Sony's manufactured on demand (MOD) program has released some great movies and TV shows, and now their expanding into anime. The first wave of three titles includes Viper's Creed a 12-episode mecha show that's entertaining and fun. Unfortunately, the set comes only with an English dub. For some reason the Japanese language track wasn't included, but the English audio is pretty solid While this will be a deal killer for a lot of anime fans, if you don't mind watching this without the original language it's worth checking out.
In the not so far future, the world has changed significantly. Global warming has caused the sea levels to rise dramatically, and that in turn sparked a third world war. During the war, the skies and oceans were poisoned and the result is that the only viable form of transportation is by roads. The upshot is that giant freeways have been constructed between cities and countries that transport everything from people to goods.
Not everything is peaceful however. The city of
"maneuver blades," light, fast, transforming motorcycles that are operated by a human driver and armed to the teeth with guns, missiles, and even chain saws. The main weakness the maneuver blades have is that they don't have an on-board power supply. They get their energy from the electrified streets themselves and if they move off them, they'll shut down in 30 seconds (a plot device that's used a few times in the first episodes.)
The show revolves around a team of maneuver blades drivers who work for Arqon, the elite Viper squad. Bugs aren't the only thing that the Vipers have to worry about however. There is a lot of unrest and protests in
This is a bit eclectic. The first half consists solely of stand alone episodes where viewers get to know the various members of Viper Squad. The group consists of the typical members of an action oriented team: a sniper who never misses, a big, tough, silent guy, the hotshot of the team haunted by his past, and the hot chick who excels in kicking ass. Added to the group is a new member, an enthusiastic youth who happens to be the son of Arqon's CEO and a new operator who gives the Vipers instructions when they're out in the field. Many of the early episodes focus on an individual member and their background with a battle scene with bugs thrown in for good measure. These are good, solid episodes, with engaging stories.
It's in the second disc where things get interesting and the episodes start having some continuity. A conspiracy is revealed that involves a plot to frame the Vipers for murder. It starts off as a fairly pedestrian story, but there's and early twist in the tale that makes the story much more exciting. This story arc is excellent and really makes the show stand out from the average mecha program.
Overall it's a fun and enjoyable show, but there are some flaws. It's hard not to roll your eyes when they talking about the earlier war that made travel by air or sea impossible. They just state that's the case, and don't really explain why. The very end was a bit of a stretch too, with a man who had lost his sight driving and fighting perfectly due to instructions that were being relayed to him. "Bug at three o'clock!" was all he needed to take out the armored killing machine. Yeah, right. If you can look past those flaws (and a lot of mecha shows have similar defects), Viper's Creed is a show worth watching.
This 12-episode series arrives on two DVD-r discs in a single-width keepcase. The discs themselves don't have any art, just the title and Sony logo in black on a white background but the case itself includes a colorful cover.
This is where a lot of otaku are going to be disappointed: The only audio included is a 5.1 English dub. Yes, I wish that the original language track had been included too, especially at this price point. Having said that, I thought the dub was pretty good. The voice actors did a good job and the battle scenes really came alive with the 5.1 track. The whole soundstage is used, even when there isn't a lot of action on screen. There are a couple of places where someone's voice would be thrown to the rear of the room when they were entering from behind the camera. The whole track was effective and immersive with no signs of audio defects. Had they included a Japanese track, my rating would be a lot higher.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image is pretty good. The colors really pop and the lines are nice and tight. There wasn't any aliasing or other common digital artifacts. Overall it's a very good looking show.
None, not even a clean opening and closing. I'm pretty surprised that they didn't include trailers for the other two Sony Choice Collection anime titles. That seems like a no-brainer to me.
This is a hard one to rate. I actually enjoyed the show quite a bit, but the lack of an original audio soundtrack is a major flaw in the released. If you prefer watching the English dub, by all means seek this out, you'll enjoy it. On the other hand if the idea of watching it in English is totally unacceptable, you should avoid this title. Overall I'm going to give it a recommended rating since I really think it is worth watching, even in English.