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Manga presents
Hyper-Combat Unit Dangaioh (1987)

"This baby could really ruin somebody's whole day."
- Pai (Alice Barryt)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: January 27, 2003

Stars: Anne Marie Zola, Alice Barryt, Howard Glen, Julia Brahms
Other Stars: David Collins, Robert Glennister, Jocelyn Cunningham
Director: Toshihiro Hirano

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (13+ for animated violence and language)
Run Time: 01h:11m:49s
Release Date: January 28, 2003
UPC: 660200412821
Genre: anime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B C-BB+ D+

DVD Review

Hyper-Combat Unit Dangaioh is a transforming robot anime, originally released as the three part Hajataisei Dangaio OVA between 1987 and 1989. Unfortunately, Manga was only able to secure the UK masters for this DVD, a heavily edited, English only version, which amalgamates the three into movie format, cutting the majority of the opener, Dangaio, Giant Star Warrior into a recap prologue, with the final two installments relatively intact. Helmed by creator/character designer/director Toshihiro Hirano (Magic Knight Rayearth, Iczer-1) and mechanical design team including Shoji Kawamori (mecha design on Macross, creator of Escaflowne and Macross Plus), and Masami Obari (Virus, Fatal Fury), the show had potential, and while having some high points, ultimately disappoints.

Dangaioh is a multi-part, transforming giant robot, piloted by the team of 19-year-old Mia Alice; 20-year-old Roll Kuran; Pai Thunder, two years his senior; and Lamda Nom, the youngest member of the squad at 14. All four were abducted by Professor Tarsan, who recognized their enormous psychic abilities, the heart of Dangaioh's effectiveness as the most powerful weapon in the universe. Their memories erased, the Dangaioh crew are unaware of the enemies lying in wait, who have returned from the past to destroy the only weapon capable of defending the citizens of their various home worlds from the evil warlord Garimos and his legions, including Gil-Burg, whose show of devotion to his leader was to pluck his eye out. As the story unfolds, the team begins to discover the secrets of their past, inevitably leading to conflict with the forces out to destroy them.

With the first episode glossed over, what remains are basically two stories, each centering on a different team member confronting their past. The artwork, character and mecha designs are all have a great classic look about them, and were highly enjoyable to watch. The action sequences are pretty good, and the animation is above par for this era.

What ruins the presentation is two fold: the editing, which creates a very disjointed story, and the English translation. The truncation of the story from its original 120-plus minutes to just 70 means that important backstory information has to be crammed into the introduction of the following scenes, requiring explanatory preambles throughout. This might work for younger audiences, but feels very forced and cheesy, and to top it off is a horrid English script that tries to create more emotional impact with profuse, and completely unnecessary profanity, and a very flat dub that lacks any intensity. Moreover, by trying to fit the lip flaps, there are several spots that come off completely unnatural. How much of the second part of the show was poorly written to begin with I can't say, but the ending was completely lame, with the bad guy simply shrugging off his defeat due to the Dangaioh team having a superior weapon. The show is also left open-ended, with a sequel obviously intended but never produced. For fans of old school design, there is something to recommend in the visuals, but the edited story and poorly scripted and acted soundtrack makes this difficult to sit through.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Image quality is reasonable, with a good amount of detail, and light grain which renders fairly well. Colors aren't overly vibrant, but look fine—where the image suffers is in the black levels, which are weak throughout. Compression issues aren't major, falling in line with typical areas of concern, such as large color areas. Cross coloration is minimal. There is a moderate amount of aliasing, but this is most noticeable in a few of the poorly done freeze frames in the first ten minutes.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The two English tracks are fine from a technical standpoint. The stereo mix is pretty much mono, with the barest staging, the 5.1 mix adds some ambience in the rear channels, but is still forward and center biased. Neither are a real standout, but serve the show relatively well. As for the content, well, see the main review for that.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
12 Other Trailer(s) featuring Virus, Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, End of Evangelion, Ghost Sweeper Mikami, X, Rayearth, Black Jack, Blood: The Last Vampire, Ghost in the Shell, Perfect Blue, Ninja Scroll, Street Fighter Alpha
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Extras are limited to the standard Manga promo spot, plus previews of Virus, Evangelion: Death and Rebirth, End of Evangelion, Ghost Sweeper Mikami, X, Rayearth, Black Jack, Blood: The Last Vampire, Ghost in the Shell, Perfect Blue, Ninja Scroll and Street Fighter Alpha. These run as a trailer reel with no individual access.

The Manga DVD catalogue is also available, as are DVDROM based weblinks to the Manga, Sputnik7 and Palm Pictures websites.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Hyper-Combat Unit Dangaioh gets a split vote. The design work and animation were quite nice for late 1980s-style anime so it gets those points; however, the editing just destroys any semblance of flow in the story, and the dub is pretty pathetic, being both trite and littered with swearing in a failed attempt to muster some intensity. Old school fans may want to check out the artwork, but leave the sound off.


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