Reviewby Mike Crandol,
DVD 1: Earth Under Attack
Living in Tokyo in the near future is not all it's cracked up to be. Strange creatures known collectively as "the Lucifer Hawk" have a habit of ripping open portals from their own world to ours, and humans happen to be their favorite snack. Standing against the demonic menace is an elite, all-female squadron of mystics and warriors, the Attacked Mystification Police. AMP chief Rally Cheyenne has found the key to winning the war against the Lucifer Hawk, a young woman named Katsumi Liqueur. Possessing incredible psychic powers, Katsumi joins the AMP in their ongoing battle, and along the way finds out her destiny is more closely entwined with the Lucifer Hawk than she ever imagined.
Parts of Kia Asamiya's cult manga hit Silent Möbius had previously been animated as two short theatrical movies, but this 26-episode TV series affords the chance to tell the entire story of Katsumi Liqueur the way it was meant to be told. A futuristic tale of an all-girl superhero team battling monsters in an urban setting, the series premiered on Japanese television the same year as Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040, and the two shows must have looked like Pokémon and Digimon competing for airwaves. Though Mobius's premise is more enticing, its excessive cast and unremarkable artwork lose out to Bubblegum's polished look and smaller, more intimate cast of characters.
The story of Silent Möbius is an ingenious mix of magic and technology that recalls the best efforts of the American comic book industry. Seamlessly weaving both Eastern and Western mythology, Mobius is likely the only anime in which a traditional Shinto priestess fights evil alongside an American sorceress who invokes archangels in battle. It all takes place in a high-tech future Tokyo populated by cyborgs and androids, and the multi-layered metropolis represents an impressive bit of world-building. The new city having been built on the remnants of the old, Tokyo's well-to-do enjoy a bright, clean world (forgetting for a moment the occasional Lucifer Hawk attack), while the less fortunate live in squalor in the ruins beneath the city. Though the old city is lawless it's citizens are free to live their own lives, while the "better off" denizens of the new city are subject to a strict totalitarian government. Like Akira, Blade Runner, and Metropolis, the world of Silent Möbius is a character unto itself, and the supernatural spin makes it stand out from its peers.
Our heroes, the improbably named Attacked Mystification Police, consist of no less than seven lovely lethal ladies. Chief Rally Cheyenne and her right-hand woman Mana head up a team that includes the cyborg Kiddy, Shinto Priestess Nami, the psychic Yuki, "Visionaire" Lebia, and of course the super archmage Katsumi Liqueur. The girls' variety of powers make for an interesting team, but sharing the stage with a host of secondary characters and a complex plot means there is little time to explore their personalities. Katsumi and Kiddy, the two members of AMP at the forefront of the story, are fairly well-developed...but cute, bubbly Yuki is so far just an anime stereotype, and by the end of the nine episodes on this DVD we know next-to-nothing about the rest of the cast. And unlike Bubblegum Crisis, Silent Möbius fails to provide any interesting secondary male characters for the guys in the audience to identify with, making it seem at times like a more sophisticated Sailor Moon. Further releases may flesh out the cast some more, but failing to hook the viewer after nine episodes might make it a moot point.
Kia Asamiya's original manga on which this series is based is one of the most visually dynamic and appealing works of comic art in the last twenty years. The television series retains the manga's distinctive character designs, but the watered-down art direction and limited animation do not do the source material justice. The AMP engages in some tense, grueling battles with the Lucifer Hawk, but these sequences are distinguished by stilted camera angles, stock animation "spells", and less-than-imposing Hawk designs which look like mutant crayfish next to the wicked Hawks from the manga and movies. Only in the opening theme does Silent Möbius's artwork truly shine. A rousing theme song accompanies incredible stylized animation that shows the girls in battle from all sorts of skewed perspectives, and each punch, kick, gunfire and spellfire is done in beat to the music. I love this opening! The closing theme is also nicely done, featuring an Asamiya painting of the cast and a pretty musical ballad sung in English. Now if only the parts in-between were a little better...
Vocally we have here another set of performances that are all well done but aren't going to win any Oscars. There is really nothing to recommend the Japanese cast over the American or vice versa....both are Solid Works; neither feature a standout performance. Katsumi sounds a little more mature in English, but both interpretations suit the character just fine. The native vocals may be easier to swallow if only because names like "Roy Device” sound less ridiculous in Japanese.
Following the successful marketing pattern of Outlaw Star, Bandai is releasing Silent Möbius on three two-disc sets. Nine episodes on one release is a pretty good bargain, but the $44.95 SRP means you're really not paying much less than you would for two separate volumes. However, Bandai has packed a couple goodies into the case to make it worth your while. Buyers get a nifty fold-out poster of the AMP and their friends and enemies. Viz Comics has provided a 15-page mini-manga of Asamiya's Silent Möbius comic, deviously clueing in the viewer to how much better the manga original is compared to the TV show. As far as the discs themselves are concerned this reviewer was very pleased with the way they were set up. Though based around a complex pentagram design the menus are remarkably easy to navigate. Where many anime DVDs give you a confusing list of audio choices like "English with English Subtitles" "Japanese with English Subtitles" or "Japanese with Song Subtitles but English with Japanese Subtitles Except Where Previously Noted", Silent Möbius is clear and precise. Four corners of a pentagram give you four options, "English", "Japanese", "Subtitles", or "None"; click the combination you want and enjoy the show.
Silent Möbius is definitely a cut above your average anime fodder, but it's hard to recommend this series when it's infinitely superior manga is available here in the West (courtesy of Viz). The unique premise and engaging setting unfortunately become too bogged down in a multitude of characters and artwork that is just not up to snuff. Still, it's not a bad deal for the money, and if you haven't bought Bubblegum Crisis yet Silent Möbius might make a pleasing alternative on your video shelf.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : B+
+ Great blend of sci-fi and fantasy in a convincingly realized future world
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