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Mass Effect: Paragon Lost Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read

Mass EffectA story best suited for the Mass Effect fan…

What They Say:
This prequel to Mass Effect 3 follows the early career of Alliance Marine, James Vega. Vega leads an elite Special Forces squad into battle against a mysterious alien threat known as The Collectors. Stationed at a colony in a remote star system, Vega and his soldiers must protect the civilians from a ruthless invasion determined to capture the population for unknown purposes.

Audio:
The 5 Channel TrueHD track does not disappoint in as it proves to capture captures the essence of the Mass Effect universe that is so familiar in the previous games. As a fan, it was cool to discover some of the very familiar, yet distinctive sounds from the game such as the omni-tool, singularity field, and weapons fire. You can really appreciate them as they come to life in surround channels through the main action scenes. The voicework is top notch as Freddie Prinze Jr does a great job as James Vega. Overall, the audio is a solid representation of the Mass Effect universe.

Video:
Mass Effect: Paragon Lost is presented in 1.78:1-framed 1080p goodness. Overall, everything appears very clean and sharp. The colors appear to really pop and no visible bleeding or distortion was noticed. The blending of hand drawn work and computer animation work in harmony to provide a very fluid picture overall. The artwork is very solid with exception to some character designs which do not have anything to do with the overall quality of this release. Decent black levels and a very vibrant color palette make this a great series to showcase with a high definition set.

Japanese studio T.O Entertainment introduce their own interpretation of the heroes, antagonists, and technology with their restrained designs, rendering a dull but sustainable visual style that discovers its strengths by keeping speed with brisk action and the stylized lighting. But, as with other anime of its pay-grade, they also employ an odd juxtaposition of modest hand-drawn artwork with exaggerated, corporeal CG builds for moving vehicles and architecture. Observing a faux-metallic six-wheeled vehicle stumble across a static vibrantly-colored cave is more frustrating than enjoyable, despite its reference to the first game (hello, Mako!).

Packaging:
The packaging for this collection follows the typical FUNimation Blu-rays release format. As with many of their collections, this collection has a very appealing design that comes in a standard eco-friendly two-disc case. The cover prominently features the Mass Effect logo that we are all familiar. James Vega, Camille, and Treeya are also featured here with the eerie face of a Collector in the background. Inside, you’ll find a “Normandy Forever” sticker, like the one James Vega has, along with a download code for Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer game. The second disc in this collection is standard DVD that also contains all the special features as found on the Blu-ray Disc.

Menu:
The menus for this release fit appropriately with the art found on the case. You won’t find anything earth shatteringly new in its design. However, you will find that the menus are easy to navigate and are very quick. This especially holds true for the pop-up menus.

Extras:
Mass Effect: Paragon Lost contains quite a few extras that fans of the series will appreciate. The All Doors Open: A Look Inside Electronic Arts featurette focuses on the EA base of operations that leads into an exploration of the Dead Space studio. An Inside Look at the Mass Effect Universe is the most interesting of all the extras as it focuses on Bioware, the creators of the Mass Effect universe. Here, we learn about the conceptualization of the game and all that went into it. Directing Mass Effect, details how Paragon Lost was conceptualized. It focuses on how the design team approached the various alien species and how they became visually realized. We also get a glimpse into Production I.G. / T.O. Entertainment’s participation.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers).
Mass Effect Paragon Lost is an animated film set in the Mass Effect universe that takes place during the events of Mass Effect 2. If you are unfamiliar with Mass Effect, it is one the highest rated action role playing videogames on the market. The story centers around a character that you get to play with in the third Mass Effect installment. In Mass Effect 3, James Vega has a chip on his shoulder, but proves to be invaluable to Commander Shepard and the crew of the SSV Normandy. It is through his brave contributions that Commander Shepard is able to save the Earth from utter annihilation. However, there is a dark cloud that seems to weigh upon James that is never fleshed out in the game. This where the animated film comes into play as it tells the story never told about James Vega and his past.

