What They Say
In the 23rd century, mankind has fled Earth and emigrated to the moon. The last outpost of civilization is the Lunar Republic of Eden, where the omnipresent Citizens Administration Council grants residents everything they need. But what do you do when you discover everything you believe is a lie? A single photograph with an inscribed message found inside a rocket launched from Earth leads a group of young men to question the counsel ruling the seemingly utopian city. But what length will they go to discover the true meaning of Freedom?
For this viewing, I took in the English 5.1 dub. In a nice touch, the Japanese track is also available in 5.1. They do not really use the technology to the best it is capable of, though. There is plenty of left/right directionality, but not only is front/back directionality lacking, but there is little in the rear channels overall. What does come through it is more for atmospheric enhancement. However, despite that little bit of complaint, it still sounds really good. There is no dropout among the tracks, and it all sounds crystal clear. I cannot complain too much.
Aside from some minor issues, the video is a pretty top notch job too. There are some minor gradients that can be seen in some of the cool colors, particularly in the opening and closing, but those are not too noticeable if you are not paying attention. Otherwise, some of the scenery is quite beautiful, especially when looking down on Earth from space and in some of the “natural” special effects while on Earth. And I have long loved the character art of Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, Steamboy), so it was nice to see it show up again.
Fairly basic packaging for this release (though much nicer from some of the earlier releases if I understand things correctly). The disc comes in a standard Amaray case with a picture of Takeru standing in front of his tri-wheel racer. The back has a short summary with technical details and some screen shots. In general, it has a nice design, but it is nothing special. A misprint, though, lists this disc as being 145 minutes, when it is actually just a shade under 100 minutes.
I love the menu design for this release. It opens with a short animatic that morphs into an animated menu with five different sections animating different parts of the production sketches, while one of the cooler, more stirring songs from the soundtrack plays in the background. It gives the whole thing a very comic-book feel, and it looks really cool. The selections can be easily seen on one of the black border bars that separate the sections. So, it works as nicely as it looks. If I have any complaint, I would have liked if they had looped the menu at maybe a minute instead of just 30 seconds, but that is very minor.
There are some nice extras on this release. First off is a six-minute prologue that sets up everything that is going on when the series first picks up, and a series of short “Freedom Digests” that seem to really be nothing more than trailers for the individual episodes. There is also the first part of an interview (Talking About Freedom) with a number of the technical staff, and the first part of a documentary (Freedom in the USA) detailing the staff’s trip to Anime Expo in Los Angeles when they came over to work on location. My favorite piece though is the first part of the documentary called “Fly Me to the Moon,” which is a look at the beginnings of space exploration right up to the point where John F. Kennedy announced that we would try to send a man to the moon. Very interesting.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Freedom is a seven part science-fiction OVA series from 2006 whose first DVD release in this country came in the not-so-economical format of one episode per DVD. Each episode was released sporadically in Japan from November 2006 to May 2008, with a corresponding simultaneous DVD release and a Blu-Ray boxset coming out upon completion. This volume is the first of two DVD releases that together will have the entire series on two discs. This volume contains the first four episodes.
In the 21st Century, humanity begins building space stations on the far side of the moon. It was fortuitous timing, because in the mid-point of the century, an accident with a large station in an Earth orbit causes the station to crash into the planet. The collision sets off a chain reaction of explosions and global climate change that make the planet unlivable, and humanity is forced to take refuge in their new lunar domes.
Now, three hundred years later, humanity continues to live and thrive in the domes—EDEN—and works to the hope that one day the Earth with recover and they can return to their planet. But so far, their hopes have been in vain. Still, with increasing government regulations and rules, humanity has never before experienced such a long period of peace and prosperity. As long as everybody does their part and follows the rules, there is no reason it cannot stay that way.
Meet Takeru—EDEN’s resident malcontent. While he is not a troublemaker in the traditional sense, Takeru does believe that there must be more to life than the sanitized, day-to-day operations of domed living. One day, while doing community service on the lunar surface for breaking curfew, he witnesses a meteorite crash nearby, and in the wreckage, he is astonished to find some odd trinkets (sea shells) and a photograph of a cute young woman with the message “We are safe. Is anybody out there?” scrawled on the back.
With the help of Alan, an elderly friend who has an obsession with the old Apollo missions, Takeru discovers that the photograph was taken on earth near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Takeru decides to take a trip to the far side of the moon to get a look at the Earth, usually a forbidden journey and realizes that the EDEN administration has been lying about the status of the Earth for a long time. And with the help of some friends, he sets out to make the trip back to the planet and find the girl in the photograph.
Freedom is an anime that starts out a bit slow but has really picked up in interest by the end of this disc. The story of a disaffected youth who rises above his status to do great things in one that has been done ad nauseum, and the way Freedom opens up, it did not seem like it was really going to do anything to stand out.
But by the mid-point (the end of this disc), it has because of strong characters and a really neat twist on the concept of space exploration. For starters, Takeru is a fairly likable main character as the driven, young man who only wants the truth. His best friend, Kazuma, works well as the more straight-laced of the two, and Takeru has a foil in Biz—where Takeru is adventurous, inspirational, and none-too-bright, Biz is intelligent and cowardly.
I am also a big fan of Alan, who first meets up with Biz before meeting the rest. Alan is the leader of the Freedom group, an autonomous group of people who have opted out from the protection and benefits of the EDEN administration, and live peacefully in the subterranean levels of the dome, well hidden from the rest of the citizenry. Alan is a big proponent of Freedom and despises the control the council has on the population, so he is not against sticking it to the man anytime he feels like it could be beneficial, or even fun. So far, he has been a bit of a bright spot for this series.
But where this series shines is in its twist in dynamics. Most sci-fi tends to look at space as being the great unknown—that we journey from Earth to find our destinies among the stars. I love the concept presented in Freedom that it is now Earth that is the great unknown. Though humanity only lives on the moon as opposed to some far away galaxy, they live on the far side of the moon away from visibility with the Earth and have lived there long enough that the Earth has become little more than legend. Freedom gives us all of the joys and wonders of space exploration but turns it back on this planet. For me, that was a pretty neat concept.
Freedom starts a bit slow, but by the time this disc is over, it is chugging right along. I am really enjoying it at this point. I love the characters, and I love the way it looks at the Earth as an unknown place that bears exploring. It is a neat variation in the space exploration concept. I look forward to seeing where it goes from here. Recommended.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Introduction Trailer, Prologue, Talking about Freedom, Fly Me To The Moon Part 1, FREEDOM in the USA #1, Freedom Digest #1-4, Next Episode Previews
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Release Date: July 7th, 2009
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System