Not to be confused with Blue Seed, Blue Gender has found its place as the latest Viridian Collection released by FUNimation. Created by Ryousuke Takahashi, Blue Gender is something of a classic by most standards, especially when you take into account the fact that it originally came out way back in 1999. Given FUNimation's other Viridian releases I was kind of surprised to see them induct such a series into the line but I suppose they have to branch out beyond their recent shows sometime.
With a total of 26 episodes and a two hour movie included here Blue Gender is a science fiction piece that feels very complete. On the surface the show may seem stereotypical and familiar but once you actually delve into its depth you'll recognize it for what it truly is; an awesome show.
Embarrassingly I have to admit that I missed Blue Gender the first time around. It's kind of ironic considering I'm a huge science fiction buff but for whatever reason this one completely slipped under my radar. I think it had something to do with the fact that it featured humanity fighting against a horde of monsters and trying to survive. I mean, let's face it, this kind of plot has been done time and time again. Blue Gender tackles the material somewhat differently though and in many ways it bucks the trend set by others.
Set slightly in the future (2009 according to the show's math) humanity has developed the ability to successfully freeze people cryogenically. This isn't exactly a Demolition Man scenario because the folks about to take a long nap are actually sufferers of a strange genome. The source of this anomaly isn't apparent at the time but it is clear that these people will eventually die if left untreated. Naturally it seems that the only alternative is to put them on ice for the future to deal with.
On of these patients in particular is a guy named Yuji. In many ways Yuji is just an average guy with a bad hair cut who is quite content to go through a normal life. Unfortunately when he is woken up some years later he quickly learns that life is anything but ordinary. As his containers is moved through the facility it was stored poor Yuji emerges in the middle of something horrific; a giant beetle-like-thing kills two people and rolls them into an icky meatball right in front of his eyes. This causes Yuji to pee himself but luckily for him his wet behind is saved by a person in a giant mecha suit.
Over the course of the next few episodes we get to watch as Yuji bemoans his fate and what has happened to the world. Basically some time after he became a popsicle the Earth was overrun by giant bug creatures. These critters fed on the material we created and eventually ate us after they ran out of other things to snack on. Known as Blue, these monsters slaughtered most of the population and what's left of humanity lives on in the most basic of terms. We are no longer thriving and we have no safe haven other than a space station known as Second Earth. This is a threat of the largest proportion and to say that it's an apocalypse would be an understatement. As you'd imagine Yuji doesn't take too kindly to any of this.
Blue Gender progresses quite nicely at this point. The background for the story is delivered with some measured pacing and the majority of this plot is character driven. Yuji may seem irritating at first with all of his whining and whatnot but as he comes to terms with the reality of his situation he starts to man-up. He eventually gets close with Marlene who was the soldier in the mecha suit that saved him the first time around. She seems standoffish in the beginning but gradually warms up to Yuji as well.
As the story progresses more is revealed about Yuji's condition and how it is connected to the Blue. A large part of the mystery early on revolves around the people put to sleep and Second Earth's attempt to collect as many as possible. The revelation about the connection Yuji has to the Blue is quite startling and very well thought out. Let's just say that the origin of the creatures is something of a curve ball if you're not expecting it.
From start to finish I thought Blue Gender was a heck of a ride. It was a suspenseful science fiction horror done right with some interesting concepts and memorable characters. Yuji will grow on you as you get to know him and Marlene is just as strong of a personality. If you passed this one over years ago when it came out then consider the Viridian release your opportunity to rectify a mistake. The asking price is quite nice considering the quality of the release for this classic.
As you'd expect given Blue Gender's age the show comes up a tad short when stacked up against more recent productions. The full frame image does feature some vibrant colors but grain and some shimmer also make their way into the transfer. It's worth noting that apart from those flaws the picture here is actually quite stunning. The artwork sets this series apart from the rest of the pack and the lack of other defects definitely helps this release as far as the video quality is concerned. Its flaws are simply a matter of the age of the material and don't necessarily reflect a poor transfer on the part of FUNimation.
English and Japanese are the only languages you'll find here of course and it shouldn't come as a surprise that both are presented in 2.0 stereo. With the amount of action that this series has there's no denying that at least the English dub of the series should have been given a 5.1 treatment (like the film received). Unfortunately considering the audience for this series is probably smaller than most it's understandable why it didn't receive surround support. What's here sounds good with a nice presence on the soundstage but it goes only as far as a stereo track can bring it. The dubbing quality for both tracks is remarkably good with a fine emotional range and flair for the dramatic.
The bonus features from the original individual releases make their way onto these nine discs.
The first disc kicks things off with character profiles, trailers, textless animation, and a rough sketch gallery. An audio commentary is also included for the first episode of the series. Christopher Sabat, Eric Johnson, and Laura Bailey sit down to give their thoughts about the series and episode. It's an interesting talk though it goes only as far as an English commentary can considering none of the three had a hand in its inception. On the second disc things get shaken up a tad with a focus on the music of Blue Gender. There's nothing earth shattering here but if you dig the tunes you'll appreciate the extended version of "Break Free".
Moving onto the third disc music stays at the forefront with an extended version of "Love Taught Me". The fourth disc includes some more snippets from the soundtrack along with the standard extras offered on the previous discs. Things get a little skimpy for the fifth disc which only offers the basic features and some sketches. Disc six brings some original Japanese Media Commercials to the table, the seventh has less than the standard extras, and the same can essentially be said for the eighth disc which only has some more music to spruce things up. The final disc which features the movie has only trailers as bonus material.
Blue Gender was a lot of fun and it was a heck of a lot better than I expected after the slow beginning. This is a fine example of an anime that breaks the stereotype of a genre and brings new material to the table. The Viridian Collection release is a perfect way to check it out if you missed it the first time around. The fact that this set includes the whole series AND film is definitely a nice touch and it's something I hope FUNimation does with other shows in the future. Check it out if you're looking for a classic science fiction anime!
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