Zegapain Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com

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  • 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: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Zegapain

Zegapain Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     October 08, 2007
Release Date: October 02, 2007

Zegapain Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
Reality and fantasy seem to be breaking down for student Kyo Sogoru. Is he really the smart but unpopular swim enthusiast at Maihama High School or the pilot of the giant robot Zegapain in a war-devastated world? From the day he meets the mysterious girl Shizuno Misaki, his life changes forever as he begins to question reality and his own sanity. Which life is real and which is fantasy? As he fights the forces of the enemy GARDS-ORM and tries to keep his school swim club going, Kyo searches for answers. But is the truth even stranger than he's ready to deal with?

The Review!
Borrowing strongly from some of the concepts of the Matrix, Zegapain thrusts a young man into a position where he must… save the world! Cheerleaders not involved.

The series sports a fairly solid stereo mix as both tracks that are included are done at 224 kbps. Zegapain is a show that really would benefit from a strong 5.1 mix as it features a good deal of mecha action. The stereo mix that we do get however is quite good as it has plenty of placement across the forward soundstage and smooth directionality. There isn't a lot of depth required here though but what we have in total is a clean and solid sounding release. Dialogue is problem free and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Featuring five episodes on this volume, the transfer in general is pretty solid but not without a few problems. The opening episode is where it's the most problematic as some of the initial scenes with heavy blacks have gradients that display a good deal of blocking during it. This eases off in later episodes, especially when you see similar gradients in the blue water but without the same level of noise and blocking. Colors in general are solid and smooth looking with very little noise to them. Aliasing and cross coloration are essentially minimal to non-existent here which leaves the bulk of the show looking good, especially in outdoor city scenes.

The opening volume uses the original Japanese artwork for the second volume which is a strange choice considering it's made up of secondary characters. The character designs and logo is essentially the same, though they swapped the translated languages, but the background color has shifted a bit to provide some green into it which ties it all together rather nicely. The back cover uses a similar color layout but with various hues of purple that come across rather gaudily with the green of the Altair. The cover is a fairly standard layout for Bandai as it provides a brief summary of the premise and a rundown of the discs extras, episodes and titles. The shots from the show are a good mix of character moments and mecha action. The bottom portion of the cover contains the usual minimal and unhelpful technical specs and production information.

When it comes to mecha shows, Bandai typically has some good in-theme menus with them and Zegapain is no exception. Menu items are located along the top and bottom while a strip of clips plays through the middle with various action sequences and some key character moments. Interestingly, the menu runs for 48 seconds but they do the audio in 22 second segments so that it rises and falls once before repeating again. The layout is nicely done, though the white text on the green is a bit awkward at first, but it's a solid piece that fits the show well. Access times are nice and fast but the disc did not properly read our players' language presets and default to English with sign/song subtitles.

The only extra included on this release is a clean version of the opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Zegapain is the kind of series that hopelessly frustrates me right from the start. Coming in at twenty-six episodes total, I was surprised to find that it was a concept created by Takehito Ito and Sunrise that borrows heavily from the Matrix. Having enjoyed Ito's work on Outlaw Star and even Angel Links, it certainly merits me giving it some extra attention. But at the same time, this is the guy who gave us the concept for Knights of Ramune & 40 of which I still have nightmares about.

The series takes place in 2022 as it revolves around Kyo Sogoru, a high school student in Maihama. Kyo is kind of an odd student in that he's exceptionally gifted in his intelligence but doesn't really use it all that much. He breezes through tests and has something of a bored feeling to all of it. What gets him pumped though is the swim club that he's a member of. Or rather, the sole member of as the others had quit a few years prior when he had an incident at a meet and punched out a referee. That cost him and his teammates their scores for the match but it also cost him their friendship. Now the swim club is just him and its on the verge of being disbanded permanently if he doesn't get any new members.

To his surprise, a female student is on the high dive board which means that he may actually get a second member. His focus is entirely on that and he's motivated to get to her quickly. That encounter changes his life though it's hard to tell at first. When she talks, he doesn't hear anything. Even worse, his Ryoko doesn't even see her which is confirmed when she shows him the video footage from her camera. When the girl disappears, he's distraught but more by the fact that a potential member couldn't be brought in. His search doesn't end there though and he's continually on the lookout for her.

A second encounter is a given but it goes unlike what Kyo would expect. Falling into the pool, the mysterious woman holds onto him and basically drags in into another world, one where Kyo is able to masterfully pilot a machine called the Zegapain Altair. The Earth is overrun with something called Gardsorms and this group of people is fighting back against it. The infuriating part of the series rears its head here as Kyo simply falls into line and pilots the mecha as its "gunner" while the mysterious woman known as Shizuno serves as its "wizard." There is a huge amount of technobabble thrown out at the viewer to piece together about how this reality works as it turns out to be a future version of the world Kyo knows.

Kyo makes several of these trips between the two realities though he's not really aware for quite awhile that the devastated future is actually a reality. He's simply so incurious for so long about what's going on that you want to throttle him. His time spent there is actually fairly short but there is such a lack of basic questions from him until around the fifth episode that it really throws off how the series progresses. Kyo is shown as a seemingly smart person from early on but his curiosity is something that isn't helped by it. His main focus tends to be on Shizuno as he's obviously interested in her but he also seems to give more thought and energy to a PR video he wants to shoot with her than the strange situation he finds himself in.

Of the first five episodes, the first three tend to focus more on the events and less on the reasons why things are happening. As more time is spent on the future reality and less on the technobabble, the revelations that come out are certainly intriguing enough even if it does feel like they're cribbing from the Matrix a bit. The concept itself certainly isn't original to that movie but it's the most well known version out there right now and it's surprising we haven't seen more riffs on it in anime yet. Once past those initial weak episodes of Kyo's incurious mind, Zegapain begins to showcase the secondary cast members more and hint at some of the blips and glitches that are ongoing in the present day world. From a science fiction fan perspective, there is plenty to like here if it gets explained well enough but the character driven aspects are hard to get past at first. The use of a video game as a simulator is an area which may turn away some science fiction fans as well.

The design of the show is one that's both decent and really off-putting. The character designs in the present reality are straightforward and generally appealing. Kyo doesn't fall into either a strong or weak profile and Ryoko is cute without being sickeningly cute. Even Shizuno with her strong attractiveness factor doesn't stand out as a bombshell. The future reality characters are a bit more varied with their hair color and designs but they're still fairly straightforward. Where the designs really make me cringe however is with the mecha that they all flit about in. The CG designs themselves aren't bad, though may be a bit busier and detailed than need be, it's the color schemes that are just horrid. Bright day-glo green for the window panels on top of a stark grey machine is bad enough, but then you add in purple wings and orange holographic shields? It certainly draws the eye but not in a positive way.

In Summary:
Zegapain plays with some familiar and fun science fiction concepts but it fails hard in its execution during the first few episodes. This revolves mostly around the way Kyo handles the situation he's being put in as his sense of reality is shifting. While most stories would have a certain curiosity about it, it takes Kyo several episodes to really start asking the most basic of questions. Once past that however, as his world really begins to change, the show starts to hint at where it's going and that it could hit its stride at some point. Right now however it comes across more as a weak and jumbled piece of work with untapped potential.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 480p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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