Reviewby Allen Divers, Oct 20th 2002
Vandread Second Stage
DVD 1: Survival
After a hard period of adjustment, the crew of the Nirvana has settled into a routine with men and women living in relative peace. While only a few months away from their home, things are turned upside down with the discovery of a drifting escape pod. From this pod comes the truth behind the harvest, and the Nirvana's fight for survival takes on a whole new meaning. Now the Nirvana and its crew must face new challenges in their quest to return home as well as find new reasons to protect all of humankind.
Vandread: The Second Stage opens up with a bang in Survival, the latest volume from Pioneer. Picking up right from the end of volume 4, Survival moves straight into the back-story built during the first season. Unlike a standard 26-episode, 8-disc release, Pioneer is including the first 4 episodes of the Second Stage. Each episode marks the overall change in tone of the series with dramatic confrontations for each of the major players in the series. While its all business now for Vandread, the series creators still make time for Vandread's own unique brand of humor.
Survival, volume 1 in the Second Stage or volume 5 for the whole series, comes packed with the standard extras for the series. There's the chromium cover as well as the limited edition trading cards in early versions of the series. One other optional extra is the box for the entire series. Available for a few dollars more than the standard release, the box can hold all 8 volumes of Vandread. The rest of the extras include the textless openings for each episode, a Japanese promo clip and the standard slew of Pioneer previews. Much like the previous series, the Second Stage openings contain scenes from the current episode, so the inclusion of the textless versions of each is a nice extra. Although widescreen in format, the DVD is not anamorphic.
The artwork and animation for Vandread: The Second Stage doesn't seem to suffer the same fate as the previous series. The Second Stage starts off with strong animation and CGI work that remains consistent through the 4 episodes on the disc. From the first series to this series, the CGI animation actually shows improvement as Gonzo has settled into the creation of CGI for a television series. CGI has shown itself to be a staple of all of Gonzo's work and their experience is working well towards blending traditional animation with CGI seamlessly. The break between the two remains obvious, but both styles work well together in the setting of Vandread. Despite the dark overtone of the plot, colors and designs remain bright and fanciful, giving Vandread the flexibility to play dark, while throwing in the occasional one-liner.
With a darker and slightly more menacing tone than the first series, the soundtrack has more work to do to help set the tone. For the second series, both original casts are back, reprising their respective roles in the Japanese and English track. Bang Zoom! Entertainment continues its good work with the English dub, while maintaining the pattern it set for scripting. Again, script deviations from the Japanese script are minor, done mostly for timing. With only a few new characters showing up, there are no major changes to flow and overall sound of the casts. Both casts work well with the material given, and help to push the story. Music and sound effects are well mixed in with the dialogue making sure not one piece of the sound puzzle overpowers the rest.
Despite the large amounts of humor running rampant in the series, Vandread has always maintained a very dramatic sub-plot. Now as the crew of the Nirvana finds themselves on the last leg of their journey home, the drama takes a step up as the truth behind the harvest is finally revealed. While the first season was a period of adjustment for the main characters, the Second Stage represents a time of growth. While it would be easy for the creators to simply follow a set pattern of; encounter new enemy, get beat, find new way to defeat enemy, they instead decide to change the very nature of the main characters. True drama comes from throwing characters into a bad situation, and seeing how they change or adapt to that situation instead of simply overcoming the situation.
To survive the inevitable conclusion, changes are in the works for many of the crew. The Second Stage opens with major foreshadowing when Hibiki, Dita, Meia and Jura share a dream of their destruction at the hands of the enemy. This scene marks the growth of the sub-plot as Vandread moves away from recurring storyline of the first series. Its now time to face the true antagonists of the story which means major changes for the main characters. Not to simply rely on changes in the main cast to overcome the antagonists, the creators bring out changes in the supporting cast. Bart, more a part of the supporting cast, finally grows up when he encounters something beyond his previous experiences. The change he undergoes not only affects him, but the Nirvana as well. The creators do a great job of utilizing Vandread's large cast to help build the dramatic storyline. This utilization helps keep things from falling into the predictable pattern of most long series and helps avoid the need for stunt shows, like hot spring visits, to pad out the episode count. The comedy, a staple of the first season, remains present, but drama is now number one as the storyline marches on towards its conclusion. With many surprises already appearing in the first four episodes, expect more to come as the conclusion approaches.
Vandread: The Second Stage managed to avoid the predicament of most sequels, by simply continuing the previous storyline with no gap from the last series. Jumping right into the thick of things, the Second Stage ups the ante on the drama already present in the series. The stunning visuals and CGI work help accent the strong storyline of the series while the soundtrack helps complete the picture. Survival, with its 4 episodes, leads the viewer right into this second series, preparing them for the changes to come. Vandread remains a show to watch with strong character growth, intense drama, stunning visuals and a dash of comedy to keep things from turning dark.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A
Music : A
+ Excellent mix to produce a strong series
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