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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Vandread and Vandread the Second Stage: Complete Collection
Vandread and Vandread the Second Stage: Complete Collection
Geneon // PG-13 // June 26, 2007
List Price: $99.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted August 13, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:

Every once in a while someone decides to throw several anime styles together to make the ultimate show.  These shows just about always suck.  Instead of concentrating on a good story, they are more worried about meshing styles together.  Gonzo Studios tried this with Vandread.  This show was a SF/Mecha/comedy/action/fan service show with just a bit of 'harem' thrown in for good measure.  In Gonzo's hands however this show turned out to be really good.  Funny and action filled, the complete series, 26 episodes spread across two seasons, has now been released in a convenient and compact set.  While the non-anamorphic image is less than desirable, this series is still a lot of fun to watch.

"Women are all monsters.  Once, women ate men's innards, used them at toys, and sucked them dry of all life...  Even those who miraculously survive are left terribly scarred....by women."  So starts the comically misogynistic show Vandread.  In the far future, the planet Taraak is populated entirely by men, and has been for generations.  Cloning the people they need, the men of Taraak's mortal enemies are the women who have settled on Mejere.  As the show opens, they are about to launch a great attack on the evil women.

Hibiki Tokai is a lowly laborer who polishes pieces of armor that will eventually make up a Vanguard, the mecha suits that the men feel sure will make them victorious over the women.  Hibiki and the men he works with have never seen a whole Vanguard, and one day the young impulsive man shoots his mouth off and claims that he can steal one.  Just before the space fleet launches, Hibiki sneaks aboard a vessel but before he can snag a Vanguard the fleet launches, taking Hibiki with him.

The attack doesn't go as planned.  A fleet of female space pirates soon overpower the men and Hibiki's ship is soon captured, but no before most of the crew evacuates.  The only ones who are taken by the women are Hibiki, who is found in a Vanguard and assumed to be a pilot, Duelo McFile, a doctor, and Bart Garsus, a rather incompetent helmsmen.

The men don't want their ship to fall into the hands of women however, and so they shell it with torpedoes.  The core of the ship, a mysterious entity known as the Paeksys Plagma, senses the danger and opens up a wormhole sucking in the two ships from the different genders.  These somehow get merged together while traveling through hyperspace forming a new vessel, the Nirvana.  That's not all however.  When Hibiki goes out in his Vanguard he discovers that he can combined with the woman's Dread fighters creating a new and powerful weapon; the Vandread.

Now the female crew of the Nirvana, along with their three male prisoners, has to make the dangerous trek across the galaxy back to their homeworlds.  On the way they encounter some machine like aliens who do not have peaceful intention.  They want to harvest humans for their body parts, and they are headed towards Taraak and Mejere.

I really enjoyed this series.  There's a good amount of action, some light character development, and a good dose of comedy thrown into the mix.  The ranting at the beginning about the horrors of women had me in stitches.  The verbal comedy is genuinely funny and the slapstick works a good part of the time too.

I have to admit that the plots can become a little repetitive.  In most episodes the Nirvana gets attacked, the women fight the enemy but can't defeat them, and then Hibiki goes out, merges with a female, and kicks butt.  I would normally write off a series like this, but there's enough comedy, action, and entertaining events on the ship to make this easy to overlook.  It's a very fun series to watch, and I found myself zipping through the whole series in quick order.

Created by Gonzo, the animation looks really good even though the series is a few years old by now.  The CGI/traditional animation mix that Gonzo is famous for is present here, and it looks pretty good.  Sure, it's still easy to tell when the CGI starts the when the two animation styles are mixed the CGI looks like it's stilling on top of the cel animation, but it doesn't stick out as blatantly as most other studio's output.

The mecha and spaceship designs look really good, with the Vandread being pretty impressive.   Likewise the characters look nice, though the women are a little too endowed for my tastes.  The various characters are animated well and show emotion and their feeling with their body posture and facial expressions, as they should.

The problem with the animation comes during the space battles.  Here they chose to go with style rather than what's realistic or even possible.  The spaceships and especially Hibiki's mecha can make 90 degree turns while traveling at high rates of speed, zip up and down, and generally act as if they have no mass what so ever.  (All of this without directional boosters of any kind.)  The lasers sometimes bend around objects that get in their way too.  While this does look cool at first, it's hard to ignore over the course of the two seasons.  Some battle scenes are also repeated from show to show.  This is done to save money and after being raised on American cartoons, I can't complain about the practice too much.
 

The DVD:


This set comes in a very compact package.  All eight discs are housed in a keepcase that's about twice the width of a normal DVD case.   There are three pages that hold six discs, one on each side, and the other pair are attached to the front and back cover.  While this packaging doesn't have the "wow" appeal of a full-sized boxed set, it sure saves on shelf space, something that it fairly precious in my house.  The discs included seem to be the same discs released as individual volumes and contain the same extras.

Audio:

This disc comes with the option of either the original Japanese soundtrack or an English dub, both in stereo.  I alternated tracks with every episode over the first disc, and then settled on the Japanese track.  The English dub was fine, though there were a couple of obviously fake accents that started to bug me.  Both tracks used the front speakers to good advantage, though I would have loved to hear a 5.1 mix, especially during the battle scenes.  There wasn't any distortion, background noise, or other common audio defects. The discs also come with optional subtitles in English.

Video:

Originally released in 2002, Vandread has a nice looking 1.85:1 image, which unfortunately is not anamorphically enhanced.  With widescreen displays being more and more common, anamorphic enhancement is a necessity.  When you do play these discs on a 16 X 9 TV there will be black bars on the left and right of the image, masking it to a 4:3 ratio.  Inside that smaller square the image will have black bars above and below creating the 1.85:1 picture.  Of course most screens will allow you to zoom in but you shouldn't have to.  This lack of anamorphic enhancement is the main reason for the low video score.

Aside from that flaw, the image looks very good.  The colors are bright and dynamic, the lines are tight and the blacks are solid.  Digitally the disc fares well also.  There is a bit of aliasing in the background and some light banding, but these were minor.

Extras:

This set has the same bonus items that the individual releases had.  Even so, it's not very impressive.  Scattered across the eight discs are clean opening and closing animation, promo clips, line and cover art galleries, and some Japanese TV commercials advertising the show.

Final Thoughts:

This is a fun show and well worth picking up.  Though this two season set seems expensive with a $99.99 MSRP, that's still less than half the price of the individual volumes.  The thing that keeps this set from getting a higher recommendation is the lack of an anamorphic transfer.  That's a series flaw.  Even so, I can recommend this set based on the strength of the show itself.

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