Kiddy Grade-Volume 1: The Peacekeepers (2002)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Promotional Video (4:49)
Alternative Version-textless song
Trailer-Madman Propaganda (3)
|Year Of Production||2002|
|Running Time||70:03 (Case: 75)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Keiji Goto|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, next episode preview|
Kiddy Grade is a somewhat misleading title. With a title like that, and a PG rating, you could be forgiven for thinking that this series is for children. If that's what you think, then I recommend that you watch it without the kids first... You might change your mind. That said, however, you might well decide to keep this one for yourself, and get the kids something else.
This series is set far into the future, when a great part of the galaxy is united in a Galactic Union. One bureau of the central government is the Galactic Organisation of Trade and Tariffs (GOTT for short). One of the departments within GOTT is the ES, also known as the "shadow unit". This group seems to have a rather broad ambit, operating as general-purpose trouble-shooters (with something of an emphasis on "shooters"...). They seem to be able to act independently, but they must request permission from their chief before making an official arrest. ES team members don't wear a regular uniform, although each seems to have an outfit they wear while in action. The ES team members also seem to have a variety of illegal body modifications — I suspect we'll learn more of this as the series goes forward.
Our main focus is on the team that partners Éclair and Lumiere (there is something of a European influence in the names on this show). Éclair is sixteen (but very, umm, well-developed for her age), boisterous, a bit impulsive, and irrepressible. She is very fast and very strong, and she has an extraordinary lipstick — she can paint a line on something, then pick it up and use it as a powerful weapon (although the term hasn't been used in the show yet, I gather it's called a Lipstick Lariat). She also has a fondness for disguises, but when appropriate she'll reveal herself with a triumphant "Ta Da!". Lumiere is rather younger, and looks like a child. She has near total control over electronic devices, including, but not limited to computers. She gets along extremely well with their spaceship, La Muse, and its computer personality, Wirbelwind. (German for whirlwind). They also have a combat robot, Donnerschlag (German for thunderclap), who seems to provide heavy fire support when they need it. Their ship is rather special, with a Canceller to hide them from radar, and the ability to form its own warp gate, as well as being very fast and well armed.
Their Chief, Eclipse, has other ES teams at her disposal, but we only meet one of them, Alv and Dvergr, during these episodes. I can't say that Alv and Dvergr make a good impression, but you'll see what I mean. Eclipse's secretary, Mercredi (French for Wednesday), is something of a character — I'm amused to see that she's serving tea from Fartnum and Muson (Japanese animators often alter one letter, usually a vowel, of a trademark, but it usually doesn't come out quite like that).
The other on-going character we meet in these episodes is a Galactic Union auditor called Armblast. He seems a suspect fellow, but I guess we'll see how that develops. He is sent on missions with Éclair and Lumiere, apparently to keep an eye on them.
The episodes on this disc are:
|1||Depth / Space||Éclair and Lumiere are asked to help deliver some documents. Shame there's an entire battle armada in the way|
|2||Tight / Bind||After an arrest and confiscation goes wrong, Éclair and Lumiere are assigned to work with Alv and Dvergr|
|3||Prisoner / Escort||A high profile prisoner must be taken from the frontier into the central systems to stand trial|
Each of these is a self-contained episode, establishing characters and getting us familiar with the mise en scene. That's good, but it's a little disappointing to get just three episodes on a disc.
Oh, in case you were wondering why I don't consider this a series for children: the fan service starts less than three minutes into the first episode, with Éclair's knickers on frequent display while she's fighting. Some of the disguises she wears display an unbelievable amount of cleavage, too. Perhaps the most questionable choice, however, is Lumiere's regular outfit — not exactly normal apparel for a girl who appears pre-pubescent. There's also some messy bloodshed. All in all, you might want to think twice before putting this in front of children. Teenagers, on the other hand, are probably safe.
My first guess was that the title is a reference to the tender ages of our heroines. In the advertising for this series we've seen references to them being "C Grade", while Alv and Dvergr (for example) are "S Grade" (and Éclair is jealous of that) — that could be another reason for it.
Lumiere seems quite refined, and gets dismayed by Éclair's ebullience. She is forever chiding her for lacking "elegance". It's quite clear, however, that there's real affection between these two.
