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Black Magic M-66 Anime DVD Review

7 min read

Black Magic M-66
Black Magic M-66
When a military robot ends up on the loose, all chaos breaks loose when they discover its intended target.

What They Say:
When two malfunctioning combat androids are accidentally unleashed on a “Terminate At All Costs” mission against the unsuspecting granddaughter of their creator, an entire city becomes the battleground and not even the military may be able to stop them! The girl’s only hope: Sybil, a freelance journalist who’s out to get the scoop of her life… if she can somehow keep both herself and her subject alive long enough to file a report. But first, she has to remember to put her clothes on!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only, as the music and effects separate track has long been lost so no new dub can be created. The mix is a basic stereo one encoded at 224kbps and it’s pretty representative for its time where it’s a full sounding mix that doesn;t have a lot in the way of impact or depth, but it handles things well. THe show is pretty much on the move from the get go and it has a decent action soundtrack to it but it’s nothing that leaps out at you, but it serves the visuals well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 1987, the transfer for this single OVA is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show is one that looked decent back in the day but it hasn’t held up too well over the years, mostly because of the quality of the source materials themselves that are in bad need of a full on restoration. The visuals here hold up in terms of the character designs and general colors of it all, but it feels a touch washed out and has a fair bit of line noise throughout it. There are a few areas of minor cross coloration but they’re pretty minimal overall and nothing that really distracts. While it does have its problems overall, it does hold up pretty well when you take the long view of how these materials have been done over the years and I suspect in a comparison it’ll look better than the previous DVD release we had over a decade ago.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized keepcase that goes with a darker look overall with a dark and murky background that has a creepy feeling about it. The central focus is on the lighter and spooky visual of the M-66 unit itself which is heightened by the way it flows into the white along the lower left where we also get the logo. That’s kept very simple with a basic red font, but it works well to draw attention to it and then into the artwork itself. The back cover works a similar approach with a mostly dark background that turns grey to white along the left, which is where we get several shots from the show as well. The premise is well covered as is its origins and we get some good character and actions shots as well. The production credits and technical grid lays everything out cleanly and accurately and there are no inserts included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu layout uses something that we’ve seen more with previous home video releases when it comes to the artwork as it has the combat android along the right with a “clothing falling off” kind of approach to it that draws you in nicely, blending the sexuality and dangerousness of the machine. The rest of it is just dark and murky with some splashes of lighter whites that also has the logo to it and the basic play button as there are no extras on the disc. The only other selections are the trailers for other shows and credits, making this a pretty barebones release but one that at least sets the mood and atmosphere well.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back in 1983, Masamune Shirow brought out his Black Magic manga release, which was something that I discovered several years later with its American release after discovering the Appleseed manga first. Going back into this one, you could see some of the same themes to be sure but also a good evolution of Shirow’s artwork. When it came time to create OVA for it a few years later, it ended up at Bandai Visual and Shirow himself helped to co-direct it along with Hiroyuki Kitakubo, who himself would go on to work on a lot of interesting shows over the next few years. With Shirow on board, you can give some allowances for the changes that took place as the OVA very, very loosely adapts one of the chapters from the manga without going into the larger storyline overall. If you didn’t know better, you’d think it takes place in a near future on Earth rather than some distance past on Venus…

The OVA is pretty straightforward with what it does as it introduces us to a military transport operation goen wrong that has a couple of containers go down that contain some prototype combat androids in them. Because they were being transported to another facility, they weren’t exactly ready for prime time. While some of them didn’t activate, a pair of them did and they’re on the move towards their target, which was programmed in only for testings sake in the lab. The problem is that the chief designer of the combat android plugged in his granddaughter as the target, a young woman named Ferris. Though it’s a real problem, you have to be amused by the scientist that says it’s a good thing since otherwise the androids would have gone to ground and been even harder to find. This way, they at least know where the android is going and can pursue the two that escaped.

While all of this is going on and we see several military operations going on to try and recapture it, we also get a more common view towards what’s going on as well. That comes through a young woman named Sybel who is a reporter that ends up caught up in the situation while out in the woods on a lead and stumbles across what the military is doing. Before she ends up seeing the android though, she’s taken in by the military since she got too close to things, but it sort of works out in her favor as the two androids storm through their temporary encampment. That allows the military to take one down, but sets the other one closer to finding Ferris, which we see in a few scenes before it all starts coming together with all the sides going to the final chase and escape sequence.

Black Magic M-66 works with a very simple approach to what it’s doing here, going mostly for action and little in terms of in depth story. In a way, you can say it’s a standard action movie with all the fluff taken out of it, keeping it distilled down to its core action sequences with enough material to string it all together. And it does work well because it’s a pretty fun ride with some interesting designs and a good sense of choreography with the action. Other than the initial quieter moments as we see Sybel getting acquainted with what’s going on and a bit of fluffy dialogue with her partner, it pretty much just keeps moving and going as we see the military side being efficient and working towards a resolution while also coming up with a cover story at the same time, which just amuses.

In Summary:
In the end, there’s not a whole lot to say about the Black Magic M-66 show because it is a stripped down action show with some interesting elements to it but not enough to really make it hugely engaging. It’s one of the few Shirow directed shows out there though and that has its appeal, as is seeing his designs in action once again after all these years. With it working loosely from part of the manga, but not the interesting parts of the manga from my distant recollections of it, we get something that works well in is distilled form to just gives us action. A lot of the appeal of this show for me is just nostalgia, but it definitely has things going for it and is a good piece of classic 80’s anime that many fans grew up on that definitely deserves to be in print and easily available. I’ll still pine for a full high definition remaster someday though just on the hope that it can be cleaned up even more.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: July 9th, 2013
MSRP: $19.98
Running Time: 48 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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