Movie: One of the strongest points of contention in modern anime is the editing, altering, or distortion of series for the domestic markets. There are some who think that the original should be untouched, including not updating the sound to 5.1, cleaning up the visual palate, or doing anything at all different except perhaps adding in English language subtitles for those too lazy to learn Japanese. On the other hand are people that enjoy all the benefits of modern technological advances that allow for better sound, better looking releases, and even dubs for fans that might enjoy them when well done. Somewhere in the middle of this is a guy like me who can enjoy things for what they are, not what I wish they'd be, and a whole lot of others seem to appreciate my stance on the matter. Keeping in mind that virtually no anime is originally released in Japan with English subtitles and few Americans speak the language fluently enough to decipher a running anime track there is also a side issue for some shows; what about shows we grew up with that were always fundamentally different than their Japanese counterpart? Does it matter what a slavering fanboy thinks should be the "correct" version when we grew up with one that was different? Can both be enjoyed for their own merits or should we remain shackled to the concept that someone else's version is more worthy of our respect? Such is the debate about today's release of Teknoman: Collection One.
The show was set about a hundred years in the future when humanity is under siege by an alien race of beings called the Vemenoids. They are a combination of biological and mechanical parts, taking on the form of sea creature shaped beings with tremendous powers at their disposal. They initially attack an orbital ring around Earth, controlling it as a launching post to attack the planet at their leisure. They are seeding the Earth with planet life that will allow their race to prosper and destroying the Earth's ability to defend itself with increasing ferocity. There is a military command structure left on Earth but its resources are scattered an ineffectual, until one man comes along to lead the fight against the vemenoids; Teknoman. The back cover put it like this:
"The year is 2087, and humanity is about to lose its position as the dominant life form on planet Earth. An endless swarm of biomechanical beings known as the Venomoids descends from space. Earth's Space Knights are no match for the Venemoid champions, the Teknomen. When the young pilots, Ringo Richards and Star Summers, find a wounded stranger named Blade, humanity gains one last hope. Blade is able to transform into a Teknoman, but he has no memories and fights to protect Earth. His opponents are not only the endless alien menace, but also the other Teknomen - who were once human, and his family and friends."
Blade is a loner without a clue as to his past. After he plummets to Earth as the result of fighting the mental control of his demon overlord, Darkon, he is captured by the Space Knights, a group of hardy resistance fighters that have suffered heavy casualties but still maintain the fight against the oppressors. As the show evolves, the usual war time stereotypes pop up as they do in contemporary show Votoms; a mistrusting ally, a girl with a crush, a superior enemy, and technological advances that are easily mastered by the mundane folk. Blade has mastered the powers given to him by Darkon through the use of a mysterious crystal. He can change his body into a powerful fighter with a nearly indestructible suit of armor, weapons of tremendous power, and the ability to fly for limited periods of time. Exactly why he is such a better fighter and so much more powerful than the other enemy forces (also granted access to power crystals) is never stated although I'm sure there's a reason.
As the story progresses, we find out the various limits of Teknoman and how he and his allies try to upgrade them to better serve the needs of the human race. Darkon has kidnapped many humans and turned them into evil creatures of destruction, including those close to Blade. This first collection is consists of the first 14 episodes on two discs with two more collections due out in the near future. One thing to note is that this is the same release that most of you will be familiar with as shown on the USA network about ten years ago. Various changes from the original source material, Uchu No Kishi Tekkaman Bureido, that was released on Japanese television back in 1994. If you liked the domestic version, you'll be happy to know it is as intact as I can remember it (it came out in either 1995 or 1996 IIRC). If you prefer the original version, with a handful of additional episodes, some stronger themes, and the original Japanese audio track, you'll want to pass this one up. There exists a market for both shows and while I like originals as much as the next guy, this was the version I grew up with so I'm not going to launch a tirade about the evils of anime tampering as others have done, before the release date. Here's the episodes in the order they were presented on TV and on the DVD set:
1) Friend or Foe
3) Power of the Space Knights
4) Falling Star
5) Time's Up
6) Shattered Crystal
10) Bold Soldier Boy
11) Brother Beware
12) Sibling Rivalry
13) Family Feud
14) Saber Strike
Okay, there was only the English audio track and no additional cuts appear to have been made. If you were hoping for a restored version of the original show, you'll have to wait until one of those is made since this isn't it. Overall, it was a decent series with character growth, evolving situations, and a definite storyline of Blade coming to grips with his past all the while understanding that he could succumb to the forces of evil by simply using his crystal. He earns the trust of those around him and he isn't all powerful, needing their help on regular occasions as they attack the enemy time and again. I'm going to rate this one as Rent It although if you enjoyed the show years ago, you'll want to pick up a copy despite any limitations. The lack of extras and the lack of polishing up of the technical aspects did it for me while some would suggest you can't enjoy it because it isn't the original version. Check it out and see for yourselves.
Picture: Teknoman: Collection One was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame color as shot by director Hiroshi Negishi for release on Japanese television. There were definitely mature moments here with death, destruction and killing going on all over the place but there was little fan service that seems so much more offensive to some than absolute carnage. In terms of the material, it was presented in a form of limited animation befitting a small budget that showed few frames per second or detail in the animation but the story didn't rely on the most modern of techniques even when it came out. There was some grain but it looked better than I recall it looking on cable television.
Sound: The audio was presented in a monaural English, using the same dub that was presented during its original run on domestic cable TV. That means it was hollow with no significant dynamic range and many limitations in regards to the battles (sounding almost as if made many years prior to the original air date in Japan).
Extras: There were some trailers and a paper catalog for other titles but that is all that came with the double disc set.
Final Thoughts: Teknoman: Collection One had more to offer than you'd believe by listening to some of the internet purists but it was certainly limited compared to the vast majority of current anime released by the bigger companies. Some liberties were obviously taken with the audio track (to the point where lips moved and nothing was said or things felt wrong by way of context yet this was the version of the show that many of us grew up with and it deserves some respect for introducing a number of us to the anime format. In all, I liked watching it and thought it had some replay value but I admit that I too would have enjoyed seeing the complete, unadulterated version from Japan as a secondary version on the disc if nothing else. In short, Teknoman: Collection One had a lot of fun for the buck but it wasn't the best possible manner of distributing the series so enjoy it for what it is and act accordingly in regards to buying a copy.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVD Talk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003, Best Of Anime 2004, and Best of Anime 2005 articles or their regular column Anime Talk.