Reviewby Theron Martin, May 13th 2007
DVD 4 - Attack on G Island
Despite the pinpoint accuracy of its missile strike, the Mirai's attempt to encourage the U.S. Marines to leave Gaudalcanal fails. A new problem looms when, contrary to history, the battleship Yamato and its accompanying fleet arrive at Guadalcanal to shell the U.S. Marines into oblivion. While the Mirai struggles to prevent massive loss of life by interfering with the shelling, Lieutenant Yusaka explains to Lt. Commander Kadomatsu the method behind his history-altering actions and his grand vision: Japan withdrawing from the war on its own terms and growing into a powerful and respected nation he dubs Zipang, one which combines the best of the Japan of both eras. Yusaka's seeming betrayal is not the only difficulty Kadomatsu faces, however; there are Japanese combat engineers scattered across the island that must be rescued, and the island soon is crawling with U.S. Marines. All it takes is one fateful encounter to lead to bloodshed.
Zipang has always been a military otaku's wet dream, and this volume is no different. Before episode 14 has finished we've gotten to see a laser-targeted Tomahawk missile in action, the big 18.1-inch guns (the largest ever put on a naval vessel) of the legendary battleship Yamato fire, and for a true highlight, Sea Sparrow air-to-air missiles intercept 18.1-inch shells in mid-flight. Damn cool stuff, even without the tense military mind games surrounding the incidents. As a further bonus, we finally get to hear Lt. Yusaka's incredible plan for the future, which includes an explanation for the name of the series. No one could ever accuse him of thinking small.
For all its flashy elements, however, the series remains as committed as ever to its serious, thought-provoking look at warfare and what the Mirai and its crew can or should be doing under the circumstances. Not once does it ever lose that focus. As phenomenally bold as Lt. Kusaka's plan is, anyone who has followed the series so far will understand exactly how he came to those conclusions, and that he is not undertaking his endeavor lightly. Commanders like Captain Umezu on the Mirai and Admiral Yamamoto on the Yamato make intelligent, reasoned decisions, as does (arguably) Colonel Vandergrift of the U.S. Marines, and the struggles of Lt. Tsuda to cope with the seemingly impossible situation he has been put in, and how he ultimately deals with it, add a further human dimension. For his part, Lt. Commander Kadomatsu serves as the story's passionate heart, which can be seen clearly in his talks with Kusaka about his plan and the way he acts after returning to the Mirai.
And as the series has consistently done so far, it carefully avoids casting villains or doing anything to aggrandize warfare. The deadly fight that arises when a squad of U.S. Marines happens across Kadomatsu's patrol follows through with no musical support, allowing the sheer violence and life-or-death struggle of the situation to speak for itself. Those who have watched war movies have probably seen scenes like this before, but even foreknowledge of how it will turn out does not detract from the incredible intensity the sequence generates. This is prime edge-of-your-seat stuff, and the episode that follows does not shy from addressing the psychological consequences of the fight, either.
The artwork remains what it always has been: beautiful, painstakingly detailed depictions of military hardware and period uniforms, nice CG effects, and clearly-defined faces that stray towards caricature but never go that far. Backgrounds and character designs consistently look good, artistic integration is better than most, and the animation remains top-tier. The soundtrack also always does its job well, but as noted before, it is actually at its most effective when not heard. The opener and closer remain unchanged.
The greatest weakness of the series, unfortunately, continues to be its English dub. Some roles – Kadomatsu, Kusaka, Vandergift, and a few others – sound just fine, but the bad performances drag down the good ones. Too many characters have goofy accents (whose smart idea was it to make Japanese bridge officers sounds British?), and could they have done a worse job casting Admiral Yamamoto with a male performer? The family of Lieutenant Commander Okamura, the real-life officer who commanded the construction unit on Guadalcanal, should sue for defamation of character over his dub performance, and at one point in episode 14 a misspoken line, which should never had made it into the final product, can be heard. Given all of this, it shouldn't be surprising that this volume completely lacks English dub credits. The English script toys with the wording quite a lot, although the original's essential meaning always remains intact.
As with previous release, so-called Extras are minimal, this time limited only to English translations of the opening and closing credits and company trailers.
The final scenes of episode 16 suggest that not all of the potential key players have become directly involved yet, but that just gives one more reason to anticipate the next volume. All-in-all, this is a well-executed and sometimes intense continuation of a great and thoughtful military drama. It is everything a military maven could ask for.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Technical detail, compelling storytelling.
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