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Armored Trooper Votoms Stage 1: Uoodo City Anime DVD Review

10 min read

A lengthy classic of science fiction military action, Armored Trooper VOTOMS is the kind of show that may have a small audience these days but they still need love like this.

What They Say:
In the twilight of a galactic war, Armored Trooper pilot Chirico Cuvie is caught in an illegal mission against his own army when he accidentally witnesses the birth of a top-secret genetic super-soldier. Now a fugitive, Chirico is driven into the criminal haven called Uoodo City!

The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only encoded in stereo at 192kbps. The show is a pretty basic stereo mix that has hardly anything truly noticeable in a directionality way since it’s rather old. The mix is very full feeling in how it comes across though there are some areas where it can be faked a bit if you’ve got a large setup and your ears pick up both speakers in different ways. It is a good sounding mix overall though and it avoids problems such as dropouts or distortions. A few high notes here and there touch a little scratchiness but it’s so minimal across the entire run it’s barely a blip.

Originally airing back in 1983, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ration. While CPM has cleaned up this release and it is certainly better than the NuTech release from a few years ago due to it being a clean print with no burned in subtitles, it’s not quite as clean and solid as the Japanese full remaster that was done a few years back. That said, this is still probably the best the show has looked in its various US releases and overall is something that people who watch any amount of older shows will find looks great. The main area that’s noticeable throughout the print is either the grain or the nicks and dirty on the print. The grain for me was less of an issue since I like how it gives it a more film like feel and with the bold colors such as Chirico’s red uniform, it adds a certain softness to it that helps. The nicks and dirt on the print, which is very much cleaned up overall, is still there though and can certainly be a problem for some. Like the grain, I have to admit that it almost adds a certain charm and it’s something that I do expect to see on something in the anime world that’s from the early 80’s. A cleaner print would definitely be better but I can’t begrudge this one for how it looks much.

Essentially, the standalone digipak is good overall but without any kind of closure on it or way to latch it shut, it feels incomplete and prone to problems, such as the coupon falling out of it constantly or discs sliding out. The front artwork for the package has a good shot of one of the Scopedogs in action with fire and a ships interior behind it while the new logo sits overheard which looks really good. Each set is marked by both a stage number and what particular area it takes place in. The back cover has a strip of shots from the show down along the left while the space to the right provides a few choice quotes and information about the creators as well as a decent summary paragraph for it. The discs features are clearly listed though the technical information is a bit hard to find in the fine print below. The digipak opens to provide to plastic trays where the discs reside and other than the coupon that’s it.

The menu layout is nicely done with the top and right side having line artwork of the Scopedogs where the top has the logo and the right side has the standard navigation section that we see on most CPM releases. The rest of the menu is given over to a series of animated clips under a grid overlay that looks nicely done as almost a minute’s worth of vocal music plays along to it. It’s certainly far better than what we got with the NuTech releases and it’s all nicely in theme here between font and layout. Access times are nice and fast and with there being only one language available here, player presets are pretty much moot.

The extras for the release are a mixed bag in a sense but for the fan of the show there’s a goldmine of material. The on-disc extra that you can access through a standalone player is the Japanese director’s commentary track which is available for the first three episodes. Considering the overall age of the show, having someone go back to look at the work is interesting just from that perspective and how he’s changed over the years. The other extra that’s available is through the ROM side of the disc as there’s PDF information for the viewer about the show that covers a lot of material in a “Viewer’s Guide” format. It’s the kind of text that helps to flesh out things nicely.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’ve had an odd history of sorts with VOTOMS over the years. I had initially picked up a couple of the VHS tapes ages before DVD kicked in and had seen a handful of episodes that way. When the first set of DVDs came out via a sublicense to NuTech, I had ended up picking them all up but between the hard subtitles and the sheer length of the show, I found it hard to get back into it and had one of the other reviewers handle it. In fact, we’ve had a few varying reviews of the property for awhile now, in addition to a look at this new set via screeners. Watching the show in single form though just seemed to be the wrong way to do this, especially as it breaks out into such clean stages for the most part, that I seemed to keep finding an excuse to not watch it.

The first of four sets, the Uoodo City stage gives the show a chance to play out in a far better way than a year or two years of single volume releases would by having the first thirteen episodes on two discs. Taking in the show in this manner, where we basically sat down for six hours and soaked it up, proved to be far more enjoyable than in piecemeal form. I’ve been a fan of the director, Ryosuke Takahashi, for several years now after “discovering” him via the Gasaraki series and then his work on Blue Gender. His appeal for me is in providing some distinctly military style shows with very different kinds of mecha involved than you get in most other shows. There’s a definite theme to them as seen in both of the previously mentioned series and you can see their origins, and other aspects as well, in VOTOMS.

