Zipang Vol. #1 (also w/box) -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C-
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 24.98/34.98
  • Running time: 92
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Zipang

Zipang Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     September 06, 2006
Release Date: September 05, 2006

Zipang Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
Scheduled for routine military exercises, Kadomatsu and the crew of Japan''s newest and most modern battlecruiser, Mirai, are ready to test out the ship's state-of-the-art AEGIS systems. Instead, they find themselves transported back to June 4th, 1942 - date of the crucial Battle of Midway, where the Japanese fleet was dealt a crippling blow. But when an overzealous Kadomatsu rescues one of the battle's victims, Kusaka, from a sinking Zero Fighter, the Mirai's fate is sealed. They are forced to fight a U.S. submarine in a battle that should never have occurred, and the crew pledges not to do anything to alter history further. But the flow of history may already be diverted...

The Review!
Faced with choices that could alter everything, a modern day SDF ship finds itself back in 1942.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a rather good stereo mix that at times brings in some really good moments where the sounds of the sea or the naval technology really comes through well. A lot of this volume is dialogue though as the crew member go about their jobs and trying to figure out their situation. It uses the forward soundstage well but there isn't a lot of very noticeable directional moments in how its laid out but it does sound solid. Dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for this looks very good with a lot of taking place in dark scenes as well as ones with lots of motion to it. Black levels look good and there are a lot of scenes where it comes in to effect. The transfer isn't problem free though as a number of the panning sequences really showcase some bad shimmering. It's much more visible in the side to side pans than up and down. There is also a fair bit of color gradient visible in a number of scenes because of how the digital coloring is done. Water, particularly under the waves, tends to suffer from this the most in background shots.

Using the artwork from the Japanese release, the red hued cover looks good if maybe a bit too dark as it has the overall image of the ship and the two characters who will become the series leads in the foreground. The brushed logo is really nice and gives it a bit of a rough look that adds to the starkness of it all especially since it's in white. The back cover feels a bit more streamlined and modern with its use of orange and black to frame it all as it includes a few shots from the show and panels for the summary and episode numbers/titles. The production information is well covered and Geneon again has adopted a really great technical grid here that covers everything in a very easy to read manner. I was surprised to see an insert with the release considering how barebones it feels; one side replicates the front cover artwork while the other provides a shot of the ship in better colors along with the chapter listings for the four episodes.

The menu layout for this is one of the weakest I've seen from Geneon yet as it has a collage of images where the center shot is the bright sun so everything else has a shadowed feel to it while there is a background design of a radar panel. It's also made worse by the faux military style text that's just unappealing looking with the extra highlight and color design to it. This looks even worse in submenus that don't have the extra highlight. On the plus side, the menus do work well and navigation is easy and the disc correctly read our players' language presets.

The extras for this volume aren't really extras but just another side of the way this release feels like it's either one just pushed out the door not given the same care. With the opening and ending credits left as is in the show itself, translated versions of them are available as text pages here. The ending sequences cover each of the individual episodes however which is a plus so we don't get just a blanket list of credits for the entire series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Zipang is something of a surprising series to see come over. Originally a manga series started in 2001 by Kaiji Kawaguchi who is famous for the Eagle manga over here and the Silent Service anime, it's still ongoing with over twenty volumes out so far. The anime adaptation runs a strong twenty six episodes at a time when you'd expect it to be no more than thirteen because of its more mature feel and that it's got just adults in it and a storyline that doesn't lend itself to the younger set.

Going into Zipang, it's something that I was very much looking forward to since time travel is something I almost always enjoy but there was some trepidation as well. These opening episodes feel so much like one of my favorite movies that I felt like Kawaguchi could have been lifting from it at times. Long lost to video until a fairly recent DVD release, the film "Final Countdown" plays up the idea of the USS Nimitz being caught up in a weird vortex just outside of Pearl Harbor and is sent from the 1980's back to just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The crew has to decide whether they should interfere with history or not since it opens the possibility of so many things going in unexpected ways. It's been a cult classic for many years but for people like myself who enjoy these kinds of shows, it was a rarity in that it treated it more seriously and with less of an action-hero style.

