|Category||Anime||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0|
|Rating||Other Trailer(s)||Yes, 11 - ADV Film releases preview trailers|
|Year Released||1997 Japanese Version
1999 English Language Version
|Running Time||120:00 minutes||Other Extras||Alternate Angle
Menu Audio and Animation
Scene Selection Audio and Animation
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||No||Dolby Digital||2.0|
|16x9 Enhancement||No||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||
|Subtitles||English||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, during credits|
And, just so that you don't overlook the fact, this is once again based upon a popular video game, which I of course have never heard of. Adding to that rather common strand amongst the anime titles available in Region 4 to date, the game too came from the rather well known Sega stable.
Quite how one synopsises this effort has me beat, because the story is quite weird, and to be honest this is best watched with brain switched to disbelief-off mode. If you try to make too much sense of what is going on, you will be completely bamboozled, and I know because I was. The broad story seems to revolve around the Imperial Floral Assault Unit (yes, you read right) whose ranks comprise six women chosen as Spirit Warriors for their ability to control the spirit necessary to make the Oube, a steam-driven mechanical fighting machine developed by Kanzaki Heavy Industries, move and work as it should. The Oube is the primary defence against the Demons that are hell-bent on attacking and destroying Tokyo. Now, for some reason that is not explained at all in the episodes, the cover for the Imperial Floral Assault Unit is as a stage troupe putting on plays at a large theatre built solely for the purpose. With me so far? Good. Okay, now you might just have gathered that this is just perhaps a tad tongue-in-cheek since this army unit that is going to save Tokyo (and presumably the world) is called the Imperial Floral Assault Unit, and you would probably be right. So, no surprise then that the names of the six intrepid Spirit Warriors are Sakura Shinguji, Maria Tachibana, Iris Chateaubriand, Sumire Kanzaki, Kanna Kirishima and Ri Kohran? Oh and Iris is a very young child, Sakura a mystical figure, Sumire a prima donna of the highest order, Kanna a voluptuous amazon (she makes Dolly Parton look small) and Ri a somewhat eccentric scientific genius. Yes folks, I am serious and clearly they aren't - this has to be taken with a seriously-sized pinch of salt and as long as you do, it is most enjoyable. Obviously, the Unit battles the Demons and saves the day (gee, what a surprise).
The story leaves a lot to be desired and the setting in the 1920s with steam-driven everything just adds to the quirky nature of the whole show. But somewhat unusually for a video game derived show, it is surprisingly not all battle and there is some character development here. And, there is no denying the quality of the animation either, even though there are some interesting contrasts in styles even within an episode. Frankly, if you want to spend some time with some quirky anime, you will not do better than this, and the visual side of things is generally well pleasing.
Obviously this is a made-for-television effort and the transfer is presented in a Full Frame format, and is not 16x9 enhanced.
The overall transfer is in general quite sharp and well defined throughout, although exhibiting the usual slight loss of definition due to the inherent lack of resolution in the inferior NTSC format. The interesting animation styles used throughout the four episodes do result in a few intended sequences where definition is very soft, but this is quite an effective juxtaposition with the sharp, clear lines of most of the transfer. This is a clear transfer and there are no problems at all with low level noise in the transfer.
The colours are beautifully rendered, with gorgeous bright and vibrant colours on offer. Coupled with the quite superb animation at times (better than Disney in many ways), this was what immediately grabbed my attention about this transfer. I have rarely seen such beautifully rich and vibrant colours in any animation. The magnificent palette of colours on show are rendered without any hint of oversaturation or colour bleed - other than where it was intended. Visually this is quite a stunning looking transfer, especially as it is not enhanced and is suffering from the inherent inferior resolution of an NTSC transfer. This really whets my appetite for future releases when ADV Films has a real handle on DVD - this is after all an earlier effort if I recall correctly.
Like the previous DVDs reviewed from this source, there is not much wrong with the transfer as far as MPEG artefacts, film-to-video artefacts nor noticeable film artefacts are concerned. About the only problem that is noticeable is some quite mild shimmer that occasionally becomes apparent in the transfer. To be fair though, I think most of this is due to the NTSC format, rather than any real problems with the mastering of the transfer. I really wish that this was a PAL disc, as I think it would be absolutely stunning.
Note that the disc has been mastered with no timing information encoded, therefore the DVD player just displays "play" whilst playing the disc. Accordingly, I am unable to verify the exact timing of the disc. I would suggest however that the timing is perhaps a little optimistic and I would suggest 110 minutes is closer to the mark. Note too that the first three episodes finish with the English credits, whilst only episode 4 has the Japanese credits (with the English credits following).
There are two audio tracks on the DVD: an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Even though my comprehension of Japanese is non-existent as you should well know by now, I nonetheless listened to both the Japanese and the English soundtracks, although obviously the Japanese soundtrack needed the English subtitles on as well. Also be aware that there is some Chinese and French used during the episodes and these are left as such, with English subtitles as usual but also with what are Japanese subtitles either left or right of picture. I have not seen this before, and it is handled pretty well - certainly not confusing at all, once you understand what is happening.
There is one mastering problem on the disc. If you are watching the disc with the Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles, the options reset at the end of each episode to the defaults (English language, no subtitles), requiring you to re-select the Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles each time. No big deal I guess, but it seems odd to have the disc mastered this way, and some will find it a major irritant.
We once again will have the usual apoplexy amongst purists who bemoan the inclusion of the English soundtrack, but that is the great advantage of DVD for anime: you can have it all ways - Japanese with no subtitles, English with no subtitles, Japanese with subtitles or English with subtitles.
The dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.
Naturally the animation suffers from the usual "audio sync" problems.
The original musical contribution comes from Kouhei Tanaka and quite an engaging and memorable effort it is too. This would certainly rank as the best musical score I have yet heard for an anime titles (although being somewhat cynical, that would hardly require much of an effort).
The soundtracks are quite nice efforts, with nothing really too dynamic happening in the sound picture and obviously with nothing from either the surround channels or the bass channel. These are really very stereo sounding efforts and once again you just occasionally wish for some surround-encoding to add a bit of bite to the sound. The only real problem with the soundtrack is the fact that episode 3 is completely out of whack compared to the other episodes. The problem is that there does not sound as if there is any vocal track in the centre channel, and all dialogue comes out of the rear channels - creating a mildly weird sound picture, not unlike the lambasted effort for Neil Diamond - Greatest Hits Live. It seems odd that the problem is only in the one episode. Other than that, the soundtrack is similar to the other releases from this source and therefore is free from distortion and has a decent sound picture for a straight stereo effort, although again in my view (cultural bias again) the English track is more natural sounding than the Japanese track.
A very good video transfer.
A fairly good audio transfer.
A decent extras package if not entirely DVD orientated.
© Ian Morris (have a
laugh, check out the bio)
27th April 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|