Reviewby Allen Divers, Jan 20th 2004
The Big O
DVD 1: Paradigm Lost
It's time to return to Paradigm City! Roger Smith, Dorothy and Big O face off against three foreign invaders, set on destroying Paradigm City. When the fight turns against Roger, he finds himself lost in his own city, searching for his identity. From there, Roger and Dorothy must aid a dead man, as forces move to assasinate him. New enemies appear and old memories begin to surface. The true nature of Paradigm City is set to explode in the second series of Big O!
Thumbing its nose at conventional wisdom, Big O II bursts onto the scene proving that all good series deserve a second chance. Backed by the big guns of Cartoon Network, the second thirteen episode season grabs the torch passed by the first and runs with it, answering many of the mysteries behind Paradigm City and the world of Roger Smith. While many may argue that this second set of thirteen episodes is fueled primarily by profit, the storylines remain dramatic while at the same time retaining those moments of humor that made Big O one of the more unique offerings to come out of Japan this past decade. With all the shine of a true commercial product, Big O II takes the stage with a more dynamic animated look and plenty of big robot action to keep everyone happy.
After a spectacular television run (despite an unfortunate poor time slot), Big O II sneaks its way onto home video with little in the way of extras. The first DVD in the second series is a barebones release of the first four episodes, a handful of black and white image galleries and a few previews of other Bandai releases. With all the hype surrounding the creation of this second series, it's really surprising that there's no limited edition version with a box to hold all the volumes, or maybe even a plushy version of Big O. While the extras are quite thin, the show itself is well worth the admission.
The first thirteen episodes of Big O seemed to meld the stereotypical world of Japanese animation with more traditional North American concepts. Often described as Gundam meets Batman, the world of Big O comes across as having been heavily inspired by one of North America's classic creations. Staying in line with formula established in the first season, the animation and artwork of Big O II continue that gothic tradition but with an obvious higher budget. The animation is near OVA quality, a definite improvement from the flatter appearance of the first series. While it was not a surprise to see the first episode richly detailed in color and tone, it was a surprise foe the series to have maintained that level of quality through the rest of the episodes on the first volume. For the mecha fans, the new villains for Big O to battle are even more sophisticated than those in the first series. Big O also gets a new array of weapons to continue the good fight. Overall, the show is cooking with gas; the look and feel of the show is a bit darker, and the stakes are raised.
The soundtrack for Big O II remains relatively unchanged from the first series. Accompanying the same opening credits from the first series is the original Big O theme. While the younger crowd may laugh at the thundering announcement of Big O, older fans will remember the classic soundtrack for Flash Gordon performed by Queen. It's a very simple anthem for such a complicated show, but helps cue in the fact that Big O is larger than life. Many of the original actors make a return to their roles in both the Japanese and English soundtracks. While a few of the secondary characters have new actors, the primary roles remain voiced by their original seiyuu. For the English soundtrack, Lia Sargent, voice of Dorothy, takes on the roles of writing and directing. With her involvement in the original dub, Lia helps keep the second series in line with the first.
When the original series came to an end, Roger Smith, Dorothy and Big O were facing off against three invading robots. Cartoon Network a bit dissatisfied with only thirteen episodes, decided to pony up the cash for the next season. Fans groaned that CN's involvement would lead to a compromised version of a strong Japanese serial that dared to delve into some deep issues. With edits having been made to the original series, fans feared that CN would produce a castrated, ready-for-American-TV series. Luckily for the fans, the tone and imagery of the original show remains intact. There are still moments of levity that provided much of the charm and appeal of the first series, but momentum is definitely building towards a conclusion. While the action sequences focus on no-nonsense mecha combat, Big O II remains rooted in its characters as they continue to grow and change throughout the first four episodes.
Big O II comes out fighting, proving that it's more than a simple grab for more money. Its strong animation and artwork, complex mecha designs and unique characters complement the slowly unraveling mystery at the core of the show. While this DVD release comes across as fairly standard, Big O II is a diamond in the rough. Mecha fans will rejoice at the big robot action, mystery fans will enjoy the storyline and adventure fans will enjoy the beautiful scenery as it all unfolds. While the episodes have already played out on TV, Big O II on DVD is a definite must have as the quality of what it offers can only really be seen in that format.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ Over the top action, adventure and mystery
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