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Pioneer presents
Armitage III OVA (1997)

"If humanity did not want us, why did they make us?"
- Armitage (Hiroako Kasahara)

Review By: Dan Lopez  
Published: November 13, 2002

Stars: Ryusei Nakano, Yusunari Masutani, Hiroako Kasahara
Other Stars: Yasuo Hasegawa, Hiroaki Inoue, Kazuaki Morijiri
Director: Hiroyuki Ochi

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, some gore, nudity)
Run Time: 02h:12m:27s
Release Date: November 05, 2002
UPC: 013023148598
Genre: anime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AA-B C

DVD Review

A few years back, when I found myself getting back into anime in general (after becoming somewhat disenchanted with the direction American localizations were taking), I discovered Armitage III, a wonderfully entertaining movie that latched onto a stylish, cyber-punk aesthetic and told a really interesting story. It became something of an instant classic, with its hot-pants-clad heroine instantly taking on the role of icon for the anime movement in general, at least in the U.S. Call me crazy, but I thought the flick was a thousand times better than the madly over-hyped Ghost in the Shell (though I will concede that part of my misunderstanding of that film was due to the theater's sound system cutting out every 10 minutes or so), but had the same William Gibson-esque feel. Fast forwarding to the present, I have come to learn that this feature I had grown to love (despite the horrible dub) was actually based on an original four-part series and that the feature film was actually a compressed edit of this series.

Well, for those of you who liked Armitage III as much as I did, get ready to dive into the ultimate, and FAR superior version on this DVD, which contains the original four-part series before being edited together and having thirty-five or so minutes cut from its running time. The more detailed story and better fleshed-out characters provide the full experience, because here is where the real show comes into its own. Armitage III, despite the title, is not the third part of anything or any kind of sequel, but is a clever, heavily styled, futuristic epic that takes place on the planet Mars, long after it's been colonized and inhabited for centuries. The story follows Ross Sylibus, a policeman who decides to get himself transferred to Mars for reasons that are not entirely clear. Mars isn't exactly the nicest place anymore, especially with a political controversy brewing over whether or not to outlaw robots completely from the planet.

As soon as he arrives, Sylibus is instantly embroiled in controversy when his new partner, Naomi Armitage, tries to capture a mysterious man who is apparently responsible for murdering a famous country-western singer. The trick is, the singer turns out to be a robot; an advanced robot of illegal design (known as a 'Third,' or third generation android). The mystery man escapes and Ross Sylibus discovers that a series of killings on Mars seem directed at Thirds who have been living as if they were normal people. Since 'Thirds' are indistinguishable from humans, no one would know anyway. Since androids are so unpopular, few people care about the brutal assassinations, but Ross wants to solve the crimes. Armitage, his new partner, is especially emotional about it, but creates a hard time for herself with her confrontational attitude and wild dress style (often wearing little more than lingerie). The case takes on disturbing implications when Ross discovers that a whole legion of Thirds are living on Mars and that a list of all their names is seemingly what is so important to the enigmatic killer (or killers) of the androids. What is suspected from the beginning is confirmed: Armitage herself is a third generation robot, and this is why she fights so passionately against the assassins.

What we have here is a dark story that takes a few twists and turns, but also provides ample room for some good action sequences, smart sci-fi ideas, and a bit of philosophy. Artistically, high marks should be awarded for Armitage III's strange styling, which is a mixture of sources. Sometimes retro, sometimes outwardly futuristic, and other times a strange blend of both. It's very Matrix-like before The Matrix existed. It works well, though, and never comes off as pretentious or over the top. The plot is more complex than one might expect, and this alone elevates the series quite a bit. Rather than a flimsy excuse for lots of unrelated action and such, the detailed and creepy motivations behind the whole third generation aspect add depth to the story that, normally, might not be there at all. In the end, I felt much more satisfied and richly entertained than I did with the cut-down feature film, which is ironic since I used to like it so much. This fuller cut completely opens your eyes to another level of the storytelling.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: At first, Armitage fans might worry a little about the full-frame aspect ratio since the Armitage film was slightly widescreened. As I understand it, the film version was cropped a bit for the widescreen effect, but the series is indeed 1:33:1. Pioneer provides an impressive, near-perfect transfer with very little grain or artifacts. The richly detailed and moody artwork is well cared for, with a very accurate black level allowing the bleak scenes to use the right amount of shadow and light.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Japaneseyes


Audio Transfer Review: The stereo soundtrack is fairly busy with left/right imaging and effects, especially in terms of the unusual musical score frequently used to add tension and deliberate effect to many scenes. There's a lot of energy here for just being stereo, and it eventually gets more and more impressive, considering. It should be noted that the English dub is NOT the same as the motion picture dub, which featured some celebrity voices such as Keifer Sutherland.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Dual-Matrix, Poly-Matrix
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Conceptual Art Gallery
  2. Laserdisc cover art.
Extras Review: Extras include a gallery of conceptual drawings and some of the covers of the original laserdisc editions. There is also a small gallery of background paintings, although it's unfortunate they can't been zoomed-in on. There are trailers for the additional Armitage features, Poly-Matrix and Dual-Matrix. Overall presentation is very nice, with some stylish menus and such; my only complaint is the slightly goofy-looking cover art which, although an original cover from Japanese editions, just never sat well with me.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

Fans of Blade Runner and, more recently, A.I.: Artifical Intelligence, should enjoy this slick, cyberpunk masterpiece. It's not entirely original, but it tells a very solid story in a beautiful and taut way. I highly recommend it over the compressed "motion picture" version; think of it as an extended cut.

 


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