What They Say:
In 13-year-old Aoba Tsuzaki’s world, everything seems normal. An over-the-top modeling fanatic, she spends her days locked in her room, happily building plastic robots. But rumbling beneath the surface, an evil enemy of mankind (the Ancient Jinki) threatens to destroy the Earth. And when a cross-dressing kidnapper brings Aoba face-to-face with a real fighting machine, her robot dreams give way to frightening nightmares.
She is unwittingly recruited into Angel, an elite fighting force who not only pits its giant robots against the Ancient Jinki, but against an unseen evil that is working behind the scenes. Jinki:Extend is a world of explosive action, arresting intrigue, and battle-trained babes who are bent on revenge! Nothing is what it seems, and no one can be trusted. But one thing is for sure: she’s in for a seriously wild ride!
For this viewing, I listened to the English 5.1 dub, which was a bit of a mixed bag. A Japanese 2.0 option was also available. There was some decent directionality with the sound effects, especially during the battle scenes, and for the most part, everything sounded really nice. However, there was a significant amount of dropout in various tracks when a lot was happening on the screen, especially with the dialogue track. Even after spending time fiddling with the various channels on my speaker system, there were still plenty of times, during battles or other loud scenes, when I had to pause and rewind to catch what was being said. It tended to break the flow of the show quite a bit.
The video, on the other hand, was top notch. There were no detectable technical flaws, and the colors came through beautifully, which is especially important in a show like this where many darker colors tend to be used. There is some really beautiful animation at times in this, especially during the battle scenes, and it all transferred to DVD well. A very pretty show.
A pretty standard effort for an ADV thinpak here: pleasantly designed, functional, but nothing that will set the world on fire; all-in-all, I like it. The large sides feature a wraparound picture of Aoba and Akao standing back-to-back, with their backs on the spine. Behind them is a shadowy image of the Moribito 2 set against a dark background. I like this image because it suggests the connection and competition that the two have with each other and the Jinki. There is also an insert that slips between the box and the shrink-wrap that provides the outer summary and details as there is nothing on the box marking them.
The three cases all have group pictures on them. Disc one has the same picture of Aoba and Akao from the box, but this time with the rest of Angel behind them; the second disc has Aoba, Rui, and Minami sitting on a rock outcropping; while the last disc has Akao, Elnie, Satsuki, and Mel J sitting on a building overlooking Tokyo. The backs of the cases have a listing of the episodes, with screen shots from each episode, and technical details along the bottom. Again, a pretty simple design, but one that works for me.
Much like the packaging, the menus for this release are pretty simple. Each selection is set against a grey bar that almost looks like a section of the Moribito 2’s sword, which is in front of a dark blue background. There are selections for each episode, languages, and extras, which are marked by a green circle that turns orange when highlighted. It may have just been me, but I seemed to lose the highlighted selection at times, so I would have liked something a little more overt.
Unlike most thinpak releases, ADV has kept the extras intact on this set, and there is a pretty decent selection of things to watch/look at here. For starters, the first two discs have interview segments run by Kazuhiro Wakabayashi (sound director) that run approximately fifteen minutes each. The first interview is with Fumiko Orikasa (Aoba) and Takuma Takewaka (Ryohei), while the second has Yoshino Takamori (Minami) and Yukari Tamura (Rui).
Instead of an interview segment, the third disc has an extra called “Jinki: Extend Special Night” which runs about 50 minutes. This is a fan event that ran at Christmas-time right before the series began, and is hosted by Fumiko Orikasa (Aoba) and Takuma Takewaka (Ryohei). There are Q&A; sessions, live music, and clips from the shows.
Finally, aside from the standard previews and clean openings/closings, there is an Art Gallery and Glossaries of Terms and Location Notes, providing context for some of the more confusing elements of the show, especially for details that did not translate from the manga.
Jinki: Extend is a short series that attempts to divulge the stories of both the Jinki and Jinki: Extend manga series, with the latter getting most of the significant screen time. Unfortunately, what this means is that much of the story is underdeveloped, and what does make it through is fairly formulaic.
In the late 80s, a series of incidents, known as Lost Life Phenomena, begin in Venezuela. While initially appearing to be a series of random explosions, it is ultimately discovered that the Lost Life Phenomena are caused by the appearance of giant robots known as Ancient Jinki. After capturing one, humanity is able to copy the technology to build their own Jinki, those these are human powered. A group of pilots and engineers from around the world, known as Angel and headed up by Shizuka Tsuzaki, is formed to combat the appearance of these Ancient Jinki.
As knowledge of the Jinki increases, the existence of a group of humans known as cognates is also discovered. Cognates are humans with preternatural connections with the Jinki, allowing them the ability to instinctively pilot the Jinki with little or no training. Jinki: Extend begins with the discovery of the cognate Aoba Tsuzaki, the estranged daughter of Angel Commander, Shizuka.
