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Manga presents
Virus #1 (1997)

"An unbelievable thing is happening."
- Mirei (Haruna Ikezawa)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: December 09, 2002

Stars: Shin'ichiru Miki, Mayumi Iizuka, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Keiichi Namba, Haruna Ikezawa, Ai Orikasa, Hirotaka Suzuoki, Joey Rapporte, Vibe Jones, Frankie Rome, Michael Schwartz, Angora Deb, Jessica Calvello, Bill Fowler
Director: Masami Obari

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, brief nudity, language)
Run Time: 01h:36m:21s
Release Date: November 26, 2002
UPC: 660200412326
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- B-B-B C

DVD Review

Manga delivers the first of three discs in the 12-part Virus Buster Serge series, marketed here as simply Virus. Originally released in 1997, Virus was created by Masami Obari who both directed and created character design, and is known for his work on the Fatal Fury movie,Battle Arena Toshinden, Gowcaizer and directorial efforts on the original Bubblegum Crisis OVAs.

It is the year 2097 in Neo Hong Kong. It is a world where man and machine can now become one, but high above the Earth a force known as Incubator has developed a new virus that can infiltrate the new hybrid life forms, and is nearly impossible to detect. To combat this threat, S.T.A.N.D. was created, led by Raven, whose formidable strategic skills rival only his political prowess. His elite team of highly trained warriors does the dirty work in tracking down and dealing with the new plague of renegade monsters created by the virus, doing battle in their cybernetically-enhanced body armor known as Variable Gear.

Enter Serge Train, who has been having disturbing dreams lately in which one thing is clear: He must kill Raven, and plans to do so by infiltrating the unveiling ceremony of the military's new Armored Gear. However, when he confronts the enigmatic S.T.A.N.D. leader, Raven recognizes him, in a welcoming sort of way. Soon, Serge becomes a part of the team, though the circumstances of his arrival, such as his adaptation to the Variable Gear and his tremendous ability in the suit, have everyone confused. Only Raven and the ethereal Donna seem to know about Serge's past, and what part he has to play in the unfolding fight against a new and more deadly threat.

The premise of Virus shares more than passing similarity to a number of other shows (such as Bubblegum Crisis), and so far does a slightly above average job of it. It follows the basic renegade-mecha-of-the week formula, while filling in pieces of the backstory along the way. The style is on the over-the-top side, trying to be dramatic. There is plenty of action, and the show does manage some intrigue along the way. Obari's character designs are a love or hate affair, and fans of chiselled, musclebound beau hunks and wide-eyed anime girls should be pleased. The characters' personalities are typical in their diversity, from the nerdy computer girl Mirei to the mysterious and imposing team leader, Raven. The storytelling follows the traditional suspense exposition, providing fragments of information along the way. The Japanese voice acting is good, if a little overly dramatic, but I can't say the same about the dub track, which feels flat and lifeless. I'm less than enthralled by this one, but it held my interest through the four episodes here, and for those that enjoy the look of the show, it has its merits.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The transfer here is pretty good overall, but the presentation is limited by the quality of the source material. The look is grainy which, while rendered well, gives the impression the show is older than it really is. The image is soft, and colors are somewhat muted, but black levels are okay. The source is below standards for anime on DVD these days, but in line with other Manga releases.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is available in original Japanese stereo, plus English stereo and 5.1 surround. The Japanese track is a straight forward, center-focused mix with little directionality, but still sounds decent. The stereo English track is similar in nature, while the surround mix sounds more spacious, but also has a low-mid hollowness to it. Other than that, no serious technical issues were noted. These are pretty average soundtracks.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 8 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, End of Evangelion, Ghost Sweeper Mikami
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Character and mecha design galleries
  2. Character bios
  3. Manga promo
Extras Review: The first Virus disc holds a few useful extras. The character design boards feature 23 images of the cast and their Variable Gear armor. The principle players have full body and isolated head design pages, which combine a full cover image with design sketches. Lesser cast members get a single page each. Mecha armor is also included in split color/line drawings.

A mecha section profiles 12 machines, with scale references.

A character profile section gives background on S.T.A.N.D. members Serge, Erika, Jouchirou, Macus, Mirei and Raven.

Virus previews include an ad for the series on DVD, plus episode previews for the upcoming episodes on disc two. Available in English only. Spoilers abound here.

A Manga promo section carries their standard features, including DVD catalogue, merchandising info and website listing. An updated preview reel contains advertisements for Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, End of Evangelion, and Ghost Sweeper Mikami.

The subtitles on the disc are about as close to dubtitles as is possible with being clones, though they follow the timing of the Japanese audio track.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Virus takes a fairly common monster-of-the-week theme and combines it with a slowly emerging background story that, while offering potential, has yet to really grab this reviewer. The presentation isn't going to help sell the show, especially to those used to clean and flashy animation, as this looks pretty dated. Much of the enjoyment of this series will greatly depend on how much you like Obari's exaggerated character designs, which I'll admit I'm not that fond of. There is an abundance of action, attempts at dramatic moments, and plenty of intrigue. Whether this all leads anywhere is yet to be seen.


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