Do screeners really sway critics to giving positive reviews? Is this the end of an era? Why can't you see the dub of Blue Dragon anywhere? And why are late night anime selling more on Blu-ray?
Reviewby Theron Martin, Aug 12th 2005
Sadamitsu the Destroyer
DVD 1-3: Complete
Ryukeitai, alien space criminals from some kind of interstellar power, have begun showing up on Earth, and more – millions more – are expected. A robotic Pursuer is sent to deal with the threat they pose to Earth's indigenous population, but when his body is destroyed in a battle against a particularly nasty and persistent Ryukeitai, the Pursuer must resort to local help. Into the picture steps Sadamitsu, high school delinquent and leader of the dreaded Corpse Gang. He loves to fight, cannot resist a challenge, and is a master of the bokuto, so Sadamitsu bonds with the Pursuer by wearing its only surviving part – its head – as a helmet. Together they work to “recover” (i.e. encapsulate in a miniature gravity well and fire them off into space) as many Ryukeitai as possible, picking up the assistance of a friendly motorcycle-shaped one along the way. They are not the only force dealing with Ryukeitai, however, as government officials have their own goals and a deadly Vulture has been summoned to the planet to deal with the Ryukeitai problem by any means necessary, no matter how drastic. Then there's Yayoi, the cute transfer student who seems to already know Sadamitsu and have an agenda of her own. . .
Sadamitsu the Destroyer, a 10-episode series which originally aired on Japanese TV in 2001, is in many ways a spiritual cousin of the much better-known s-CRY-ed. Like s-CRY-ed, its main protagonist is a young man who loves to fight, is invigorated by a challenge, and never backs down even when it's foolhardy to continue. Also like s-CRY-ed, the hero gains some incredible powers (in this case provided by the robot he calls Junk) and uses them to fight a wide variety of creative-looking and colorful superhuman opponents. Unlike s-CRY-ed's Kazuma, though, Sadamitsu is abhorrently opposed to killing, has to deal with erased memories (which he doesn't even know he's missing until much later in the series), and doesn't have a human antagonist to play off of. Still, both series share the same exuberant action-oriented spirit, so a viewer who likes one will almost certainly be entertained by the other.
The first impression StD gives is of a fun, light-hearted series intended to be enjoyed purely on a visceral level. The characterizations certainly support this; Sadamitsu's gang members all have exactly one distinguishing characteristic (the food-obsessed one, the computer nerd, the ladies' man, etc.), the much put-upon school doctor Ms. Chieko can chew students out (or root them on) with the best of them, and Kulon, the motorbike-shaped Ryukeitai obsessed with speed, is a cool dude. We also have the obligatory uptight female student, whose personality is entirely centered on being class rep and getting everyone to follow rules; only once, when Kulon kidnaps her (sort of), does she show any hint of character beyond that. Even the robotic Junk fits in to this scheme well, as his “robot straight man” shtick allows Sadamitsu to play off him very effectively. The story gains a bit of depth in its second volume when it starts focusing more on Yayoi's internal conflicts over what she's doing and why she's doing it. Her full truth takes most of the rest of the series to play out, and her bittersweet resolution at the story's end may leave many viewers with mixed emotions even though it does feel right. The drama never gets too heavy, though, nor does the storytelling ever lose sight of the fact that StD is, first and foremost, a dedicated action series.
The artwork for StD is most notable for the design of its main character in battle gear, which looks like a generic Japanese costumed hero except for his eyes. When wearing the helmet Sadamitsu's eyes become huge, cartoonish, and almost comical. Yayoi also has odd eyes, only hers are distinctly catlike and enclosed within a very angular face. The most distinctively different human character design is that of the anal class rep, but it isn't a flattering one. Other human characters are unremarkable. Most of the Ryukeitai are generic-looking alien baddies except for Kulon, who looks like a motorcycle from hell with eyes. The Vulture also has a fairly generic mecha look. Background art is moderately well detailed, while the animation uses a lot of the stylistic elements and shortcuts common to fighting anime, so don't expect much in the way of sustained scenes of motion. Even so, the animation and artistry are good enough to keep the fights looking interesting, and that's what really matters here.
The opening number and general musical scoring are heavily derived from the same kind of peppy Spanish guitar and trumpet tunes sometimes heard in old American Westerns, which helps give the series a sort of Wild West feel despite its distinctly Japanese look. The closer is a gentler and more sedate piece which seems to go against the grain of the series until you get to the episodes where Yayoi's story really develops.
The English dub, done by AnimeWorks, is reasonably well-cast and very well-delivered, especially Sean Schemmel (in an electronically “robotized” voice) as Junk and Sean Elias-Reyes as Kulon. Even the use of creative accents is good and, with one glaring exception, matches what was being done in the Japanese vocals pretty well. The loose English script substitutes in a lot of equivalent American slang and phraseology, which is fine, but in a few minor cases it also strays far enough from the subtitles that characters say something in the dub which is unrelated to what the subtitles read. Those incidences are infrequent and never have any significant bearing on the story, however, so it is unlikely to be an issue for anyone who normally watches dubs. Although the dub does use some rough language, there's less actual swearing in it than in the subtitles.
The first volume includes four episodes, while the latter two have three each. Volumes 1 and 2 have TV promos and split the clean opener and closer, while volume 3 has outtakes composed of a mix of bloopers and alternate dialogue/music shots from throughout the ten episodes. Some of these are quite funny, although one of the best will sail over the heads of viewers not familiar with '80s pop music videos. In addition to those and company trailers, four other significant extras are split over the three volumes, with one part of each appearing on each volume. Visiting Kamaguchi City features Rie Tanaka, the gorgeous seiyuu for Yayoi, showing off sites in the actual Kamaguchi City which were used in the anime, while Ryuteikai Encyclopedia is a collection of profiles about each of the Ryuteikai appearing in that volume voiced by the director and creature designer and set against production sketches of the creature in question. These are particularly interesting for looking at how the creatures evolved from their original designs to their on-air form. The Staff and Cast Interviews entries are self-explanatory, while the most unique extra is the V.A. Lessons with Yuji Mitsuya, a seiyuu-turned-ADR director who apparently runs a school for training seiyuu. On each volume Mitsuya offers brief lessons about key aspects of voice acting, such as how to use proper emphasis to convey emotion, how to put your body into your voice acting, how to stand to maximize the vocal quality of your delivery, how to hold your script (and avoid making sounds when turning pages), and so forth. These are fascinating entries which would surely be invaluable to any aspiring voice actor, though I would point out that he's showing the Japanese way of doing things, so not everything he says is applicable to American voice acting.
Despite its high level of violence, StD is not particularly graphic. Aside from a heavy concentration in episode 4, its fan service is limited to a couple of brief shots of undergarments and a little undefined nudity in a late episode, so the title stays solidly in the PG-13 range. If you're looking for a deep or more involved story, you might want to look elsewhere, but if you're looking for a light and fun (and short) action series which isn't too graphic or completely shallow then Sadamitsu the Destroyer should fit your bill. If you do get it, I strongly recommend the recently-released Complete Collection, which houses all three volumes in a single oversize case for the same price as a single volume.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Lots and lots of action, excellent set of extras
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