Corporate plotting, twisted creatures, familial relations and two young men who want to find justice in the world.
What They Say:
Jin and Kouga may come from very different walks of life, but both boys are searching for the real meaning of justice and what it means to be a hero! Jin may be poor, but he lives a happy life with his grandfather, until the day tragedy strikes and changes his life forever. Kouga, born into a wealthy family, is in line to inherit his family’s power and fortune. But what is true strength? What does it really mean to be human? Jin and Kouga’s fates intertwine in their struggle to harness the power that lies within each of them!
The audio presentation for this show is standard and straightforward fare as we get the original Japanese language in stereo as well as the new English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show has a good action component to it and it gets used pretty regularly throughout and that translates well here across the forward soundstage. The action has a good bit of impact to it, though not too much that it’s overpowering, and that makes for an engaging show in that regard. Dialogue is decent throughout though it doesn’t have a lot to really work with but it does things right and it avoids any problems. The mix for it doesn’t stand out strongly but there are a few good areas at times and it uses the range pretty well, which definitely helps it. But it’s not a show that you’ll remember for how well the dialogue was placed or handled. The show is pretty clean and clear throughout though and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this thirteen episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with seven on the first and six on the second, which is also where all the extras reside. Animated by TMS Animation, the show has a pretty dark look to it overall with a gray and cold look to much of it that definitely is appropriate for the nature of the series. The gray themed palate translates well here as the colors are solid and definitely brings the details out with it, both for the very dark scenes and the brighter ones with the white of the Alphas outfit for example. The look of the show may not be the most striking or outstanding, but the transfer captures the nuance and details of it well and it has a clean and appealing feel to it as it plays out no matter the locale or how fast and detailed the animation gets.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with the two discs included held against the interior walls. The cover art puts us pretty much in the right frame of mind for it as we get the two leads in their hero mods back to back with a dark and oppressive feeling about it while one of the orchestrating villains is in the background adding a bit of an ominous nature to it all. The silver/gray background is an interesting choice to use as it adds to the nature of it all well and complements the character artwork. The burst of color is small but it works well as we get the electric orange around the logo in the middle. The back cover uses the same clean background which definitely works nicely with all the black text that populates it. We get the logo along the side and there’s a few dark shots from the show that adds a little bit to it. But mostly it’s filled with the text of the premise, the extras and the basic features and production information. Technical information is slim as is usual for a Viz Media release but we do get the basics here in a few different areas. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the show is pretty decent as it works with some familiar ideas as we get some action heavy clips playing through it that shows off the characters and the kinds of creatures that exist in the show. It’s definitely a mood setter with some of the things used and the action/explosive nature of a lot of it that keeps it moving and engaging. The logo is kept along the upper left and they use a good connecting strip across the whole thing that works nicely with it. the main navigation is along the bottom as it has the standard selections but also provides for marathon play when you go into the play section. Marathon play is fairly rare outside of a couple of releases but I’m always glad to see it, especially in shows that never change up their sequences and you just spend extra time skipping through them.
The extras for this release are small but definitely appreciated overall. We get the standards in the clean opening and closing sequences but we also get a four minute interview piece with Katsura that has him talking about the original work and the adaptation.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based off of the manga by Masakazu Katsura which has eighteen volumes and going so far since it’s debut in 2002, Zetman is the latest book for Katsura to get adapted into an anime and this time by TMS Entertainment. I’ve been a fan of Katsura’s since Video Girl Ai, though more for his particular style when it comes to characters than anything else. So after his work as character designer on Tiger & Bunny last year, I was keen to see what this unlicensed manga was like and surprised that Viz Media hasn’t actually acquired it, though I’m guessing it’s very dark tones in the seinen magazine Weekly Young Jump has kept them from scooping it up. But Katsura isn’t know for the cute and cuddly and that’s one of his draw points.
With Zetman, it’s made clear right from the start that we’re definitely getting the dark and violent, but the violent that has no problem taking place in broad daylight. In fact, we see someone killed by a vicious serial killer while walking down the street, though nobody knows who did it because it’s so quick and brutal. Into this near future-ish world we’re introduced to a young kid named Jin Kanzaki, a pretty down on his luck and poor kid who lives in the slums in a shanty area with an old man he calls his grandfather that teaches him the right way to live. What Jin does is all sorts of odd jobs to help people in order to earn some money here and there. His introduction provides a bit of the light and bright points in the story as we just see a lot of darkness going around. But he’s not just an odd jobs kind of kid, he gets into the thick of things and has no problem fighting. And fighting hard as we see when he takes down a small group of thugs trying to take advantage of a woman in an alley.
