Background: Stories of knights in shining armor have long stood the test of time with readers as we all seem to appreciate heroic deeds by larger than life characters. If you look closely enough at many other heroic sagas of the past several hundred years, you'll note that many similarities exist between such tales and those of similar adventures, typically placing the knights in more modern settings and losing some of the terminology. Part of this fascination has to do with the fact that such tales are a large part of our collective consciousness, especially those of us in the Western world as our heritage was based on such characters throughout the ages (warfare relied on armor and swords for virtual eons and our culture is based on the results of those many battles, no matter how much some would try to deny it now). This sets the stage for the vast body of futuristic dramas that use the archetypal concepts found in the legends of old, leading to today's review of Teknoman: Collection Two.
Movie: Teknoman: Collection Two is the next third of the series that I started discussing with my review of Teknoman: Collection One, a few months back. Keeping in mind that this was a dubbed series released in the USA over ten years ago shown on the then fledgling USA Network, here's some background from my original review:
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.
Okay, in the second set of episodes for the series, the dynamic remained basically the same but added in some soap opera twists to keep things interesting. The basic developments involved Blade growing increasingly fearful of losing his soul to his power as he has had to go past the limit a few times when things got hairy. Knowing that if Blade falls to the will of Darkon, all will be lost, the government continues to use their research to develop a technology based on Blade's powers called Teknosuits. These amount to suits of armor that give their wearers a lot of power, though substantially less than a real crystal would grant them. The up side is that they don't have the same kind of time limit, just the same restrictions on running out of power that most weapons have. The Vemonoid forces decide that such suits pose a threat, albeit a limited threat, and end up launching a major offensive against the human base with the result being Blade and his allies finding themselves on the run; changing the emphasis of the series a bit as they roam the countryside seeking to defeat the menace from outer space.
Further developments include the revelation of Blade's true identity and how his family (and crew) was captured in deep space, most of them becoming victims of Darkon's experiments. This comes to light when his sister, also enhanced but an escapee of the enemy, shows up with news of a new threat; more Teknomen about to attack the base. She then plays an integral role in pushing the story forth as Blade and his allies fight the Vemonoid knights and spider crabs, reminiscent of the Invid from Robotech's ending trilogy. Darkon's frustration at his lieutenant's inability to destroy Blade grows but his plan still marches on to fruition as he attacks from the orbital platform surrounding Earth. With internal strife between the allied forces growing to the point where reckless plans must be stopped from killing millions of people, desperate plans to capture one of the newly hatched Teknomen (in this case, Axe) for study, and a series of stops at villages ravaged by the effects of the war, the second collection provided something different from the generic battles the first set offered up. Here's a look at the episodes in the order they were presented on the DVD set:
15) Spy Game
16) Sword & Steel
17) The Visitor
20) Mind Game
23) In The Beginning
24) Shara's Secret
25) Forget Me not
27) Red Savior
28) Running On Empty
29) Tekno Trap
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 in the future (plans have been announced but seeing is believing) 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 as I did, you'll want to pick up a copy despite any technical 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. The visual elements of this set of episodes seemed a bit weaker than the last one too so keep that in mind if you're getting a copy.
Picture: Teknoman: Collection Two 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 to some of you. 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 unlike Teknoman: Collection One, it looked somewhat worse than I recall it looking on cable television. The grain and print scratches were far more noticeable this time and it detracted from the show for me often enough to merit comment. Still, it's an older show that was never great looking so you can't expect too much from it given how weak so many earlier shows made on a shoe string budget look too.
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). I didn't notice any separation between the channels (sometimes a company will "fix" the audio track to simulate stereo, even on a monaural track) and like the visual elements, this one didn't sound as good as the first volume. There was something I couldn't quite make out going on from time to time that was just outside my ability to hear, although not as bad as some internet reports about booming noises (gotta love those rumors espoused on message boards) going on all the time. It wasn't terrible though and I still made it through the show unscathed, still wishing for a remastered audio track.
Extras: There were no meaningful extras on the DVD and only a paper catalog from Media Blasters inside the DVD case.
Final Thoughts: Teknoman: Collection Two continued the adventures of the space knights led by Blade in Teknoman: Collection One as a nostalgic romp into the past, I have to admit I had some fun watching it. There's only one collection left to go and I'll probably have fun with it as well, even if contemporary anime is usually so much better as to warrant a special category in my mind (as in "older anime" and "newer anime") but Anime Works reportedly had little to work with in terms of source material and they should be applauded for bringing back old favorites, albeit to the best of their ability given the situation. In short, Teknoman: Collection Two was worth watching and after you see the first volume, you'll probably want this one and the third when it comes out too. It showed a lot of the same types of things anime still presents and does so on a decent basis, limitations and all. As a continuation of the mythical qualities of the knights of old, it was better than expected even if not as good as I hoped.
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.