Transformers: Armada-Volume 5 (2002)
|Year Of Production||2002|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Ads Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Hidehito Ueda|
Tabitha St. Germain
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, Toy advert opens disc.|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Hi again! Glad to have you aboard as we arrive at Transformers: Armada - Volume 5, which includes Episodes 13-15 of the popular animated TV series. I'm sure that most of you will be familiar with the show from its earlier incarnations, or will at least have seen one of the toys. This latest series was first shown on the Cartoon Network from 2002-2003 and follows the latest developments in the war between the good Transformers (the Autobots) and their evil counterparts the Decepticons. The year is 2010 and our three young heroes (Rad, Carlos and Alexis) have stumbled across a strange underground ruin. It turns out to be the wreckage of a spaceship which crashed on the earth 4 million years ago, scattering a group of inactive robots known as Mini-Cons across the face of the planet. These small robots are now reactivating and the Autobots are looking for the Mini-Cons to try and save them from enslavement by the Decepticons.
In this series of episodes we find that the story is becoming even more interesting than it was on Volume 4. If you jumped ahead to the end of the review and peeked at my overall rating for the disc you will have noticed that I have given it a half star more than I have given the rest of the series so far. The reason is that I have been impressed by the improvement in the story in these episodes - we have moved from a simple hunt for the Mini-Cons to something deeper and darker. The new Mini-Cons that are being discovered are more complex than the earlier models, and strange characters from the Transformers home planet of Cybertron are starting to appear, each with their own motivations.
Don't get me wrong - this is still very much aimed at the younger audience. My 5 year old son still loves the robot action, but my 11 year old daughter is starting to enjoy the series a whole lot more as well (and even Mum is intrigued). In the first episode on this disc (Episode 13 of the series, Swoop, runs 21:33) we find the Decepticons still looking for Mini-Cons, but they are more ambitious this time around - they are hoping to merge three key Mini-Cons into one mighty weapon: the Star Sabre. There is some nice humour here as well; one of the new kids on the team, Billy, mistakenly calls the Decepticons leader 'Megafrog' instead of 'Megatron' (a subtle put-down for the self-styled 'Lord of Destruction'). You might also spot a joke which pokes fun at the 'warp' scene I commented on in my review of Volume 4.
Episode 14 (Overmatch, runs 21:36) sees feisty Autobot 'Hot Shot' doing a lot of damage to the Decepticons with the Star Sabre. It is a sign of the new direction for the show that this is the first significant damage either side has suffered in the story so far. He becomes carried away with his success, but is taught a lesson by the mysterious mercenary, 'Scavenger'. Apparently, the new arrival used to be the trainer of the leader of the Decepticons, 'Optimus Prime', which adds another complication now that they find themselves on opposite sides.
Events continue in Episode 15 (Gale, runs 21:36) where yet another new arrival from Cybertron further complicates the picture. There are some further Star Wars references in this episode (there was almost a light-sabre duel in episode 14) with Alexis uttering the notable line: "I've got a bad feeling about this". She might have had a bad feeling, but the younger members of the family will be left with a good feeling after viewing this disc, which can only be a good sign (unless you are buying them at the slightly inflated recommended price). If you take the time to watch this DVD I'm sure you will be joining me again sometime soon for a look at Volume 6.
We see another improvement on this disc, with the picture much brighter than on the last few volumes.
The aspect ratio of the show is 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, which is the way it was shown on TV.
The picture is very sharp at all times. There are also some examples of good animated shadow detail on offer, particularly in the early part of episode 14 (see the dark figure at 0:57 which is very effective). As with all of the discs so far, there is no low level noise to worry about.
Colours on this disc have returned to the bright look which we found on the first two volumes (see 12:35 in episode 15 for one sample). There are also a few shiny new effects shots on the disc and as before backgrounds are pleasing.
Aliasing on the disc is minimal. As with Volume 4 there is an occasional "jitter" in the picture (see 1:30 in Episode 2), but thankfully it is much less frequent here. As with that disc, close inspection reveals the major cause is telecine wobble, though interestingly one instance appears to result from a missing frame. Apart from the minor wobble, there is no physical damage to be seen in the transfer, which is more than likely from a digital source.
There are no subtitles and there is no layer change. As one respondent has commented in reference to an earlier review, the lack of subtitles severely affects hearing impaired members of the audience and is 'a bad thing'. Each episode comes with the music and accompanying video leading into and out of the mid-episode advertising break.
The audio transfer on the disc is quite good, though once again there is little surround activity on offer.
There is only one audio track on the DVD, a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track encoded at 224 Kb/s.
Dialogue is once again very clear at all times and audio sync looks to be just fine, though as with the rest of this series (and dubbed animation generally) it is difficult to be certain with the speech as it is English dubbed over Japanese animation.
My young sample audience have commented favourably on the music by Hayato Matsuo, and he again adds to the impact of the disc with some subtle accompaniment to the action. The music also adds impact to the introduction of each new character; they each come with their own theme, which is a nice touch (try out the introduction for 'Sideways' at 17:27 in episode 15).
The stereo soundtrack is consistent with the other discs, and again has little in the way of surround presence. Switching to Pro-Logic mode does little to improve it. There are some excellent laser and sabre effects on this disc, and they swoop nicely across what soundstage there is. I also find the scene transitions effective (listen in at 1:53 in episode 13). The subwoofer sees little activity, except for added bass in some musical moments, and in some explosions.
|Surround Channel Use|
None. Oh, we do get a Transformers: Armada toy advert at the start of each disc - does that count?
Static menu, two options: Play All episodes, Select an Episode. Same again.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
These episodes do not seem to be readily available in any other Region as I write (except for Japan), making the Region 4 the version of choice.
This disc is better than the last few in the series, with improved colour and a story which is developing nicely. The sound is still effective without being brilliant. Once again (I hope I'm not repeating myself too often) this makes a great rental, but the price is a little high for my liking, especially given the lack of subtitles (at the very least an English for the Hearing Impaired track) and the lack of extras.
|DVD||Toshiba SD-K350, using Component output|
|Display||SONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Kenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|