Transformers: Armada-Volume 7 (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, Transformer toys advert.|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
It has been a few months since we ventured into the world of those popular fighting robots, the Transformers, so welcome aboard for our review of Volume 7 (which includes episodes 19-21 of the animated series). I must admit that I'm not sure who reads these reviews any more - after all, each of the discs in the series is much like the last. Apparently about 100 people read the last one, and I don't think I have that many relatives, so please take the time to send me an e-mail about yourself so I can make future reviews of this series relevant to you.
Once again we are in the near future on planet Earth. The war between the good Autobots and the evil Decepticons from the planet Cybertron continues to rage. The search for the Mini-Cons also continues, as each new Mini-Con found adds extra powers to any robot who "power links" to it. The Autobots are aided by a group of feisty kids (Rad, Alexis, Carlos and friends) who also try to keep the existence of the extraterrestrial visitors secret from an unsuspecting population.
In the first episode on the DVD (series episode 19, Vacation, runs 21:36) the writers again attempt a change of pace by including one of the few episodes with no combat between the rival factions. It is a rather leisurely story which has the Autobots and some of the kids going camping and dealing with an unexpected flood. As if in answer to this episode, the next one (number 20, Reinforcement, 21:36) starts with another confrontation, which looks like going the way of the Decepticons until a new arrival, Blur, turns things around. However, by the end of the episode the bad guys have both the awesome Star Saber sword and the only item which can stop it, the Sky Boom shield.
The final episode on the disc, Decisive Battle (series episode 21, runs 21:33) is where I really began to get annoyed. Look, I know these things have been around for many years, and for the purposes of continued toy sales and corporate profits this means that their eternal war can't ever really end. So, it should have come as no surprise that the decisive battle was anything but, and at the end the Autobots had the Sky Boom shield in their hands so that we once again had a stalemate (yes, the same one we had at the end of Episode 1). Perhaps this is some sort of parable for the political situation in the middle east over the last millennium?
Story irritations aside, this disc is another solid entry in the series. The writers are trying their best within their external constraints to deliver an interesting saga (they are not the only ones to suffer - the producers of the upcoming PS2 Transformers: Armada video game are not allowed to have any of the robots destroyed in their game). The picture and sound are again quite good, and the younger members of the family are clamouring for more. Hey, even I am finding these things bearable, so please join me again soon for a look at Volume 8, the last (for now) step in our journey.
The video on this disc is very good, with nice vibrant colours and only some minor aliasing detracting from the overall experience. It is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, which is the original production ratio.
The picture is sharp, without being excessively so (there are some soft edges around for artistic purposes, with blurring of the closer action used at times to simulate a camera focused on the background). Shadow detail is fine in the infrequent night scenes (most of these three episodes take place outdoors in daytime). There is no low level noise.
As I mentioned earlier, the colour on this disc is very good. The increasing number of robots each have their own vibrant colours to aid in recognition (see the lovely colour around 8:09 in Episode 2 as one example, and the sunset scenes at the end of the episode also stand out for their delicate use of colour). Some of the effects shots in Volume 7 are particularly good, including the scene at the start of Episode 3 where Megatron stops a meteor from hitting the moon.
There are no significant artefacts to worry about here, apart from occasional minor aliasing (check out the robots at 6:58 in Episode 21).
There are no subtitles and there is no layer change.
The sound in the series so far has been very good, and it continues to be so here, with some nice battle sounds and robot transformation effects.
Once again we have the one audio track on offer, a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track encoded at 224 Kb/s.
The dialogue is excellent throughout, with good audio sync in speech and sound effects. The English actors speaking over the Japanese original do a good job, and all members of the audience will be able to follow the action with no problem (unless you are hard of hearing and would like to avail yourself of the non-existent subtitles).
The music in these episodes seems a little more subdued than before, though it is still effective in supporting the action. Perhaps I have just become so used to it after 20 odd episodes that it is not as noticeable now. The volume level of the score is fine compared to the other effects.
As this is a stereo soundtrack, surround presence is limited but effective within these constraints. Battle scenes are as noisy as they should be, and even the subwoofer adds a little bass during the mud slide at 10:37 in Episode 19. Good use is made of the stereo soundfield during the robot shooting scene at 11:09 in Episode 21 and overall you will be left with the impression of a solid soundtrack that does its job.
|Surround Channel Use|
I won't trouble you with the Extras - there are none (what, the ad that opens the disc up, that's an extra??). This really is poor. There must be some conceptual art around at the very least, and we could also have been given some excerpts from earlier Transformers iterations as background, given the substantial asking price for these DVDs.
OK, yes, there is a menu. It is static and allows you to Play All Episodes or Select an Episode.
Well, I looked, but as far as I could find out these episodes are currently only available in Japan, apart from the disc you are reading about now, so Region 4 is the way to go.
Once again this disc looks like a rental option of the "7 movies for a week for $10" variety to keep the kids happy during the school holidays. The asking price is just too high for 3 short episodes (by way of comparison, my daughters can buy 3 episodes of HamTaro for only $10). The picture and sound are good, but the plot is starting to wear a bit thin - let's hope the writers have a few fresh ideas for Episodes 22-24. Join me again in a week or so to find out.
|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.|