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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.