Zaion Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 60
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Letterbox
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Zaion

Zaion Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     November 21, 2003
Release Date: November 11, 2003



What They Say
As the outbreaks of the M34 virus continue to worsen, the NOA soldiers face strengthening opposition. The virus continues to evolve, adapting itself against the nanotechnology, turning the very advantages of the NOA soldiers against themselves. The bond between Yuuji and Ai will be put to the test as the threat of the M34 virus brings havoc and death all around them.

The Review!
The second half of the series attempts to make a stronger connection with the romance angle but also goes for more action material at the same time.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The Japanese track is presented in its original stereo mix, which comes across quite well during the action sequences and fills the soundstage nicely. Dialogue is crisp and clear with no noticeable dropouts or distortions during regular playback. The English track has been remixed into 5.1 sound which mostly gives a cleaner definition of the dialogue placement as opposed to really beefing up the sound effects.

Video:
Presented in its original aspect ration of 1.85:1 and not enhanced for anamorphic playback (nor is the Japanese release), the transfer here simply looks gorgeous. Colors are lush and vibrant, very strong looking colors. Cross coloration and aliasing are pretty much non-existent here, giving this a really clean look to it. If there’s anything to really complain about, it’s that I wish the spacing of the subtitles, which go both in the picture and into the letterbox section, was done so that it didn’t go over both as it leads to some slight difficulty in reading in a few areas.

Packaging:
Going with a clear keepcase, this is a solid looking package. The front cover has a white background of monitors that’s very muted with a blue pencil sketch of Ai looking off into the distance. On top of that is a shot of Yuuji sitting in his usual clothes, looking a bit messed up, but holding his hand out to a floating butterfly. The back cover provides two strips of collaged images from the show and a summary of the show itself as well as a summary for each of the two episodes here. The discs features, production and technical information are all nicely laid out along the bottom. The cover is also fully reversible; the reverse side front cover has a nice blue hued background with the same monitor style as the front but this time with a great full color shot a determined looking Ai with her psychic abilities starting to flow around her. The reverse side back cover is the same in layout but provides a different set of collaged images. Adding even more to the impressive feel of the packaging is the booklet included. With the simple and elegant looking cover design of the series name in white against pale blue, we’re treated to a full color piece inside that has some round table talks with the staff, photographs of them, character illustrations and full color pieces that harkens back to the old movie books you used to get at the theaters for Hollywood movies.

Menu:
The main menu has a nice layout utilizing pieces of animation and style from the promotional clip that’s static once it’s loaded and has the nice haunting theme from the show playing along. Selections are quick and easy to access and submenus load quickly even though there are transitional animations to it.

Extras:
The extras are fairly thick here with another series of five interviews with various members of the production, ranging from three to seven minutes or so. There’s some interesting bits throughout, though enough of it is standard fluff as well. The main disappointment with this section is the lack of a play-all for the interviews considering their length. Also included is another round of production sketches showing off the various conceptual pieces used in preproduction.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At the end of the first volume, the team had found themselves on the run from NOA and finding refuge in a specialized hospital. The only reason the team is able to even continue to breathe is due to their commander handing Ai over to the researchers and the robots that were sent to get her back. With her being the real prize now, they’re willing to write-off a few loose NOA soldiers.

The first half of this volume is spent in hospitals and research labs. On the soldiers side, we see them getting some R&R time in the hospital complex that they’re being kept in, where they just have to go through some experiments and check-ups but otherwise have free time. And this is unlike other hospital complexes in that it has some forms of shopping and other things to do, allowing their time to be spent well. Most of the soldiers feel relaxed and are enjoying their time, but Yuuji is uncertain of what’s going on and his mind keeps going back to Ai. He’s also quite sure that the commander doesn’t have them here for reasons purely in their own interest.

On Ai’s side of things, she’s continually probed and prodded so that the researchers can find out more about her powers. The one thing that’s come up continually since her last use of them is that her levels are nowhere near what they used to be. While they try and figure it out, it’s only the young woman on the team that realizes that Ai was fighting for Yuuji and will only continue to do so when he’s in trouble. Part of the problem comes in her being kept from the world and her lack of a connection with it; so when the world is in trouble from the virus or the creatures, she doesn’t feel a strong need to be involved. But if Yuuji is in trouble, she’s all over it.

So what better way to bring the two back together? Well, the M34 virus has definitely been mutated and what they’ve found inside of Yuuji is being classified as M35. But even that’s not the kicker, as the virus has mutated even more when it leapt to others in the team as it seems like it could be airborne now. Not only that, but when it interacts with the nanomachines in the NOA soldiers bodies, it mutates even more, creating massively powerful soldiers who are in a rage but manage to keep focused on particular targets. As it spreads across the hospital and then starts surging in one of the cities, plans are made to eliminate entire regions of the country to keep things stabilized.

The death tolls start going up and panic sets in. While Yuuji manages to remain uninfected, he’s threatened by the growing numbers of super powered creatures that are moving to some strange rhythm. The need to bring Ai in is paramount, but there’s resistance in the command level over using an unstable child who is driven more by emotion than reason. The romance between Ai and Yuuji is brought into play to try and save the situation and the lives of many innocents.

But much like the first volume, there continues to be only the scantest of real tangible feelings between Ai and Yuuji. There’s simply no spark here to really get the viewer, or at least me, to feel attached to either of these two kids. Ai’s personality is such a blank slate for the most part that all you have to latch onto is her story about having a puppy some years ago. Yuuji’s own life is left to the unknown for the most part as well, leaving you only to know what you’ve seen in the few episodes here. And its nowhere enough to get me involved in seeing the two as a bonding that will save the lives of so many people through their love.

In Summary:
One of the main problems with this series is that it’s too short to be able to really get you to care for the cast. So many of the NOA team drop off so fast that you sometimes don’t even get their names. There’s a lot of information provided in the booklets that didn’t make it into the show which doesn’t help either, things that give the entire program a much bigger feel to the problem of the meteor virus and how they’ve been fighting it. The idea of love saving the world is nothing new, but it’s just poorly executed here. Gonzo has done it before and done it much better themselves in another series.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Director Seiji Mizushima; SF Setting Director Mitsuyasu Sakai; 3D Yasufumi Soejimi; Music Director Kenji Kawai; and Voice Actress Yukari Tamura ("Ai")

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, 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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jnager 3/13/2012 2:13:36 PM

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