When Jin’s grandfather gets caught in an act of violence, it’s the act that spurs him to do more than what he was doing since it affects him so personally. It’s a brief incident but what follows shows us the good side of both of them as we see what it was like to be homeless for them, the dreams that Jin had and the kinds of problems his being homeless has caused with his two friends that come from a wealthy family. Between this and the time that Jin spends afterwards getting cleaned up and helped by the woman he helped goes a long way towards making him a pretty interesting kid coping with a difficult problem and actually having someone that wants to help him through it. Of course, it has to end badly when the two of them come across the killer again, but it’s what’s needed to essentially ignite Jin into what he can become, but it’s convoluted and murky which is pretty fitting as this all feels like something much bigger is going on and we’re not even scratching the surface here..
While we thought we were going to get young defenders of justice as the core of the series, Zetman takes the fun challenge of using what we knew in the first episode, mildly convoluted as it was, and then advancing the story several years and aging u Jin. With Jin having gone missing after the incident from then, he’s managed to grow into a street smart protector ever since it seems as we get a good look at him here at the start where there’s a sense of very controlled power about him. His arrival definitely sets a few small waves, especially as he lands in the middle of protecting Konoha who has long held some affection for him. It’s a kind of mellow opening that also has a little bit of fun about it as we see Jin reconnect with his life.
Jin’s coming back into the real world has him doing a good amount of good right from the start, but he’s also getting caught up with something far uglier as there’s one creature that can control and create flames that’s causing a lot of damage in the city. Jin’s return coincides with Kouga’s attempts to become a “real hero of justice” as well and that has him and his small “organization” working to catch what they believe is a serial arsonist. So it’s amusing when the two of them come together in the midst of a fight and you have to take that second to wonder which way it will go. Thankfully, it avoids the fight that they might have ala classic superheroes as the two have enough of a past to know the truths of each other. And that means they can get to saving people in the building and going after the “arsonist” that’s out there.
This puts both the young men on the path to being heroes, though ones with very different approaches. Kouga is all about his childhood past with the show that has inspired his costume, but it’s also an approach that’s all about making the hard choices. Rather than trying to save everyone in a situation, he’ll save the larger number if it means sacrificing the smaller number. Jin, on the other hand, will risk everything to save everyone. It’s not easy choices and it does lead to some conflict between them. But what we see is that with Kouga, he’s struggling with whether it’s the right or wrong way for much of it while Jin is simply assured in himself that he is doing the right thing. Though the two men are largely apart from each other for most of the series, you can see this dynamic playing out across it and it certainly has its moments, which is tied to their very different upbringings and the kinds of people that they’re around for much of the show.
Unfortunately, I really did have a tough time with this show. So much so that when I was originally watching the simulcast, I dropped out of it just a bit before the halfway mark. Marathoning it here certainly helped to improve the story cohesion overall, but the problem that it comes down to is that there really isn’t a strong overall narrative because we have so many characters running around and so many interests in what’s going on. We have Kouga’s family with the Amagi corporation and their interests, and how they’re facilitating a lot of what’s going on through the creation of what Jin is and the other “grunt” level troops that exists, we have a faction of those that have splintered off on their own with a larger master plan for eradicating humanity over time since they consider themselves the truly leaders. And there’s a lot of smaller supporting characters that come in and out with their own agendas that add angles to it but largely just clutter it up overall. That made the overall story somewhat convoluted and haphazard at times, forcing the real attention to the lead characters and whichever ones you connected with the best.
One of the best aspects of Zetman is the action that permeates it as it really does excel in a way that will excite old school action fans. It may not be Guyver and it may not be a Go Nagai series, but it has some serious inspiration from there with the designs that stand out from the kinds of silly monsters we’ve had in so many series recently. Here, there are bloody attacks, limbs being ripped, bodies being stabbed deep and a sense of power that’s really intense. Especially when Jin is transformed and goes to the dark black and white coloring that makes him even more ominous and especially the really powered up red version. It’s the kind of dark hero that you know will do things right but has no compunctions about doing what is necessary to do those right things. And that’s always been the challenge of the classic here in just how far they’ll go before they cross the line. Here, there are no lines, just doing what needs to be done.
Zetman is a show I went into really wanting to like because of the people involved and especially the original creator. It’s a show that definitely plays to an older 90’s kind of feeling with its nature, designs and the kind of characters involved, both the human and the transformed ones. The problem is that while it takes this older kind of mentality, it doesn’t blend it well to present day style or storytelling and it’s condensing a lot of material into a small set. With some sixteen volumes in print of the manga at the time of its production, there’s only so far it can go and it shows. There are a lot of things to like and it’ll definitely appeal to fans of the genres it plays in, but it’s not a show that will hit a mainstream appeal. Which is definitely not a bad thing, but it just didn’t click well for me as a whole, as much as I wanted to like the various parts of it.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, NYCC Interview with Series Creator Masakazu Katsura, Clean Opening & Ending, English Trailer, Marathon Play Option
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: November 5th, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.