Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 2: Tense Confrontations
The Right Stuff // Unrated // $29.95 // May 31, 2005
Review by Don Houston | posted June 14, 2005
Highly Recommended
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Movie: As more companies import increasing numbers of anime series to the USA, fans lament that they can't afford to get everything, unlike a few years ago. This increases the need for good reviews to help those fans pick out which series suit them since it's pretty much common sense to say that the companies aren't going to be particularly truthful in their descriptions (remember; they want to sell product, not help you limit your purchases to choices you'd really enjoy). Thankfully, with more choices come more quality product for all tastes and the latest epic series I got hold of was Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 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.

Today's review is on the second volume of the series, Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 2: Tense Confrontations. Originally titled Record of the School Wars: Muryou, the initial characters had been laid out in Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 1 (why they changed the name is beyond me) and they continued developing here with the episodes being: 6) A Peaceful Battle, 7) Your Smile, 8) A Humble Feast, 9) After the Rain, More Rain, , and 10) For Tomorrow. The first two episodes dealt with the school festival, the third with a meal allowing the leads to get to thicken the plot, the fourth handling the invading enemy and the fifth showing an all new threat to Earth that showcases the titled secret of the series. While there were numerous stereotypical aspects to the show, the overall quality managed to impress me once again. There was more going on than was let on, even this far into the series, and the manner in which the story unfolded reminded me that the replay value was going to be high. On a side note, the dubbed version and original version each had slightly different stories and dialogue so you'd do well to watch each (I hate it when a company employs so-called "dub-titles" that so often differ from the original material) as they each had some value.

If you like the type of show described, one where school students with various abilities save the planet from alien threats of tremendous magnitude, you'll probably find a lot to enjoy from this series a lot. The story evolved slowly but always provided something to think about and enough background to keep even a jaded anime fan like myself happy. By combining the mystery of the powerful forces threatening the world, the humor of a school room situational comedy, and the battles of giant robots that aren't overdone, the series again rated a Highly Recommended from me. I noticed that watching the two released volumes in order, in a single sitting, added some later of depth to the story as well (when a shows volumes are released months apart, it's easy to lose track of the multitude of details a good series has).

Picture: Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars 2 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 2 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 food and technological aspects of the futuristic based 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 2: Tense Confrontations is a story about interstellar conflict as much as the usual interpersonal romance (admittedly a lesser theme) of a high school series where the Earth, a planet under observation by a galactic federation of planets, comes under attack because it holds the secret of a very powerful weapon. The specific nature of the weapon as well as all the characters internal motivations are not completely laid out on the table by the end of volume 2 but getting there is half the fun and the series has a lot to offer fans of both genres. Right Stuf seems to be on the right path to improving the offerings of imported anime, and if Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars is representative of their other shows, I may be dropping some dough to catch up on their past shows.

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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