Reviewby Allen Divers, Feb 13th 2002
DVD 1 - Enemy Engaged
The men of planet Tarak have lived in fear of the most terrifying evil, women. Now the men launch a new ship to lead the war against that evil. Of course, it is immediately attacked by a group of pirate women. Three men find themselves as prisoners when they and the women are hurled to the other side of the galaxy.
Now the prisoners must join forces with the women to survive against a new threat, a threat that has turned its sights on the home worlds of men and women. Can this mixed up crew actually work together to survive, or will they end up killing each other before the enemy has the chance?!
Vandread: Enemy Engaged! is the first volume in the latest Gonzo production brought over by Pioneer. This volume contains the first 4 TV episodes, each in a bilingual format (separate English and Japanese language tracks) and presented in the original widescreen format. Rated 13 and up for mature themes and violence, this action series presents a new twist on the classic lost in space theme.
With the production of Vandread, Gonzo shows a bit of maturity when mixing traditional animation with newer CGI techniques. Character design and mecha design are fairly original, and with the size of the cast there aren't that much in terms of character similarities, especially amongst the main cast. The art and animation for episode 1 approach OVA and movie production values. Unfortunately, the art and animation take a nosedive in episode 2. Gonzo is developing a reputation for going all out with an opening episode for a series, then skimping on the budget for the next few episodes. The animation is inconsistent from scene to scene with characters looking anorexic in one scene then like chubby chipmunks in the next. The effect is really noticeable when flashbacks to events from episode 1 take place. Luckily the regular animation team seems to be back for episodes 3 and 4, so no more chubby chipmunks.
Both soundtracks for Vandread share the same incidental music and sound effects with a comfortable mix to not overpower the dialogue. Casting for the English dub is from the usual suspects of the Bang Zoom! Entertainment line up. Most of the voices are well cast, with a notable exception for Magno Vivan. Actually, its not so much that this voice is miscast, more the fact that the performance fluctuates for the first 2 episodes before settling on her “old” voice.
The English dialogue follows closely to the Japanese version, modifying phrasing mostly to match the lip flaps. No major changes to the script occur. The DVD does contain hard subs for sign translation. It would have been nice if these had been placed in a separate subtitle track that could have translated the opening and closing songs as well.
For each episode, Gonzo has an opening that shows a few scenes from that particular episode. It was nice to see these left intact, instead of each episode sharing a single opening. Pioneer also includes all 4 creditless openings in the extras menu. Also in the extras menu are 2 promo clips and a collection of clip art.
The back-story behind Vandread is nothing new, having played out in quite a few other series and movies. Two mismatched crews find themselves hurled across the galaxy. To survive and return home the crews must work together. From here, Vandread throws in a bit of originality: the crews come from a galaxy where men and women have been separated for over a hundred years and each have no idea how to deal with the other. Vandread also sports a large cast, creating quite a bit of comic and dramatic potential.
Episode 1 spends its time setting up the background of the conflict between men and women. The viewer is also introduced to the major players of the series with enough basic information to understand their personalities. The remaining episodes establish the overall back-story creating a very believable scenario for having the 2 crews working together. Space battles, sexual tension, comic relief and a bit of romance combine well as the story plays out.
Vandread: Enemy Engaged! sets a high standard for the remaining story. Ignoring the second episode, art and animation are well executed, creating a vivid world for the characters to play in. The voice cast does a great job of breathing life into the crew of diverse characters. The story is a bit clichéd, but the mixture of setting and characters should keep this show from simply following what has come before. Vandread gets a spectacular kick off with these first few episodes.
Overall (dub) : A
Overall (sub) : A
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : A
+ A new twist on a familiar plot
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