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Pioneer Entertainment presents
Vandread #1: Enemy Engaged! (2000)

"I can't die in a place like this!"
- Hibiki Tokai (Yoshino Hiroyuki)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: January 28, 2002

Stars: Yoshino Hiroyuki, Kakazu Yumi, Orikasa Fumiko, Asakawa Yuu
Other Stars: Neya Michiko, Sawami Youko, Asano Mayumi, Toyoguchi Megumi, Ishige Sawa, Kyouda Naoko, Oohara Sayaka, Tasaka Hideki, Seki Tomokazu, Iwata Mitsuo
Director: Takeshi Mori

Manufacturer: CADDS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (13+)
Run Time: 01h:32m:44s
Release Date: January 22, 2002
UPC: 013023165199
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B+A- C+

DVD Review

Everyone knows men are from Mars, and women are from Venus. In Vandread, men are from Tarak and women are from Mejale, and the two are mortal enemies engaged, literally, in a war of the sexes. For three generations, the males of Tarak have built their civilization, based on a hierarchy headed by military leaders who reign over the civilian grunts who do all the work. The Tarak leaders, who have been faced with increasing pirate activity in space, are about to launch their latest battleship, the Ikazuchi, to defeat the Mejale once and for all, and end the oppressive reign that women have had over men for generations. The inaugural ceremony is underway, where the planet's first cadets are graduating, all first-class citizens trained as fighter pilots. Hibiki Tokai, on the other hand, is a third class citizen, and an engineer sick of being on the assembly line. He also has a big mouth, one that sets him up for a dare to steal one of the robot fighters from the military storehouse. Unfortunately, those monstrous women, who are known to gullet their male prisoners and eat them, are making their way into the Tarak system, but they arrive early, causing a hasty launching of the Ikazuchi—with Hibiki on board! A battle ensues, but the males just aren't up for it, and the women soon clean house capturing the prized ship, whose commander decides must be abandoned. As the women move in to inspect their conquest, the men launch one final assault, firing their latest weapon on the remains of their flagship, but the results are not quite what was expected.The female crew and the three remaining males (which with Hibiki includes Bart, a slippery food pellet salesman, and Deuro, a long-haired aristocrat who happens to be a doctor) are cast across the galaxy into another solar system. Their ship has taken on a strange crystalline structure that is modifying the layout, fusing the Mejale and Tarak vessels. Changes within the ship aren't limited to its infrastructure, as Hibiki now finds himself wanting to do battle in the last remaining Tarak robot, a Van-type fighter (Vanguard in the dub). The women face a challenge as they are unable to decipher the controls of their captured vessel, and a new menace makes itself known, in the form of a vicious and deadly alien fleet. The women, in their Dread fighters, engage in combat with the aliens, but it isn't until Hibiki joins the foray that the enemy is turned back...for now. Facing a grave and lethal opponent, the two rivals have to form an alliance in order to save both their worlds from this new threat, and each member of the crew has to acclimate to the strange companions and rituals they have in their midst. The journey back home will be a long one, but working together is their only chance for survival.When I first heard of this title, it was being compared to Martian Successor Nadesico, one of my favorite series, so I was eager to check this one out. While there may be some similarities, including the pilot driven robots and especially the size of the cast, so far there isn't that much I find in common. The first episode left me kind of flat, but thankfully I kept going, as the chemistry of the characters is only beginning to be exposed. The breadth of the cast allows for a lot of what you'd expect from an anime ensemble, from superbabes to brainy wallflowers, pretty boys and fighter wannabes. It does get confusing with so many people to deal with, but there are a few standouts already, and by the end of the fourth episode at least the faces were familiar. Don't expect anything ground-breaking in terms of storylines, but for what it does it is highly entertaining.Vandread is another CG anime hybrid created by Gonzo, the same folks who gave us Blue Submarine No. 6 and Gatekeepers, and the thirteen part OVA will be released over four discs for the first stage. If the thought of CG in your anime makes you want to hurl, this isn't your show. The CG is pretty slick, with lots of shiny surfaces, and is pretty much limited to the numerous space battles and mecha showcases. The character designs are by Kazuya Koroda, and the production features a lot of visual effects, many of which reminded me of the look of Lain. There is a lot going on at all times. Aside from the rather interesting male/female premise, there is a wealth of well-trodden concept borrowing going on here, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Once I got past the initial "settle-in" period, I started to get into the show, and would be interested to see how they manage to play this all out. So far I'm liking what I'm seeing, even if some of it does seem a little overly familiar.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: As a new show you'd expect a pretty stunning presentation, and in general, that is what you get. Eye-popping color, solid black levels and even tonal palette. The CG, while well rendered on the surfaces, can be pretty choppy around the edges, lacking a smooth transition into the background. There are some issues that may not be applicable to all viewing situations, but that stand out on a larger progressive display. First of all, the show is presented in widescreen, but without benefit of an anamorphic transfer. Zooming in on the image meant putting up with a fair amount of visible scan lines, and a lot of interlacing effects on fast pans. Also, depending on the overscan on your set, some of the subtitles may be missing or cropped when zoomed, as while these are within the 1.85:1 frame, they are at its extremes. This was particularly noticible in the first episode where subs are on both the top and bottom of the picture simultaneously.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in stereo, and has a full spectral presence and good use of directionality. The only defect noted was some slight distortion on a few spoken parts, other than that everything sounded fine. The dub, by Bang Zoom, modifies the script quite a bit, but otherwise seems pretty good from the samples reviewed.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Scanavo
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Clean opening credits
  2. Design gallery
  3. Foil collector card pack in (limited edition)
Extras Review: We get an assortment of supplemental goodies here, starting with four clean opening credit sequences, one for each episode. Two promo clips, running 3 minutes each, are also included. These are in Japanese with no subtitle options.A 17-image line art gallery featuring most of the crew rounds out the on-disc extras. One feature I do wish had been included here, or in any series with a cast this large, is a reference sheet so getting to know the characters is easier. While their names are spoken in most conversation, absorbing ten or more faces to names isn't easy, especially in the midst of battle.Menus are animated, with my only real complaint being that I would have prefered one of the theme songs as background music over the "boo-tah" beat used in the second promo clip.The disc features a foil cover and includes a pair of foil card pack-ins. I assume these are a limited-run item like most of Pioneer's first pressing goodies, which folks like myself will go to extreme lengths to acquire, so grab 'em while you can.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Plenty of action, a huge cast, and lots of CG space battles open up this new series directed by Takeshi Mori (Gunsmith Cats, Ruin Explorers). A little slow off the start, by the second episode things were picking up, and kept getting better. There certainly is an abundance of eye candy, both through the CG mecha and in our diverse female crew's costuming. With some of the humor being of the ecchi variety, Vandread isn't for young kids, but looks like it could be a fun ride, and it will be interesting to see how they use the male/female relationship as things develop.


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