Space Firebird 2772 (1980)
Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer-Original Japanese
Trailer-Astro Boy, Kimba The White Lion
|Year Of Production||1980|
|Running Time||121:10 (Case: 112)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Taku Sugiyama|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.75:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Outside of Japan, Osamu Tezuka is best known as the creator of Astroboy and Kimba the White Lion - that is, if his name is recognized at all. In his home country, however, on top of his famous exports, a massive body of his manga is still widely read and highly respected. His complete works include some 700 stories and a whole pantheon of characters and plot lines, many of them animated, but rarely seen outside Japan: Princess Knight, Wonder 3, and more challenging works such as Adolf have had very little impact in the West.
Within his oeuvre, Tezuka's masterpiece is the long-running Phoenix (aka Hi no Tori). Published first in 1954 and worked on continuously by Tezuka, Phoenix follows quest after quest to find and capture the mystical bird who holds the key to immortal life. Each story takes place in a different time period, both deep in the past and far in the future. In each case, Phoenix is used to relay Tezuka's idealistic messages of pacifism, environmental awareness and anti-discrimination. Like most of his manga, Phoenix can be overly didactic, but with his high quality story-telling and characterization, Tezuka manages to get away with it every time.
Phoenix has appeared several times in animated form. 1980 saw the large-scale theatrical production of Space Firebird 2772, directed by Suguru Sugiyama from an original storyline by Tezuka. Godo is a test-tube baby raised to become a fighter pilot. He grows up under the supervision of a shape-shifting android, Olga, a mother-figure and friend. His skills as a pilot lead him to be selected for a dangerous mission by Rock, an ambitious politician with his eye on world leadership. If Godo can capture the deadly Firebird 2772 and bring it back to Earth alive, he will be granted full citizenship and released from his pilot life. Before Godo departs on his mission, his romantic involvement with Rena, the daughter of one of the so-called "elite" and Rock's fiancé, is exposed. He is banished to a labour camp in Iceland, where Dr Saruta reveals that the Earth is quickly dying. Their only hope is to find the Firebird and use her powers to restore the Earth. Godo mounts an escape plan, and with Olga, the Doctor and a ragtag group of aliens, sets out to battle the Firebird and save the Earth.
The film rollicks along at an exciting pace, although occasionally some plot elements feel contrived or are otherwise vaguely dealt with. The ending feels a little obscure, but has grown on me the more I've thought about. The ending and the opening scenes are clearly inspired by Kubrick's Space Odyssey 2001, and other films such as Star Wars and Metropolis are subtly referenced. This is not to suggest that the film is derivative at all: Tezuka's originality in both design and story are clear and obvious. Still, just a little more tightening of pacing and a tying up of loose ends could have lifted Space Firebird 2772 from great to excellent.
Fans of Tezuka will love this film and Madman should be commended for bringing animation like this to Region 4. Pleasingly, they have delivered the uncut version (some forty minutes were cut for the American release). It shouldn't be forgotten, though, that other films exist in the Phoenix saga - including Kon Ichikawa's Hi no Tori from 1978 - all of them dying for a release in Region 4. This DVD has made me a happy camper for the moment, but keep the Tezuka releases coming!
The video transfer is generally very good, but appears to have been drawn from an NTSC source with all of the usual issues. Had the film been taken from a better PAL master, this transfer would rate as excellent. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.75:1 (close to the original 1.78:1), 16x9 enhanced.
Sharpness and detail is excellent throughout. Dark scenes are never murky and blacks are solid and deep. There is some minor grain but little to no low level noise. Colours are rendered very nicely: the opening sequence of kaleidoscopic colours is particularly well handled. The image is unfaded and the colours vivid when they should be. Colour bleeding is absent.
There are no MPEG artefacts. As an animation, ghosting is perhaps to be expected and the NTSC-PAL conversion no doubt exacerbates the issue. Combing is also distractingly visible during motion (its visibility may depend on your setup). Otherwise, the transfer is excellent. There is very little in the way of dirt and the source is close to pristine.
Subtitles are presented in English in a yellow font. I found the translation fairly weak. Long streams of Japanese speech are often summed up in short, single English sentences. Non-Japanese speakers may miss a little by relying on the subtitles alone.
We are given two audio tracks on this release: the default English Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono) dub and the original Japanese audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono). The English track is terrible and the Japanese track is considerably better.
Both tracks exhibit consistent hiss and some audio crackle. The English track is, though, much worse in this department. Dialogue is crisp and clear in the Japanese track, but the entire English soundtrack sounds muffled, as though it is a second or third generation recording from a VHS tape (a slight exaggeration, but it's pretty bad). Some distortion is also audible in the English track.
The score (by Yasuo Higuchi) sounds typical of 1980s orchestral animation scores: think films like The Last Unicorn or Watership Down and you'll have an idea of the music on offer here. At times, the score feels somewhat mismatched to the onscreen action, but works well in general. You won't find yourself humming any of its themes, but it does the job nicely. The score is rendered far better in the Japanese track and sounds rich and full of depth compared to the tinny music on the English track. The voice acting in the English track is just plain awful, so you would be missing very little by skipping it.
There is nothing in the way of surround or subwoofer activity in these monaural tracks.
|Surround Channel Use|
(2:48) - 16x9 enhanced. Japanese audio with English subtitles. I'm not sure if this is a recent trend, but the last batch of Madman discs I have reviewed have included interlaced trailers marred by heavy combing. The artefact is highly distracting to the extent that the trailers are almost unwatchable. This one is no exception.
Piracy (0:31); Astroboy (1980s) (0:37); Astroboy (1960s) (1:03); Kimba the White Lion (0:49).
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Space Firebird 2772 is available in Region 2 Japan, and includes layout and character sketches plus 2 pamphlets about Hi no Tori. This release is very expensive, going for 6000 yen. The Region 4 release is quite satisfactory, although I am unable to comment on the quality of Region 2's transfer. The film is currently unavailable in Region 1.
Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix has been sadly under-represented in Region 4. Hopefully this release of Space Firebird 2772 - a flawed but enjoyable film - will open the way for further Phoenix tales.
The video transfer is very good, but marred by interlacing artefacts.
The Japanese audio is good but the English dub is in poor condition.
Extras are minimal.
|DVD||Sony DVP-S336, using Component output|
|Display||LG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).|
|Speakers||DB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR|