Originally released in 2005, Jinki:Extend is a 13 episode series from Feel that has been licensed in America by ADV. The project got started back in 2002 in manga form thanks to Tunasima Sirou. After a while the series kind of went quiet but it has picked up again in Japan even though the US release of the rest of the manga seems unlikely. Fortunately we have received all three volumes of the animated show and ADV has just sent a complete thinpak collection to store shelves.
If you have never heard of Jinki:Extend then you're not alone. This series slipped under the radar for many otaku and to be quite honest I'm not at all surprised. The components that make up the plot should be considered cliché by just about every means possible. I mean, the series features young girls piloting giant robots while a secret organization is poised to fight off an alien invader. It doesn't take a highly experienced viewer to know right off the bat that this particular concept has been tackled before numerous times. Add to that a slight amount of fan service involving underage girls and you have a title that will more or less go undetected by the average anime consumer.
If you would consider yourself one of the folks who let this show pass you then I do have to say you missed out on an underwhelming, yet strangely compelling series. While Jinki:Extend doesn't entirely break genre conventions or preconceptions it is very entertaining and has a lot going for it. The story is somewhat twisted and involves two storylines, the characters are developed decently, there's a ton of action, and there are some unique bits sprinkled throughout. That being said the giant robot genre clichés pepper everything here and that fact is hard to avoid.
At the center of Jinki:Extend is a young girl named Aoba. At thirteen she's somewhat different from the norm and it's not surprising that otaku can easily connect with her. In the beginning of the show we discover she has a love for model robots and enjoys nothing more than piecing them together for display. When her grandmother dies she finds that her life is about to change in a big way. In no time she's taken away to Venezuela and indoctrinated into the ranks of the Angels (yes, another cliché that gives a nod to Neon Genesis), which is a team charged with combating a hostile force known as Jinki.
Now, as you're watching the series you may find yourself kind of confused about the continuity of it all. Aoba's storyline takes up a good chunk of the show and we learn a lot about her character but this particular section of Jinki:Extend is only a part of the experience. Venezuela offers its own intriguing moments but soon enough we're watching another arc within the series that takes place some years earlier and features another young girl who is also a pilot of the Moribito Type-02 and a member of the Angels.
Irritatingly enough Akao happens to be an amnesiac that lives in Tokyo and has no knowledge of events beyond three years ago. She and Aoba share some common bonds though the series liberally jumps between both plotlines as the 13 episodes progress. Due to this we never truly get to know Akao or Aoba and to be quite honest it was a little jarring. Trying to comprehend all of the nuances gave me a headache and most of the miniscule details are lost in translation. There just wasn't a decent enough of a job done to clarify the show's background and explain what exactly was going on until later in its run. Granted the gist of it does follow the pilot-using-giant-robot-to-save-the-world theme prevalent in most mecha inductees so I suppose it's not rocket science (or is it?).
As confounding as the plot could be at times and as disconnected as I felt watching the series I do have to admit that I was mildly entertained by it. Jinki:Extend seems to acknowledge that it's a genre piece and it approaches its material appropriately. Sure it can be a little heavy handed at times and the pacing is off but it certainly travels off the beaten path when it wants to and the different locations help keep it fresh. If you're looking for a new mecha series that you may have not seen then this may be one for you. Just keep in mind that it's not really anything new and you won't be disappointed.
Jinki:Extend is presented on DVD with its original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The series has received a nice transfer thanks to ADV and for the most part it's pretty much free of flaws. I had a difficult time pinpointing any grain and though some color gradients appear occasionally things hold up very well. While the series may not tell a wholly original story I do have to say that the look of the show is very appealing. The art design is very fresh and the animation stands out from the rest of the pack. Overall this is a great looking show!
Like most ADV releases Jinki:Extend comes with 2.0 Japanese and 5.1 English for presented language tracks. As far as dubbing quality is concerned I felt that the Japanese was better all around though the English offered a few moments that stood out. Technically the English selection stands out the best during the many action sequences but the sense of immersion during the rest of the time doesn't hold up quite as well. Both selections feature strong output and I didn't encounter any dropout or distortion while listening.
ADV's complete collections are generally spotty when it comes to receiving supplemental material. Thankfully Jinki:Extend is fortunate to be gifted the original bonus content from the individual volumes.
The first disc features regular and on air clean opening and closing animations, a glossary of terms, Venezuela location notes, and an interview with the Japanese voice actors for Aoba and Ryohei as well as the original sound director. The second disc offers much the same with clean animations, glossary of terms, and a look at Japan location notes. This time around there is a model test for the Moribito-2 and interview with the sound director and voice actors for Minami and Rui. Disc three once again offers clean animations and the glossary of terms though this time an art gallery has been tossed in for good measure. Some more location notes are included for Japan and episode 13 of the show. A couple of cast features have been tossed onto this disc in the form of Messages from the Seiyuu and Jinki:Extend Special Night. Neither is particularly interesting but if you appreciate Japanese bonus content then you'll want to give them a spin.
Jinki:Extend is an interesting show with many fun moments. It brings some attractive character designs to the table as well as loads of action and tons of development in between. Unfortunately the time shifting isn't explained suitably and the concept feels entirely like a genre piece. If you're looking for a series that feels familiar yet slightly different then this may be one to check out. I can't bring myself to recommend anything more than a rental though fans of the mecha genre will get more mileage out of the content.