Sometimes even the luck runs out, at least for a little while.
What They Say:
Six long months have passed. The Raalgon Empire has developed a horrible new type of weapon, and Tylor has been charged with the duty of intercepting it as it is being transported. But when all that could go wrong does go wrong, the crew members of the Soyokaze find themselves at the mercy of their enemies. As the hours tick down toward their execution, the crew wonders: has their irresponsible captain misled them? Or is this all a part of some greater strategy?
Contains the complete 10-episode OVA series with remastered video.
The audio presentation for this series is pretty straightforward and shows its age a bit as we get the original Japanese language and the previously recorded English dub in stereo encoded at 192kbps. The series has a good mix of things that it does, from the action sequences to the comedy and slapstick as well as calmer dialogue pieces between just one or two characters by themselves. The action doesn’t exactly get expansive here with its forward soundstage design but it has a good full feeling overall that works properly for the way it unfolds. It’s not something that will knock your socks off, but it first for a science fiction comedy. Dialogue itself is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 1993 and 1994, the transfer for this ten episode OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The show is spread across multiple discs with an average of two to three episodes per discs. Working off of the previously released remastered edition that came out, this litebox edition uses the same discs as that and presents a very good looking show for its age. The series has always had a good look and the transfer here is as solid as it likely can get for standard definition as there’s some noise in the backgrounds and a bit of line noise here and there, but nothing much beyond there. There’s some very minor cross coloration in a few scenes, but it’s so negligible you almost hate to even mention it because it doesn’t impact the show in the slightest. Colors look good, the details come across well and the presentation in general is exactly what you’d want, though it may leave you craving a high definition release as well just to see what else can be eked out of it. The show holds up well here compared to some other 90’s shows being released these days.
With so many editions of this out there over the years, the appeal of a litebox version like this is to nab some new fans of course, but also to provide a very tight package overall. This release gives us the four discs inside a single sized keepcase to keep it all together. The front cover gives us a moody character shot of Tylor himself against a city background that’s darkened and atmospheric which looks really nice overall but keeps the humor of the series out of the picture for a bit. The logo is kept small in the upper left corner which sort of fits as the appeal here is definitely the very good looking character designs. The back cover works nicely here as we get a few shots from the show and a nice black and white piece that’s serious for Tylor and Azalyn. The premise isn’t delved into in a big way but it covers the basics well along with a good listing of the discs extras and what the show itself has for its episode count. The technical grid is simple but it covers everything cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release definitely goes for something a bit spartan, but not in a bad way. The static menus have the star filled background as a constant which looks nice enough and there’s a good piece of character artwork, done in black and white, of different character configurations together that’s more serious than it needs to be. I would have preferred something with a bit more humor and lightness to it when you get down to it. The navigation strip along the bottom has the logo along the left that looks good and the selections are kept to the right of it. It doesn’t have a lot of flair or style but it’s effective and definitely fits the show in a good way. Submenus load quickly and we didn’t have any problems in getting around or accessing anything.
The extras here are pretty decent as we get the solid liner notes we’ve seen in the past, a number of music videos and a few trailers as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the success of the TV series but also the general way it concluded, there was a desire to take advantage of the popularity of the series at the time and to extend it out a bit with more story. Hence the idea to insert a number of new stories in between things that would work towards highlighting other characters from the expansive cast that got their due during the ongoing work but little in the way of fully dedicated material. And in the midst of all this, they’d bookend it with a pair of lengthy OVAs that would deal with some of the larger story material itself in the usual Tylor way. That said, while there is humor to a good bit of it, there’s also a good deal of somewhat serious and straightforward material which plays a bit heavier than the series itself did, which can draw out some of the stories a little more than one might want.
The opening two episode OVA release, which covers the first disc and is the equivalent of four episodes, has the subtitle of Tylor’s War, and focuses on a secret mission that’s assigned to Tylor that must be carried out without any of his crews knowledge. He’s offered up his dream reward if he accomplishes it as well as trying to get a raise for his crew. Getting a visual record of this secret meeting with the admiral whose tried to kill him several times, Tylor accepts and heads off into space.
