Entertaining but uneven mature-minded anime with unfortunate
D. White | NY USA | 09/12/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This first season of Moonlight Mile is a relatively realistic look into the future development of alternative international space programs, as experienced through two main characters/friends who share an ambition to reach the moon. Conveniently, these friends tread largely independent paths, thus allowing insight into multiple space organizations.
Both friends are keen of mind and also keen on sexual conquest. The former provides many entertaining moments whether it be American ace pilot Lostman deftly aiming a space shuttle or his friend--the Japanese construction specialist extraordinaire Goro--intuiting the best route for saving a trapped construction worker. The "conquest" issue, however, drags down both the characters and the maturity quotient. The issue certainly isn't that they are sexually active as such, but the tangential explicit inclusion of most of these sex scenes comes off as crass. Almost like self-sabotaging an otherwise mature work to appeal to those who don't quite get what "mature" entails.
This also leads to issues with the translation. The English voice acting is superb here but the script itself sadly adds an extra layer of immaturity that actually isn't present in the subtitles. One scene really made this difference stand out in particular. In the English dub, Lostman speaks to his latest temp girlfriend like a cheap trick, foul language placed where none was before. In the subtitles, the script and va intonation comes off much more respectful, and no foul language.
Overall, the series was well-produced if uneven in episode quality. The show could have benefited from more Lostman-focused episodes. A too-slowly paced three episode arc focusing on Goro on disc two was almost unwelcome (and could have easily been contained within two episodes at the very most), especially when contrasted against the excellent Lostman-dominated last episode.
The show is well-drawn and animated, albeit with some awkward cg in the early episodes. Later episodes featuring mech walkers and even more fantastic machinery in the final episode look significantly improved. I hope to see a localized second season of the anime, but it doesn't seem to be happening at this point.
Despite the flaws, there are enough highlights in this series for it to be mildly recommended to mature anime fans who will enjoy the overall smart and serious nature of the show while merely scoffing at the occasional lapses into immaturity rather than be offended by them."
Hard Science Meets Real Drama In Perfect Harmony
ONENEO | Buffalo, NY | 04/19/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Had you asked me just last week to identify a legitimate alternative to BanDai's impeccable space drama, Planetes, I would have been hard pressed to comply. Now, having just completed my tour of Funimation's Moonlight Mile Complete First Season DVD set, the choice is clear. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, the complete first season of the show comprises two discs for a total of 12 episodes packaged in the thin pack format (within a cardboard slip box).
To begin this review, I suppose the best way to describe it in terms of feel and style and would be to go ahead and compare it directly to Planetes (see my full review of that DVD set if that comparison means little to you). The action in Moonlight Mile starts literally within the fist scene of the first episode with a lunar-surface sequence that hints to a whole lot of realistic action to come. Like Planetes, Moonlight Mile combines (nearly flawlessly) a drab pallet of realistically proportioned characters with ultra-rich textured CGI sequences. However, despite a near identical look and a common affinity for extremely realistic space physics and facts, the similarities between the two shows end there. Where Planetes used the backdrop of space to weave a tale of innocence, the enthusiasm of youth, and the consequences of man's interaction with the cosmos, Moonlight Mile is dark, gritty, and often unforgiving in its prose. In a lesser-crafted anime work, some of these traits may be construed as flaws but Mile builds upon these elements to get its point across quite nicely.
The story centers on two lead characters; an American Naval aviator call sign Lost Man and a Japanese building inspector/ construction worker named Goro Saruwatari. The two may share little in common as far as background, upbringing, and culture are concerned but an attraction toward the risk and challenge involved in mountain climbing unites the duo every few years.
Upon discovering that conquering the highest peaks on the earth itself has lost its thrill, they're left wrestling with the simple notion that to go any higher would mean to journey into space itself. And while the story takes place in a slightly more technologically advanced future, the rigors of space flight are every bit as insurmountable as they would be today.
What makes the core of the tale work so well is that the interaction between the two lead characters is anything but direct for the vast majority of the season. Rather than lump them together in their competitive race to be the first to the moon, the show's creative staff pays careful attention to crafting two very separate and unique stories. Sure their paths cross on more than one occasion along the way but the overall feel is almost that of a competition from opposite sides of the globe.
Throughout the 300 minutes the viewer is transported along to several locales around the planet including a snowy Russia, sunny coastal Japan, scorching Middle Eastern desert and even the mystical Area 51 all under the near-flawless portrayal of the technological space race taking place between nations. It turns out that the future spawns a sort of United Nations banner (the International Space Agency or ISA for short) specifically catered to space travel and the common goal of using material within the moon's core as a near limitless global energy source. Even the science there is sound, as the lunar material would act as fuel within moon-orbiting nuclear reactors whereby the byproduct (usable energy) could be transmitted to earth via microwaves. In case you haven't noticed, the show takes a very tangible approach to the sciences contained within.
The pacing is spot on with just the right balance of action-laden space scenes (which are on more than one occasion nothing shy of spectacular) and ground-based drama. Never does the program lose touch with the fact that this is a human-driven drama with a slight sci-fi twist for good measure. All along the way come costly setbacks, corporate corruption, and lots of lovemaking. I could almost go as far as to say that Moonlight Mile's greatest strength is that it is easy to get so caught up in the moment that it feels more like chronicled day-to-day occurrences than it does a single grandiose tale. What we have here is a succession of human trials and tribulations that could, often times, have been taken directly from today's headlines.
The acting is simply flawless in both the original Japanese version and the English dub. I try not to gush over the dub work in most series (as the standard is so high in my opinion that it need be mentioned only when a performance is sub par) but even so Moonlight Mile manages to impress. The voice work is emotional and passionate throughout without crossing the delicate line between acting and overacting. Casting choices of the lead and secondary roles are spot on (especially with Goro and Lost Man themselves as the actors simply nail the unique yet similar traits of their respective personalities). I especially found myself appreciating the rare moments when the two lead characters interacted. It was almost as if there was a sense of their underlying friendship even though each acted as though he cared little whether the other lived or not.
About my only complaint with the set itself comes in the fact that there are virtually no extras included (rare for a Funimation release). Each disc contains six episodes of the show and the second disc's extras menu consists only of textless opening and closing themes (and some trailers). This is one of few shows that I would loved to have been given interviews with the dub cast, the show's writers, or even just a commentary track or two over an episode.
I should also note that the TV MA (mature) 17+ rating the show wears is definitely to be taken seriously. The language is often times on par with what is expected in a Rated R feature film and there are pretty commonly occurring nude/ sexual intercourse sequences and references throughout. Try as I may to find fault in this fact, the show's mood just builds off such sociological references so that it's all too easy to forget that this is in fact an animated series.
My final issue is as much a complaint as it is a compliment- there happens to be a rap song that makes a couple of appearances throughout the show that I've grown quite fond of. Trouble is, it is given no credit whatsoever on this set. It would certainly be iPod worthy should I discover who sings it or even what it's called. If you happen to know the answer, drop a line. In the mean time I'll just have to go on repeating the scenes in which it appears in the hopes of picking up on a clue to solve the mystery."
Space Soap Opera, the new genre rules!
little grey kitty | Santa Fe, NM USA | 05/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hard to review on just one season. I bought this because
I enjoyed PLANETES (5 stars) so much. So far, so good,
but like a lot of anime the bulk of the first season is
mostly backstory on the characters. Things were just
starting to get interesting. Now I have to wait for the English
dub of Season 2 to come out. I can't watch subtitles and
enjoy the animation. Us old folks, always whining about
something. See review on 2nd Season (10-26-09)
also called "Touchdown.""