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Megazone 23 Vol 2

ADV Films // Unrated // July 13, 2004
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Don Houston | posted October 30, 2004 | E-mail the Author
Movie: Anime is something of an acquired taste for adults although most fans seem to have started out as children. I used to thrill to the adventures of Astroboy, Speed Racer, and then shows like Star Blazers before Robotech and other series hit the airwaves in years past. Recent anime releases have included a number of series from the old days such as Aura Battler Dunbine as well as newer series that have a retro feel for them such as Android Kikaider. Like all anime, there are distinctive groups of interest in such releases; from the long-time fans that look at such releases as part of an ongoing history of the genre to the newer fans that see such shows as having limited appeal. Personally, I see the historical value of releasing older titles but still feel obligated to hold said releases up to the scrutiny of modern standards (for the most part), much to the chagrin of those who would view older titles as having some value apart from their actual content (i.e.: "they paved the way…" type of comments usually fall on deaf ears with me). Such is the case with ADV's latest release, Megazone 23, Part 2, the second in this three part series.

The show was originally going to be a full season (26 episodes) info-mercial released by Victor Entertainment in 1985 as a means of selling toys of the futuristic mech-robots the show focused on. Apparently, the show's financial backers decided that they didn't want to risk a full season and the show became a much shorter OVA set, with the equivalent to six episodes, condensing the elements of the show greatly. Depending on your point of view, this was either a good point or a bad point, since the characters and themes had less time to develop. The show was originally released by Image Entertainment on DVD several years back, and now ADV has re-dubbed it in order to address issues with the earlier release, as well as pay tribute to the show. Here's a look at the next third of the story in this re-release of the movie:

The movie started out with protagonist Shogo Yahagi on the run from both the military as well as just about everyone else in the city. The conspiracy that he uncovered in the first release is full of people with a vested interest in seeing him dead and as he attempts to pull himself together, bleeding and broken, he knows his goal is to marshal his ragtag group of bikers in an effort to protect his friends and the lives of everyone in the city. While the odds are definitely against him, he has an ace up his sleeve; EVE, a self-aware computer that might be just enough to tip the balance in his favor long enough to reveal what's going on to the populace of the city.

Okay, if you're reading this review, you probably enjoyed the first volume of the admittedly weak series. I'll be the first to admit it has some minor historical value but like the first volume, such value is limited to people that are, for the most part at least, slavering fanboys trying to reclaim their childhood memories. Anime with a continuing storyline, similar to soap operas, had long been established and the thematic advances that came after this mini-series are such that older titles such as this were rendered moot in many ways. First, the characters were two dimensional, making me care very little about their struggles. Second, the story was written as though it were going to sustain a much longer series and then chopped down to the bare bones, making what might have become an interesting and thoughtful series seem choppy at best. Lastly, while the themes explored might've had potential given the full series treatment, it came off as an anti-government piece of propaganda as written (far more so than Macross, for example). Such limitations combined with the technical failings of an older series did little for me and my rating of Skip It is solely at the modern fan that wants far more than this will provide them. If you grew up with this one and found it your entry point into anime, by all means check it out and enjoy the fond memories you probably have; this is likely a better version of the show than you saw when growing up (with some added footage and a cleaned up print) but don't kid yourself that it can compete for your hard earned dollars against the myriad of newer releases that show far more care and consideration than this one ever could have.

Picture: The show was presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame color aspect ratio. The show is almost twenty years old and all the efforts by ADV to clean it up sure helped improve it but the print flaws, including scratches and dirt, were noticeable throughout the show. There were also the usual moiré effects and minor video noise with limited anime style (a static picture with minimal movement-far easier to animate than some of the better titles you're likely familiar with). Overall, if you can live with older releases, this was pretty good.

Sound: The audio was presented in the usual 2.0 stereo Japanese with optional English subtitles or an all new English dub done with a 5.1 Dolby Digital track. I favored the original audio but admit the vocals of the dub were done in a superior manner, due mostly to the advances in technology and age of the source material. The music seemed cleaned up over the previous release and if you're one of the fanatics of the show, you'll want to get this newer version.

Extras: Sadly, there was no commentary track this time. I found said track on the first volume to be far more enjoyable than the show itself and the lack of one this time told me that my sensibilities would be tested to the max. I did enjoy the paper insert that had some interview notes with director Ichirou Itano and character notes but it was limited in terms of replay value. There were also some production sketches and trailers to shows like: Orphen 2, Kino's Journey, Saint Seiya, Azumanga Daioh, and Gravion.

Final Thoughts: I hate to bag on a show that will likely have such a built in audience but I'm just calling it like I see it. The show was cut down from an anticipated full season to a handful of shows and the results were telling. It was twenty years old, looked it, and provided precious little entertainment value compared to the multitude of newer shows on the market today. If you liked the first volume as much as I'm sure a handful of you did, buy it and cherish the memories but make no mistake that there is a lot of superior anime on the market now, unlike when this was originally released, and time has marched on leaving this one behind.

If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime article!

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