-luminance scenes. The audio is clear and crisp Dolby Digital 2.0. The music in this show is also pretty good; a rock soundtrack with an exceptional title track. ("Rainy Day and Day", performed by the band Dragon Ash).
Extra DVD materials (viewable through the menu) include a collection of television commercials, episode previews and a fantastic character gallery with info on the characters from the show. The latter is presented like Pioneer's Tenchi Encyclopedia on the Daughter of Darkness disc; just select a character's image and read information on that character.
Virus Buster Serge Vol 2
Disc Two collects three more episodes; "Deep Down Exposure", "Incubating the Succubus", and "Behold Change or Die".
Audio and video quality is consistent with the first disc in every aspect. Extra materials for this volume include the opening and ending sequences presented "clean" (no credit text) and a Continuity section with incredibly detailed storyboards. In fact, they are of such high resolution that you can only view half of it on screen at one time (the top or bottom). There is a navigation widget on the right side of the screen to control the current view, and can advance through the series of storyboards. You are also given the option of jumping about the storyboards in increments of five from the Extras menu for quicker access to a specific panel.
I've enjoyed this series so far; the animation is decent, the character designs are wonderful (I just like Obari designs though; Erika is really something to say the least). My recommendation is to check out a fansub and see how you like it before investing in the DVDs as it probably won't appeal to everyone, and a TV series can be a monster to collect to completion.
I'm sure some are wondering if there will be a domestic release in the future. That's a pretty hard call. One thing that is much more true nowadays than in the past is that the anime industries' focus is now on TV, where a few years back the best of anime could be found in easy to acquire and translate OVAs. The change was one brought about by economics; OVAs didn't sell as well with the downtown in the Japanese economy.
Bringing an entire TV series over is a huge commitment, and one domestic anime houses will make only for select shows. Unfortunately many more TV series are going to be released in Japan than will ever see the light of day in the US, and some of them will be very worthy ones at that.