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  Specs
  • Full Frame
  • Dual Layer ( )
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  • English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • Japanese: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • 4 Theatrical trailer - Jubei-Chan, .hack//SIGN, Arjuna, Haibane-Renmei
  • Photo gallery - 25 Model Sheets
  • Animated menus
  • Jacket picture

Argentosoma 1 - Another Reality

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 125 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
Contract

I’m starting to think all that screens on Japanese television is serial animation like this program. There seems to be an inexhaustible amount of them coming out on DVD without showing any signs of emptying. And fair enough, as long as the calibre doesn’t start slipping away we’ll all be happy.

So, happily, Argentosoma looks great. Bearing many similarities to the classic Neon Genesis: Evangelion series, the story encompasses one big-arse mofo alien plus a second one and government super machines to fight them. However, there are a few twists thrown in for originality’s sake. Herein are blunt homages to western films like The Iron Giant and western books/films like Frankenstein. Whilst these are always nice to spot, there are also more local references to directors like Hayao Miyazaki (responsible for the runaway magic of Spirited Away).

"This isn’t Fairyland! There’s nothing here but horrible loud noises!"

This is only the first DVD of what is probably an ongoing series of DVDs, and we are granted five episodes from the original 25 part series on this disc. The story gets a little complicated, so in the following synopsis I’ve trimmed it down a bit while trying to not give too much away.

  • Phase 01: Rebirth and Death. Takuto Kaneshiro is recruited by the Morugue to work on an alien monster. When a power surge restores it to life, the lab is destroyed, killing Takuto’s girlfriend Maki. The alien, codenamed ‘Extra 01’ escapes and disappears.
  • Phase 02: Death and the Maiden. Takuto recovers in hospital, badly injured after the lab collapse. Meanwhile, Extra 01 hides in the forest and befriends Hattie, an unusual and lonely little girl.
  • Phase 03: The Maiden and the Meeting. Extra 01 fights a second alien to protect Hattie, before being captured by the government’s Funeral Department. Meanwhile, Takuto has awoken to seek revenge on the Extra 01 for killing his girlfriend. Extra 01 and Hattie escape custody and return to the forest.
  • Phase 04: The Meeting and the Hatred. Takuto, scarred horribly and under the new guise of Ryu Soma, joins with Funeral to use their technology against Extra 01 and get his revenge.
  • Phase 05: The Hatred and War. Ryu Soma finally meets Extra 01 in battle.

There’s more to the last episode, but I don’t wanna wreck it for you. One thing I do love about animé is when we manage to catch a glimpse of an English translation inside the program and there’s a cute one at 55:52 – 56:06 that describes Hattie’s history.

All up, the animation is the usual standard of Japanese television style and whilst some of the massive machine animation is a little clunky, for the most part it’s just fine. We all know this stuff comes out of a sausage machine, anyway, but with Argentosoma the characters are at least a little more human than the characters in Neon Genesis. Fans of the genre will no doubt love it and even I, still a little skeptical about Japanimé, found it quite entertaining.

  Video
Contract

4:3 is how it comes and that’s okay. Having never been widescreen, the layouts have set us up nicely to catch all the action on our regular TV screens. The backgrounds are all nicely hand painted, but they tend to have that washed out watercolour look so common to animé. There are some occasional moments of graininess, but there are no apparent film artefacts. Being animation, shadows and blacks are all fine and delivered well.

  Audio
Contract

One highlight for me throughout this show was the music. At times it reflects the whimsical nature of the accordion in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys which adds to the futuristic atmosphere. To the rest of the show, the music is also well suited, though it takes on more of a supportive background to the story (apart from the songs in the titles, of course. Why do so many Japanese animation songs all sing about wind and rain and destiny?)

Dialogue is all clear and well-spoken by the English cast. The Japanese is also delivered pretty well, though I don’t understand it (the subtitles also transcribe truly what has actually been said). Delivered in Dolby Digital stereo and being for television, the sound is entirely adequate for the purposes here and is actually quite resonant for the most part.

  Extras
Contract

A bit of a mixed bag but some worthies. The first is the subtlest of subtle animations on the main menu, which is like a power surge and radio static. Very cool. There are also creditless openings for each episode, which is basically just that. Same footage, no words.

Then we get 25 production sketches which are actually clean model sheets, not sketches. There isn’t any concept art here either, unfortunately. After that there’s the Madman Propaganda bit which gives us four trailers for other animated features. These include Jubei Chan, .hack//SIGN, Arjuna and my favourite of the four, Haibane-Renmei which is a very pretty trailer. All are 1.78:1 without enhancement.

Finally, there’s the DVD credits and a simple jacket picture, so there isn’t a great deal, but the model sheets and the Haibane-Renmei trailer are pretty good. Oh, and the DVD slick is reversible, so you can choose yer favourite cover art. (I kept the one it came in; those scars are cool).

  Overall  
Contract

If you dug on Evangelion, you should eat this stuff up. There’s plenty of futuristic technologies and big heavy stuff fighting and destroying cities, which is always cool. A bit of a think piece, with several plots and conspiracies on the go at any given time, but fairly easy to stick with. The relationship between Hattie and Extra 01 isn’t as well developed as the one in The Iron Giant, but it is still rather cute to watch. There’s a lot going on here for fans of animé, and as far as that goes, this is one of the more interesting I’ve watched.


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      And I quote...
    "Similarities to Neon Genesis aside, this is some nice fuel for the animé junkies."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Nintaus DVD-N9901
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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