What They Say:
When Daichi Manatsu sees a mysterious rainbow appearing near the Tanegashima Space Center, he immediately recognizes it as being similar to an apparition that formed when his father was killed in a mysterious accident years earlier. Traveling to Tanegashima, Daichi quickly finds himself involved with the machinations of Globe, a secret agency created to defend mankind from extraterrestrial forces.
While it might seem like a big job for a mere teenager, it turns out that the skills Daichi has honed on video games combined with a special weapon called the Livlaster make Daichi ideally suited for operating the Earth Engine Impacter. A giant robot, the Earth Engine may be mankind’s best hope against aliens whose goal is to completely drain our world’s lifeforce energy. Fortunately, Daichi won’t be on his own. He’s quickly joined by a group of equally dedicated young people who all have their own skills and abilities to contribute to the battle.
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only, done in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that works the dialogue and action sides rather well with what it wants to do, as there’s some good change-ups with the dialogue throughout coming from different areas due to characters being in different situations and “containers”. The action side hits well too throughout as it moves quickly across the screen in battles and has a good bit of impact in a lot of it, making for some strong sequences in this area. Both aspects blend together well and is easily supported by a clean and warm music score that helps add its own richness to the project, particularly with the opening and closing sequences.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes of this set are spread across two discs in a nine/four format. Animated by studio Bones, the show has a slick, polished and detailed look about it that leaps off the screen. Colors are rich and vibrant throughout and with a lot of detail to be had, it’s a very engaging world that’s been put together visually here. The transfer captures it all beautifully with a solid bit rate that peaks high regularly with the big action sequences, and the mid range bit rate manages the rest of the show in a great way. The transfer is largely free of problems throughout with no problems such as line noise or cross coloration. There may be a touch of gradient visible in a background or two, but colors are very solid throughout and the end result is a very appealing looking series from start to finish.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case where the two discs inside are held against the interior walls. The front cover gives us a look at the Earth Engine itself in the background where it dominates the space, while the foreground has the obviously smaller image of Daichi there in his full uniform, Livlaster and helmet in hand. The background is done up in white itself as well, so there’s a whole lot of white space here that really dominates, but it works fairly well to draw the eye into it with some of the other pops of color throughout it. The back cover is a lot more varied in color, though it works with some darker tones for a science fiction kind of template being used, and there’s a lot of variety brought in from the shots from the show itself. The premise is done in an oval that’s tilting on its side, so it’s an interesting reading overall, though it does cover things well enough. The discs features are clearly listed as are the episode and disc count. The bottom quarter rounds out with the usual aspects such as the production credits and technical grid, both of which are clean and easy to read and accurate in regards to the technical grid.
The menu design for this release goes for a very simple approach but one that, in some ways, works well. The two discs here use a close-up of the Earth Engine itself, so we get a lot of white with a dash of color here and there, but mostly just a kind of awkward look at part of the mecha unit itself. The logo is kept to its simple design in black against the white, which means it doesn’t make much of an impact overall. The navigation itself works fairly nicely along the right as we get the breakdown of the episodes by number and title with a thin font for the numbers and a small one for the episode titles. This part of the navigation, which also doubles as the pop-up menu, offers some fun little in-mecha visual design elements with the radar style imagery done in blue, which balances out all the white well. Being a monolingual release and with just a couple of extras on the second, there’s not a lot to do here besides episode selection, but it works well and smoothly during regular playback and as a top level menu.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Directed by Takuya Igarashi and written by Yōji Enokido, Captain Earth is a twenty-five episode series animated by studio Bones. When Bones does an original series, it always feels like a big hit or miss venture with what it’s going to do. The studio has some great talent working within it and they can produce beautiful shows, but there’s something with the original side in how they put it together that makes it feel like it misses some key components to truly make it accessible. With this set, we get the first thirteen episodes of the series and it brings in some familiar but big ideas with it, but the structure leaves it so that you’re unsure of what it is that’s going on at times. And as it progresses, it has the feeling of a show that might have been tighter and better if compressed down to just a single cour.
Taking place in a relatively similar world to what we have now, the general premise is one where some ten years or so prior, an event took place on the dark side of the moon that involved first contact with an alien race that has awoken in the system. With some great visuals that are largely unexplored here, what we learn is that this race known as the Kill-T-Gang have been biding their time for millennia for humanity to evolve to a point where they can basically become food and sustenance for them. They’re human looking themselves, and what we get of the Kill-T-Gang is largely made up of your young adults or teenagers in general, though there’s just a couple of them at first. With their goal of using humanity being the main impetus for things, that does limit them in a sense because while they can kill individual people, it’s not right to eliminate large swathes of them because that reduces what they’re there for. In fact, one of the best sequences here is just a bit of dialogue where the pushback to gain some equal footing involves the idea of humanity basically suiciding itself, forcing the Kill-T-Gang members to wait a few more million years for what they need to resurface again in some other form. But barring that, the aliens certainly have plenty to choose from and are intent on establishing their dominance. Eventually.
