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They Were Eleven Anime DVD Review

7 min read

One of the true unknown gems of the 80’s that still holds up well.

What They Say
In the distant future, ten space cadets embark on a survival test that sets them adrift in a derelict spacecraft from which they must find their way home. Terror strikes when the cadets discover eleven of themselves aboard the ship. Who is the imposter, and what is his (or her) purpose? Paranoia runs rampant and lives hang in the balance as the cadets scrutinize one another for any wrong move. Can they identify the spy before it’s too late?

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English mix, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. The mix is much like I remember; a decent sound stereo mix that has some minor directionality to it but not much of it is really noticeable. Considering its age and the intent of the project it’s not one that’s going to really work any big moments but it handles the dialogue as best as it can. The important part is that it does come through clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released back in 1986, the movie is presented in its original full frame format. The materials for this have held up well over time, though there are some noticeable streaks across the screen during the last fifteen minutes of the film in a few places, but nothing that lasts for more than a split second. With its age, some of the large blocks of color, such as blue monitors or green walls, tend to look a bit grainy and like they’re breaking up, but it’s held together fairly well. This isn’t going to be impressive by anything out today, but it’s a solid piece all told.

This release was a bit of a welcome change as it didn’t use the same art they had for both the VHS and Laserdisc releases yeaInsteadInsteaed, the cover this time around brings in more various elements from the film, such as the ship itself, the dangerous vines and a mix of shots from the film that show all of the characters. Since it’s mostly coming from what little artwork was given to them from this old license, it’s not the slickest looking piece since the original materials don’t look to be of the best quality, but it’s serviceable for the show. The back cover utilizes the previous releases design with the center part providing the brief summary of the premise of the show. The discs features are minimal but clearly listed along the bottom. The reverse side of the cover has a black and white shot from one of the scenes from the show with production credits on one side and chapter and bilingual cast listings on the other.

Menu: ree
The main menu is nicely laid out by using the back cover artwork without the characters and using the center section to scroll clips from the show through while animating all the lights along the walls, all set to a brief piece of instrumental music. The menu selections are pretty straightforward and simple with good access times and no transitional animations.

The only extra included on the disc is a brief art gallery that shows off what artwork they had available for the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back in the early 90’s when new anime VHS releases were something rare, something you’d see once or twice a month and only a couple at that, They Were Eleven was a standout at the time for a lot of people since it wasn’t a babes and guns action adventure ninja apocalypse show. What this show was, while science fiction in genre, was a mystery show. Even all these years later, it’s a genre that is still not really touched all that much, partially since there often isn’t much if any replay value to it.

Even though it had been eight years, as soon as the cast of characters got introduced, I immediately remember who it was and why it happened like it did. But like any good mystery story, it’s the journey to the revelation that makes it interesting. Going back after knowing and seeing what clues you missed becomes part of the game and makes it all the more enjoyable. They Were Eleven is a bit short on that second aspect, but it’s a title that continues to bring a smile to my face every time I think about it.

The premise is simple enough; it’s hundreds and hundreds of years into the future and mankind has moved off into the stars, colonizing here and there. In the process, other races were met, humanity made some changes on some planets, wars started and all that fun stuff. As time wore on, everyone sat down and made happy with each other and formed an alliance. From there, the Cosmo Academy is formed and the best and brightest from all over come there to learn. Those that are accepted and graduate from there return to their own worlds, often as important leaders or influential persons in the lives and culture of their people.

The latest attempts at gaining admission has come and some 700 applicants are part of the final round. Grouped into shuttles with ten applicants per shuttle, they’re all sent off on their various ways for some final test that will prove them worthy. Up until now, it’s all been based on the individual applicants skill, such as the young Terran named Tada that we’ve followed through the beginning. Now, with nine other applicants, they have to work together so that they can all pass. Tada’s group ends up on a derelict space cruise liner. Within moments of them arriving on board however, they realize that there are eleven of them instead of ten, causing a problem right off the bat.

But if they cancel out now, they end up failing right away. So with distrust of each other and everyone trying to succeed based on their own agenda, the new crew of the ship must handle the obstacles that come their way, from the ship falling out of orbit to a viral outbreak all while knowing that one of them is there to sabotage it all. It’s a classic piece with some science fiction elements added in and done in a straightforward style. Once all is revealed, you do go “ah!” if you hadn’t realized it before and it becomes easy to piece it all together.

The downside to the tale here is that since there are eleven primary characters, most of them don’t get a lot of depth. Only one of them is outright alien looking while the others have some basic differences and several are Terrans. The one given the most time is due to gender issues, which was something more prominent at the time this originally came out. Add in some royalty to some and you get a mixed crew. But the majority of them don’t get much character study and come off as stereotypes at times or just blank ciphers. The lead characters get plenty of time, which isn’t surprising, but it makes it more of an issue in trying to determine the 11th applicant if you don’t get to deal with the entire cast much.

In Summary: 
They Were Eleven is classic “old school” anime that hasn’t made it big but has a solid core group of fans. This release was the third instance I’ve bought this title since CPM first released it and I’m glad they kept it in their library. Now I just hope for a rescue and a high definition release. When mentioning this title to people who have seen it, I’ve heard almost universal praise for it, often with fond memories of it being one of their earliest anime experiences and one that set them on the right path to finding more than the slugfests of the time. While in the larger anime picture it may not amount to much, in my collection it’s one of the better rough gems that I have seen and owned.

Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Art Gallery

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

Released By: Central Park Media
Release Date: January 13th, 2004
MSRP: $19.99
Running Time: 91 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.