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ICE Complete Series Anime DVD Review

8 min read

The end times are here and it’s all down to the women to decide the future of the species.

What They Say:
Some strange virus, whether planned or accidental, has wiped out most of the population. The survivors? Beautiful women. Faced with the possible extinction of their entire race, some of these new Amazons have decided to live out their final days in the pursuit only of fleshly pleasures. Others choose to use their beauty, their might, and their minds to fight back and reclaim the planet once more.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is straightforward with a pair of audio tracks in stereo that gives us both the English language and Japanese language encoded at 224kbps. The show has some solid action scenes to it and it utilizes the forward soundstage well when it comes to both action and dialogue, but it doesn’t get to any really big or impressive levels here. The show works the soundstage well for dialogue with some decent placement at times and the action has its moments but it’s nothing that will really stand out. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 2007, the transfer for this three part OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The three episodes on the disc have a fairly average bit rate about it and generally looks good, though there are a fair number of areas where there’s a soft feeling that’s intentional and it has a bit of additional noise to it all. The series has a fair bit of detail in a lot of scenes, especially with the character designs, and its generally well represented here. Colors are pretty diverse and they look good as does the CG animation when it comes into play. The animation and doesn’t aren’t radically amazing, but it has a distinctive if chaotic look to it.

Packaging:
The single sized keepcase here definitely fits the nature of the show in standing out yet not exactly being captivating. The front cover has essentially a corner to corner split where the white background behind the character makes the red from the character artwork stand out all the more as the heavy cloak fills out the entire bottom half in addition to her hair. It’s a very soft but fairly detailed look to it with a lot of intentional fuzziness. It’s definitely appealing at first glance, but it’s less so the more you take in the details of it all. The back cover is more traditional with a cross symbol through the middle that separates the good selection of images along the top and the summary that’s spread across it. The summary is brief to be sure but is fairly appropriate for a short OVA series like this. The discs extras are clearly listed and we get a full section of all the production credits. Add in the technical grid which is accurate, though you could argue that the run time should be 15 minutes more, and you’ve got a good looking package overall that definitely fits the series. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is very, very basic as it has an indistinct background to it that’s done in shades of white and soft blue while over it is large font text that has the individual episode numbers that you can select. The lower right has submenu selections for languages and extras but beyond that, there’s little in the way of mood setting here that works well, leaving it as a pretty basic menu with little appeal. Menus do load quickly and everything is laid out in a workable manner, though I’m not a fan of the episode number layout as it’s done here, and the disc properly read our players language presets.

Extras:
There’s a good inclusion of extras here with several sections worth of production designs, from mecha to characters, that run on average a few minutes each and show off the way the series was designed.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on an original story by Ysushi Akitmoto with animation by PPM, ICE is a three episode OVA series that has big ambitions and a lot of ideas behind it but can’t seem to pull it all together over the course of its run. There are a lot of times during this show that I felt like it was riffing a little too heavily on other series and it even has a significant Nausicaa feeling in a lot of ways at times, though it’s more superficial and potentially imagined than real. When you deal with the end times of a world, it’s going to be reminiscent of other shows that have done it since there have been some big, defining ones. And as much as I wanted to like ICE, the flaws in its structure just made it harder and harder to get into.

The series initially takes place in the present, introducing us to a young woman who looks decidedly from the 80’s with her character design and hairstyle, but it’s not long before she’s dead and we’re into a future where everything has changed dramatically and we’re seemingly focused on the city at the end of time. At some point after the young woman died, something went wrong with the world in that an element was introduced into it slowly killed off all the men. There’s some really short but neat sequences as we see the last man die and the reverence bestowed on him. But after the end of men, the women tried changing the culture enough to show that what men did was the cause of it all and women would live better. But the plague that hit ended up killing much more than just the men as the women couldn’t give birth anymore over time and people dwindled away through wars and attrition. With ICE, the series focuses on seemingly the last remnants of humanity as there are some twenty thousand people left around Shinjuku.

There’s a lot of time spent with one of the groups that has risen to power, the Guardians, who are women who live elegantly while dealing with terrorism and other aspects that have cropped up even though men are no more. They handle these problems charmingly, as they put it, with special swords rather than guns as those are the craft of men and bring nothing but pain and misery. Watching one of their missions is interesting but it turns to disaster quickly as they work to eliminate a new ICE threat, the bioterrorism that is popular at this point in time and quite dangerous. It also takes an unusual threat when one of the things the group sees there is a baby boy, which promptly freaks out one of the women who pumps it full of hot lead. You can kind of understand it, but at the same time it’s a pretty extreme reaction.

Where the show goes from there is kind of out there as the ICE threat blooms into some creature that goes on a rampage and draws in a young woman named Yuki, who is a non-blood relative of Lady Kisaragi. She leads the opposing view of the world which slowly takes shape and becomes the dominating aspect of the series. While the show focuses heavily on Yuki and a Guardian captain named Hitomi, it’s more an investigation into what plans each of the two main sides are coming up with. One has a heavy series of plans for ICE itself while the other sees the end of humanity as a good thing and the way to go and wants to speed it up using a massive terraforming device itself. It’s actually an interesting way to try and correct all the problems by terraforming Earth itself and getting it back on track considering how few people are left in the world.

The visual design of the world is definitely interesting, as it moves between the military side with the troop carriers that are flown to and fro, the realm where Lady Kisaragi resides as well as the forest where Hitomi first really gets to meet Yuki and understands how poisoned everything truly is when they encounter some really big creatures. I liked the various outfits but with there being something of an organization here, there doesn’t feel like there’s any real consistency about it. And the characters are just as chaotic and thinly spread as we get little real connection with any of them, which is the main damning point of it. Hitomi and Yuki get some time, but never enough to really get to feel like they’re well defined, even if you view the three episodes as one full length movie. When it brings in Julia, who runs the Guardians, she becomes a dominant character but again has little definition. The same can be said of Kisaragi, who at least has neat visual hook and an interesting reveal as it progresses. But it’s not a reveal that feels like it’s truly rooted in the show itself.

In Summary:
I’m generally a fan of end of the word shows and this one hit some very neat riffs at the start of it, especially in taking out men first and then showing the further collapse under women, but the show is rather disjointed in a lot of ways. I liked the character designs, I liked the look of the world and the nature of the sides involved, but the story was designed in a way where it feels like the writers knew about ten times more things about the setting that didn’t make it into the show itself. There’s some great little details to the show but it’s missing the bigger picture when it comes to the characters, drawing the viewer in and having a cohesive narrative. It starts off well when it shifts to the future but once it gets past the exposition, it can’t hold up since it doesn’t have a good character to really define it all with.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Production Sketches

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 15th, 2011
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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