Reviewby Luke Carroll, Aug 4th 2009
DVD - The Complete Series
After a routine rescue mission ends in tragedy, young apprentice bounty hunter Iria returns to her homeworld with a deadly secret: the Zeiram, a deadly, seemingly indestructible alien life form, is on the loose and headed for the unsuspecting planet. This knowledge makes Iria the target of assasins from the Tedan Tippedai Corporatio, who wish to harness the destructive power of the Zeiram as a bio-weapon. Intent on exposing the Corporation's sinister plot and avenging the death of her brother & mentor Gren – who was slaughtered before her eyes at the hands of the Zeiram – Iria and her ragtag crew must hunt down the alien juggernaut and uncover the truth.
After spending just over half a decade away from the mainstream anime market, Siren Visual has decided that it's finally time to once again return to the scene and bring some much needed competition and choice to anime fans here in Australia and New Zealand. With a history that stretches right back to the beginning of anime distribution in Australia, there's no doubting that Siren Visual know the industry well. However as many older fans can recall, their last few years before leaving the market were very checkered, with sub par releases hitting the shelves time and time again. Siren Visual though believe that it's time to finally put the past behind them, and as such have decided to mark their re-emergence with the re-releases of Nightwalker and the classic action packed OVA Iria.
Iria - Zeiram the Animation (or Iria for short) is actually a prequel to the lesser known 1991 Japanese live action sci-fi film Zeiram. Set in a distant futuristic planetary system, we are first introduced to Iria, a bounty hunter in training who never misses a chance to tag along with her brother Gren on missions. After returning from a mission herself, Gren and his boss bob are ordered to rescue a VIP from a ship as well as retrieve a mysterious cargo. Naturally Iria tags along, however things go sour very fast when they find most of the crew on-board the ship dead and the cargo non existent. It isn't long though before the cargo reveals itself as Zeiram, a seemingly invincible creature created as a bio weapon. Knowing their doomed fate, Iria is left helpless to watch as her brother Gren sends her away moments before destroying the ship in a bid to defeat Zeiram. Ultimately this doesn't work, and now it's up to Iria to defeat Zeiram properly and untangle the major conspiracy that allowed him to appear in the first place.
Originally made way back in 1994 in the 1:33:1 full frame ratio, Iria certainly isn't the slickest anime to look at nowadays, with subdued colours present throughout as well as some dirt and scratches appearing frequently. However considering the age of the show, it definitely comes across as one of the better quality prints to have survived the years. The character designs also manage to be quite good to look at, with much of the main cast sporting unique and somewhat detailed appearances. Overall though, Iria may not hold a candle to the look and feel of newer titles but it does come across as very watchable and respectable for its age.
Presented in Dolby 2.0 for both the Japanese and English tracks, the soundtrack to Iria is like taking a trip down memory-lane. Re-used sound effects and orchestral scores are abundant with every scene, serving as a good reminder to how much has changed over the years. The opening and ending music as expected have not managed to survive the tests of time well; however the vocal ending theme by Mitsuko Shiramine certainly comes across as the more interesting of the two. That being said, there really isn't much that stands out with the soundtrack, although it is worth noting that the Japanese track does seems to have some added clarity to it.
Recorded by the rather unknown National Sound Studio, the dubbing work is something of a mixed bag. Although Stacie Lynn Renna does a fairly decent job at times in portraying Iria, most of the time it's a rather passable but forgettable affair. The Japanese voice work on the other hand is surprisingly decent. Headed by Aya Hisakawa, best known as the voice of Sailor Mercury, the main characters are all given an added sense of personality that just doesn't come across as well in the English version. There is unfortunately one minor issue with the subtitle work where lines would flash only briefly when two or more characters were speaking at the same time. Thankfully this only occurs a handful of times throughout the title, however it certainly is noticeable when it appears.
There are no extras with this release.
Iria - Zeiram the Animation is definitely a title for the action fans out there. Although it certainly is an old title, it still manages to hold its own well enough to be an enjoyable if somewhat predictable watch. For Siren's first comeback release it certainly is decent, however there is definitely room to improve. Hopefully their next batch of releases will fair a much better result.
Overall (dub) : D+
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : C-
+ Decent action, Japanese voice work is a surprise
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