Argento Soma-Volume 1: Another Reality (2000)

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Released 10-Sep-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Credits-Clean Opening (1:31)
Gallery-production sketches
Trailer-Madman Propaganda (4)
DVD Credits
Reversible Cover
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 123:19 (Case: 125)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (62:31) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kazuyoshi Katayama
Studio
Distributor
Sunrise, Inc.
Madman Entertainment
Starring Soichiro Hoshi
Steve Staley
Houko Kuwashima
Dorothy Fahn
Sandy Fox
Yuji Takuda
Lex Lang
Sayuri
Melodee M. Spevack
Takehito Koyasu
Crispin Freeman
Yui Horie
Paula Mattioli Walker
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Katsuhisa Hattori


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Titling
English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

This is the introductory volume for a new anime series that is called Argento Soma in English, although the credits show the name in Greek characters with an uppercase pi in place of the R (a rho would have made more sense, but uppercase rho looks like P, and that might have been thought confusing), and an uppercase sigma in place of the S.

The first episode has special opening credits, where we hear answering machine messages between Takuto Kaneshiro and his absent girlfriend Maki Agata. She seems to have been standing him up a lot, claiming to be busy with work for her professor. Now it's Maki's birthday, and Takuto is not interested in being stood up again. He traces a message to the professor's lab on campus, and goes there to find Maki. She isn't there, but he traces the message further, and is surprised that his efforts result in him being escorted to an apparently abandoned military base, where he is welcomed by Maki and her professor, Professor Noguchi. The base, it transpires, is the headquarters of Morgue (written Morogue, for reasons I don't understand).

His arrival is coincident with a big moment they are about to attempt to revive a giant alien object. They aren't sure whether it is a robot, or an alien being, but the professor has nicknamed it Prometheus, or Frank (a shortening of Frankenstein you may or may not know that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has a sub-title of The Modern Prometheus...). Things go wrong, including an attack by a military unit during the revival. It appears that Maki is killed. Takuto is badly injured. Noguchi utters the famous line: "It is alive!" (could they get any less subtle?)

Takuto has some strange experiences in hospital, and ends up accepting a strange offer from a mysterious stranger (mentioned in the credits as Mr X). The next time he awakens he is in a different hospital, with a different name he is now Ryu Soma, and about to become a member of a private organisation called Funeral (are you noticing a certain morbidity in the choice of code-names yet?). Funeral is in the business of fighting off attacks by aliens. One such attack devastated and depopulated New York (something we see later).

Meanwhile, Frank has established a strange protective relationship with a 13-year-old girl called Harriet and her large dog, Walton. He is now known to Funeral as EX-1, and they want to study him (or it?) because he destroyed an alien that was attacking her.

We get to meet Funeral's crack team, led by Captain Michael Heartland, and including First Lieutenants Dan Simmonds and Guinevere Green and 2nd Lieutenant Sue Harris. They are joined by Lieutenant Ryu Soma (he is a Second Lieutenant in the subtitles, but a First Lieutenant in the dialogue who knows?).

This show is set in 2059. The history isn't clear, but it seems that the Earth has been under attack by aliens for some years now.

The episodes on this disc are:

1 Rebirth and Death We meet Takuto and Maki, and Frank is awakened
2 Death and the Maiden We meet Harriet, and so does Frank
3 The Maiden and the Meeting Takuto meets Mr X, who asks him if he wants revenge on aliens
4 The Meeting and the Hatred Funeral's crack team is sent to deal with an alien heading for New York
5 The Hatred and War Ryo Soma solves the problem in an unusual and unauthorised way

The episode titles are interesting each one starts with the phrase that ended the previous one. I don't know if that will continue, but the 6th episode is called War and Escape.

There are quite a few flashbacks in this show, mostly from Takuto/Ryu's point of view (although we do see one for Harriet) they are interesting, enlightening us as to motive or past events (such as the first meeting between Maki and Takuto). Takuto was quite a pretty boy; Ryu Soma is heavily scarred, including a flash of white hair (Takuto's hair was uniformly dark), so it is easy to distinguish the flashbacks from current storyline. In the opening credits we see Ryu Soma as an angel with only one wing an intriguing metaphor which I hope they expand upon in later episodes.

The animation style is fairly simple, without a lot of background detail, but it is perfectly adequate for telling the story. Character designs (courtesy of Shukou Murase) are interesting and stylish, rather than "true-to-life". Mecha designs (from Kimitoshi Yamane) are novel, and rather attractive.

One unusual feature of this series is that the next-episode teasers appear before the closing credits, rather than after.

These episodes do an excellent job of whetting the appetite for more. Unfortunately, it looks like we have a two-month wait for the next volume...

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. That is the original aspect ratio.

The image is sharp and clear, with only a tiny trace of softness. There's no film grain, and no low-level noise.

Colour is bright and well-rendered from a somewhat restricted palette. There are no colour-related artefacts.

There are no film artefacts. Aliasing and dot crawl on the black lines bordering characters and objects is not excessive, but is certainly visible on any panning shot. There are no MPEG artefacts.

There are the usual two subtitle tracks for Madman anime discs. The first subtitles only signs. The second provides full subtitles for the dialogue, plus the signs. The dialogue subtitles seem to be accurate, well-timed to the dialogue, and easy to read in the traditional yellow.

The disc is single-sided and dual-layered, apparently not formatted RSDL. The layer change takes place at 62:31 in the middle of Episode 3. It happens on a black screen, between chapters, so it's rather well-hidden; I didn't pick it up on my first two viewings.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese, just as we expect for anime. Both soundtracks are Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround encoded, at 224kbps. I listened to both soundtracks in full. Apart from the voice acting, the two soundtracks sound equivalent.

The English dialogue is easily understood, and is well-matched to the animated mouth movements. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear enough.

The score during episodes is nothing special, but it's adequate. The opening and closing themes, on the other hand, are excellent. Katsuhisa Hattori provides all the music, although there is also a credit for a DJ, K Hasegawa.

The straight stereo signal does not provide sound for the surrounds or subwoofer. That's not a problem with this series the mains do a fine job with the stereo sound they receive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

This series isn't getting as much in the way of extras as some other recent offerings from Madman.

Menu

The menu is animated with sound it is designed to look like a glitching display (not a kind thing to do to people watching on a PC!).

Credit-free Opening (1:31)

The opening without credits. Interesting enough the first time I hope we get something different on the next disc...

Gallery Production sketches

25 pages of sketches, mostly of the main characters.

Madman Propaganda

Trailers for four other Madman offerings, which can be selected individually:

Reversible Cover Slick

The inside of the cover slick is an alternative cover. It features different artwork, and fewer words, but is essentially the same style (it's still in English, rather than Japanese). Both versions are attractive.

DVD Credits

A credits panel showing the DVD team at Madman.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region 1 disc was released in the first half of 2003. Both contain the first five episodes.

The two versions have similar artwork, but theirs is on a dark background while ours is on a light one.

The extras are quite different: the R1 has "Tech Files", while our R4 gets a gallery of production sketches. Naturally, I'd like to have both...

By reports, the R1 transfer is at least as good as this R4, so I'd rate the two discs as equivalent.

Summary

The introductory volume of a dramatic new series, presented well on DVD.

The video quality is very good.

The audio quality is good.

The extras are a bit sparse.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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