Zipang has almost the same kind of birthing moments as that film. We're introduced to a young but experienced trio of officers who are coming on board the newest cruiser, the Mirai. Under the older captain and a relatively inexperienced crew, they're setting out to Pearl Harbor in order to meet up with the US fleet for exercises and joint operations. Along with a few other cruisers, they head off with a reporter in tow to do pieces on the crew and the experience but the seas change along the way. With waves raising high, lightning strikes the Mirai and everything goes haywire for a few minutes. When it all settles down and systems come back online, their escort cruisers are gone. Even worse, they're now surrounded by over forty other ships that seem like they're ghost ships out of the past as the Yamoto sails by them. While they don't want to believe their eyes, they force their way to understanding the situation that they've landed back on June 4th, 1942 which is the day just before the Battle of Midway.

The crew now faces a situation where they have an incredibly powerful cruiser, one sixty years advanced over what is fighting in the very seas they're sailing in, and some have the belief that they should be using it in order to help their country. Others are afraid that any changes that they make to the past will dramatically affect the future and even the butterfly effect is mentioned. Naturally, there's one member on board the ship who is a naval history fanatic and through him he brings us some very detailed commentary along with the visuals of the battles that are ongoing and the destruction caused and lives lost. These scenes have enough power on their own but the commentary makes it stronger. Of course, as the crew tries to figure out what's going on around them and how to deal with it, history has a way of getting in the way and before they know they're getting actively involved.

Visually, the show is a real treat in a number of ways. On the technological side, we're getting some great looking representations of the naval craft used in the war here both in the past and the present. The Mirai is shown as a technical marvel and its capabilities are given some really good moments as it stands out as what their navy is capable of. At the same time, having the Zero's, the US bombers and the Imperial Navy fleet moving about, we get the same kind of treatment given to them as the detail is great and they're given a real sense of reality. Though used for entertainment, you do get the sense that there is a kind of honor being given to those that served in how its portrayed.

In terms of the characters, Zipang also comes through very well. It's early on yet so getting a feel for the characters is easy in that we see some of their basic archetypes but the core of them is still long in coming. What makes it even more appealing to me is that we are dealing with a crew of adults here and even the youngest is far and away from what we're used to in teen anime shows. The change in seriousness and tone because of this is a natural extension of the premise and having something that's somber but intriguing and fascinating is rare these days. You hate to throw around the word mature because it's often misused and you find that only shows like Speedgrapher get that label, but Zipang is the real definition of a mature show.

As much as I've enjoyed the show, something about this release just feels like it's something that Geneon got as part of a bundle and are trying to minimize their efforts on it. The lack of translated opening and ending sequences doesn't really mean anything since it's happened before and not all shows have clean options to them. But the lack of any kind of English credited cast or production information anywhere on the disc really gives it a wary feel. I'm glad they did translate the Japanese credits at least but with the very minimal menus and the barebones feel of it, it seems like it's a show that's just not getting the usual treatment we see from a Geneon release.

In Summary:
Zipang was a virtual unknown to me until just before release when I got a few blurbs about it and it's had me fascinated since. Having simply adore the amount of detail and work that went into the original authors series Eagle, I'm very eager to see how this work will be tackled and wish the manga was being picked up. The anime version seems to kick off in a very strong manner but it does have a lot of material that's very standard for this kind of show so far. Where it will be interesting is in whether we see the crew making real changes to the past or trying to minimize it. The general belief is that shows want to avoid messing with things since it provides a better drama but I want to see this one tackle the issue head on and see what changes can be wrought. This is one of the series I'm most excited about now from Geneon which makes me wish they had put more effort into it.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Box: Limited edition mousepad

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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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