When a giant robot crashes to Earth, it changes an entire elementary school to serve as its base – and its staff.
What They Say
When the legendary Guardian Eldoran is badly wounded by the fifth-dimensional invaders of the Jaku Empire. He has no choice but to leave the Earth's only salvation - the mighty robot Raijin-Oh - in the hands of the first people he can find ... which happens to be a classroom of 5th Graders.
The children reluctantly take up the responsibility only to find that the Jaku monsters invading their planet have become the living incarnations of the things they dislike the most! Can the Earth Defense Class successfully learn to work as a team, overcome their stigmas and defeat the forces of evil while (futilely) attempting to teach Jin how to perform decimal division?!
The inaugural release from Anime Midstream provides a bilingual presentation, which is admittedly a surprise in a market where the big companies are scaling them back something fierce. This release features a pair or language tracks with the English and Japanese encoded at a simple but expected 192kbps. The shows vintage means that there's not all that much to expect here and it's rather straightforward with a mix that's more center channel based than anything else, so there aren't any significantly noticeable moments of directionality or placement. What we do get is a good sounding show that's free of problems as the dialogue is clean and clear throughout. It's not a standout show in this regard but it seems to provide an accurate experience to what was originally intended.
Originally airing in 1991 and 1992, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The five episodes across this volume look good and certainly appear to be representative of a show from this time period. It's a touch soft at times and there's obviously some grain and noise to be had here but beyond that it's a rather solid looking release that maintains a good feel without any noticeable cross coloration and very few jaggies to be had. The look of the show is classic Sunrise material so there's some really strong animation that looks great here but a lot of it is kept fairly minimal on the detail side at times. If there's any issue with the video encoding, it's the poor chapter marks set up as each episode has them at approximately every seven and a half minutes. It's a nonsensical setup that makes navigation difficult in moving around the disc.
Raijin-Oh has a cover that's a step or two above amateurish but part of it is related to the materials available, of which I suspect there are few. The front cover has a very cartoony look with the three principle kids in their piloting uniforms as the Raijin-oh soars above them. All of it is set against the backdrop of part of the Earth as seen from space, though a very dark space with few stars to be had. The volume number is kept up to the upper right corner and the logo along the bottom is decent, though of a slightly less than appealing font design. The back cover works along a similar feel in that it has all the right design elements but is just a notch or two short of a full on professional design, mostly because of the yellow L shaped stripe along the left side and the larger text in the technical grid. The summary covers the show well and there are a few good shots from the show included. The episode numbers and titles are clearly listed and there's a good breakdown of the production credits for both the Japanese and English sides. There's a good layout here overall but it's just slightly lacking. The extras found on the disc aren't listed here but the technical grid lays out everything clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for Raijin-Oh are about as expected when you see what they have available for cover art. The materials from the cover are re-used here with the principle characters looking a bit cleaner and more vibrant in this format, set against a black backdrop, while the right side has the four navigation selections done in theme with some good artwork around each of the actual selection item itself. The downside is that when you move the cursor to each selection, there's significant lag in getting there which makes it a slow interface. Language selection is good though it did not read our players' language defaults and overall it's good, but the lag makes it a less than smooth experience.
A few extras have made it into this release which is welcome, though admittedly not really expected considering the age of the show. The first is that we get a clean opening sequence which I wasn’t even sure would exist for something from 1991. The really fun extra for me is that there’s a nearly five minute music video for the opening song which features the band for it, so there’s a whole lot of live action material here for it. It’s definitely a throwback to a different – maybe even simpler – day. The last extra is about two minutes worth of English language bloopers, which are cute and silly and definitely something I wish we saw more of across the board.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first entry in the Eldran franchise as funded by the toy company Tomy-Takara and animated by Sunrise, Raijin-Oh ran for fifty one episodes and kicked off a very familiar patter of shows, much of which was adapted into the Brave Series which included Gaogaigar. Appearing out of nowhere and seeming like a well funded fan operation, Anime Midstream showed up in 2009 with the promise to release a kids anime series from Sunrise from 1991 that pretty the majority of fans had never heard of. While there are indications from the Anime Midstream folks that the entire production has essentially broke even before the first disc, it's still an impressive venture simply because of the title chosen but also that they're dubbing the whole thing.
