Mike wonders aloud which anime would be a good fit for the prestigious Criterion Collection.
Reviewby Allen Divers, Apr 16th 2004
Tokyo faces unprecedented danger when a mysterious creature, dubbed Monster M, rises from Tokyo Bay and makes its way into the heart of the city. Three sisters, Minami, Ushio, and Yuuhi, share some connection with this monster. Ranga, the true name of the monster, makes his way to the sisters only to face the military might of Japan. Minami, Ushio, and Yuuhi find their lives forever changed as Ranga seems ready to allow nothing to prevent him from reaching them. What ties does this monster have with the girl's long lost brother, and who is the mysterious boy who now lives with them?
The nation of Japan is turned upside when Ranga makes his way into Tokyo. Obviously borrowing a bit from big monster movies and shows, Neoranga delves into the lives of three sisters whose lives are turned upside when Ranga comes to visit. Working with a shorter running time per episode, Neoranga doesn't waste time getting to the heart of its storyline. Volume one, "A God is Risen," moves quickly to introduce the basic premise of the series and the main participants of the story. While the full storyline of the show has yet to make an appearance, the stage is set for the viewers to sit back and enjoy a bit of big monster mayhem.
Featuring yet another series box, the first volume of Neoranga comes in two flavors. The first is the simple DVD volume with the first eight episodes of the series, a mix of production sketches, textless versions of the opening and closing graphics, multiple trailers and a set of translator's notes. The translator's notes are a helpful addition with Neoranga dealing more with the day-to-day lives of a Japanese family. While the notes focus more on the subtitled version of the show, they are also helpful to dub viewers as many of the standard Japanese idioms remain in the English script. The second version of the first volume is simply the first DVD volume with a box that will hold all six volumes of the series. ADV is combining the first and second seasons of this series in one box set.
Pierrot, the studio behind Yū Yū Hakusho and Saiyuki, handled the production of the animation and artwork. Being vintage 1999, the animation is primarily traditional cel animation with a slightly dull look. The colors of the artwork are rather subdued and the show seems unencumbered with little in the way of bulky CG shots. In this day and age of CG only animation, Neoranga comes across a bit retro in its overall look. Despite the dated look of the show, the animation is top-notch, easily moving from the large action sequences to the simpler school settings. The character designs for Neoranga are solid with a lot of consistency running from episode to episode. With a rather large supporting cast of characters, variation is done well to make it easy to recognize characters that show up very often. Ranga itself is designed to look like nothing else seen before. While definitely not mecha, viewers are left pondering just what Ranga is as the show progresses.
For the English soundtrack, ADV stayed close at home utilizing its Houston studio. Writing and directing duties fell to newcomer Don Rush. Don put some familiar names into the cast such as Kelli Cousins in the role of Ushio and Kira Vincent Davis as Yuuhi. Both actresses worked together previously in Steel Angel Kurumi as Kurumi and Nakahito respectively. In his writing debut, Don does a good job keeping as much of the original intent of the Japanese dialogue in the English script. The cast is also well suited to the parts they play, helping to steer this fast-paced series. The music also complements the fast pace of the series with its strong opening chords to the slower, more reflective ending song. During the show, the music invokes a bit of the wild feel associated with Ranga and the almost primitive feel evoked from his origins.
Trying to find a niche in the crowded market of anime releases, Neoranga does its best to create a captivating story. Three sisters find themselves wrapped up in the ancient prophecy of a small rural island after their brother disappears. Instead of falling into the trap of the girls suddenly becoming the world's saviors, Neoranga focuses more on the day-to-day lives of these three as they adjust to their new circumstances. With such a short running time per episode, the series has little time to waste, always doing its best to garner a resolution within the time allotted. Early on in Neoranga is the hint of something bigger to come, but for now, the focus remains on the three sisters and Ranga's sudden appearance.
Neoranga is a fast paced show, somewhere between a soap opera and all out action adventure. With its real-world overtones, viewers will be brought into the lives of the three sisters as they struggle with the changes made in their lives thanks to Ranga. The short episode lengths make for easy viewing of the series, allowing viewers not to take in too much all at once. The downside to this is viewers may not want to wait for the larger plot that is developing in the shadows. Overall, Neoranga volume one is a solid introduction to a series that seems to building up to a larger storyline.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B
+ Short episode length make it easy to jump into this series
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