As these things tend to happen, Aoba is not the prototypical high school girl. Instead, she has a fascination with building models of robots, a competitive field that apparently has no place for women. Aoba had been raised by her grandmother, as her father was dead and her mother abandoned her at an early age, and as such harbors a hatred towards Shizuka. After her grandmother dies, a Jinki pilot named Ryohei is ordered by Shizuka to travel to Japan to kidnap Aoba and bring her to Venezuela. Shizuka is aware of Aoba’s cognate abilities, and now thinks it is time to put them to use.
Though Aoba initially rejects the Jinki out of distaste for Shizuka, her love of giant robots eventually wins her over. She accepts training from Genta, who, along with his son Ryohei, pilot’s the Moribito 2, the best battle Jinki Angel has created. When a mistake by Aoba causes Genta to be injured, an untested Aoba is forced into battle alongside Ryohei. At first, she is unready for this assignment, as she has reservations about fighting, not to mention her constant war with her mother. However, thanks to the efforts of Genta, Ryohei, and other Jinki pilots such as Minami and her daughter, Rui, Aoba slowly grows into her role as a Moribito 2 pilot. For the most part, about the first half of the series is devoted to Aoba’s rise as the world’s top Jinki pilot, and setting up what comes in the second half.
Fast forward a few years. The Lost Life Phenomenon has spread throughout the world. Ryohei, Minami, and Rui have now moved to Japan where they have taken on a two new pilots: Elnie and Satsuki. They have discovered the presence of a new cognate, a young woman named Akao, who has no knowledge of her past. With the emergence of Akao, the Jinki attacks become more focused on the Angel pilots themselves. It is discovered that a group, known as the Hachishoujin are trying to get their hands on Akao.
Like Aoba, Akao is hesitant to climb into the Jinki, as she feels that fighting is wrong, and every time she steps into a Jinki, a presence in her head convinces her not to fight. As various complexities begin to force Akao into battle, more about her mysterious connection with the Hachishoujin is discovered, along with the reasons why the Hachishoujin are on a path of destruction.
The plot for Jinki: Extend is pretty run-of-the-mill. It seems as if the creators went out and bought a copy of “Mecha Mad Libs” and filled in the blanks, as there was nothing present to make me say “Hey, this show is different!”
Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar: young pilot with strange natural abilities? (Check – Aoba and Akao) Same pilot is turned off by fighting yet strangely drawn to the robot? (Check – again for both) Overbearing parent figure in authoritarian position who has way more negative impact than positive on his/her child? (Check – Shizuka) Ally who openly vies with said naturally gifted child for top spot? (Check – Rui) A lack of true understanding of our friendly, neighborhood, giant robots with unknown backgrounds? (Check). Etc.
OK, so it seems I just gave some of the rudimentary details for Neon Genesis Evangelion. I could have kept going with other examples, but that’s what this show felt like: a half-baked EVA clone minus the Judeo-Christian overtones. While this complaint can be made of many post-EVA mecha shows, it does not make the criticism any less valid.
In fact, some series, such as RahXephon or Gasaraki, can get away with it by having a stellar plot and/or well-developed characters. Jinki: Extend has neither of these because it tries to do too much in a limited amount of time. Essentially, in thirteen episodes, this anime tries to tell the story of two complete manga series. As such, the plot is bare, the characters are flatter than the thinpaks the DVDs came in, and bad pacing causes a great deal of confusion.
For example, in an effort to tie the two arcs together, the early episodes would jump back and forth between Aoba’s time in Venezuela and Akao’s time in Japan, yet there were never any hints as to how the two stories were connected. Somehow, I was supposed to deduce how it was that Ryohei, Minami, and Rui were in two different places, seemingly at the same time. While I guess pretty quickly that there was probably a time difference, I could not tell if the events in Akao’s era were before or after Aoba’s. There was even a point where I considered something akin to an alternate dimension. It was not until the sixth or seventh episode, where they moved to Akao’s story full-time, that I finally pieced together that we were now a few years after Aoba’s story. Just not good storytelling.
I’ve thought this before about some anime series, and even thought the reverse for some others, but Jinki: Extend really needed another thirteen episodes, assuming of course that they would not have tried to throw in double the plot points. A full season dedicated to Jinki and another to Jinki: Extend could have made a tremendous difference to this show. Because they tried to tackle everything in such a short time, I found myself not caring whether Aoba would ever make it as a Jinki pilot, or if Akao would ever discover her old memories, or really anything else for that matter. With great irony, Jinki: Extend is a series that tries to do too much, and ends up doing not enough.
While I would not say that Jinki: Extend is bad, I would say that it is decidedly average. There is nothing in this show that has not already been done before, not to mention better. In other words, for the entire thirteen episodes, I had a feeling of “been there, done that.” It did not help that it tried to weave way too many plot threads in a short series; this is definitely a case where it could have used a second season to properly develop the story. Fans of mecha shows and all their uniformities may enjoy Jinki: Extend to a degree, as the paint-by-numbers plot follows the formula pretty consistently, though they will probably be left wanting more. People looking to get into the genre, however, would be advised to go look somewhere else. Thumbs very firmly in the middle for this one.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Interviews, Moribito-2 Model Test, Character Art Gallery, “Messages from the Seiyuu,” Location Notes, “Jinki: Extend Special Night,” Term Glossary, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: January 1st, 2008
Running Time: 325 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