Zettai Muteki Raijin-Oh follows a pretty familiar pattern that was followed before and afterwards, especially if you have seen Gaogaigar. The premise of the series is straightforward in that the Jaku Empire has decided that Earth will be its target and has arrived here to cause chaos and destruction so they can conquer and use it as they see fit. So far the main force is a single man who has a rather scary fairy that lives in his chest. Along with a goofy retainer of sorts, the pair set about to use their powers to achieve their goal. What makes it all possible is that they're able to manipulate things called Akudama, which are eggs of darkness that are all over the Earth. Through these, they hatch them based on the things that they find cause humans trouble and they then grow from there and cause said trouble.
Done with ideas that are familiar both from Gaogaigar and shows like Sailor Moon, the eggs spawn all sorts of nasty things that wreck havoc large and small. There are eggs that spew nothing but exhaust which chokes the area they're in. Others cause trees to be destroyed which would lead to a huge ecological impact. And the scariest thing of all is an Akudama that's born to destroy tests. It's from there that the impact is really driven home that the show is all about simple concepts and it's playing directly to its young audience who hates tests. The creatures that the Akudama spawn into certainly aren't threatening and if there are Akudama everywhere, you really have to wonder why the Jaku simply don't make a more widespread attack. But this is the kind of show where you really have to suspend disbelief hugely.
So what fights off these Akudama, and hopefully eventually those from the Jaku Empire itself? That's where the series set itself apart when it first came out as the job was given to fifth grade children. At the start of the series we see a giant robot crash down from space and into an elementary school where it them merges itself with literally the entire school. Inside this robot, Raijin-Oh, was a mystical superior being called the Eldran which gave the children its mission and granted them control of Raijin-Oh before it dissipated into everything. What sets it apart from the shows that followed in its wake though is that the entire class was used to work the Raijin-Oh as the school literally became the base of operations. When they go into battle, the classroom changes dramatically and everyone has a function, though only three of the boys take on active roles as the pilots. Led by the hotheaded Jin who is rather terrible at studying and school in general, everyone slowly learns to work together to deal with the enemy.
Raijin-Oh has a rather predictable path here, though at the time it did stand apart from giant robot shows that came before it. After watching shows like Gaogaigar you can visualize how it'll work for the bulk of the next forty-six episodes, but that's not a bad thing since if you're really into this kind of show you're set for a lot of enjoyment. Each episode works the formula by introducing a new situation in the first half and then the second half deals with the Raijin-Oh versus the Akudama battle and the resolution to events that leads to everyone making out better. Well, outside of Jin who tends to land himself in more trouble with how he shoots off his mouth or his lack of studying and such.
Raijin-Oh has a tough time ahead of it for a number of reasons. The content itself won't fly for most anime fans these days and it's hard to imagine there are a lot of fans of this particular set of anime that actually know it's even coming out. With distribution only available as of this writing directly through Anime Midstream and Paypal only, it's really very limited. Add in that it's doing ten single volume releases and it's another tough nail in the coffin. That said, they did a far better job here than I would have expected since it the entire operation really does feel like little more than a handful of fans with some money and a dream made real. I admire them for it, I admire their work and the result, but I wish it was with a show that I could have liked more. There are interesting elements here, as I really like the whole classroom command center concept, but much of what was done here has been done over and over so many times since – and often better – but there is a charm to be had here. I can see the series wearing thin at times, mostly with the Akudama types that are spawned – but the charm of the kids, their interactions, is what will hold my attention.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Music Video, Bloopers
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.