I was more than a little concerned to see the credits include a line: "Reversioned by FUNimation". As far as I can tell, though, that's their code for writing an English dub, and over-dubbing the opening and closing songs — I hope that's all.
This series shows promise as a mixture of action and comedy, something along the lines of the Dirty Pair series, but with a bit more refinement. I will definitely be watching to see how this develops.
This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. As far as I can ascertain, that is the original ratio.
The image is generally clear and sharp, but there are a few softer moments in the first episode. There is no film grain, and no low-level noise. The animation style uses fairly simple foreground characters in solid colours, with much more detailed backgrounds.
Colour is vivid, nicely saturated, and well-rendered. There are no colour-related artefacts, except that the opening episode includes a number of moments that are over-bright.
There are no obvious film artefacts.
There is quite a bit of aliasing, with every pan, and even some static shots, showing some level of aliasing and dot crawl. Although it's mostly quite mild, there are some shots that are unpleasant (mostly in the first episode — have a look at 18:36 for example) — it's not to a level that makes it impossible to enjoy the show, but it can be annoying. There is no moiré, because this animation style doesn't involve patterns. There's minimal shimmer (although some of the aliasing looks a bit like shimmer). There are no MPEG artefacts.
There are the customary (for Madman) two sets of subtitles on this disc, both of them English. The first provides subtitles for the songs (even though they contain a fair bit of English), while the other subtitles the dialogue as well. There are considerable differences between the English dub and the subtitles, including the rearrangement of sentences. Even so, the content appears to be almost the same.
The disc is single-sided and single layered. With just three episodes, and little in the way of extras, the single layer is ample.
The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese, as usual, but with a slight wrinkle. The Japanese soundtrack is provided in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224kbps. The English soundtrack is provided in both Dolby Digital 5.1 (448kbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (224kbps). I watched all of the episodes in English 5.1, then Japanese, and then the English 2.0 (call it being really thorough).
The English dialogue is clear and readily understood. The Japanese sounds equally clear. Neither soundtrack is perfectly matched to the mouth flaps, but the mismatch is generally small.
The score is not bad, but it's eminently forgettable. It's credited to Shiro Hamaguchi. The opening theme, Mirai no Kioku, has lyrics by Mika Watanabe, music by Fumiki Iwasaki. The closing theme, Future, has words and music by Jun Marioko. However, the English credits list Carl Finch as responsible for "arranging" the opening and closing themes — given that the English soundtrack has English words to the songs (more than the original Japanese did), I'd say his work was a bit more than just arrangement.
The 2.0 soundtracks are pure stereo, with some stereo imaging, but not a lot. The 5.1 soundtrack has occasional rear directional sound, but is mostly frontal. There's some good use of the subwoofer (there are more than a few explosions...).
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu is animated with music, with an initial transition. It's easy to use, but the images used are a little jagged..
A montage of high quality images (they look higher resolution than the animation).
A single page profile for each of:
This is like a lengthy trailer. I wonder if it was used in selling the series to the US? It contains a lot of spoilers, and plenty of fan service.
These look like TV spots for the series in Japan.
The opening sequence without credits (or subtitles) — the song is in Japanese with a few words of English.
The Region 1 version of this disc is quite similar to this one, but it was released in February 2004. It has similar artwork and pretty much the same extras. It was also released in a separate edition with a collector's box — just like the Region 4 collector's box edition. And they came up with a third way to release it: in the collectors box with an embroidered baseball cap (can you say "milking it"?) — we missed out on that version here in Region 4 (thank you, Madman!).
The Region 1 version uses alternate angles to provide different song subtitles on the opening and closing themes, which is a neat idea. The Region 4 disc doesn't get that. The only other thing missing from the R4 is a set of cards (although apparently these were only in a select number of boxes).
By reports, the Region 1 version has an excellent transfer, so it's probably a bit better than the Region 4 (particularly the first episode), especially in the aliasing department. However, given that I have purchased the Region 4, I'm not in a hurry to buy the Region 1.
This Kiddy Grade is not one for the kiddies, but it's rather fun for teenagers and adults. Not presented brilliantly on DVD, but it will do.
The video quality is good.
The audio quality is good.
The extras are decent, but limited.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5|