Shingu Secret of the Stellar Wars 3
The Right Stuff // Unrated // $29.99 // August 2, 2005
Review by Don Houston | posted August 1, 2005
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
Movie: I've long admired some of the cultural traditions and complexity of Japan as a civilization that could teach us quite about life. The country has a long and rich history and while its people have gone off the deep end more than a few times in their history, they have often come away learning from their mistakes too. One of the areas they excel in is in the relationship between war and peace; having fought many struggles both internally and externally over the centuries. That is one of the reasons why they seem to offer such thoughtful anime series such as Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 3: Deadly Limitations; the latest volume of the Shingu saga. Like Volume 1 and Volume 2, the show advanced the idea of aliens from outer space taking an active role in the development of Earth as something of a protectorate, although not quite if you catch my drift. Here's a bit of background for you to better understand the series at this point in time, before I go into a few specifics for those who have already watched the first volumes released by Right Stuf.

The show is set in the year 2070 although there aren't a whole lot of visible signs of technological progress at first glance. The location is in the small Japanese coastal town of Shinjuku with most of the activities taking place at the local middle school, Misumaru Middle School. For the most part, there doesn't seem to be a lot going on until one day a large alien spacecraft pops out of the sky and hovers over Tokyo, stopping most communications in the region. No one knows what to make of it until it is attacked, and destroyed, by a large creature that similarly came from nowhere. People were generally pretty accepting of the news, perhaps other events had transpired between now and that time that will be covered in later episodes. In any case, the lead character, Hajime Murata, seems to be an industrious lad who goes out of his way to help others and stay out of trouble. His family had transferred to the area recently and he seems to have the same everyday troubles as the rest of the class. Things start getting a bit strange though when a new transfer student, Muryou Subaru, comes to town. He's polite, attractive to the local gals, and seems to be the nicest person you would want to meet so he and Hajime hit it off splendidly. One exception to the rule about liking him is the vice president of the student council, Kyoichi Moniguchi, a guy with a chip on his shoulder that otherwise seems quite respected by his peers.

Having been lucky enough to get the first two volumes of the series just before this third one was a blessing in that I got to appreciate the storyline much more readily than if they had been spread out over six (or more) months like so many other releases. In todays review of Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 3: Deadly Limitations, the episodes were 11) Thank You, Courage, 12) Despite Friendship, 13) Secret Village Hometown, 14) Our Summer, and 15) Father's Return, the cast started off on a high note with the battle between the Shingu and alien invaders. Muryou surprises everyone when he intervenes in the battle but this provides some clues as to his origin as the town leader reminisces to her own headstrong youth and a promise made to her by a similar stranger. Hajime finds that his role is not as insignificant as originally thought as ground forces attack the earthbound teens called the Chosen using astral deviation to save the Earth. The volume also provided some background of the major players as a few more join in to fill out the cast with talk about Earth as a paradise and potentially more invaders take the stage.

The way the secrets of the Shingu have come to light of the common folk of Earth was kind of interesting for me and the manner in which the driving themes were not forced as in other shows gave me pause for thought. The pacing seemed to maintain a steady rate and the way in which secrets were slowly unfolding as the series progressed were fun, making me even surer of my rating here, which was Highly Recommended, for the entire series. It doesn't hit you over the head right away like some series but it sure seems to offer a lot of bang for the buck, making me appreciate it all the more as the series progresses.

Picture: Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 3 was presented in the same 1.33:1 ratio full frame color it was shot in for broadcast on Japanese television. It had little grain, no video noise, and I saw no compression artifacts despite it having five full episodes and some decent extras. The anime style used here was slightly muted rather than the kiddy colors used on so many comedy and fanciful shows, with a decent amount of movement taking place in both the foreground and background, albeit less than a full fledged movie would display. In short, it looked good.

Sound: The audio was presented with the standard choice of 2.0 Dolby Digital in either the original Japanese or a dubbed English track with optional subtitles in English (either full subtitles or an onscreen text version). Once again, I actually liked the English language dub better this time as most of the characters seemed to be well acted since only a couple of minor performances were distracting to the story itself. The original vocals were good but the dub seemed to have a lot more attention given it than I'm used to on a series so I'm just giving credit where it was due. The music and special audio effects were similar in each version though with a slightly deeper bass in the dub but the overall separation between the channels seemed almost nonexistent except in action sequences.

Extras: Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 3 had some of the usual extras like trailers, production sketches, and a double sided DVD cover but it also had another cool 12 page booklet inside the DVD case that explained some of the settings and cultural notes from the series in relation to the characters; this time focusing on some of the language and locations used in the futuristic series. Such extras are rare these days but always appreciated as they add a lot of value that can't be downloaded from a pirate website (true fans of anime should note that supporting pirates makes it tougher for a company to import the best shows and/or offer better extras). There were also a number of character biographies on the DVD and some production sketches on the disc that varied from those in the booklet.

Final Thoughts: Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 3: Deadly Limitations was a story about conflict, friendship, and intrigue all set in a futuristic society much like our own. Human nature hasn't changed much and I think that's one of the points the show is trying to make as the characters all attempt to sort out their role in the bigger picture of society. With some decent action (though not solely a fighting show between massive robots), warm character exposition, and a lot of creative ideas, the series from Right Stuf continues to make me smile and think of it in highly favorable terms. I wasn't familiar with the company in any significant way before this one but I'm realizing that they have a lot of great titles to offer that I'm putting on my list, and the Shingu saga is just one of them.

If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article or regular column Anime Talk



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