Paragon Lost opens with guns blazing as James Vega and a group of Earth Alliance marines are put into a situation with insurmountable odds of survival. Its times like these where heroes are made and split second thinking means life or death. While this may make perfect sense to the Mass Effect fan, for which this movie is targeted, it may confuse a newcomer as there is not much background information given about the Mass Effect universe or what is currently taking place. There is a lot of history to absorb over several video games in order to have a decent frame of reference for this story. James Vega’s history culminates from a comic release, the Mass Effect 3 game, and now the Paragon Lost film. Unfortunately, this is why While Paragon Lost cannot succeed on its own as it clearly relies on the foundation established by the video games.

Paragon Lost fills in a key gap in Vega’s history that has profound impact on him as mentioned in Mass Effect 3. In the film we learn more about the events that put him in a leadership role that ultimately leads towards what turned him into a soldier who may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Surviving an incursion with the ruthless Blood Pack mercenaries at Fehl Prime has propelled Vega into a leadership role that fits rather well. Again, knowing the backstory on the Blood Pack is an important frame of reference that the viewer can only learn about from the games or from the Internet. The battle that ensues is riveting and action packed. Vega’s quick thinking and actions under duress result in driving the Blood Pack out and saving the colony.

The story takes a 2 year leap forward in time. At the conclusion of the Blood Pack invasion, Vega and his Delta Squad signed on to help rebuild the colony and provide Earth Alliance protection. They are now integrated within the community and relationships with colonists are on a first name basis, especially for Vega who is fond of a little girl named April. Vega also has a love interest in Treeya an Asari anthropologist who pretty much ignores his advances as she is mostly absorbed with her research.

The second half of the film takes a harder approach as the Collectors arrive at Fehl Prime, another alien race that is the main antagonist in the Mass Effect 2 game. They are ruthless and will stop at nothing when it comes to scourging a planet and assimilating its inhabitants. The events that follow left this viewer with a profound introspection on the decisions of a combat soldier and the old Star Trek adage of “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. Vega’s decisions here are what shape his future and I am for one pleased with the overall story as a Mass Effect fan. There is a lot to like here as there are lots of little things from the games that are in this story. Sometimes those insertions might be a bit miscued, but nevertheless it is still fun.

For any newcomer to the Mass Effect story, I would strongly suggest that you play the games and/or read the wiki pages before diving into this film. The writers really played this up for the fan and overall, I think it hit the target dead on. What I would love to see is more films like this that introduce a new audience to the wonderful universe of Mass Effect where admission does not require having to play the game. The franchise itself is so vast in content that a series of movies or episodes could be made purely on the content that is already made available. Mobile video games and comics has proven to be successful as other mediums that tell the Mass Effect story.

Overall, Paragon Lost does a great job in molding James Vega into an interesting and appealing persona. We understand what drives him and his devotion to protecting those whom he cares about as depicted with his infatuation with Treeya and his bond with April. There is a significant impression that will be left with the viewer upon the conclusion of the story. Knowing the overall picture of how things evolve in the overall Mass Effect story will ultimately help put Vega’s circumstance into perspective. For the fan, it is nice knowing that Vega’s future lies beyond the confines of this story for which the future seems brighter. The burden he will carry forward and his devotion to Commander Shepard will ultimately play a role in saving the galaxy with insurmountable odds of failure.

In Summary:
Mass Effect: Paragon Lost is one of the better video game interpreted films out there, even if it takes place during the middle of the overall Mass Effect saga. A huge source of content that is primarily accessible through the video games may be the only thing that hurts this film as it is really made for the fan. It fails to provide a newcomer with an easy entry point. The animation style is standard fare and has some decent visual highlights. The voiceover work is very strong with Freddie Prinze Jr and Monical Rial leading the way. Fans will find things to nitpick like the visual interpretation of the Krogan and how some aspects from the games are a bit forced. However, this is a story well worth viewing as it does leave a lasting impression on how true heroes are forged and the cost for which they must pay.

Features:
English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, All Doors Open: A look inside Electronic Arts, Directing Mass Effect, An Inside Look at the Mass Effect Universe

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 28th, 2012
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 95 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Review Equipment
Samsung UN46B6000VF 120Hz LED HDTV, Samsung HT-WS1R/XAA 2.1 Channel Soundbar Speaker System with Wireless Subwoofer, and Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p

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