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Parasite Dolls Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

9 min read

The darker side of the future within the Bubblegum Crisis context goes for the sexual and disturbing.

What They Say:
In a near-future world where the dividing line between the people and the plastic is becoming increasingly blurred, it’s the job of the Branch to keep the streets of Genom City safe from the dangers of a technology that no one yet knows the limits of… if it even has any.

Between the evolving sentience of an entirely new manufactured species, the chaos that inevitably ensues when backyard cyber-hackers attempt to do their own field mods and the willingness of powerful hi-tech corporations to cut a few corners, the men and women of the Branch have already got their work cut out for them. And that’s before they factor in the danger of internal corruption, given that one of their own members boasts a metal endoskeleton.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release comes with the original Japanese mix in 5.1 at 448kbps while the English language adaptation also hits the same format. The mix is pretty decent overall but only has some select moments of rear directionality to it. The track in general is quite good sounding with clear directionality and problem free dialogue. The sound effects and some of the music make use of the rear channels but only in a few areas throughout the three episodes. The English track is 5.1 as well and overall mirrors the Japanese mix and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released across 2003 as three separate OVAs and then in late 2003 and early 2004 as a theatrical piece, we get the theatrical version for this release presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. This release from Aesir Holdings is identical in how it’s put together through the audio and packaging as well as the video. The transfer for this show looks pretty much flawless outside of a few areas where some of the full black backgrounds looked a touch shifty. This is a very dark show with lots of shadows and muted colors that are contrasted with small islands of vibrancy and it just looks fantastic here. Cross coloration and aliasing are pretty much non-existent, colors look great and there’s no visible color gradation issues either.

Much as I felt when ADV Films first released this title, the cover artwork for Parasite Dolls is one of the worst looking releases I’ve seen in general, so much so that I tend to cringe and turn it away so I don’t have to see it. While the image is supposedly of the woman from the second episode, or at least I’m guessing it is, it doesn’t represent her at all and looks more androgynous than anything else. It just doesn’t look good, from the hair to the way the face is drawn. The background and mechanical aspects are fine but there’s just something ugly about this cover otherwise. The back cover fares better with a collage of shots from the show and a decent paragraph summary of the premise. The discs extras and features are all easy to read and the technical information equally easy to figure out. The insert is a four panel poster of the front cover which does not look any better enlarged. The reverse side of the keepcase cover has a two panel spread of the main characters from the show with some visuals and a brief summary/age of each of them at the start of the show.

The menu goes for that sort of hazy look with a green filter that’s showing various technical movements and imagery as CG images as seen through the eyes of a boomer. It’s set to a brief bit of the opening song done in stereo and plays out nicely and can be left on a loop for quite awhile without becoming a bother. Access times are nice and fast and the menu is very easy to navigate. The disc also correctly read our players language presets without issue.

There’s a few extras on the disc but nothing terribly big or all that engaging. There’s a music video done with the opening song to the show (in stereo no less) that’s fairly decent but pretty forgettable. The promo video shown at Anime Fair 2002 gives an idea of how they were promoting the show early on as does the other promotional video. There’s also a series of production sketches but that’s about it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After watching Parasite Dolls, the only conclusion I come to is that the best stories that are told within the various Bubblegum Crisis universes are these side stories that avoid the gimmicks and just tell stories. Much like it’s predecessor in the original AD Police OVA series, Parasite Dolls gets down into the dark grimy section of the world that Genom has control of and tells its stories. Frankly, what needs to be done is that whoever can work the deal needs to get with those damned CSI folks to create CSI: Megatokyo. Now there’s a crime/cop show I’d watch.

But until that happens, I only have shows like this to go to and they’ll keep me pretty damn sated. The episodes start in 2034, which is just past when the Bubblegum Crisis stories take place though they aren’t even mentioned here in the slightest. We’re introduced to a supposedly secretive part of the AD Police called The Branch. This small group deals with boomer crimes as does the AD Police but they’re more like a detective division while the AD Police tend to be more of a military style branch that uses the heavy weapons. The Branch is made up of a small group of people, its chief and three operatives, one of which is a computer jockey. They’ve also got one boomer detective on their side to work with them.

