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Vandread Volume 1
Enemy Engaged!

review by Zach B.

 

Running Time: 100 minutes

 

Studio: Pioneer

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Textless Openings, Design Gallery, Promo Videos

Specs: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, English Subtitles, Chapter Selection (4 Chapters per episode)

Released: January 22nd, 2002

 

 

I'm pretty into Japanese animation and I happen to enjoy it. I'm not a diehard freak who knows a giant deal about everything, but I'm more into the obscure stuff as well as some mainstream series (NOT "Dragon Ball Z," I'll tell you that). Besides the fact I enjoy the unique animation, a good deal of animé is more adult oritented, not to mention it features a lot of strong characters and storylines. Japanese animation has become a bit mainstream during the past few years in the United States, probably in thanks to the Cartoon Network and their "Toonami" block. After that explosion certain series and the medium itself somewhat has become a bigger thing with the younger set. While Japanese animation has been on video and DVD a long time, it's picked up somewhat now. Pioneer, who releases a ton of animé year in and year out has picked up the series "Vandread" and is now releasing it on video and DVD.

Ironically, those behind "Vandread" (Gonzo) were behind "Blue Submarine No. 6" - a show that was aired on Cartoon Network. I must admit I was a bit skpetical about watching "Vandread." The plot sounded pretty decent from the preliminary stuff I read, if not, a little recycled from other things and then smashed together. I was expecting the standard and not much new to find here, but I was rather surprised how much I got into "Vandread" and how much I really enjoyed it.

"Vandread" takes place on the planet Tarak. The planet is male dominated and has its own class system. Tarak is preparing to go to war with Mejale, which happens to be a planet quite opposite of Tarak because it is dominated by women. Tarak plans to attack them, as the same goes with the women of Mejale, but a little more on that later. Our main hero of the story is Hibiki, a third class citizen. He's the lowest of the low. Hibiki says he can get a piece of equipment from a mech, and then is somewhat dared into getting it. Hibiki goes to the ship, but just his luck, the ship launches a little too early. So the ship goes for a ride, and it's not too long before the ship is hijacked is by some women from Mejale. This surprise attack puts things into a tizzy, and a weird missile from the men's ship is fired to get the women off their back, yet somehow, Hibiki, some guys and the women feel the effects of the missile and are taken to somewhere in the galaxy... far, far off from where they are. Where they end up, they meet an alien race that ends up attacking them, so the men and women must put aside their differences and work together, and warn their own planets about what's going on. I could go into more, but I don't want to spoil what happens after that. That's the setup of the series, and I must say, it's quite likable and very entertaining.

The introduction to everything is really well done... you get a good and basic sense of the universe that "Vandread" takes place in. The action that takes place is very enthralling, the dialogue fits well with the characters and the characters themselves are interesting, if not a bit stereotypical. But I suppose that's part of the fun, and when the characters interact, they play well off one another. Yet a good point about "Vandread" is that with much cleverness, it's about the battle of the sexes, a debate that probably goes back to the start of time (well, maybe not that far). There are certain ways to view things within the episodes but I think the message it promotes about equality and cooperation is pretty invaluable since not everyone realizes that we can all get along, and that one class or race or religon is better than another. The parallels "Vandread" features does extend to our world quite well.

The animation in the series has me somewhat mixed, but in the end, it's pretty good. The character designs are really nice, and the animation itself has good coloring and a nice flow to it. The detail is also rather impeccable. However, what I didn't like so much is the CGI animation that is either seperate or mixed in with the more traditional animation. It's not that it looks bad, it just doesn't always fit. It can be a bit annoying and doesn't feel quite natural. Still, that's just my own personal gripe. If you like an interesting premise and/or Japanese animation, the first volume of "Vandread" is worth looking into. Just so you know, it includes the first four episodes: "Boy Meets Girl," "And... I've Lost My Way," "This is the Path I Choose to Live" and "I Want to Know More About You."

 

 

The first volume of "Vandread" features a rather impressive transfer that looks quite great. Presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen, "Enemy Engaged" truly has a fresh and sharp look to it. I didn't notice any real flaws here such as dirt or blemishes. There is some slight shimmering, but there is no noise. This transfer really shows off how good the animation is... colors are deep and really well saturated. Again, this transfer is really sharp and has great detail to it. It's really crisp and bold... it fits everything quite nicely. I'm a widescreen advocate of course, and I'm pleased that Gonzo continues to use widescreen, but this transfer is sadly not anamorphic. I hate when something is not anamorphic... and I think the extra resolution would have looked great on this transfer and really benefited from it. Oh well... I hope Pioneer makes future volumes anamorphic. I'd love that.

 

Also impressive is the audio. The English dub and Japanese language track are both two channel stereo, but I was really surprised how great they were. Each pack an impressive amount of dynamic range and strong directional effects. I didn't feel I was quite watching 5.1, but a lot more than that. The dialogue is easy to hear and clear while the other sounds bring a great amount of ambience. Such as the ships being attacked, the ship launching and fire from weapons. I always prefer the original language track, but the dub isn't bad. While the voices don't always match up quite well, the English voices fit the characters and their personas quite well. These are truly some of the best straight foward mixes I've had the pleasure of listening too. Also, the English subtitles are the literal translation for not the Japanese... not the dub.

 

Not much. You can watch four Non-Credit Openings, all in non-anamorphic widescreen. There are also two Promo Clips and a good deal of Character Line Art which is pretty cool to check out, if a bit short with 17 slides.

 

 

"Vandread" is not for everybody. But if you like a decent action/science fiction story, you may dig this. If you're a Japanese animation fan, you'll probably like this, but it's somewhat aquired taste may not always be appealing. "Vandread" is geared toward teenager viewers and older, so this is not quite for the "Sailor Moon" crowd. There's not much as far as extras, but the presentation, even if it's not anamorphic, is a strong knock-out. The retail is a bit high, but if you're into the series it's worth buying. Otherwise, it's worth a rental for sure.