My first Blu-Ray review and done for the perfect series – it’s incredible CGI spectacle is ever pleasing on the eyes that it overshadows most of the storytelling, but is still good enough to watch even if you’re distracted by all the shiny…
What They Say:
From Fumihiko Sori (Ichi; Ping Pong), director of the groundbreaking CG animated feature “Vexille”, comes another breathtaking sci-fi spectacle, this time in the form of a two-episode OVA. Adapted from two unrelated stories from the 19 stories that make up the “2001 Nights” manga written and illustrated by Yukinobu Hoshino, TO – 2001 Nights is a beautifully envisioned homage to the golden age of literary and cinematic science fiction.
I watched episode 1 in English and episode 2 in Japanese, both in 5.1 Dolby Surround. As much as the show is a joy to visualize, it’s as much a joy to listen to, because as soon as you hear that amazing echo effect in full screen quality, you know you’re in for a treat. The audio suffered no distortion or timing issues with subtitles, and it’s the first time in a while where I had to turn the sound down due to how loud it was on its normal settings. Its harmonics and echo effect is superb so that you can hear almost every sound that goes on in the atmosphere, making so expense regarding both audio quality in music, voices and background effects, it is a top quality release.
The video is the main reason for the hype of this show and I can say it doesn’t disappoint. As a full CGI effect movie, the main strength comes not just in how it looks, but how it flows. There was not one issue of any effect problems or subtitle issues with the sound, no watermarking effects and overall it’s a visual spectacle which has been given the upmost care by Manga Entertainment, as it’s quite unique even in the niche anime market, even with the space theme, there are a lot of palettes used, and there was no notice of anything done to hinder any element of the visual scheme.
There was no packaging for this release.
The menu was quite unique – it was set up like a computer screen, whilst scenes from the OVA were showing above it – the choices being play, episodes, extras and set up, but each selection does a pop-up menu rather than a loading time to the next section, making it quick and effective, and fitting in with the 2001 Nights setting. You can select the sub section and it loads up to whatever you chose, making it a very stylish and easy to navigate (and use) menu.
There was a few basic extras in there, with a trailer with the actors giving synopsis, some TV Spots with one from each episodes, a teaser trailer (which seemed similar to the spots just longer), and some Blu-Ray Trailers of Summer Wars, Evangelion 2.22 and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.
The two big extras however were interviews with the director Fumihiko Sori in two interviews, and in each one also the main seiyuu voices for the leads in each episode, Akio Ohtsuka (Dan) and Romi Park (Maria) from Elliptical Orbit, and Jun Fukuyama (Ion) and Aya Hirano (Alena). It’s a very informative interview specifically with Sori in both interviews talking about his past works (Appleseed/Vexhile) and how he wanted to differ from them, how Sci-Fi is valued in Japan, his thoughts on if his style would be a match for Hollywood, and with the voice actors, how they saw the animation and how they got into character with their roles, along with a few fun questions near the end (like asking them if they would go into space, what they would do if they could, etc) – Sori talks in depth on how he wanted to use their voices in particular, especially when searching for who he believed could do a good job – it shows that he does his research on the current voice talent there is, and not simply sticking to ones he has used before. It’s very informative and altogether nearly an hour long so it’s definitely worth a watch.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
T.O/2001 Nights is a 2 episode OVA which came out originally in 2009, made by the same creators (and director) of Appleseed and Vexhille, which utilized 100% CG animation – uses the same style but in a different type of sci-fi environment…space. The two stories are separate from each other but with the common space theme, yet they both fit into a potential dystopian theme so that they do have some connection yet completely separate at the same time. Not being a huge sci-fi fan, I was wondering if it could keep my interest mostly outside of the amazing CG animation. I can safely said that it for the most succeeded, though I will confess that it was mostly the animation’s reasoning ahead of the plot.
The first OVA episode, entitled Elliptical Orbit, is a tale of an old warhorse of a space soldier named Dan as he and other crewmembers are busy propelling containers to a moon base, when they are visited by a ship who has been in orbit for over 15 years on a mission to recover liquid proteins for Earth, as throughout the episode we get good hints about the past – wars that have affected the Earth, how it’s not as glamorous of a planet to live now, and the liquid is basically the equivalent of a full-on power source for the planet. The crew that joins Dan’s group as a pit stop is led by a young woman Maria, who you quickly realize looks way too young to be working on a mission for over a decade. The plot begins to turn its wheels as Maria and Dan have had a past to say the least as they converse – leading to the revelation of Dan’s son died in the Earth’s African War. It’s interesting that the show doesn’t specifically say what Dan and Maria’s relationship is, there is a definite tension between them, but the viewer has to wonder for themselves if it is sexual or not, as there is a lot of awkwardness and bitterness between the two, especially from Dan’s side and Maria isn’t exactly the most trustworthy of partners considering she seems to sleep with the other men of her crew (and Dan doesn’t take it nicely when one of them taunts him about it, further speculating what their relationship is about).
