Funimation Brings the Classic Home Once More
ONENEO | Buffalo, NY | 05/16/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Vandread isn't really all that new, in fact, having made its Japanese broadcast debut way back in 2000, one might go as far as to say it's pretty darn old. But like most Gonzo titles, it's survived the test of time over and over again. Funimation's recent box set release of the property represents the third time the DVDs have been released to the North American market; first through Pioneer, then repackaged and re-released from Geneon. Suffice it to say, tales with this kind of staying power rarely reach this status undeservingly.
Funimation's release consists of all 26 episodes, which were in fact two seasons (Vandread & Vandred The Second Stage), across four discs. Housed in an attractive cardboard slipcase, the four discs come in a pair of artistic thin packs. Total runtime comes in at 600 minutes even and the show wears a very conservative 13 & Up rating. Conservative because the show really is friendly to viewers of all ages save for a few sexual innuendos and extremely-light cussing. There is no nudity to speak of and while death is presented on occasion, it is never graphic or overly violent.
The set presents the usual dub & sub dialog options; An English dub, original Japanese audio track (with English subtitles is so desired).
Classifying the show isn't near as easy as typing out its hard stats however, as I'm quickly discovering. Technically it's a mecha entry on account of its use of robotics throughout. In fact the very term Vandread is derived from the concept of the physically conjoining of a fighter robot called a Van-Type and a space-fighter craft known as a Dread. When combined, the two craft become a powerful giant robot that can range in appearance from a hulking, oversize-gun carrying humanoid to a metallic crab surrounded by orbiting weapon-spheres depending upon the combination of the ships involved.
However, and unlike most robot shows, Vandread is as much a space-opera as it is a science fiction/ action piece. It's set in the distant future in a Universe where mankind has expanded his reach of population to include multiple planets and space stations. However, and what makes Vandread unique, the show literally opens with a propaganda film designed to frighten an all-male populous with the fact that all women are, in fact, monsters.
See it turns out that in the future, thanks to cloning techniques, male and female copulation (or even cohabitation for that matter) is no longer necessary to continue the race. As such both sexes are only vaguely aware of the other's existence. Yes it's a novel concept and sure it lends to Vandread's individuality as a whole, but the same-sex reproduction ideals are a bit sketchy (if not homosexual promoting).
The big gag, at least early on anyway, works off the concept of three males becoming entangled with an all-female pirate ship before being transported, via a space-warp, to a distant galaxy to avoid annihilation. The core of the story follows this ship's (the Nirvana) voyage back home while paying special attention to the daily drama stirred up thanks to the differences between the sexes. No, not those differences, but rather the awkwardness and feelings of passion that only be achieved through the old "opposites attract" concept. It's immature, it's silly, it's sometimes annoying but Vandread makes certain to counteract the goofiness with a steady-dose of CG rendered action sequences that still hold up even after all these years.
The visuals are far more solid then they have any right to be considering the show's vintage. What's that, you say there are shows far older (Gundam Wing or Macross for example) that still look nice so what's the big deal? Well keep in mind that right around the time that Vandread was created, the world was making a collective move away from standard hand-drawn cells and painted backgrounds to an all out computer generated imaging overload. That's fine and good, but many early efforts of the practice suffered from limited hardware capabilities, stiff animation and poor texturing. Somehow Vandread ducks and weaves through this minefield of pitfalls by combining a beautifully vibrant color pallet in the standard animation with CG inspired exterior backgrounds and robot models. Sure, the process has been refined in the nine years since but that isn't to say Vandread suffers any as a result.
Pacing can best be described as all over the place as the early episodes were brutally formulaic and relied far too heavily upon the whole "men and women meeting for the first time will be funny" gimmick. Additionally most of the first season is structured more as a succession of stand-alone episodes than a single ongoing tale. This trend degenerates to grander story arcs as the show progresses and by the middle of the Second Stage; Vandread feels more like a traditional mecha anime entry.
In my opinion the move away from the cuteness and attempts at slapstick to the slightly more psychologically engaging plots of the Second Stage was a step in the right direction. So much so in fact that I almost feel like the series probably would have hit its stride in the third or fourth season had it lasted that long.
As a whole the show suffers a bit in terms of confliction scope, as the enemies our cast frequently engages throughout the entire series are never really known as anything other than "the enemy". Worse still, they appear out of nowhere, get whipped, then live to attack another day. Their motives are never clear, nor is their presence ever fully justified. Other detractors along the way include an over-the-top (and quite obnoxious) lead male character, and overly naive lead female character, and what can only be described as a robotic version of He-Man's annoying court jester, Orko.