Where the show places a lot of its focus is on the teenage heroes that will save the world, largely with seventeen year old Daichi Manatsu, whose father was the one that fought back ten years prior against the Kill-T-Gang, not that Daichi knows that for quite some time here. Daichi’s past in Tanegashima is one that’s interesting as we see him all those years ago when he would visit there and ended up coming across a young boy his age named Teppei, who is like those from the Kill-T-Gang in that he’s a Designer Child. Daichi and Teppei become fast friends here, but it’s also a point to introduce him to Hana, a girl of the same age trapped in a bubble that has her basically in stasis until something awakens her. Which, of course, is Daichi when he gets there. That sets things in motion and we get the sense of some decent childhood memories made here between the trio, though it’s all for naught because of what happens to Daichi’s father and the general shutdown of the program in that area that ends up separating them for nine years.
Where it connects in the present is that we get introduced to the organization that’s been around for some time in handling the alien threat known as Globe. Ostensibly, it looks like a NASA type organization, but they’re hiding lots of secrets while trying to defend humanity against what they know is truly coming. And that ties into the arrival of two awakened Kill-T-Gang members that are getting things moving for the larger Planetary Gear program, which has them striking against Earth. As is the case with most teenage boys and giant mecha, it’s a series of almost comical circumstances that eventually puts Daichi in the machine, where he discovers that he can “will” a Livlaster into his hand. It’s basically an oversized science fiction gun that lets him insert it into the giant mecha, the Earth Engine, and thereby control it. Suffice to say, that sequence gets shown a few times and as others come on board to fight alongside him, they invoke their own weapons.
Captain Earth essentially throws our serious young hero into this big situation that he has to keep secret from others, not that he ends up dealing with anyone outside of Globe once he’s drawn into it, and to put his life on the line because he and the other select few are the only ones that can actually control these craft and use them in the limited duration that they’re activated. What we do get are a series of very good fights as it goes on because the animation and choreography are strong. We also get it where our original two Kill-T-Gang members, Moco and Amara, begin to draw in other Designer Children and activate them with a kiss that brings back their past lives memories and the intensity of their drive to serve the larger mission here. While there’s a little blending of who they were before, a casino table runner, a boxer and so forth, it’s more that their core personalities brought them to places that made sense and they worked out from there.
The Globe side grows as well, though a bit more slowly and carefully, as we initially have just Daichi, but as he reconnects with Teppei and Hana in the present they also bring on board Akari, the daughter of one of the high ranked Globe members. She’s got the technical side of things down pat as the master computer wizard, but she balances it out with being all into magical girl stylings as well, at least in personality and not costumes. The group of four here doesn’t take too long overall to come together, but it takes time for them to work more as a unit since most of it is about Daichi fighting and the rest as support. Teppei is the one that struggles the most as he wants to be more involved in things, but feels on the outside until he manages to insert himself into the actual fight and proves to himself that he can handle the situation.
The show in its first half here really does play by the standard plot points and doesn’t deviate much, especially since the second half of this particular set is largely focused on introducing the other Designer Children that Moco and Amara are bringing on, which lets them have individual episodes and interactions with both sides. It is amusing that we see Daichi and his group doing “social studies” reports in order to get into places, since they’re largely buying people off to do so, and some of the group dynamics that unfolds works well since we’ve got the kind of fun friendship between Daichi and Teppei and the growing potential relationship between Daichi and Hana, all while Hana is thrown into the mix as just additional fun and commentary. But at the same time, it’s all a matter of seen it before, done better, and more interesting. There’s nothing really fresh about the group dynamic here, and with the characters only having a “work” personality overall without an outside life, it can do only so much.
When it comes to the larger storyline, there are interesting pieces to it when you get the overall scope of it. I like big stories like this and the long game that the Kill-T-Gang group are playing as part of the Planetary Gear. The problem is that it just doesn’t feel fully realized and is kind of glossed over, given a superficial feeling. There’s a sweeping aspect to it that plays more to the space opera side, which is fine, but it feels like it wants to play to the more serious side instead and ends up somewhere in the middle. The further the show went on, the more it felt like it was just falling to the cliches and predictable, leaving it more superficial than anything else. It’s a slick and glossy looking show, but it feels empty and without any real heart to it. The story is just kept so awkwardly introduced and without weight that it falls further and further away as it progresses.
The first half of Captain Earth is one that drew me in with its visuals and designs but lost me with the characters and the actual story execution as it felt like something far too predictable. It also doesn’t help that it has an awful series name that gets used as part of the dialogue all too regularly as it goes on, even as a point of humor. I was intrigued by the show with its first episode as it introduced some of the layers to it and the dressing of it all, but as it progressed it just ended up far too familiar and the uniqueness began to drift away. It’s a great looking show and the presentation here is visually striking and well done, but the content of it all has to really turn itself around in the second half to win me over to it as what we get here is just far too familiar.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 16th, 2015
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.