Apparently, the Raalgon fleet is being slowly equipped with an incredible powerful new weapon, a mass conversion bomb, that will allow them to immensely upset the balance of power between them and the Earth forces. This would lead humanity to become either obliterated or enslaved, which is why Tylor is sent off with his secret mission of contacting the Empress and laying out some proposals from the Earth fleet command. What becomes unfortunate for Tylor is that during the mission, when he breaks off from the main fleet to pursue his objectives, nobody trusts him to do whatever it is he’s doing, and since he can’t talk about it, they can’t figure out why. And when it leads to the entire ship being captured and the entire crew being interrogated, Tylor’s status sinks even lower.
During their captivity, Tylor finds himself in a rather odd position. Azalyn has taken a holiday in the middle of the war and left that scurvy bastard in charge who’s trying to take over the throne. He refuses to let Tylor see her, but Dom manages to get the two of them together against his better wishes. And when Azalyn and Tylor do meet up, one of the first things she does to him is put him in her father’s clothes. That’s just trippy when you think about it. And after their discussion of the thousands of years old classic movie Roman Holiday (a favorite of Azalyn’s for obvious reasons), she does the daring thing of dropping all her clothes and showing herself to Tylor.
Dom naturally enters at that point and provides one of funniest moments of this entire series. Tylor proceeds to become a whipping subject as Dom gets futuristic on his posterior. The show then goes kind of all over the place as parts of the mission becomes known as well as the terms. Tylor himself falls completely out of grace with his crew leading to a very organized and democratic sorta-mutiny, as well as a rather well done combat sequence using the new weapons.
Once past this lengthy piece, the show moves into the shorter and more traditional OVA length where they’re about thirty minutes each. These OVA’s are all pretty well self-contained stories that focus on a particular character or pairing of characters. The final two episodes also work in this way, but are part of a two-parter that also deals with the episodes on the final volume that’s not yet released. And in the end, all the episodes really are related and carry and undercurrent of a storyline. Confused? Don’t be, it all works out nicely.
All of the episodes are pretty somber, right from the get-go. The first episode revolves around Azalyn who is once again tired of being Empress and having to do things she doesn’t want to do. Being the cunning little wench that she is, she heads off with Dom to do a resource check on a planet she spent a lot of time on in her youth. She tries to reconnect with her more playful and youthful days, but ends up finding parts of her past and her families past getting in the way of it.
The second episode focuses on Kojiro, the fighter pilot from the Soyokaze. This episode essentially allows the creators to achieve their apparent life-long dream of animating parts of Top Gun frame by frame as well as proving that anyone can make Macross Plus. So many scenes and sequences are direct lifts, it’d be unnerving if it wasn’t so damn funny at times. This is a pretty good episode overall, giving Kojiro some much needed time to shine as well as showing off some of the fighters of the future. Even if they do look like Macross Plus jets.
The third episode was one I thought I was going to like the least, but provided some good fun yet somber entertainment. The story focused on Andressen and partially on those around him. Their ground time had them taking courses to pilot the Newtype armors that are coming out, but anyone from the Soyokaze is looked down upon. Andressen learns that the Newtype was one of the final designs created by a former roommate from the Academy who wasn’t all that interested in warfare. And when the machine goes berserk after a Patlabor-like introduction, the Soyokaze crew takes the lead in trying to save the day, with their usual style of humor and wit.
My favorite episode though is the Christmas Eve one that focused on the rendezvous between Tylor and Yuriko. Having read the liner notes first and learning more about what Christmas Even means in Japan, this episode (and episodes from other series) click a little bit better now and added to my enjoyment of this one. The troubles that Tylor goes through to get to this date, while not knowing exactly what kind of date it is, was hilarious. Especially when they all just sat down on the sidewalk to celebrate. And watching how seriously Yuriko was taking all of it, notably in her purchase of a new dress, brought to the forefront just how much she cares about Tylor.
The final two episodes deal primarily with Yamamoto. While the first one is leaned more towards Yuriko, it’s more to help set up what’s going on in the second episode as well as to lead into the next volume. We start to understand more of what drives Yamamoto as we learn about his mentor at the academy and why he reveres him. We also get to see Yamamoto move away from some of his buffoonish actions for awhile and get to act heroic, which is something the character needed to grow some.
