What They Say:
Although mathematically gifted, Junki Saiga is an otherwise typical high school student, whose archaeologist father disappeared during an expedition years ago. But recently his family learned that his father’s remains have been discovered near Japan’s pyramid along with artifacts and notes from his research. While Junki is still reeling from the confirmation of his father’s death, a meteor comes crashing from the sky carrying a foreign robotic life-form that immediately begins attacking anything and everything!
This sequence of strange events triggers a bracelet left from his father’s research to activate and merge with an ancient robot hidden inside the pyramid – Reideen. But not everyone welcomes Reideen’s help in dealing with the alien threat. There are those that want the robot’s power for themselves, and others who want to see it and its pilot destroyed. Without the help of his nation or even his friends, Junki must push himself to succeed in piloting Reideen against the aliens or watch the world perish!
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty straightforward as we get the original Japanese language track only, done in stereo and encoded at 224kbps. While this is a giant mecha show, it’s one that goes for a different approach than usual and is more restrained for the most part, resulting in a weaker sound design overall, though one that plays better in the end in terms of being a bit more realistic. The show works its big moments well enough with some good music swells to it, but the sound effects are a bit more muted overall. There’s a certain pacing to the fights that draws it out when it comes to sound design, but it handles it well in general, even if it doesn’t feel as full of pomp as it feels like it should. Dialogue is also rather muted overall as there’s not a lot of intense emotion in it, instead going for a restrained approach for most of the cast outside of a few areas. It does pick up a bit more towards the end of this set, but it’s still pretty simple. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout though and we didn’t have any 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. This set has thirteen episodes that are spread across three discs in a four/five/four format to give it a decent bit of space to work with. Animated by Production I.G., it has a surprising feeling to it overall. While the designs work well, even with the CG standing out badly, and there’s some solid detail to the world overall, it has a very murky feeling to it that doesn’t lend itself well when being encoded here. It’s got a murky and noise background a lot of the time and some scenes show a good bit of block in the darker areas, especially in some of the characters hair. Bits of line noise appear throughout, more early on than later, during a number of the panning sequences as well. While the transfer is clean in terms of problems with the source material, it just comes across looking more like a low level 90’s animated show more than anything else.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized DVD case with a hinge inside to hold two of the discs while the third is against the back wall. The front cover is an interesting approach as it gives us a shadowed naked Junki turning back to face the viewer where the golden band on his wrist is glowing. That’s all set in front of a washed out overly glowing image of Reideen with its golden hue, offset by having the series logo in red spread across it. It’s not the most eye-catching of covers, though the color choice will certainly catch some attention. The back cover is a little more traditional with a selection of small screenshots along the top and lower sections while the premise is covered rather deeply through the middle. The episode and disc count is laid out clearly and we get a solid breakdown of the production credits and technical grid that makes it clear what’s included in the design of the series for playback. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release likely means there’s few assets to work with when it comes down to it, but it’s the kind of menu that just makes you cringe a bit. With a bit of golden flair along the side, we mostly get a center panel kind of approach that’s done in a deep red where we get the logo along the top and then four large bars that list the episodes by number and title. With nothing else on the discs, as there’s no extras and language selection, all we get otherwise is a look at trailers for other shows. Navigation is simple, but most of the time you won’t have anything to do with it and nothing here really sets the mood for it, so the quicker you’re done with it the better. It’s just the easiest kind of menu to produce.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the premise of the 1975 anime series Brave Reideen, Reideen is a twenty-six episode series produced by Production I.G. that arrived in 2007. While I haven’t seen the original series in full, I’ve seen snippets over the years as it was the kind of show that was produced when I was a young child and there were a lot of bootlegs and others like it as I got into the comic convention scene in the 80’s. Giant robot shows are tricky in modernizing because so many of the charms for longtime fans are lost while new fans struggle to find anything original or noteworthy being said in them. Reideen has an interesting approach in some of what it does when it comes to modernizing, but even that’s not really fresh or new. What it all ends up becoming though is a rather decompressed series, which can be the most frustrating aspect.
