Mania Grade: NA
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- Audio Rating: N/A
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: A-
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Region: All Region DVD
- Released By: Central Park Media
- MSRP: 29.99
- Running time: 50
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Wild Cardz
By Matthew McGinn
February 13, 2002
Release Date: November 09, 1999
Since my first visit to this site and my subsequent upgrade to DVD six moths ago, I have always intended to review some of the titles in my meager collection. Unwilling (or lazy) as I was to attempt to review a monster like Macross Plus or the Tenchi Muyo! Ultimate Edition, I settled upon one of my newer acquisitions, the short 1997 OAV Wild Cardz.
In many ways, Wild Cardz reminds one of the old days of fandom -for me, the early 1990s- in that it is very similar to the titles that comprised the majority of the catalogs of Central Park Media and A.D. Vision (as they were once humbly known) back then: OAVs featuring 120 minutes' worth of plot stuffed into a fifty-minute running time.
I have declined to give the audio on the DVD a specific rating. You may notice why when you look at the equipment -or lack thereof- that I had to work with. In this disc's favor, there are no major audio problems to speak of. Even the English voices are recorded well, with appropriate effects for environment, although on occasion they seem a bit muffled.
The video is excellent, effectively presenting the bright animation of the OAVs with almost no pixellation or line noise to speak of. The tiny flaws are in places where they won't detract from the overall quality of the video presentation: explosions and the like. This bodes well for future CPM releases.
CPM's new packaging scheme is wonderful. The clear plastic keepcase was the best extension of CPM's strategy of printing a title's liner notes on the interior of the cover insert. Some might find the clear case tacky and a bad contrast to the typical black of the average DVD collection, but I suggest that it gives CPM's titles a badly needed flair. In this situation, the clear keepcase works very well with Wild Cardz' bright red cover. Our cute protagonists are all featured; between the uniforms and superminiskirts, you won't have too much trouble guessing what you're getting into. Perhaps a closeup may have worked better, but the art that's there is effective. Keeping with CPM's welcome new tendency to cater to informed fans, the top of the cover tells us that Wild Cardz is 'from the director of New Cutey Honey.' As usual, the cover insert tells us more, mostly about the English actresses, on the inside. The disc art is perfect - the logo surrounded by a ring of clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades.
The menus are effective and responsive. However, I must agree with Chris in that the language menu's automatic-play feature after language selection is a bit annoying. I am pleased that CPM saw fit to include a section mentioning the lead voice actresses, both English and Japanese, and the simple fact that it is possible to hear the accompanying cutscenes in both languages is a nice touch for diehard sub fans like me who dislike the current bias toward dubs that most companies have shown in recent years.
And yes, Wild Cardz is indeed 120 minutes of plot packaged in a 50-minute OAV, like many of the old OAVs that CPM supported itself with in the past. Between the short running time and the aforementioned fact that Yasuchika Nagaoka directed it (no, I didn't like New Cutey Honey), I almost didn't buy Wild Cardz. The nicely stylized character designs, however, sold me, and it is the visuals of Wild Cardz that make up for everything else. First of all, this is, like many OAVs, split into two episodes ("Black & White" and "Kiss of Fire"). The first introduces the Crown Knights, the four fearless -and sufficiently cute- defenders of a weird high technology kingdom, as they apprehend a paranoid robber of some sort. From the beginning, it is obvious that Wild Cardz is a superhero story of sorts. The heroines, Jo Diamonds, Sunday Spades, Casa Clubs, and Coco Hearts (hence the OAV's title), all possess superpowers: Jo can run at amazing speeds (even more than the typical anime character), Coco has telemechanical abilities and carries cards that act as bombs, Casa can, uh, sense things from really far away and beat bad guys up real good, and Sunday has 'the trump card in the end:' she can unleash an especially nasty blast of energy for the amazingly low price of every stich of clothing she wears. Oh, and Sunday seems to be the team leader, coordinating her teammates from the command center.
That's about all that's offered up in terms of coherent plot. The story revolves around a couple of giant chess pieces from hell appearing one day in the sky (how's THAT for an Angel?) and duking it out in nearby Pasta Canyon - hence threatening the populace of the Card Kingdom. The Crown Knights take off to put a stop to this nonsense, only to encounter a series of weird characters that get in their way: a gang of warped ninjas, the very sterotypically Chinese and very irritating Chee Chu Kai, the manipulative Aiya, and Fracasso, another 'card' of sorts (in fact, he throws Jokers) who wears a mask and hits on Jo. The latter two seem to have something to do with the giant chess pieces, but they ain't tellin'. That's it. No explanation of the kingdom or where the Crown Knights got their powers, no explanation about anything having to do with the giant chess pieces (excepting this moral lesson: don't build a castle that looks like a rook). Needless to say, this all sounds rather dumb (Pasta Canyon?), and it is dumb to an extent, but fortunately the visual execution is so good that I didn't care all that much. The character designs are excellent, dynamic, and full of bright, appealing colors accentuated by bold black outline strokes. This is especially the case on the Crown Knights themselves, who switch into their half-admiral, half flight-attendant uniforms in a transformation sequence that -for once- isn't overdone. Kawaii without being too saccharine, the character designs have all of the good traits of late-90s design and none of the bad. These combine well with the animation, which is noticeably above average for an OAV and is very effective at bringing vibrancy to the action scenes.
It's really too bad that the excellent visual presentation of Wild Cardz couldn't have been accompanied by a reasonable plot (the Slayers movie and OAVs available in the US have the same problem). However, there is plenty of high-octane action to be had here - no shortage of hand-to-hand combat, huge explosions, and death-defying escapes - not to mention a fair portion of service (mostly from Sunday). The music is nothing fancy - it sounds sometimes like a theme from an average Japanese console RPG. The Japanese voices were appropriate enough, and CPM has done a much better job recently in their dubs - in this case, all of the Crown Knights' voices were urgent and cute to satisfaction - excepting Sunday's (Deborah Keller), which was read haltingly with little emotion and tended to develop an accent. Some of the supporting cast's voices fell short also, but I could actually sit through this dub without too much cringing. Now, as to whether or not this is all worth a purchase, I'd say yes. You might consider picking up some ice beer to help make sense of Wild Cardz' plot, but there plenty of worse nonsensical OAVs to spend the better part of an hour on. Besides, Jo and the Knights sure have the uniform thing down a lot better than Sailor Moon...
Philips Magnavox TP2784C 27" TV, Pioneer DV-414 DVD player, Monster S-Video cable. No external speakers used.