While somber is a good way to describe these episodes, it’s also a great way to do a number of great character pieces. The crew of the Soyokaze definitely aren’t all happy go-lucky guys like Tylor. And Tylor really only figures into one episode here, and that’s the fourth one in the release. While the show is named after him, he gives the spotlight to the others for awhile and it really does help make this a more ensemble cast. It’s even got me wanting to watch the TV series again to see what I may have missed.
When the OVA arc gets down to the final two episodes, it has the large job of trying to connect the previous five OVA’s into the continuity established on the last disc in solving the mystery of what’s attacking the ships out on the frontier. We also see how this inquiry is being observed by the Raalgon empire, with Wang leading the charge to war due to the growing build-up of humanity’s forces all over the frontier. Wang pursues his quest for war in an interesting way. He instead pursues for peace through Azalyn, insisting that the fleets soldiers are not prepared for such a lengthy war and that the morale is excessively low. This pushes Admiral Lonawer on the defensive in saying that while morale is low, the troops are ready and they will serve their empress. Wang capitalizes on this by saying Lonawer is opposed to peace, and manages to force an agreement on a huge all out war to secure victory for the empire. It was quite an interesting act on his part.
On the Earth side of things, Mifune is applying his subtle pressures to acquire the new high speed battleships for the Frontier division. With there being so many bases being built along the frontier, his push is to get more defenses lined along the frontier and in his fleet division. There’s a lot of jockeying going on for these new cruisers, a lot of the maneuvering going on in the forces high command is over who gets these things. When the declaration of war comes from the Raalgon empire, tied with a request for peace talks, it’s quickly decided who gets what.
During all of this, the various members of the Soyokaze come across each other after their various placements in the 2nd OVA disc and the pieces start coming together. After Yamamoto’s disastrous turn as captain on the frontier, he begins working hard with Yuriko on discovering what the enemy was that took him down. With this going on, the UPSF gets itself ready for war and amasses its fleets to take on the Raalgon. There’s a lot of subtle shifting and power plays going on here, but the way it plays out works perfectly. From the way Wang “masterfully” takes over the Raalgon empire and causes a split to the way the Tylor crew imitate Star Trek III and hijack the soon-to-be-scrapped Soyokaze for one last mission. The ending with Yamamoto and Tylor is also played out brilliantly and serves as a really solid character growth moment.
So what’s wrong with it? It ends well enough, by discovering who the real enemy is and averting the war between the UPSF and the Raalgons, but it doesn’t answer any of the questions about this new group whose come to control Wang’s ascent and have been responsible for the attacks on the UPSF. To find out what happens next, you have to read the liner notes from the 8th episode. Thankfully these detailed notes are included, that talk about various characters futures, the real people behind the new invading force and the relevance of all of the individual OVA episodes in this segment.
Suffice to say, it’s talking about the novels and magazines that came afterwards. It’s truly a shame that these pieces were not animated, as it really would make things a lot more palatable here. The ending works, but it really leaves you wanting more. But then, the TV series ended in a fairly similar way, and Neil Nadelman really went above the call of duty in telling us how the characters and their children turn out in the novels, so we have some sense of closure.
Though there are aspects to this OVA series that didn’t win me over as much since it reduced the humor overall and Tylor was reduced for a lot of it as well. The sense of whimsy just isn’t as much since the group is split apart for so much of it. But it also works nicely to really showcase these characters in new light as we see them dealing with individual stories while grounded and exploring other aspects of their lives. There’s also the large storyline that bookends it in some interesting ways since they go for the longer runtime. The first disc gives us an interesting take on the war itself and has a more languid approach while the last disc takes the two extended length OVAs and just shows you how Tylor is who he is and his luck and stumbling into things allows him to explore risks in different ways. I’m a huge fan of this crew, but the OVAs are the weaker link in it because of the overall design of it. I do like the attempt to do something different here and while it doesn’t pay off completely, it provides some welcome views of the cast and their situations.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Liner Notes, Character Bios, Ship Data
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: September 3rd, 2013
Running Time: 360 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.