The series revolves around high school freshman Junki Saiga, a pretty solid young man with a decent life so far and plenty of promise ahead. He’s really good at mathematics, has a stable family life and spent a lot of time in elementary and middle school in kendo clubs where he was very skilled. With his high school career, he’s put the kendo behind and is just focusing on his studies and we see that he has some light friends and a decent life, but things have that kind of empty feeling about it. That emptiness changes when he gets a call from home that his father, who had been missing for ten years, has been found. Or rather, his remains have been discovered after a mudslide has revealed an underground passage that he was trapped in. With his father being an archaeologist, they had kind of figured this had happened as he was wedded more to his work than his family. That’s likely kept Junki a bit aloof over the years and while he cares for his younger sister and mother, you can see a distance between them in general.
Where things get strange though is when they go off to this location to meet with the police to identify the remains, it doesn’t take long for there to be a feeling of something different about the area. There’s a lot of unusual and little known military/government groups poking around out there and the introduction of the Vigilance Corps, which as something called the Jinrai squad that has large scale mecha that are supposedly designed to be employed during natural disasters as a way to provide relief. But all you can see are the military options with it. There’s also a group from the Documents Division lead by a man called Taro Maedasaki, who sees larger things in what’s going on here. And not surprisingly, he’s right. As it turns out, the tunnels are thought to be a part of a long lost civilization and there’s mysterious mechanical beasts that are starting to come out of there – all of which is tied to an unusual group of aliens that are now in orbit as well looking for something called Reideen.
Circumstances end up having Junki gaining possession of a golden wristband and a newly appeared tattoo on said wrist the now allows him to call for Reideen, a giant golden robot that can fight these Mechanical Beasts. You can see all the standard plot points here easily enough. Junki hides this from his family. He doesn’t want to be a part of it and does his best to keep away from it all. Maedasaki does his best to keep putting Junki into these situations because the Jinrai squad can’t handle it and only he can really take down the Mechanical Beasts. We even get the old cliche of Maedasaki setting up shop in an old vacuum tube business to use it as a cover to stay close to Junki and to get Junki employed there to explain his absences from time to time since Junki can’t not help when he’s the only one to push back against these Mechanical Beasts, especially as he learns more of Reideens weapons and powers along the way.
What I liked about this show is that with the giant robots and mecha fighting here is that it does play it to scale right. These are not whip-fast moving machines and you can see that it takes time to turn, move and attack, which really does alter the dynamic of the fights. The downside is that it can make the fights pretty boring as well. But that’s more because of the slow CG pieces within it as various aspects of the transformations play out, moving along in a way that’s little more than killing time. I also liked that when we did finally get to the alien component of it, it comes across as just weird. Yes, we get one really humanoid figure in the mix, but most of them are simply aliens. And that’s welcome since most shows just play them as human. This pack is also pretty divided in a lot of ways, though their goal is mostly to gain control of Reideen. I also like that there’s no real romance brewing here, though the potential for one is there with a longtime female friend that adores him without him knowing and the arrival of a transfer student who is kept largely to the background throughout most of this half of the series.
What I don’t like is some of the usual stuff that goes into shows like these. I don’t like that you basically get the only person that can fight these things being let go to live his life and just called in when necessary. While forced compliance doesn’t work in making someone work with you, and Junki makes it clear he’s not doing this out of patriotism, the scale of events really does play bigger than that and Junki comes across as an ass because of it – and keeping it secret from family – and the government and military come across as utterly inept for associative reasons. There’s also the CG aspect itself, which gives us some awkward looking robots in general and Reideen itself is just cringe inducing with its colors and design. Not that the original design is all that great either, but that was 1975. This was 2007.
The first half of Reideen doesn’t do much to really stand out or make itself seem like something that demands being seen unfortunately. While it generally has decent production values, the transfer here shows its flaws more and that combined with some difficult pacing, story elements and a lack of compelling hook to draw you in ends up making it so that it’s hard to get enthused about. It’s not bad, per se, but it’s just not something that really makes itself memorable. I like various elements of it, but those elements came in the last couple of episodes and it took nearly twelve episodes to actually go there. That does harken back to the old way of doing things in a lot of ways, but the decompressed nature of events here just makes it a bit of a slog to get there, especially with so many shows having tread this territory before.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: C-
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 16th, 2014
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic 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.