It leads however to a hijacking of the ship, capturing the crew and looking for Dan as they try and raid their supplies – it turns out to be a typical revenge plot with the Earthlings up against the space stations, but Dan and Maria manage to outwit them which leads to a really good space scene where they battle the terrorists, and whilst some of the crew on both ends die, it does lead to a very shocking ending when the reveal of what the Dan/Maria relationship really is about. As I said, the visuals are very appealing and really capture as good as you can get feeling in space. The story has a very unique twist which I certainly wasn’t expected despite the hints (and watching back, you can figure it out) – it seems to be good at giving hints before the reveal (like how Maria was so young) – I will admit though that there was some poor storytelling in regarding the villains motive, and also that you didn’t even know Maria’s name until the last 10 minutes of the movie. I was afraid that the episodes were a lot of show, but a bit weak in the main crux of the storytelling despite the good way the twist was hinted at.
The second episode, entitled Symbiotic Planet, might as well be re-titled ‘Romeo And Juliet In Space’. Two lovers, Ion and Alena, are part of two work organizations that disagree with their philosophies, so have to conduct their romance in secret, space watching along with creatures known as the picards, creatures who can eat space waste yet can also breathe in space using hydrogen. However, it’s not as secret as Elena’s mother is quite aware of their relationship and pretty much makes sure she can’t see him again. However, when a forbidden bacteria gets into Ion’s lab, it’s apparently freezes most of the area, before Ion quarantines himself in it to avoid anyone else being effected – just as the two warring organization are due to meet inside Ion’s workplace ship to discuss what to be done in the barring planet area of Europa regarding potential residency. After disagreements (and the continuality of the first ep that Earth appears to have been overrun), Ion and Elena reunite verbally explaining about the unknown Europa Parasite which has infected him but doesn’t appear to have physically harmed him bar during his body almost a natural white. It leads to some carelessness on both sides, and the fungus spreading inside the ship and to the other ship as well after some internal politics go wrong in the American-Euro Colony Team. What happens mostly though is the fact that a third party after seeing the effects assume the worst and intend to destroy the entire base. The finale again is a surprise – not that they survive, but how they survive and unlike Romeo x Juliet, it is at least a happy ending, albeit a strange one.
The second OVA plays a unique spin on the Romeo X Juliet story with the fungus infection, and the internal politics of both sides in how they want to use Europa does have some interest, especially as Elena’s mother is used as a pawn more than anything after her initial showing as a rather uncaring mother, it’s fun how it ends. However, this one also has a few problems – mainly which the focus, the romance – is put to one side compared to the politics and it isn’t that interesting to hold up if it wasn’t so nice to look at. In such, it’s a virtual world that you are engrossed in, but more for the visuals than the actual story.
This can be said for both of them to be honest – whilst the action scenes are good, they are few and far between, and because they are both episodic and separate from each other with only a few hints at what they have in common, it’s hard to really feel attached to the characters and the stories. Dan was far the most interesting character, with his gruff yet caring attitude to his crew and his stories of his son’s death, he was a hero in a dark ball of string and the ending of that episode was truly and masterfully done. It was for me the better of the two episodes but the villain side was pretty poorly executed in storytelling. The second OVA suffered from too much attempt to tell a story, when the story was already told in the first few minutes – the focus became on the politics rather than the romance, which for me, hurts a Romeo and Juliet style tale. That aside, I wouldn’t lie and say I didn’t enjoy them – they were just interesting enough to hold me down, and thanks to the excellent animation, it was still a joy to behold. You may just ending up oohing at the scenery though more than the story in the end.
Whilst neither OVA episode can be classified as a sci-fi masterpiece as a story, they can be said as masterpieces of visual spectacle. And neither story is totally dull, in fact Orbit is quite telling and shocking with some good battle scenes and climax marred only by a rather weak villain reasoning. The second one had potential as a romance, but was shut down by some poor attempt to focus on the least interesting characters, but was saved again by a decent ending. However, if you are a sci-fan fan, this is still a much watch mainly because of the stunning visuals – it’s a joy to watch that’s for sure, but more of a visual standpoint than a story one. Definitely worth a watch just because of that if anything else.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Interview with director Fumihiko Sori, Akio Ohtsuka and Romi Park; interview with director Fumihiko Sori, Jun Fukuyama and Aya Hirano; trailers; TV spots; promo videos
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Manga Entertainment
Release Date: 26th September 2011
Running Time: 158 minutes
Video Encoding: MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Anthormorphic Widescreen
Review Equipment: Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.