Movie: With all the different types of anime on the market, there seems to be something for everyone. From the most futuristic science fiction release, to the most brutal beat 'em up, to the fantasy shows surrounding ancient Japan, it's tough to find an area that isn't covered by one sub genre or another. One of the latest releases by the folks at ADV Films is a combination of a retro robot and a kid detective show, Steam Detectives 1.
The show is about a ten-year-old boy who has a genius aptitude for solving crimes in a turn of the century setting much like London. The boy, Narutaki, carries a powerful handgun but relies more on his wits and skills to survive various villains who seek to end his career. He is helped by a remote controlled robot, Goriki, that resembles a large mech-robot in a number of other series and is powered by steam, much like the robots in Sakura Wars, except no one need pilot Goriki internally. The style of the anime is much more retro than most current releases on DVD and some people will like that more than I did. To me, this style often looks cheap and made on a low budget but it had a few bright moments in the included five episodes on this DVD.
The only power source of the time is coal and thus the city is powered by steam derived from the fossil fuel. Most technology is based on steam power and there are cars and such but nothing very advanced otherwise. The young boy, his butler, nurse, and robot fight a number of super powered bad guys and their own robots in a number of situations. It has its own style and I think it's well worth checking out but it seemed like an acquired taste.
Episode One: Go! Steam Detectives:
The first episode outlines the detective agency and it's relation to the public. They work well with the authorities that give them a lot of latitude in how they handle their investigations. The lead villain is displayed as the Night Phantom, a caped crusader type who has access to fairly advanced technology himself.
Episode Two: Challenge Of The Crimson Scorpion:
This episode centered on a evil doer known as the Crimson Scorpion, a common villain type, having just popped up in the latest release of Saiyuki 5, that seeks a new power source, a meteorite that fell from the sky. Her snake robot is powerful but her own abilities keep Narutaki on his toes.
Episode Three: Machine Baron's Abnormal Love?!:
The bad guy is a collector by the name of the Machine Baron. The guy collects rare objects and has his sights set on Goriki so he goes under cover by posing as a reporter to gain valuable information about the team in order to capture the famed robot. Things don't always work out as planned and Narutaki shows why the robot is only part of the team.
Episode Four: Rival, His Name Is Le Bled:
Le Bled, a guy looking like the Phantom of the Opera, challenges Narutaki and Goriki with his own Metamaton but doesn't consider the boy detective a real threat. His nurse, Ling Ling's sister comes to visit as well.
Episode Five: Shadowbolt:
Scientists are disappearing all over the place and one of their colleagues, Dr. Holt, shows what happened to them. They were kidnapped and forced to construct a metamaton that surpasses even Goriki in terms of power. The doctor changes his name to Dr. Guilty and challenges the team to a duel at a science conference.
While this wasn't the strongest release out of ADV Films of late, it had a certain retro charm to it that many will appreciate. I'm going to rate it as a Rent It. If you like the style of Android Kikaider , you'll like this as well. The animation style seemed a bit cut rate to me with limited movement and backgrounds, not to mention detail in the main characters too, and while the audio was very solid, especially the music, I'm reserving my judgment until I see more of the show.
Picture: The picture was presented in the original 1.33:1 ratio full frame that it was shot in. It had a lot of static shots with limited movement going on and much of the actual movement of the characters was done by using stationary pictures and moving the camera. In all, not the best style of anime to interest me although the colors were muted to fit the story setting and the picture mostly devoid of artifacts.
Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of a 5.1 Dolby Digital English track or the original 2.0 stereo Japanese track with optional English subtitles. I thought the English track was better this time and displayed more separation between the channels. The music was well done here and I think it warrants a bit of attention by fans.
Extras: There were some trailers a Japanese clean opening, some sketches and a paper insert with pre-production material describing certain aspects of the show. This isn't a lot but it did have five full episodes so that can be forgiven.
Final Thoughts: It was an okay show but so far it hasn't shown a lot of creativity to merit a full MSRP as this one has. The anime looked much like material out of Gigantor and if you like tributes to such shows, you may think of this homage as worth more attention.