Zipang Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • 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
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Zipang

Zipang Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     March 19, 2007
Release Date: January 16, 2007


Zipang Vol. #3
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
As the crew of Mirai accepts their indefinite existence in the wartime past of Japan, their attention turns toward using their powers of knowledge and technology for good. The goal of Mirai: to rescue the people of the 20th century without the use of weapons. Thus begins the delicate balance of loyalty to Japan's cause, and neutrality with its opposing nations. As the true intentions of key players are revealed, the crew of Mirai is forced to relinquish their stance of cautious neutrality and take action that would both compromise their loyalty to their country and alter the course of history. Practice battle drills transform into real-life combat as the true enemy of the Mirai becomes increasingly unclear.


The Review!
Taking stock of their situation, the command crew of the Mirai must decide whether to get involved in the war or not while dealing with the fallout of either choice.

Audio:
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 aren't a lot of very noticeable directional moments in how it's laid out but it does sound solid. Dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Using the artwork from the Japanese release, the red hued cover looks good if maybe a bit too dark as it has a split image of soldiers on the ground and planes in the air. 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 green and black to frame it all. 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.

Menu:
The menu layout for this is one continues to be the weakest I've seen from Geneon as it has a still from the aerial combat. While it's better in terms of the background compared to the first volume, the faux military style text used in the navigation is unappealing looking with the color design to it. This looks even worse in submenus that don't have the extra highlight. And while some sort of instrumental music for the menu would have improved it only a little, not having it makes the menu seem all the more stark. On the plus side, the menus do work well and navigation is easy and the disc correctly read our players' language presets.

Extras:
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 moves further and further away from being a rehash of the film Final Countdown as the sailors on board the Mirai actively get involved. Between getting their planes out on other ships or performing an operation on an island, the command crew has come to the realization that they must be there for some reason and will take an active role with the war. Just not the role that most Japanese of that time would want them to.

Securing of new supplies has been the main operation to this point and that ran into its own set of problems. With some of the higher ups realizing that Kusaka is up to something, they're able to stop him from getting exactly what he wants. But between him and Kadomatsu, his liaison from the Mirai, they're able to bluff the Lieutenant on the supply ship as well as enticing him to check out the "ship from the future." The intent of carrying this off without anyone finding out what's really going goes out the window but there's still a chance of controlling it. What it does give us though is a new meeting of commanders as the Mirai's Umezu meets with Tsuda from the supply ship. With Kusaka now having another ally, he's able to better come up with a plan for dealing with the war.

And that's where this show really spends a good part of its time, though a fair bit focused on a particular event. With the battle of Midway having come and gone, the next main focus is that of Guadalcanal. An important location for both sides during the war, a large event is about to occur there where the Allied forces will be dropping in with about 18,000 marines. With Tsuda now understanding the scope of things by seeing the technology of the Mirai as well as its future-history, Kusaka is able to bring a new dimension to the discussions. While Umezu and the others of the Mirai want to get involved, Kusaka is able to provide a bit more of a real-world view to what they intend since he's living in the political realities of the time. While there is the pie in the sky idea of taking the Mirai and just ending the war somehow, there is the conflict of which side to work with. If working with neither side, what can the real plan be?

What is also lost is some of the reasons why Japan is at war at the time which while glossed over is given some discussion. The economic realities of the time that forced Japan to take military action over other actions is brought up but relatively quickly pushed to the side in order to get to more immediate material. The arrival of the Allied fleet and the Marines makes for some big imagery as does their initial landing upon the island chain. With a plan in motion that depends on Kusaka's efforts with Admiral Yamamoto, the crew of the Mirai has placed a lot of faith in him in hopes of changing the world. While the crew is unsure of how the results play out, there is a hope that changing this past doesn't change their past, that there is a real disconnect between the realities.

Some of the most intriguing moments come when Kusaka heads off with Satake on the mission to the fleet where Yamamoto is. Though Satake doesn't get to mingle with the command level there, Kusaka manages to get beyond where he'd normally be allowed by tantalizing Yamamoto's curiosity with the seaplane. The discussions among the senior officers as they try to both deflect what Kusaka has done to impugn their honor but also realizing that there may be truth in what he says is fascinating to watch. It's commented upon in an earlier episode when a few sailors from the Mirai head over to the supply ship to share some alcohol. You can't tell the enlisted men the truth because they can't change anything and it would only demoralize them badly. But will it do any good to tell the senior officers? Particularly when they are working based on the will of the Emperor?

In Summary:
Zipang's move to covering more material where the crew of the Mirai get actively involved in the war and the world is very welcome. They didn't exactly shy away heavily as some involvement was necessary, but with this set of episodes they plunge into things in a much more serious way. While the cast of characters can get confusing at times and this isn't the kind of show that really expands on who these people are, what we do get is a very intriguing and exciting military drama with a science fiction bent to it. Zipang feeds a certain need that is very rarely done in anime these days. Shows like this were much more common twenty years ago in OVA form and in manga form and this is a very welcome release.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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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