Though the United States and Japan are the major
source of animated television shows, they are not the only places were
animation is created of course. Korea has a very active animation
industry, but most of the animation that is done in South Korea is made
for foreign producers. Now Korea is now starting to produce more
shows of its own, like the award winning Doggie Poo. One Korean
series that has made it to the US is the 2001 production, Bast of Syndrome.
The city of Xenon has been built around the crater
of a dormant volcano. They have harnessed the energy of the volcano
to power their city. Xenon is a typical city. Like today, roller
blading and skateboarding are popular sports among teenagers, and two of
the best are Pseudo and Mint. Not only are they good skaters, but
they are also hall of fame gamers. This combination of athletic ability
and gaming talent has brought these to rival of the attention of Captain
Moderato, an odd and mysterious computer programmer.
Nine years ago there was a famous computer program,
The Lemon Game. In this game players enter a virtual reality world
where they take on the forms of battle driods and fight. The game
started acting oddly, and then inexplicably disappeared. Over the
years the game has taken on mythic proportions.
Now Captain has brought the game back on-line,
and recruits Mint and Pseudo along with another top level gamer, Bebefau,
for his dream team. But the game is acting strangely again.
Moderato can't access the game himself, for reasons he can't unravel.
The game seems to be "thinking for itself" and Captain has to rely on the
three children to do anything inside of the virtual reality world.
The problems with the game are serious because whenever a fight takes place
in the Lemon Game, the damage also affects the real city of Xenon.
Then there are the odd omens that are popping
up. Things that haven't happened since the last time the volcano
erupted, an event that destroyed the city. Add to that a mysterious
quiet girl who has amnesia, and some shadowy people who seem to be operating
behind the scenes, and this show has enough layers to be fairly interesting.
While this looks like a typical anime show, since
it was created in Korea there are some differences. The faces of
the characters are more angled, with more distinctive chins. There
are more features on the faces in general, with lips being outlined and
more details around the eyes. These are small differences though,
and the show still had the feel of animation from Japan. Like its
Japanese counterparts, this animation's design gives the females circular
eyes (the good guys at least) and the characters change into caricatures
of themselves to show anger or embarrassment.
Although it has the look and feel of a typical
anime show, this program is lacking something that the best Japanese shows
have. This is a show that just doesn't hold my interest. For
one thing, I can't decide what age group this show was aimed at.
There is a lot of mystery and the show focuses on plot more than the action,
which would indicate an older audience. But the young comic relief
characters, deus ex machina endings to many of the battles, and the fact
that each episode follows a fairly rigid pattern gives it the feel of a
show aimed at youths. Unfortunately the mysteries and plot are a
little difficult for younger viewers to follow, and many aspects of the
show will bore older viewers. So it really doesn't work well for
any age group. While this is a good effort, it just doesn't click.
This show is presented with the original Korean language track in stereo
and an English 5.1 dub. I preferred the Korean audio track, though
the English dub was fairly good. The English actors did a good job
of matching the lip movements and giving the characters emotion.
The voices of the children are a little high in pitch, but not the annoying
squeaky voices that are the norm for English dubs. Both audio tracks
made use of the front sound stage, though the 5.1 English track didn't
do much with the rear channels and didn't have the punch I was expecting.
Unfortunately the video quality wasn't very good. The full frame
image had a significant amount of aliasing. Whenever the camera moves,
which is often, the lines shimmer and shake. This became distracting
and annoying after a short time. There is also a good amount of macroblocking
in several scenes too.
These digital artifacts marred an otherwise good looking show.
The colors are bright and there is a nice palate used for the show.
The image is a little soft, but only slightly. It is too bad the
encoding job wasn't better.
This DVD includes a clean opening and closing, and trailers for Saint
of the Mystic Ninja, Saiyuki,
Dunbine, and Final
There were some interesting aspects to this show, but I just can't get
into it. The mysteries never drew me in, and miraculous ending
to all the battles left me cold. The video quality didn't do anything
to endear me to the series either. As interesting as it is to see
what type of work is coming out of Korea, I think that this DVD is best
left as a Rental.