What They Say:
What does it take to conquer the world? Every leader of the past has thought of it… but all they have done was to merely dream of its greatness. World domination… nobody has been able to achieve it. Until one little girl by the name of Kate Hoshimiya came along. Kate Hoshimiya will shock the world! How was she was able to carry out such a magnificent stunt? So frightful! So glorious! Could this be… the Zvezda Plot!? The light of Zvezda will shine upon the whole world!
The audio presentation for this release is pretty decent but falls short of some other Aniplex series as we get the original Japanese language track on, and in stereo, but encoded using Dolby Digital at 384kbps instead of a PCM uncompressed track. The show is one that is mostly dialogue and mild action sequences from time to time before it hits its bigger sequences, so it’s not one that stretches much or requires a great design about it, and what we get with the encoding works well overall. The dialogue is well placed along the forward soundstage and the action and certain movements provides for some good directionality as well. The opening and closing sequences are where it feels the warmest and richest though, produced as they are, but the series as a whole is a pretty decent one here and it comes across clean and problem free as we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in early 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episodes and OVA are spread across three discs in a four/four/five format that gives it plenty of space to work with overall. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the show has a very good look about it with some great background design that gives it a distinctive feeling that’s captured rather well by the transfer. Colors are solid with some really vibrant pieces to be had throughout and there’s a solidity to the presentation as a whole with little in the way of line noise and that being the only real issue for the most part. Backgrounds are clean and mostly gradient free and the lack of grain or digital noise to a distracting level is welcome as well. It’s definitely a transfer that I’d love to see in full high definition because of the backgrounds, but I really liked what I saw here.
The packaging for this release is done up rather nicely as we get a solid slipcase to hold the single DVD keepcase inside, though the slipcase isn’t a heavy chipboard piece or anything. The front of that has a solid look at several of the main characters from the Zvezda side where they’re bright and colorful, thought Kate’s design could turn a lot of people away. The back cover uses the same background with the symbolism but it lets some of the White Light characters take focus while a few of the Zvezda characters are in the background of it all. The packaging doesn’t contain any information itself about the release and it uses a black wraparound obi along the bottom to showcase what makes up the extras and format for the release as well as a few shots from the show on the back and a technical grid that breaks down the basics.
The keepcase is done up in clear form here and it has a cute image of Kate holding Galaktika while she provides a little handsign. The layout lets a white/gray background get used for it with the logo along the top and it’s basically replicated on the back and on the reverse side to provide four individual slots for the women of the series to get their own standout place. Each looks great and with it being reversible, you get to decide how you want the release to look. A really nice three panel mini poster is included that has most of the cast across it with sides set up and there’s a fantastic postcard set that’s included which has some beautiful artwork on it.
The menu design for this is pretty nice overall as it brings in some good elements from the materials on hand to work with. The menu is largely split in half where the right side has a bright color poster-like placement that uses various images on each of the discs that highlights different configurations of the cast. It’s brighter, sharper and stands out in a very good way. The left side has the bright logo along the top that looks good and the navigation is done as a series of stars below it. Behind it through a red filter we get more character artwork, such as Kate in her mask for the first volume, which gives it a kind of odd feeling. The layout works well enough, though it’s not entirely linear because of how it’s laid out, but it’s functional and accessible here and it has some nice in-theme moments to it. Since it’s monolingual release, it’s limited in use outside of the extras or going to a specific episode.
The extras for this release are kept simple as we get the clean opening and closing sequences and a preview for the OVA itself.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series that premiered in the winter 2014 season, World Conquest Zvezda Plot has a whole lot going for it. It’s produced by A-1 Pictures and it brought on Tensai Okamura to direct it, and he co-wrote it with Meteor Hoshizora, who hails from Type-Moon. Bring in Kōhaku Kuroboshi and Keigo Sasaki with original character designs and there’s a sense of some good talent there and a chance to strike some rich gold of their own with their vision. The series is one that certain shows some vision and there’s some beautiful sequences to be had here, and design elements overall, and it wants to take a different approach to the whole world conquest side. But it also plays to familiar cliches far too much without any real spin on it to provide a breath of fresh air. While a lot of series delight when at the end we get an OVA, I found myself full of dread with this one since it went with the main group deciding to become an idol unit.
