Zipang Vol. #5 - 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: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Zipang

Zipang Vol. #5

By Chris Beveridge     May 21, 2007
Release Date: May 15, 2007


Zipang Vol. #5
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
The crew of the Mirai has been cordially invited by Gen. Yamamoto to take a much-needed rest at an imperial military base. In the course of the next days, plots, secret plans, and hidden agendas are revealed - all with the Mirai at the center of discussion. With its incredible capabilities and vision of the future, the Mirai is seen as both a threat and an asset. No longer a passive bystander of the war, the ship's every move sets off a chain reaction that ultimately will alter the course of history.

Contains episodes 17-20.

The Review!
The Mirai's involvement in the war becomes more widespread as more people learn about her and her capabilities.

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 Kusaka along the bottom while the Yamato is along the top. 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 Yamato 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. This installment mixes in the visual of a radar system while some full color shots are mixed into it of the battle. 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. The language selection for this volume was particularly painful as not only was it done in the awful font but sideways for a good chunk of it. Add in that the disc didn't read our player presets and it just failed in so many ways.

Extras:
The extras for this volume aren't really extras but just another side of the way this release feels like it's one just pushed out the door and 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)
With this set of episodes bringing the series up to episode twenty, the series hardly feels like it will end well with only six more to go. That said, what we do get here continues to be interesting and intriguing as history starts straying further from expectations when it comes to the Pacific. The involvement of more people that learn the secrets of the Mirai begins to change a lot of actions across both sides of the ocean.

A meeting of the minds finally happens as the captain of the Mirai and Admiral Yamamoto get together when Yamamoto offers some safe passage for shore leave for the Mirai crew at Truk. Though the Mirai crew has plenty of reason to be wary, they've been at sea for two months that has been filled with a lot of tension and a lot of boredom. The prospects of getting to relax a little, drink and be merry with some women has them all excited. That doesn't last too long though as the reality of the situation sinks in once again with what they've lost and where they are. It's a little hard to get excited about women that were born the same year as their grandmothers, regardless of how cute and fun they are.

While there are some very interesting moments in Yamamoto's meeting, it's what happens around it that really sets things in motion. One of the Army commanders that came to Truk in order to push forward his agenda of recapturing Guadalcanal is a noisy type who is only interested in achieving victory regardless of the cost, mostly because it's an Imperial Mandate and therefore must be good. Tsuji has been hearing some of the whispers about the Mirai and is hugely interested to see who Yamamoto is meeting but he instead gets accosted by Kusaka. Kusaka's change from military to civilian with an agenda is interesting as he is actively forcing truth upon people to achieve his goals. Though he is mild in a sense with Tsuji, he uses him quite well though brutally with the truth in order to get to the next level.

It's that next level in his goal of creating Zipang that I find the most interesting. While I love the military aspects of the show and the naval battles, Kusaka's shifting to Japan proper where he's seeking out the right people in order to foster his vision is far more interesting. With my knowledge of history at this time is fairly limited and dated, I can't speak about the level of accuracy or historical impact of these kinds of changes nor of how slanted they may be in their views. What I can say is that it's a fascinating look at what could have been as Kusaka brings Ishiwara into his coterie and begins to promote Zipang as a real achievable goal. Shifting from fighting for righteousness to fighting for interests, Kusaka is able to lay out ways that Zipang can be properly secured and stabilized that would change everything dramatically.

Kusaka also continues to have a rather amusing relationship with Kadomatsu. Since their last tense conversation just before Kadomatsu was going to be bombed to hell and back, Kadomatsu has been wondering how exactly he'd handle such a situation. He's thrust into that fairly early on but isn't able to really make a move on it since Kusaka is working with Tsuji to get what he wants. The level of distrust just continues to shoot up for Kadomatsu though Kusaka does give him some hints about what he has in mind. The subject of Kusaka has come up in several ways over the course of these episodes and the Kadomatsu aspect has been fun to watch as I expect it to end in some sort of basic fist fight. Kusaka for his part is making the series much more interesting once he hit Japan though and begins to move through the military community that was forced into retirement.

Similar to the fourth volume, Zipang again has an instance where something wasn't subtitled. The fourth volume had a couple of lines while only one passage seems to be missed here. This continues to be another black mark against a solidly enjoyable series which was likely a "friend" series with something else that was licensed. The missing subtitle is quite annoying but nowhere near as much as having to listen to the show in English where it has such bad accents that make no sense at all. While some of the leads do come across as competent, the majority of the secondary and periphery cast members are just awful. The number of bad and inconsistent accents mars this terribly.

In Summary:
Few shows like this get made these days and even fewer come over. That isn't a surprise considering that fandom as a whole doesn't seem interested in such shows. Zipang has a lot of hurdles to overcome beyond that and the sales of the series aren't likely to spur anyone to pick up the manga, which is the real travesty. These episodes are quite good as they expand the scope of things and bring in some new characters that will liven it up a bit more. The shift from the Mirai to the larger venue works well as there are plenty of tangents to follow that lead back to their situation. Zipang is solidly entertaining for a number of reasons but the flaws within the release are going to keep it away from a lot of people. I have a hope that Geneon would take a chance and do a cheap thinpak release for it down the road to try and hook a few more people but I suspect all the issues with the series will keep even the curious away.

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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