Reviewby Theron Martin, Mar 14th 2007
DVD 3 - A Time For War
Lt. Commander Kadomatsu and Lt. Kusaka strike a deal with Lt. Tsuda, Kusaka's former subordinate, agreeing to allow him a tour of the Mirai in exchange for not interfering with the resupply. After Lt. Commander Oguri makes a social call on the crew of the tanker, all of the Mirai's officers, along with the Imperial Navy representatives, gather to decide their next move. Given that they have apparently already started to alter history, a decision is made to stick to the JSDF credo: protect lives wherever possible. To that end the Mirai heads off to the Solomon Islands, where Kusaka seeks to speak to Admiral Yamamoto and the Mirai endeavors to prevent the horrific bloodshed that is the Battle of Guadalcanal. But though he seems to be fully cooperative, some still fear that Kusaka has his own agenda.
THIS is how you make a quality military drama.
For two volumes now the crew and officers of the Mirai have been wrestling with the thorny issue of how involved they should get in the events of the time, given their enormous potential (in both historical knowledge and military power) to alter the course of history but dearth of experience in true warfare. Now, finally, a decision has been made, and it's one which stays in line with their mission as members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force: protect lives. It isn't the only decision they could have been made, and as one character points out the consequences of their actions could echo for centuries to come, but it is an entirely sensible one given their training, consciences, and upbringing. That so much thought has gone into their plan, and how they intend to carry is out, is what makes this block of episodes so compelling. Events don't unfold quickly, but this is still edge-of-your-seat kind of thrills. And the dramatic final scene of episode 12 virtually guarantees that you'll be coming back for volume 4.
In fact, the thoughtfulness of the Mirai's new mission also pervades the entire series. It allows a very honest look at the situation, not only from the perspective of the Mirai, but from the view of Admiral Yamamoto, his officers, and Major General Vandergrift, the commander of the U.S. Marines expedition landing on Guadalcanal. This isn't a series about who's right and who's wrong, or who's the enemy and who's the ally, but about practicalities. If you want sensationalism or high-spirited action, look elsewhere. The writing also doesn't miss an opportunity to put characters in uncomfortable situations about how much they can or cannot reveal about the future, such as one scene where Oguri tells undercover Japanese soldiers about how Japan ultimately becomes a great prosperous nation while dodging the issue of Japan's total defeat at the hands of the Allies, or the Japanese officer who mentions that his family lives in Hiroshima. (But you had to see that one coming at some point.) Also telling are comments made by Kusaka and Tsuda about how “Westernized” modern Japanese are compared to their 1940s-era compatriots; a not-so-subtle jab at changing Japanese cultural identity, perhaps?
A hallmark of the series so far has been its displays of military tech, and episodes 9-12 offer an ample amount without overtly showcasing it. 1940s-era Japanese patrol planes, cruisers, and the legendary battleship Yamato all get to strut their stuff, while the Mirai gets to show off its rotating-wing VTOL plane, Harpoon missiles, laser targeting capabilities, night vision scopes, and advances radar and communication equipment. As always, all of the equipment, down even to the rifles and hand guns, is beautifully rendered and well-animated. Painstaking effort has also been devoted to accurately reproducing both modern and period uniforms, and even character designs and scenery look good despite a predilection for mild caricatures.
The soundtrack also continues to do an excellent job of supporting the drama, especially in peak moments, with an opener and closer that remain unchanged. The same, unfortunately, can be said about the English dub, which continues to be the series' most glaring weakness. It isn't a Fantastic Children level of awful, but it isn't good, either, with much too much emphasis placed on inventive accents over smooth delivery. The script stays acceptably accurate, but the effectiveness of the casting varies dramatically, from good (Kadomatsu and Kusaka) to ridiculously bad (Admiral Yamamoto). The only place where the English dub shines even a little bit is in more convincingly making Vandergrift and a couple of his officers sound more American, but that isn't anywhere near enough to balance out deficiencies elsewhere.
As with previous volumes, Geneon's idea of providing Extras is to offer English translations of the opening and closing credits. Shameful, given the potential for informative extras that could have been included here.
If you have at least tolerated the series to this point, volume 3 will win you over completely. It is everything that one could ask for (except for a decent dub) in a thoughtful time-travel story about a modern ship transported back to the days of WWII.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Great storytelling, superb detail on military equipment.
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