What They Say
Daredevils Goro Saruwatari and Jack “Lostman” Woodbridge climbed every daunting peak on planet Earth, but they couldn’t quench their desire to go even higher. Now, the adventurers vow to conquer space no matter what the cost.
When a precious source of energy is discovered on Mars, Goro and Lostman suddenly find their dreams within reach. They blast off for the far reaches of the galaxy seeking fame and fast women, but discover that hitching a ride on a rocket can get you burned. Undaunted, the astronauts throw caution to the wind and learn that the distance between a hero and his destiny is only a moonlight mile.
Contains episodes 1-12.
In a nice surprise, both audio tracks for Moonlight Mile are offered in 5.1 Dolby Surround. It is both surprising in that the Japanese track is typically stuck with 2.0, and I would not have guessed that this would have been on the list of titles to give the 5.1 treatment to. But I am glad that they did, if for no other reason than I think everything should. The mix is really nice, with no dropout, and while the dialogue stays on the center track, there is some nice directionality with the sound effects, both left/right and front/back. It really enhances immersion, especially during the space scenes as it helps the “3D” experience of space. Directionality with the dialogue would have been nice for the space scenes too, but what is here is great.
The video, on the other hand, is a bit of a mixed bag. I love the realistic character designs and the imagery overall. The space scenes are particularly gorgeous. But there was quite a bit of technical flaws peppered throughout, especially gradients and noise in the darker colors (like in outer space) that can be distracting. These were not as noticeable on lesser setups, so they are not major issues, but it is disappointing considering that it could otherwise have been a gorgeous series.
This has the fairly standard Funimation thinpak packaging. The episodes are all compressed onto two discs, which each have their own thinpak (so none of the double thinpak issues that plague Funimation sets here). The front cover has a shot of Goro in a space suit floating in space with the Earth and Sun behind him, while the back has some screen captures and summary set to a green, digital grid in the background. The thinpaks have a similar look with profile pictures of Goro and Lostman on the covers (one each) and an episode list on the back. The art is really good, as the design of the series is good, so this all looks nice, but there is generally nothing special about the packaging here.
The menus are fairly basic too. There is a picture of space with the Earth at the bottom, and using the same green motif from the packaging, the selections are offered in the middle. They are easy to see and follow, which is all I ask from a menu.
Nothing much in the way of extras on this set. There is nothing on the first disc, but the second disc does have clean versions of the opening and closing to go along with the standard trailers.
When the first season of Moonlight Mile arrived in my mailbox looking for a review, my immediate thought was, “What’s Moonlight Mile?” This was a title that completely slipped past my attention the first time around. But it sounded interesting enough, and looked to be different from more “standard” fare, so I had some hopes for it. For the most part, it matched those hopes, but I do have a few frustrations.
Goro Saruwatari and Jack “Lostman” Woodbridge are thrill-seeking mountain climbers always looking for that next conquest, whether it is lofty peaks or soft breasts. But when they reach the summit of Mount Everest, they realize that there are no other peaks to climb; they had reached the top. While sitting on the peak and staring at the stars, they wax philosophical on this issue until they spy the International Space Station orbiting overhead. Now they have their new goal: make it to space, and ultimately the moon.
Now typically, a couple of hotshots who have done nothing practical with their lives are not prime candidates for the space program. But thanks to the discovery of a new fuel source on the moon, the world’s governments have a renewed interest in getting back there, and not for just scientific purposes. So all of the national space programs are disbanded, and all their resources are pooled into one singular entity: the International Space Association. The ISA is not just looking for physicists and astronomers to go into space, but also people with more practical skills to help expand our space presence.
Goro and Lostman see this new agency as their tickets to the stars, though they go about it in very different ways. Goro becomes a construction engineer, working the cranes and various other types of heavy machinery for high rise building projects. But he does not just become a construction engineer, he becomes the best construction engineer ever in the history of the world. Within four years of working in the business, he manages to achieve more operator’s licenses than most get in a career, and he is the surest hand with all of the machinery. When an accident causes a number of steel beams to pin a worker to the ground, only Goro can be counted on to move the beams without killing the man. With an already stellar resume of heave machine skills under his belt, this rescue operation puts his application to the ISA over the top.
For Lostman, his feels his path is through the military. He joins up with the navy and becomes an ace fighter pilot, hoping to one day be able to pilot the shuttle. Lostman flies mission after countless mission, becoming known for his bravery and expertise. His flight record earns him a fast track into the ISA program, but on the day his acceptance arrives, his plane is shot down over the Middle Eastern desert, and he becomes MIA. He is rescued by a man who is travelling, with his son in tow, in order to clear his name of past indiscretions and wants to get out to the real world. For Lostman, he just wants to survive as he finds his view of the world darkening. On the positive side, when he gets out he finds that his invitation to the ISA is still waiting for him.
