Virus 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: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 120
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Virus

Virus Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     December 18, 2002
Release Date: November 26, 2002


Virus Vol. #1
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
Neo Hong Kong, 2097: The world has changed. Advances in genetic engineering and cybernetics have created an environment full of artificially enhanced humans and intelligent super-computers that operate using biological software. But the same technology that has allowed man & machine to merge has made both susceptible to a new kind of threat - digital viruses capable of controlling their hosts.

The last line of defense against this insidious foe is an elite task force known as STAND. Equipped with state-of-the-art armored cybernetic suits known as "variable gears," only this special law-enforcement arm can deal with virus-infected war machines on their own terms.

But when a prototype armored gear is infected with a new virus during its unveiling, STAND has its hands full. Not only must they contend with the rouge machine, but a mysterious stranger know as Serge appears on the scene with his sights firmly fixed on STAND's leader, Raven. Fascinated with the young man's potential, Raven arranges for Serge to be unwittingly fitted with one of STAND's variable gears. Not only is Serge's thirst for vengeance corrected through this gambit, but the young man's latent battle skills are awakened in time for him to soundly defeat the hostile prototype.

In the wake of the battle, Serge is invited to join STAND. But what is the secret behind Serge's phenomenal strength and skill? What secrets do his past hold? And just what is his connection to the sinister "Incubator" - the self-aware orbital space station bent upon replacing humanity with its infected offspring?

The Review!
Masami Obari struts his talents by going for a half length TV series and challenging the late night censors I’m sure with his always titillating character designs.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The track is a pretty standard stereo mix with a nice amount of oomph to it, particularly with certain parts of the musical score. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we noticed no dropouts or distortions. For those who listen to the English dub, Manga has created a 5.1 mix in addition to the stereo mix, which brings a bit more of a crisp feel to the dialogue and isolates the sounds a bit better.

Video:
Originally airing in late 1997, the transfer here is pretty good but suffers from a fair amount of grain. It looks very much to be a part of the source material itself and possibly intentional by the director to give it a rougher feel. The feel on our main setup is somewhat muted but colors look good with no bleeding or cross coloration. Aliasing shows up in a few places, most notably during panning sequence. Checking the transfer on our 20” standard TV and the grain gives the show a much rougher look, with some backgrounds coming off as too bright and almost blending too much at times.

Packaging:
Using the artwork from the Japanese laserdisc release but with a clear background and centered on a black background here, we get a nice shot of Obari’s trademark character designs. The back cover provides several paragraphs of description of the show as well as providing the episode numbers and titles. A solid plus in addition to that is the inclusion of volume numbering on both the front cover and the spine. The back cover also provides a few animation shots and a listing of the discs features and extras. The insert provides another shot of the front cover while it folds open to reveal some stylish artwork as well as the chapter stops. The back of the insert has a nice showcase of all three US DVD covers and a small bio of sorts on Obari’s works.

Menu:
The main menu is a really nice piece that features what looks like cells moving across the screen while animation plays underneath it to part of the opening song. The selections are all lined along the left and provide swift access to the submenus. Access times are nice and fast and overall this is a good looking menu.

Extras:
There’s a nice selection of extras included with this release, the first being the character design boards which mix the black and white conceptual pieces with some finished colored pieces. This is also done with the mecha design pages that go over the equipment and the like from the show. The STAND files are basically character biographies for the first set of main characters of the show and there’s also a few minutes worth of trailers (led by the US trailer) for the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Prior to writing this review, we were alerted to some issues with edits done to the show:

“It appears that they've altered the opening and ending sequences on this disc. In the opening sequence, where the original Japanese version had credits in kanji, they've excised that footage and replaced it with letterboxed footage from episodes 1 and 2. Also it appears that at the very beginning with the shot of the earth gradually growing larger and larger, they've utilized a wave effect to hide the fact that they use a freeze-frame of a particular scene. The ending sequence fares even worse, as it's simply one still from the original ending sequence, with English credits scrolling up. Neither the opening nor the ending has a translation or romaji for the theme music pieces, "Rainy Day And Day" and "Heavenly Blue".”

Masami Obari’s never been a real favorite of mine, and going over the list provided of things that he’s been intimately involved in, only two of them really have me interested. One of them is as an episode director for the classic Bubblegum Crisis, and the other is an odd love of Detonator Orgun. His other heralded works, particularly during the time in 1997 when Virus was released in Japan are listed as Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer and Battle Arena Toshinden.

Suffice to say, I’m not his audience.

The story is centered in Hong Kong in the late 21st century, a place that’s show up in a number of “fringe” series over the years and does provide some exoticness to the show. The main heroes here are a group called S.T.A.N.D., which was created to deal with digital virii that have evolved into the world due to the changes in artificial humanity, super computers and the entire merging of man and machine in general. Whereas a virus before was bad enough, having them be able to infect various machines and other computer systems has caused them to be even more dangerous than the plain human variety.

The S.T.A.N.D. group is fairly small so far, but they’re all quite skilled people who have themselves some high-tech powered suits that they call Gear, which enhances their fighting abilities. Thankfully, even wit these really nice pieces of equipment, they still show off the characters curves enough to allow that fanservice to really shine through. The group has been handling the outbreaks well enough so far, but they end up facing things different with the arrival of a potential new member named Serge, who has quite the abilities without the help of a Gear suit yet. There’s also some mysterious relationship between him and the leader of the group, Raven, as the two nearly kill each other upon their first meeting here.

Not a lot really gets answered here and we mostly get the questions and the introduction of characters and settings. It’s definitely very stylish, grain not withstanding, and holds true to Obari’s vision of fast paced action with characters whose limbs almost seem to extend during combat. There’s definitely a resemblance to some earlier shows along the same lines, but it almost feels like a sentai show at times anyway, so that’s not too surprising. The one thing that does in the end hurt things here, at least in really getting to identify with the characters, is that their suits have them wearing helmets. Helmets and other face covering devices almost always make it more difficult to really identify and feel with the character, and this show is no exception when it comes to that.

At the end of this disc, the questions asked here haven’t really grabbed me much, especially since it took two attempts to make it past the second episode. Obari fans are likely to be pretty happy with a lot of this, though with the edits and some very off subtitling in a few places, it’s hard to recommend to the casual viewer.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Galleries,Character Biographies

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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