The premise of the series is certainly straightforward enough as series lead Kate Hoshimiya is your pint-sized loli type that thankfully doens’t play up the fanservice much. The show in general is fairly restrained in this way, which certainly helps. Kate’s actually known by another name to her closest confidants within the Udogawa District as she’s Lady Venera, the leader of the Zvezda group whose goal is that of world domination. Kate certainly makes an impression early on as she’s riding a tricycle around and certainly looks like an elementary school student, but she has grand dreams of conquest and some actual ability to back it up as we see through her use of Galaktika, a pink bunny doll that that can bring out a massive light-fist that basically conquers its enemies and allows her to level up in a sense. She uses this several times throughout the series and it definitely has its cute moments as she deals with enemies – and sometimes allies.
For the viewer, we get exposed to this world through the eyes of Asuto, a second year middle school student who has avoided going home because of issues with his family. This has him looking for a place to go, particularly since the region is under martial law and there’s a tight curfew at night that shuts everything down hard. It’s during this curfew that he gets accosted by the strange Zvezda group, who are fighting a lengthy battle against the White Light group that’s looking to exterminate them. Asuto gets caught up in it easily enough and it’s because Kate rescues him that he ends up back at their headquarters and drawn into being a member while not really able to process what it is that’s going on and who these strange, quirky people are. In fact, he probably would have been better off being picked up by White Light since one of its main players under her mask is Renge, a fellow middle school girl who really, really likes him and is trying to get closer to him while hiding her true secret identity. It’s a familiar triangle that comes into play here, but with the added twists of the masks and the uncertainty of who is who when they fight in that form.
The show spends a lot of its time on the various interactions of the group and the odd way the world works here within the district. Kate has some unique players on her side, such as Roboko the robot girl, Itsuka as one of their main fighters as she wears an eye-patch and is all gung-ho, and her father Goro as well, who as a former gangster has some real combat knowledge and plays it well with his costume here as a third world dictator with a specialized mask. There’s also Yasu, a gangster that Goro kind of saved along the way and brought into the group here with him, but he’s lost for a lot of the season as he ends up on Kate’s bad side when they spend an issue showing the extreme lengths that she goes to in order to eliminate smoking within the district.
This is actually amusing at first because it goes to such a degree, but it also starts to provide a microcosm of events going on within the country that takes greater shape in the final act episodes. Seeing the way the District regulates things through public pressure and the Zvezda group here, it goes to a harsh extreme and really punishes those that smoke, though each side has their points and counterpoints. But it plays into that final arc where we see the way that martial law, which has been ongoing for a few years, is being used by the Governor of Tokyo in order to expand his sphere of influence. That ends up working a total takeover of the region and puts all the regions under his control. The parallel to the way that laws get made in one area and have an impact all overall is pretty blunt here, and how it stifles so many things, but using the smoking ban at first feels a little hamfisted. But you can see it playing to the obscenity laws that were being put into place as to what’s acceptable in anime and manga and showing how it can all lead to a bad end. Particularly since they go with such a young lead but then avoid doing anything remotely sexual or fanservice oriented with here.
With these aspects of the arc in play, a lot of the show simply plays to fun elements and runs with it, particularly through the White Light group that the Governor uses from behind the scenes. There’s all sorts of connections there and interactions with that side that comes into play, and it makes for some fun because Renge is cute to watch with it. But I felt little connection to most of them and the kind of layers to it and those that populated it just didn’t feel well realized for me. I did like spending time with the Zvezda group, and we get a lot more time with them to be sure, but even they never feel fully formed. We get background pieces that fills them out, such as with Yasu and Goro, but it’s more like an explanation than an exploration. And some of it is just made too quirky for the sake of being quirky, such as Roboko herself. They have simple and silly adventures as Asuto gets to understand it all, but like Asuto I don’t think you really do understand it.
World Conquest Zvezda Plot has some really strong points to it with what it’s playing in, both from the animation design itself to the characters as well as the material involving the Governor, which may just be open to interpretation. For me, I liked a number of aspects of the show, but it never felt like it gelled in a good way that made sense. It has some good things to say, but I found it harder and harder to care as it progressed because a lot of places felt like it was just spinning its wheels. Particularly when we get to the post-series OVA and it focuses on Roboko and her being nudged into being an idol. The show is one that definitely has great visual appeal and Aniplex USA put together a strong release overall on DVD here, but it’s a series that I think is going to end up being a very acquired taste title. Those who love it will be proselytizing it constantly. Others will find themselves hard pressed to get beyond the first couple of episodes.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening and Ending, Episode 13 (OVA) Preview, Trailers and Commercials
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: April 28th, 2015
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.