The re-imagination of old shows is a tricky mistress especially in the world of anime. Back in the 1970's a series called Tekkaman the Space Knight came out and was an interesting science fiction endeavor. I personally have only seen bits and pieces of the original so I am by no means an authority on it. When the revitalization known as Tekkaman Blade came out in the 90's it was something worth looking at though the English version left something to be desired.
In many ways the first Tekkaman was an anime pioneer when it originally came out. Unfortunately time has not been fare to the science fiction genre and most of the old shows we know and love have become watered down thanks to over-saturation in the genre. How many times do we have to see huge robots fight even bigger aliens? To take that further, how many times have we seen humans transforming with suits of armor to fight aliens? I'm a lover of just about every robo-anime out there but in many ways Tekkaman Blade felt lukewarm the more I became familiar with it.
This lukewarm sensation had a lot to do with the episodic nature of its content and the generic personalities each character possessed. You could essentially pluck one character out from the series and drop them into another and they would fit in just perfectly. As a whole the first released left a relatively positive impression with me but in the 17 episodes available on the collection there were many slow and pointless adventures.
In the first volume we were introduced to the world of Tekkaman Blade. It's a twisted version of Earth's future where aliens known as the Rahdam have come to conquer us and our only defense capabilities rest in the hands of a ragtag militant force. Once the aliens took control the orbital array around the planet we humans found ourselves circling the bowl. At least, that is, until a guy named D-Boy fell out of the sky one day.
Fresh from a battle with the aliens D-Boy was injured and an amnesiac. He possessed a strange trinket that allowed him to turn into Tekkaman Blade which gave him the power to defeat the Rahdam. With D-Boy now in the hands of the humans, Earth may yet stand a chance. Unfortunately a group of other Tekkamans under the control of the Rahdam make an appearance and seek to destroy Blade.
This volume picks up basically where the last one left off with another 17 episodes spread across three discs. Like the first installment, this one features many episodic adventures where the humans fight the Rahdam but the story is hardly moved forward. Naturally this makes the pacing feel much slower and really drags out the experience. It's not that I wanted to see a constantly moving plot but at many points in the first half o this collection it felt as if things were at a standstill. Even so the characters were still interesting and the mystery surrounding the other Tekkamans kept me coming back.
Since Dagger has been taken down, Tekkaman Evil has stepped forward as the most prominent bad guy. He becomes Blade's nemesis if you will and with a new Tekkaman project underway things really start to heat up. A handful of episodes in things also get interesting in this volume when Tekkaman Rapier is booted from the Rahdam ranks and gets her memory back. She happens to be D-Boy's sister and this adds a slew of interesting developmental points for his character. It really changes the flow of the program and takes the series on a slightly different course.
With Rapier back on Earth and with the humans, Evil gets Lance, Sword, and Axe back in the picture for a big assault. This leads to cataclysmic results for the Earthlings and really carries an "Empire Strikes Back" kind of tone. I don't want to get into too many details but the shift in storytelling goes from being episodic regarding random encounters with the Rahdam to being episodic with conflicts that carry a purpose.
This installment continues to entertain right up until the end though it's a release that feels poorly balanced. The slower beginning doesn't do much to entertain thanks to the whole "alien of the week" mentality that is pushed forward. Humanity's quest to create a Sol-Tekkaman is interesting and once Rapier arrives on Earth things start to heat up. By the end of this volume it's safe to say that the second part of Tekkaman Blade is significantly better than the first half. I'm eager to see what the finale has in store for the Space Knights.
Tekkaman Blade originally aired in Japan during the 1992 season. With 15 years under its belt the image quality is naturally weathered but not quite as faded as you'd expect. The picture is vibrant for the most part and much of the transfer looks better than the sub-par and edited Teknoman release did. There are some problems with grain, speckle, compression, and a bit of softness found in the picture but again, they are to be expected. Overall the presentation here is arguably the best that this series has ever seen before. It appears that very little effort had to be expelled in order to get the video up to snuff though things aren't as perfect as one would hope. Fans will be pleased though newcomers will note the age of the material.
Tekkaman Blade's audio presentation is a little unique compared to other anime that we see on the market. Since the English dubs were presented as part of an edited version of the show that track could obviously not have been used. Instead of pulling in the resources to compile a new one Anime Works has opted to keep the show as original as possible. A Japanese 2.0 Stereo track is all that you'll find here and quite honestly that suited me just fine. The technical presentation of the show is on par with what you'd expect from a stereo track though a little more presence on the soundstage would have gone a long way. English subtitles are available.
This time around Tekkaman Blade receives a few bonus features but nothing that is entirely groundbreaking. On the lighter side of things are some trailers and alternate opening and eyecatch animations which shows a version of how things could have looked. There are also some promotional materials available to look at. The best inclusion in the second collection release is arguably the Stock Footage Reel. Clocking in at just under five minutes this pile of stock animation includes stuff like the Tek-Setter transformations and fighting montages. There are a few funny comments tossed into the mix to lighten the mood.
Tekkaman Blade is a fine re-imagination of a thirty year old show. The action is intense and the characters are interesting but the concept gets kind of dry after a while. It may have had more originality back in the day and because of that many viewers may be turned off. This is still a rich show with a strong following and there's plenty of reason for newcomers to check it out. Anime Works' 3 disc collection is arguably the best treatment that this series has ever seen.
The first collection offered a good supply of episodes and really pushed the opening of the series home. There were a few rough patches but for the most part things were smooth sailing. In the second release for Tekkaman Blade we see more of the same with episodic content and more of those pesky Rahdam. Things get interesting once Tekkaman Rapier comes to town and the other Tekkamans launch a strike against Earth. This may be an unbalanced collection of episodes but overall the good outweighs the bad. Those of you looking for a fun, action-packed entry into the science fiction genre will definitely want to see what this one has to offer.
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