The VOTOMS series takes place at a time when two sides of humanity have been warring in space for over a hundred years. Each side has fought for so long and so hard that they no longer remember why they’re fighting but they know that they must continue to do so. The series picks up just as the war is apparently ending between the two sides and we see the last mission that one of the groups of Armored Troopers is dealing with. Breaking into a secure facility on their own side, the initial goal appears to be that of wealth as the soldiers celebrate finding a huge room filled with gold. But one of the troopers, eighteen-year-old Chirico Cuvie, finds himself wandering into another room while unsure of the mission only to find a large canister that contains a mysterious woman in it whose completely shaven. She’s asleep in the liquid but wakes up just enough to make him skittish before his comrades arrive. While Chirico is sent up top to keep watch so the rest can get the apparent real prize, an outside attack causes everything to go to hell and the place appears to explode, sending Chirico out into space where he’s eventually picked up by ships from his own side.

Chirico’s being on that ship and being picked up has put him in a precarious position as he’s taken down to his homeworld of Melkia to be interrogated. The planet has become a hell over the years of warfare, it’s a barren place with small metallic walled cities where dangerous red rain falls more than not. Chirico’s heavily questioned about what he was doing on board the ship and his interrogators believe he knows more than he does about the woman he stumbled across and are trying to figure out exactly what the bigger picture is. But Chirico wants nothing to do with this and just has a strange attraction for this woman he’s come across and escapes into the city of Uoodo. His life becomes one of being constantly on the run at this point and Uoodo isn’t a safe place to begin with. The city has an unhealthy understanding between the police and the big biker gang that runs the rest of it as each side looks the other way to certain incidents while the bikers haul in massive amounts of Jijirium using forced labor camps.

Chirico stumbles into this arrangement which is close to falling anyway as one of those on the police side in a high position is involved with the mysterious woman, someone that they only name as the Prototype. Chirico’s time in Uoodo isn’t just him on the run though, as early on he comes across a junk section where he’s able to put together an armored unit that he can use to achieve his goals. Along the way he picks up an oddball assortment of friends, such as Pops who owns the junk place and tries to get Chirico to use his skills in the battle games that get played in the arena. Another friend of sorts is Vanilla, a conniving scoundrel whose ulterior motives are hidden for a bit but he sees real potential in Chirico’s abilities and tries to get him to be a revolutionary of sorts. And of course, there’s the obligatory female sidekick in the form of Coronna, a red-headed girl whose attracted to Chirico and seems to always find herself in bad situations.

The Uoodo City arc is done in a way to establish just what kind of crafty and capable person Chirico is, though his real military credentials don’t get revealed until close to the end of the arc which is interesting as those speak volumes about him. Being eighteen, it sometimes has that feeling of being hard to believe but when taken in context of this being a civilization that’s been at war for so long and is essentially breeding new fighters, believing that young boys are brought in and trained early isn’t a surprise nor that someone at eighteen could be a veteran or highly skilled operative. At the same time, Chirico does do some stupid stuff and ends up in classic bad situations but for the reasons above as to why he could be skilled could also easily explain his lack of “social” setting situations. Though he may be quiet a lot of times, following him on this adventure and those that are drawn to him, his eyes speak volumes about his intent and desire to find this Prototype woman and figure out what’s really going on and why he’s been blacklisted.

With the show being as old as it is, the animation quality is certainly nothing compared to the other series mentioned earlier or anything else out at this time. The older animation doesn’t bother me and other than some odd designs here and there with the characters, VOTOMS reminds me easily of many other shows from the period that I continue to enjoy. Chirico makes out badly depending on how you view him from behind as his pants are a bit, uh, wide, but in general, the designs for not only the characters but the city and its setting are standard for the time. The animation has some really good fluid moments at times and I love the old traditional method in how it gives it something of a better life in some ways. The movements of the mecha at times is a bit quirky and angular but it fits right in with the designs and feels like it belongs.

In Summary:
The first quarter of the series kicks off with a lot of action and slowly unravels some of the mystery that Chirico has found himself in. It takes a bit before we start to get a real feel for what’s really going on here but during that time we get to see what Chirico is really made of, what kind of world that he’s on and just how far the other side is going to go in order to get him or stop him. Being able to take in this entire arc in one session/one collection is definitely the way to go with this series. The original release on DVD back in the late 90’s was rough one and this incarnation had it getting the treatment it deserves with a better-looking print, no burned in subtitles and a great priced set of collections.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Director’s Commentary

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: C+
Packaging Grade: B-
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Central Park Media
Release Date: March 7th, 2006
MSRP: $39.99
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
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.

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