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Zaion: I Wish You Were Here - Epidemic (Vol. 1)

ADV Films // Unrated // September 30, 2003
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Don Houston | posted December 1, 2003 | E-mail the Author
Movie: Nanotechnology is one of the current hot topics in various fields of science and medicine. Essentially, the idea is that small machines can be made and programmed to perform a host of different tasks, sight unseen, with endless possibilities. Recent television shows, including Andromeda and Jake 2.0 explore some applications of such technology, albeit by greatly advancing what we can do today. A newly released OVA anime series, Zaion: I Wish You Were Here 1: Epidemic, explores the idea in another way, this time as a means to combat an alien virus.

The premise of the show was that a meteor crashed into the Earth and deposited a virus; much like in the mainstream hit Species. The virus invades the cells of people and turns them into powerful monsters, an idea explored quite thoroughly years ago in the Devil Lady series, who seem intent on mindlessly destroying everything around them and spreading the virus. To combat the threat of such beasts, the world governments form an organization, C.U.R.E., and it's military arm, N.O.A., develops super soldiers that are treated with Nanotechnology which allows them to form advanced armor and weapons, as well as enhance their abilities (like a great many other shows involving enhanced humans).

The series only lasted four episodes and was originally made for the internet, with the hopes that the later sales of the home video would finance the show. The show never took off to the point where it became self-sustaining and instead of the planned series, the series was quickly wrapped up. As such, there were two major themes; the science fiction disaster angle and a love interest between the ace NOA fighter, Yuuji Tamiya, and a young gal, Ai, that has the ability to control light under certain circumstances to form the most effective means of combating the monsters when they combine into a large, Godzilla sized monster.

On the first DVD are two of the four episodes, the first introduces the situation and characters and the second details a predicament they face when the virus mutates. Here's a breakdown of the scenes in a bit more depth, some spoilers included:

Episode One: Encounter: The world is under attack from a virus thought to have come from a meteor. The scientists dealing with it dub it M34 as it's the 34th strain of virus originating from the source and it has fought all attempts at a cure. The world governments keep it a secret in order to prevent mass panic, and the group CURE is empowered to use any means necessary to wage a battle against its victims. The military arm of the organization, NOA, is full of soldiers who are treated with nanotechology and have tiny machines coursing through their veins that repair damage and form a protective body armor/weapon system to fight the enemy. The best such soldier, Yuuji, is hesitant to fight the infected people since they are/were human and the only way to fight them is to kill them. As his friends are routinely wiped out (the casualty rate of the soldiers is about 70%), he does what is necessary but that doesn't mean he likes it. When the monsters combine into a huge monolithic single monster, a secret weapon is employed that destroys it quickly.

Episode Two: Farewell: Yuuji ends up in a hospital after nearly dying in the last attack. His nanobots are killing off the infecting M34 virus cells and he is released after a night's stay but his resolve that something's wrong grows stronger. He runs into Ai, the secret weapon, in the building and confronts her about her part in the whole operation, although he also feels thankful that she saved his life. The couple is soon confronted by a pair of guards who order Yuuji to surrender to them so the youngsters run. Soon, it is discovered that the virus is adapting to the nanobots and no one is safe, making Ai all that more important to everyone. Yuuji's team seek him out in order to protect him from their own organization and the episode ends with a "to be continued" message at the end.

The show uses a lot of familiar material and that's not always bad. Reworking basic concepts is a standard means by which storytellers lay the foundation for their ideas without reinventing the wheel (so to speak). My biggest complaint with the series so far is the leaps in logic that take place in nearly every scene. Why Yuuji wasn't vaporized when his condition was discovered, why the virus which spread so quickly always ended up contained in a modern world and where were all the bystanders in such cities were questions that all came to mind. In short, the limitations of the series made it appear to be related to its origin. Did the originators of the show in Japan feel the pressing need to start off the story in the middle, thereby leaving out the important beginnings? I think this is so, based on what they said in the interview (they hoped people would go to the website and learn more about the characters, background, and developments).

When translating to an OVA series, didn't they think that making the show dependent on going somewhere to look up basic story information a bit cumbersome? If that was the financing model employed, as stated, then why not shoot a few minutes of exposition material for the crowd that doesn't want to have to continually refer to the website? Regardless, I think the show had some interesting ideas and look forward to seeing what volume two has to offer. The mech designs were familiar enough (the company has made a lot of other shows) and the premise sound enough for a fun hour of entertainment. While the show only had two episodes, half the entire series, it made up for it with some solid extras so I'm going to rate this one as Recommended.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.85:1 ratio widescreen and looked very crisp and clear. The colors looked good and the mixture of traditional anime and CGI was done with some care, making it look very modern. The DVD transfer itself was well done too and I saw no artifacts or other problems some anime series have.

Sound: The audio was presented with a choice of either a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround English track or the original 2.0 Dolby Digital Japanese track with English subtitles. My preference on this one was for the original Japanese track as the voice acting was superior but the English sound effects and spatiality seemed more advanced. It may well be the case that the modified track did this with audio engineering tricks but the end result was that each track was worth checking out.

Extras: The extras included a ~13 minute long interview with the director and writer (both of whom contributed to my understanding of how the show came to be and some of the ideas behind it), a shorter interview with the executive producer (the money man behind it), a promotional clip from the Japanese campaign, trailers, sketches, a double sided DVD cover, and a really interesting booklet that detailed a number of the characters, the background, and a round table talk between the creative people behind the show.

Final Thoughts: I'd have preferred ADV put all four episodes on a single DVD but I understand the finances of doing so would make the price prohibitive. Since it's an OVA show, I won't fuss as loudly about the content to price quotient here but I'd have appreciated more extras, perhaps something from the American dubbing team or voice actors would've been cool. The show is better than I had heard from various forums on the internet but it did rely heavily on stuff we've all seen before. It's rated by ADV as a 13+ show but aside from the blood and gore, it would've been okay for younger kids too. Check it out if you can.

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