What They Say:
107 years ago, the Moon was destroyed in a massive cataclysm that shattered Earth’s former satellite into 81 quintillion tons of orbital debris. However, thanks to super-science, the Earth itself was saved and today no one really thinks much about that century-past disaster. Which is why when teenage Haruka Amami auditions for something called the Idolmaster Project, she thinks she’s trying out to be a singing idol. Instead, Haruka finds herself at a secret school run by the Mondenkind Agency, living with a group of other girls who have also been selected as candidates to pilot an IDOL – an advanced robot specifically designed to intercept falling chunks of moon rock.
Unfortunately, there aren’t enough Idols for all the potential pilots, and there are some who will do anything to earn the coveted seats, even if the consequences are lethal. And then there’s the question of whether the Idols are really just robots, because from almost the first moment, Haruka starts to feel emotions resonating from within the Idol called Imber. The mysteries are mounting, the competition is furious and the mission to save Earth is on!
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release is straightforward as it gives us the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The series is one that plays well between the action and general dialogue with each aspect of it getting a good mix overall. The show plays well with the action when it hits as it uses the forward soundstage with some good impact as the machines duke it out or they deal with the konpeito fragments. When it comes to the rest of it, it’s generally straightforward dialogue with a dash of silliness here and there with the wacky bits but it has some moments of placement to it and occasionally some good depth as well with the way the scenes are setup. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episodes are spread across three discs with four each on the first two and five on the third. Animated by Sunrise, the show has a good look about it both in terms of fluid animation and the detail of it. It’s a bit lighter on the detail than some of their more serious shows but there’s still a lot to like. The transfer captures the look of the series well where there’s some great dashes of vibrancy but a generally solid approach overall where the backgrounds have most of the detail and the colors for it are quite good, with only some mild softness in a few places. It almost comes across more of a film-like experience like older anime series but without the problems associated with it.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard size keepcase with a hinge inside to hold two of the discs. The artwork for this is interesting as it has a kind of soft palette to it that almost makes it look older than it is. The primary trio of characters take up most of the real estate from the bottom up as they are all outgoing while wearing their school uniforms. They’re set against a background of soft pink cherry blossom trees along the bottom that is balanced by the soft blue evening sky going upward which includes a look at the konpeito. The logo is simple but effective and the whole thing looks decent overall but just has that feel of not being quite as current as it actually is. The back cover has a mix of shots from the show along the top and close to the bottom that gives you a good look at the show. Iori gets the main piece of character artwork here along the right and it’s balanced by a thick concept summary next to it. The discs extras are clearly listed and the bottom is rounded out with production information and a clean technical grid that covers everything. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the show uses similar elements from the package design as it has lots of whites and blues that gives it a warm feel while letting the black and red give it a bit more impact. The left side has the main character artwork that changes across each of the volumes while the background has a lighter look at the mecha that’s soft but appealing. The logo is along the top against a black strip that makes it stand out while the right side of the menu has the long bars that shows off the episodes by number and title. Special features are easy to access in its own submenu and there’s no language setup since it’s monolingual, though you can turn off the subtitles on the fly.
The show has a few extras with it but they’re not ones that did all that much for me. The basics are here in the clean opening and closing sequences and we also get five shorts that run a few minutes each. They’re comedy based to be sure but they reuse animation from the show with tweaks and changes and some well placed pauses to have fun with it. I can see the humor it but it just didn’t do much for me and it didn’t take long to lose interest in them.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the [email protected] games, Idolmaster Xenglossia is a twenty-six episode series from Sunrise that deals with some familiar ideas. The game to anime conversion has certainly gotten better in the past decade but there’s always that kernel of fear. Interestingly, I hadn’t remembered that this was the first of two parts and I was getting into the show thinking that they did really well with the thirteen episodes they had in working with the characters and not being completely all about the action. Once I remembered it was a two part release, it kind of dampened my enthusiasm a bit since it felt like it was going to shift gears more in the second half. This first half did a lot of things I liked though.
The series takes place in the year Restoration 107, placing it into the 22nd century that still largely looks the same when you get down to it. The setting for it is really interesting and definitely leaves me wanting to know more. Sometime in our near future, an event caused the destruction of the moon that has been left unsaid. Those remains have created a ring around the Earth now that’s called konpeito, which is definitely quite beautiful to look at. It’s also dangerous as at times various fragments start to fall down to the world before. Some will just burn up in the atmosphere but there’s more than enough that will make it through and could cause an immense amount of destruction.
Naturally, there are those that will work to protect the world, an organization called Mondenkind, a worldwide group that utilizes different methods of dealing with the konpeito that falls. Japan has a series of mecha that they use which are piloted by teenage girls. And not just any series of girls but ones that the various mecha find that they can bond with. There’s a difference of opinion between the pilots and the command structure as to whether these mecha are alive or not, since there’s a lot of unexplained aspects about them, but there’s certainly something to be said for it as some of them just won’t let anyone pilot them and even some will stop allowing a particular pilot if things go awry in some way. It’s not exactly complicated but it gives it a nice layer as along the way a pilot can end up on the outs.
The amusing part is how they get the pilots for the mecha, which we see at the start as there’s an idol audition out in the boonies where Haruka is discovered. Not that she knows that she’s going to the big city to a private school where she’ll become one of these pilots. She thinks she’s going to be an idol. But when she does get there, she ends up getting sucked into the whole game pretty quickly, especially since the mecha that she’s tied with has been idle and quiet for sixteen years before it reactivates when she comes to town. Not surprisingly, Haruka has a conflict with one of the other girls, makes really good friends with another and is filled with potential. There’s plenty of familiarity with the whole layout here of the series in terms of the characters as it works with ideas that permeate these kinds of shows for quite a few years now.
Where the show won me over a bit more than I expected is that the bad guys are pretty much little used here for much of it. We get the introduction early on to the other side as when Haruka’s mecha surfaces, they’re there to try and get it themselves. The group, known as the Turiavita (and not even really named for most of this set), has a complicated history with the Mondenkind that’s pretty interesting as it’s revealed towards the later half. While there’s reveals to go in the second half, what I like here is that most of this set focuses on Haruka and the others doing their job. It’s not all about the back and forth with the bad guys. It’s about protecting the world rather than constant attacks and lots of undermining. It’s actually layered pretty well so that when the show shifts to dealing with the bad guys, it provides the right kind of reveals.
With this first half of the series, Idolmaster Xenoglossia provides a fairly standard coming of age with mecha story involving a group of girls as there are no male pilots here. Those pervy mecha. The focus on Haruka is good here as she comes to the big city, discovers what’s really in store for her and just takes it on with some good gusto. The focus for most of it is on the core cast as we get to know them but it does eventually go big in the final few episodes to give us a clue as to how connected to the bigger picture it is. There’s plenty of things glossed over as one might expect, but I really like the whole approach overall here. The konpeito is a sight to behold, the lack of real villains for most of it and the curious nature of the mecha and their relationship to the pilots leaves me wanting to see more.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Shorts, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 16th, 2012
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
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.