Wings of Rean Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Visual USA, Inc.
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 50
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Wings of Rean

Wings of Rean Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     May 30, 2007
Release Date: June 12, 2007

Wings of Rean Vol. #1
© Bandai Visual USA, Inc.

What They Say
Contains episodes 1-2. Terrorists have attacked the US military base in Iwakuni City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. When it's discovered that the culprits are two of Aesap Suzuki's friends, Aesap is also mistakenly hunted by US forces and the Japanese police. As the innocent Aesap escapes arrest, he spots a flying warship suddenly emerging from the luminous ocean. At the bow is a young woman with wings of light on her feet. Her name is Lyukus, daughter of King Sakomizu of Byston Well--a world located where land and sea meet. "My father is a Japanese man named Shinjiro Sakomizu," she says. "You will help me, won't you... Aesap Suzuki?" Unwittingly drawn into war of an unknown land, Aesapcan only wonder what fate the future holds for him--and the world he though he knew.

The Review!
The Aura Road opens once again and the discovery of Byston Well intending to invade the Upper Realm comes to light.

Bandai Visual has provided only a single audio track for this release and it's a stellar sounding 5.1 mix encoded at 448 kbps. Simply put, if you're not watching it in full 5.1 sound then you're missing a sizeable part of the shows presentation. The mix is not overly dynamic in terms of placement of dialogue though it certainly has its moments. Where it excels is in the bass area as the massive ships that surface throughout the two episodes and the sounds made by the numerous mecha really come alive. Rear channels have some great use at times with jets flying around and overall it's a very solid mix. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in 2005 and 2006, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. When it comes to the video side of their releases, Bandai Visual USA simply excels at the presentation. For the vast majority of this release the bitrate is at a steady nine and pushing close to the limit that most players can handle when you add in the audio track (as ten mbps is where the spec tops out though there are instances of releases going over that). Colors are rich and properly saturated, backgrounds have a strong solid feel to them and issues such as aliasing and cross coloration are non-existent. It isn't without flaws though but they're limited to the capabilities of DVD. In the two instances where the Aura Road is shown, there is simply so much going on and at such a speed that there is some very mild pixilation going on with a touch of fuzziness. It's fairly brief and only barely noticeable but it's still present.

Even before opening up the release there was a sense of a bit more weight behind it than normal. The front cover is a bit deceptive as it's not actually the cover artwork but rather a card onsert. It's a great looking multi character design that features several of the leads that are prominent in these two episodes. The foreground is all character artwork while the background is made up of a couple of mecha designs set against an indistinct green piece. The character designs are very appealing and the overall cover, while dark, looks solid. The actual cover beneath it features the same cover as the first Japanese release with Aesap. Between this and the onsert, the onsert is definitely better for selling it to a western market. The back cover is pretty traditional with some basic selling points along the top and two strips of screenshots for each episode title. The summary provides some useful background for going into the show while the remainder is made up of the basic technical and general features. The only area to really criticize here is that it's unclear whether the show is in 4:3 of 16:9 as the two graphics aren't associated with specific things.

Where the weight in this release comes from is in the booklet included, which uses a snippet of character artwork from the fourth Japanese volume. The booklet is a rich piece that has some terms and liner notes, interviews with Tomino and the character designer as well as conceptual artwork and storyboard pieces with notes. It's some really slick paper stock that shines with all the color artwork and its overall design is just solid.

If there's anything that I want to see from Bandai Visual USA with their releases, particularly if they are going to continue with their price structure and such is that they make their covers reversible. With two episodes on this disc and both having original covers in Japan due to being OVA releases, give us both so we can choose which one we want to have facing out.

The weakest area of their releases continues to be the menus (give Nightjar a call guys, please!) and this one is no exception. Essentially a static piece that has a framed design to it, it contains the two episodes basic structure (feature, ending, preview) as well as quick access to the discs bonus features. The only real submenu to use is the setup area but that's set by default anyway. Though there are only three ways to access each episode from the top level, there are many more chapter stops within the program which is very much appreciated. Access times are obviously a non-issue and though the layout is meager it's functional and problem free.

A few extras are included here from the Japanese releases that are fun to watch. The ending has a clean version here which is encoded just as high as the feature itself. A ninety second promotional trailer is also included that's thankfully subtitled and shows off scenes from the first episode. The big extra is the cross talk video interview (with nine mbps average bitrate!) between Tomino and Anna Tsuchiya who wrote and performed the ending song. It looks fantastic and it provides more footage of Tomino being exactly who he is.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Wings of Rean is the latest entry in an old franchise that has its origins in Aura Battler Dunbine. That lengthy series from 1983 spawned a side story of sorts in Garzey's Wing and then this new project kicked off in 2006 both in manga and anime form. Running a total of six OVA episodes, Wings of Rean is quite simply not an easy series to get into " even if you're a big Dunbine fan.