The soundtrack is especially well done with a reoccurring techno number that's simply infectious. I had the pleasure of enjoying the set though a 5.1 surround sound speaker set and found that the rolling bass riff coupled with a high end of synthesized horns flawlessly.
In conclusion Vandread is certainly not for everyone but manages to survive the test of time thanks to its unwavering (if at times, forceful) charm. While it rarely gets the credit it deserves, the show certainly paved the way for many robot-based series that would follow (titles like Gravion and Godannar). This latest DVD release from the masters of quality at Funimation assures that Vandread will continue to spread its charm with the presentation values it deserves."
Men are from Tarak, Women Are From Mejere
norman728 | philadelphia, pa United States | 04/05/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"On The surface Vandread seems to be another stupid harem anime with mechs thrown in for show. At least that what I thought when i discovered in a used bin and passed on it. The DVD Flavor Text just billed as a war between the sexes, and it is, but it tries something new. In Vandread Earth like in your usual Future anime has started to fall to ruin so they send colony ships into space. Somehow two ships land on to planets and the early colonists decide to separate the sexes. Flash forward to the present as the men prepare to launch a new weapon in the war against the women. Here we meet the male protagonists. Hibiki, the usual misunderstood loner, Deuelo the Enigmatic Doctor and Bart, the spoiled funny guy. A female pirate ship attacks at that moment. We meet the female leads. Dita, the Ditsy alien freak, Jura the sultry one and Meia the misunderstood Serious one The men launch a counterattack The ships semi-sentient power source activates and send them spiraling across the universe where they are attacked by a mysterious enemy. Thus begins their adventure back home as the mystery behind their worlds and their present situation is slowly revealed.
The show a mixture of Comedy, drama and adventure. they don't blend evenly as the episodes jump between the genres. As the story progresses we see the women and men come to terms with their past prejudices and views. The Cast is enormous beyond the main 6. rash secondary character is unique and have seperate personalities. From the smart Girl with glasses, The Bratty little girl and even a cosplay freak who spend much of the episodes in a bear suit. the numerous background characters are seperated by where they work where only the bridge cew is distinct. Most of the 6 leads have episode or two to show growth. and One or two characters have their own secrets. By the second stage we have all the pieces set for a climatic battle as all secrets are revealed and we find out what really happened 100 years ago. This thinkpak is a bargain for both stages.
A little thin in the extras department. But it looks nice and the English voice cast is filled with the well-knowns like Mary Elizabeth McGlynn,Wendee Lee, Tony Oliver, and Steve Blum. They do an excellent Job. But if you aren't into the dub there is a Japanese track. it is a fun series once you give it a chance. Starz had both stages in continuous run for years. give it a chance."
A Funny Entertaining Sci-Fi Anime Worth A Look
Rich | CA | 04/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This series was very reminiscent of series like Trigun, Full Metal Panic, and Outlaw Star nothing to serious but entertaining, dramatic, and funny enough to be very addictive. The first thing you have to realize is not to take most of this series seriously though if you're looking for a hardcore dramatic series like Ghost In The Shell, Akira, or the like than this series won't be for you, while it has space mechas battles and some drama for most of the series it's mostly light-hearted for the first season. The start of Vandread Second Stage does become a little more dramatic and serious though especially with the story-arc of what the people of Earth have done to the human colonies in space for their own agenda. The main plot of the series is that after a century or so of the male/female genders being separate and living on different worlds they for whatever reason have started fighting one another for resources and personal agendas. The stories on both sides on what the other genders are like also make the series very funny, as when you hear the story on the male home-world at how demonic the females are and how they will eat your organs and are just horrific. Thus begins the awkward journey of three males trapped on a ship of a multitude of attractive females after a battle between the genders goes chaotic and causes a fusion of the male and female space ships. The cast have a vast array of humorous situations that make for a good laugh throughout the show and the characters are hilarious as you see as they try to interact between the genders bumbling along sometimes. The true cute couple of the series for me were Hibiki Tokai a third grade citizen on his world who basically was just a lowly factory worker when he got trapped aboard the ship because he boasted he could bring back a vanguard, and Dita Liebely a bubbly female pilot of the ship who wants to contact her first alien and since she's never seen a male before she sees Hibiki as the first alien she's contacted. The video is clear and sharp so no complaints and the audio was also good the cast for both the Japanese/English were good as well. Again though like the recent releases from Funimation the set is four dvds put into two thinpack dvd cases and than into a paper sleeve, the extras aren't much just the standard textless intro/ending songs and some trailers but for the price still not bad. So if you like funny action drama sci-fi animes here's a good one to look at for you anime collection..."