Background: Watching Americanized anime that has been edited and cut to suit various demands is certainly nothing new to all of us. Long before the internet was popularized, most of us enjoyed watching Speed Racer, Voltron, Robotech, Star Blazers, and dozens of other shows before the move to get completely unadulterated versions of the shows as we all seem to take for granted these days. There is a market for the retro shows as they were presented here as well as their original counterparts though I'll be the first to admit that most of the time, I prefer the versions we weren't allowed access to by the Japanese owners in years gone by. That said, here's another title from the vaults of Anime Works that might ring nostalgic for some of you, the final volume of the series known as Teknoman: Collection Three.
Series: Teknoman: Collection Three is the final third of the series that I started discussing with my review of Teknoman: Collection One and continued with in my review of Teknoman: Collection Two, 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 reviews:
"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 (episodes 15 through 29), 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 sets offered up. The third and final set proved to be more problematic then the others since it kept the roaming knight theme for much of the remaining episodes but also appeared to have lost a couple major plot points in the process.
The main theme of the second set of episodes continued here as the team appeared to be on the run from the Vemonoids. For various reasons, Axe, the vemonoid formerly known of as Blade's martial arts instructor, pressed to fight him in a one on one level. They fight time and again with Axe trying to force the matter using various tricks to trap the young space knight, eventually resulting in the discovery that Blade's transformations, as frequent as they are, have put him in danger of dying thanks to the stress of the process. It was bad enough when he knew that he had to change back after a limited amount of time (otherwise becoming one of the enemy) but the strength he gains from the crystal inside of him is the only thing that allows him to fight his former captors and gives his life meaning. He undergoes a treatment that might kill him but even if it doesn't, there's no way of knowing what will happen to him, though he survives to become even more powerfully evolved then before. The cost of this evolution is a piece of his humanity though and the resulting amnesia puts his friends and foes alike at risk as the series winds down with the ultimate confrontation between Blade and his brother in a duel to the death that even Darkon doesn't want to sanction. It had a few moments but the episodes seemed shorter this time and the repeating themes grew old for me as the evolution of the series stopped long before the end of the run.
The back cover put it like this: "Nick Carter was part of a family of space explorers who happened upon an abandoned alien vessel. Exposure to an alien Teknopod transformed Nick into Teknoman Blade, a super-powered biotechnological warrior. However, the rest of his family and friends joined with the evil Venemoid invaders, and they also have the power to turn into Teknomen! Blade must defend earth from his family's deadly war machine, and face off in a final duel against their champion, his own twin brother!"
Here's a look at the episodes in the order they were presented on the DVD set:
30) Lady In Waiting
32) Axe Trap
33) Axe Attack
34) On Ice
35) Fifty Fifty
40) Sword Strike
41) Battle of the Space Ring
42) Beginning of the End
43) Final Battle
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 first one too so keep that in mind if you're getting a copy.
Picture: Teknoman: Collection Three 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 sounded as good as Teknoman: Collection One (and better than Teknoman: Collection Two). It was a plain track with little getting in the way of the show but the repetitive music and lack of attention to detail weakened it in many ways for me.
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 Three continued the adventures of the space knights led by Blade in Teknoman: Collection One and Teknoman: Collection Two 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 Three was worth watching and after you see the first two volumes, you'll probably want this one too. It showed a lot of the same types of things anime still presents and does so fairly well (though in an edited, Americanized manner), limitations and all.
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.