A lot of this comes about simply because of the way series designer and creator Yoshiyuki Tomino operates. I'm admittedly a fan of a lot of his works, from Dunbine to Overman King Gainer, but I have no issue in saying that while his concepts and emotions run well in his works, his execution and pacing leave a lot to be desired. When I come into a new Tomino series I just don't expect to find a deep and highly engaging story that makes sense but rather a show that will shine visually, provide some great moments of emotional cinema and overall fairly well entertain me. Wings of Rean follows in the footsteps of his series Overman King Gainer in having a very disconcerting opening but it's one that's made worse by the amount of history that it has in the Dunbine series. If it even has any serious ties to it at all as it isn't entirely clear that they share the same universe here.

Taking place in the modern day where the US and China have even stronger interests in Japan, it opens up to an attack on a US military base in Iwakuni City by a couple of young men who are easily classified as terrorists in this. They're frustrated with how their country is kowtowing to the superpowers of the world and are reacting in the only way they can after they've delved into the black market weapons arena. Where the show ties to larger issues is that their roommate is a young man named Aesap Suzuki whose father is a commander in the US marines that are on that base. The attacks spawns a firestorm of activity in the base and among the tangent characters that are introduced alongside it but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

As everyone is reacting to the attack, several massive battleships that mix both classic naval architecture and an organic feel suddenly surface out of the bay and take flight around the base before crashing down. Their arrival ends up sweeping people like Aesep and his two roommates on board different ships which allows us to find out that it's actually two competing sides. One is led by Lyukus, a princess of the kingdom of Hojo from Byston Well. Byston Well is a place that's "between the sea and the land" through which people have cross over into in the past. Lyukus has come while wearing the Wings of Rean, a pair of boots that have properties that can affect reality when properly used. They didn't actually intend to come to the Upper Realm of the surface dwellers as they were initially trying to deal with another force that is intent on crushing her father's plans to invade the Upper Realm. That's also something that Lyukus wants to stop but not in the way that the other forces are intending to.

Through sweeping movements and plenty of confusion, the US military tries to figure out what's going on but ends up either trying to talk to them with little success or bomb the hell out of them. The situation is nothing but pure chaos and what little we can discern from the dialogue is confusing and far too rapidly paced to allow for a moment of real understanding. It doesn't take long for everyone to try and get things in gear though and head back down the Aura Road that allows travel between the realms and Aesap and his friends, along with a few others, find themselves being hauled along to a strange new world that's in even more chaos due to manipulations and maybe a little bit of insanity.

Across the two episodes it's really hard to say what the show is going to be like but it is pure Tomino storytelling. The premise that's set up here has some potential to it as it is slowly unraveled and we get to see what's going on in Byston Well but it's incredibly hard to connect with any of the characters. This isn't too surprising though as most OVAs tend to be light on character development unless it's intending to be a mostly dialogue piece with bursts of action. Wings of Rean works in the opposite manner by being all about the action and emotion as the characters deal with the situation and let loose with critical pieces of background and information.

It's been some time since I saw the end of Aura Battler Dunbine and even longer since I saw Garzey's Wing so I can't rightly say how well this is connecting with those events if at all. I'm initially unsure by these two episodes if there is a real connection as the arrival of the Aura powered ships and the sight of familiar machinery should have tipped off the military as to what was going on. The Dunbine TV series spent a good deal of its second half dealing with Byston Well forces running about the globe and causing trouble. Here it seems like it's something completely new an unheard of. If this is a completely new tale with no links to the past then this is even harder for someone new to get into as so little is really explained here. Aura Battler Dunbine had the luxury of fifty episodes to tell its tale and explore the world of Byston Well which has helped my familiarity here. Without that however I can see this as being endlessly fascinating to see but would be disappointed if the explanations aren't clear enough about the foundations of the story.

All that said however this was an entirely fascinating piece of work. After Tomino's work on Overman King Gainer I had really fallen in love with the visual presentation that he is capable of achieving and Wings of Rean is a stronger version of that. The character designs are highly appealing as is the mechanical nature of the Aura machines. The mixture of the CG and animation is very well blended which gives everything a really fluid and smooth feel. Once the show got underway and everything started to happen at once I just couldn't take my eyes off it for a second. There is so much going on at any given time that it's close to a blink and you miss it event. Both visually and aurally it's a beautiful show that just shines on our system and continues to prove how great animation can look on larger screens. Every facet of this outside of the story pacing issues just screams high end quality and sometimes that alone can carry a release if it's short like this one.

In Summary:
Wings of Rean is a beautiful looking release that shines in just about every way in actual production values. The story is one that is going to be rather inaccessible to most anime fans however and likely even to fans of Tomino's related works. Like most of his shows it's not clear quickly what it's all going to be about and we're literally dropped into the middle of several very chaotic situations. There is a lot of appeal for this kind of storytelling among a segment of fans though that like having to work it all out and not having it fed to them on a silver platter. Over the course of the two episodes I became all the more fascinated as to what this is all about and was essentially riveted to the screen. The remaining four episodes across the next two volumes can't come fast enough and I'm glad that it's coming out with a new disc every month. This is a solid quality production that is simply hampered by several issues for this market.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending, Promotional Trailer, Cross Talk: Director Tomino & Anna Tsuchiya,32-page color booklet

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI with upscaling set to 1080p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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