Through the course of the three stories, we get to know a little bit about each of the players. The Chief doesn’t get too much but he’s not a key character. The computer jockey, Myers, is your typical stereotype for this kind of thing except instead of a young punk he’s a slightly geeky guy in his thirties who you’d normally expect to work for Genom. The real lead trio here is those that are basically called the “Fronters” for the group, which means they go and do the dirty work really quick. Thi sis primarily the Reiko Michaelson character, a young woman who pilots a helicopter and has no problem taking out the enemy. She’s not too terribly developed but you get a good sense of her style as it progresses, as well as her sense of humor. Kimball as the boomer detective doesn’t get much either since as a boomer he doesn’t have all that much of a personality but it’s well played for the part.

The real main character here comes down to Buzz, the guy in his early 30’s. Transferred from the AD Police to this division under bad circumstances, he’s a great investigator for his age but he’s lost something in himself over the years. Between the death of his wife and the accident that led to him being shifted to the secretive division of the AD Police, he’s something of a joke but is still given space when he walks into a room. Working hand in hand with Kimball on most things and assisting Michaelson when needed, he’s got that quiet but authoritative feel to him that sort of creeps up on you.

The three tales in this show aren’t exactly world shaking material. The first two in fact are the kind of almost generic boomer stories you’ve seen in other shows that deal with the robot stories or in any other number of media formats that have dealt with the same. The third tale here goes above and beyond the other two in its larger scope by tackling a group that fervently wants to take all the boomers out of the system and restore the natural balance of harmony for mankind. Again, not exactly the first time this story has been told. What’s different is in how its told, the style and the characters involved. Parasite Dolls is something that I found appealing for the same reasons I found the original AD Police OVA series so appealing; it’s dark in its nature in a storyline where there’s darkness in general but we follow the light characters like the Knight Sabers. It’s the kind of stories that you couldn’t tell in a series like that because of the sex and violence that you want to portray as part of the storyline.

Ok, it’s not exactly Andrew Vacchs doing anime, but there’s an element of grit and grime to these stories where the people are just people and not girls with guns in armored bodysuits. These are the stories that flesh out the reality of those “bubblegum and pop” worlds initially presented to the viewer. Through the course of the episodes, even though the characters really aren’t given a huge amount of depth, you come to not necessarily care about them in an emotional way, but in a way that you want to see them through to the next mystery and encounter to see what secrets they may unravel next. The third episode in particular gets nasty in how it presents a world of boomers and how real people would treat them. Are they a close friend? Are they someone upon whom you rely to perform your job well? Are they a lover? Or are they just a sex toy? A tool to be used and tossed aside when done.

As much as I enjoyed this release, there are a couple of things that I didn’t. One that I’m hard pressed to complain about is that we got the theatrical version of this, which means that it’s got the one opening and ending. The toss-up is that we get the Japanese 5.1 mix in place of losing the individual end credit sequences. But by appearances, as they’re all included at the end, the original end credits were just a black scroll screen anyway and nothing was really lost in it. I’m typically not a fan of the splicing of OVAs together to create a movie but in the way these three OVAs work, especially in how they span the space of something like six years or so, I think it actually works better.

In Summary:
While it’s been quite a bit since I last saw this and I was again initially resistant because of the cover artwork, I came away once more really enjoying this. While I’m a big fan of the Bubblegum Crisis universe, I’m also quite used to the few spinoffs made in anime tending to suck. Thankfully, this one doesn’t suck. Parasite Dolls does the job by showing a different element of a world we’ve gotten familiar with over the years and takes you to the dark underbelly of it. It’s a spin-off that’s intended to appeal to the older crowd looking for something more serious and interesting than the “bubblegum” aspect of the original. There isn’t any real boomer/mecha fanservice and the sexuality when used is definitely part of what’s going on. This is a cop drama of a sort set in the future that tells three engaging tales and lets the third one really play with the world we’ve come to know. This is the kind of show I want to see as a series, not that other AD Police TV series. This is the good stuff.

Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, “Get on the Beat” music video, Promo video shown at Anime Fair 2002,Original Japanese video promo, Production sketches

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

Released By: Aesir Holdings
Release Date: August 7th, 2012
MSRP: $19.98
Running Time: 85 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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