At its heart, Moonlight Mile is a study in human nature. When the show opens, there is little difference in the personalities of Goro and Lostman. Both are carefree womanizers with little regard for anybody other than themselves. All they care about is living it up and discovering that next thrill. Halfway up Everest, they observe another climbing party get taken out by an avalanche. While they do stop long enough to dig up the bodies, they make jokes about it the whole time. And when they discover that one young woman is still alive, though in bad condition, it is not a miracle, but rather a chance to joke about who gets to sleep with her when she recovers.
But their time with this young woman starts a path where Goro’s and Lostman’s personalities start diverging. As they attempt to get her to the next station where she can receive medical attention, they are forced to dig in and camp when a storm hits. She regains consciousness long enough to have a brief conversation about who she is with the two, and when she starts shivering in her sleep, Goro takes it upon himself to snuggle up to her to try and keep her warm. She dies from her injuries overnight, but Goro is left with an appreciation of what life means. On the surface, he is still the daredevil party animal he always was, but now he has a real touch of humanity in him.
For Lostman, this woman does not affect his outlook on life, and he continues the way he always has. Until he is shot down in the Middle East and is forced to live in an environment well outside of his comfort zone. His time with the father and son reinforces in Lostman the harshness of life and how quickly everything can be taken away. Up to this point, Lostman had been lucky/skilled enough to accomplish any goal he put his mind to, and it made him cocky, but for once he was able to see what many who do not have that kind of luck have to go through. He is still determined to accomplish his lunar goals, but living in the desert awakens something dark in Lostman, something that has yet to come to fruition. In a psychological sense, he becomes “The Lostman.”
Again, much like Goro, his surface personality does not change much. He hits the parties, sleeps around, and lives the carefree life that he always has. But where Goro’s lifestyle is now tinged with the need to help people and see that the right thing is always done, Lostman’s lifestyle is tinged with selfishness and the single-minded desire to make sure that he always comes out on top, regardless of the outcome. It really makes for an interesting dichotomy between the two lifelong friends. Together, they are like they always have been, but apart, their lives are going down very different paths.
What I also find amusing in Moonlight Mile is that people are always remarking at how lucky Goro is, but it seems like disaster just follows him. His luck is that he is never caught in the disaster. A rocket he is supposed to use to go into space explodes on a test run, a bi-pedal robot he is a test pilot for has a programming flaw and falls over, killing a person, and it seems like not a day passes where something does not go seriously wrong while he is on the ISA space station. His short time in space is marred with more near catastrophes than in the entire history of space exploration. It certainly increases the drama, but not necessarily the believability.
But for all that I enjoyed Moonlight Mile, there were a few things that stood out to me as problems. The first is what I just mentioned, and that with each episode revolving around a near catastrophe, I found it hard to accept the plausibility of the story. Space is dangerous, but if things went wrong in real life at the same rate they do in Moonlight Mile, they would shut down all manned missions until they figure it out. Buzz Aldrin once claimed that if they knew then what they knew now, they never would have gone to the moon when they did because they were woefully underprepared for the danger. But the fact that they were able to do it safely meant that the missions could continue. As I said, Goro’s constant brush with disaster makes for good tension, but hurts believability.
My next issue with Moonlight Mile is the way that it uses sex to get its point across. There is nothing particularly smutty, sadistic, or otherwise negative about the sex, except that the rampant nudity and starkness of the scenes are the only reason that Moonlight Mile warrants a TVMA rating. As an adult, this does not bother me in any way, but Moonlight Mile should have a wide appeal. It has some gorgeous depictions of space (except for what was noted in the video section), and there is a sense of childlike joy in watching Goro achieve his dreams of going into space, the same type of joy that many children have when they have the same dreams. I would have thought they might have been able to get their point across about Goro’s and Lostman’s dedication to their extracurricular activities with hurting the accessibility of the show in general.
My final frustration actually has nothing to do with the series. For all my complaints, Moonlight Mile is a title that I had a lot of fun watching; I loved the interplay between Goro and Lostman, their respective paths to their goals was fascinating to watch, and there were some truly spectacular space scenes. My frustration is with whether we will get to see the second season. ADV announced the license of this season almost as soon as it finished in Japan, and it was out in singles form not too long following. But season two has been complete for over a year and a half, and there has been no word on it. Granted, I am sure that ADVs financial difficulties have been at least a partial factor in its delay, but I hope that it does not mean we will never see it. With Funimation now owning the license and releasing this set, I can only hope that the second season is at least being considered. The first season interested me too much to leave it hanging.
The first season of Moonlight Mile has a few issues, but was generally a lot of fun to watch. Goro and Lostman are two great main characters, and their respective paths to space are really interesting in their stark differences. I can only hope that Funimation does the right thing and brings the second season over, because I want to know what happens from here. Unfortunately, it might be a title to avoid until that point, as you might be left unsatisfied. Recommended, especially if the second season is forthcoming.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: D
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: April 21st, 2009
Running Time: 290 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