What They Say
It is the year 2031. Humankind has been replaced as the dominant species on Earth by a race of monstrous insect-like creatures known as the Blue. Sleeper Yuji Kaido finds himself thrust into this nightmarish world, suddenly awakened after 22 years in suspended animation. Alone and surrounded by the Blue, Yuji’s only hope for survival comes from the elite Sleeper Recovery Team, and a steely Mech pilot named Marlene. Yuji must take a crash course in the skills of survival taking on the unprecedented responsibility of being the only one that can shape a very uncertain future.”Tokihanate” Remix
My entire viewing session consisted of the Japanese stereo track; while it will not test the limits of your sound system, the track is mixed very well and features some decent directional effects across the front soundstage. The dialogue was crystal clear, and the track did not suffer from distortion or other issues.
Originally airing in 1999, the transfer for the TV series is very clean and vivid. It is the sort of series that shifts from bright blue skies to the dark recesses of a space station or hive; whatever the setting, the colors are crisp allowing the details of the scene to stand out. There was no visible print damage or digital artifacting.
The 2001 movie fares a bit better in the video department as it mixes new footage with the TV footage. However, it is noticeable where the new footage ends and the old begins. The new footage stands out as being slightly brighter and sharper giving the TV footage a dated feel.
Funimation has provided one of the sturdier collection boxes I have seen in recent memory. Resembling a hardcover book, each “page” holds one of the nine discs on each side of the page. The front cover features Marlene Angel in profile set against a muted, dark picture of a Blue. The series title is in the bottom left with a thin black bar stating “The Complete Blue Gender Series” across the top; the artwork rightfully dominates the cover and catches the eye.
The back cover features the requisite layout of pictures, summary, and disc specifications. This is a fantastic packaging job by Funimation; it takes up less than half of the shelf space of most other box sets out. The material for the cover feels exactly like a hardcover book. This is definitely the sort of box set packaging I would like to see more series collections use.
The TV series discs use the same layout for the menus; a clip from the series is displayed on the screen with the menu items displayed along the right side of the screen. Menu items are given names to resemble the sort of interface an Armored Shrike might use; fortunately, these names are still intuitive allowing the viewer to identify what each one does. Music loops in the background and there are transition delays between the menus. Some of the transitions are a bit too long for my tastes, but the menus do a decent job of getting you setup and into the show.
The menu for the movie is a simple tactical readout of the Earth with the menu items displayed in the corners of the screen. Transition delays are minimal making this a simple but effective menu system.
Save for the movie, every disc features some extra material. Common to all discs are character profiles, voice actor biographies, and textless songs; the character profiles and biographies each feature a button that allows you to switch between the character and voice actor.
Scattered among the discs are a variety of image galleries; some are called “Blue Files”. These are slideshows of the production sketches intermixed with clips of the finished product. Additional production sketch galleries are also available; there are also a few “music videos” or remixes which are nothing more than the full-length version of the opening and closing songs played against scenes from the series. Rounding out the extras is a commentary for the first episode by the English voice cast and a set of Japanese commercials for the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In 2031, a young man finds himself waking up from a deep sleep, his suspension capsule being wheeled down a hall by parties unknown. Panicked voices and gunfire echo around him until his capsule is thrown violently to the ground allowing him freedom. What the young man finds is an enormous bug being slaughtered by a giant robot.
Running away from the horror he just witnessed, the young man makes his way back to the lab where his sleep to escape an incurable disease began. His terror grows as he sees a green ball that is comprised of the twisted bodies of his fellow sleepers. Another bug appears, and the young man does the only sensible thing his brain can conjure. He soils himself. This is our inauspicious introduction to Kaido Yuji, the hero of Blue Gender. We are quickly introduced to Marlene Angel the other hero and the pilot of the robot. She has been sent to recover “Sleepers”, people like Yuji who were put into suspended animation due to incurable diseases. After a quick getaway, Yuji is told the dire truth about Earth.
The bugs are known as Blue and have covered the Earth, consuming its resources. Mankind has been reduced to appetizers for the Blue; a select group of humanity took to the stars in order to survive and create a force to retake the planet. Those left behind do little else other than survive and resent those who live in “Second Earth”. Wanting to be useful, Yuji requests that Marlene and her compatriots train him to fight. As they train and travel, the members of Marlene’s company die off eventually leaving Marlene and Yuji alone. Their journey leads to a number of conflicts between the pair; Marlene’s cold-hearted nature grates against Yuji’s sense of morality. Yet, Marlene slowly realizes that the fire in Yuji is rekindling unfamiliar feelings in her. It isn’t until Yuji is critically injured on the shuttle to Second Earth that she finally realizes that something is missing from her life. Unfortunately, her time with Yuji has turned her into less than the model soldier in the eyes of her superiors. She is sent for re-education training but consistently refuses to return to the emotionally dead soldier. Her only thought is to find Yuji and learn if he is fine.
At great personal risk, she does find where Yuji is being held and ends up embroiled in a secret project. Yuji’s disease consists of his bloodstream being filled with B-cells; it is these cells that allow him and other Sleepers to tap into a telepathic link with the Blue. If this link was enhanced and tied to an Armored Shrike, the Sleepers could be the force to turn the tide of the war and claim ultimate victory. Yuji and Marlene join a small cadre known as the Sleeper Brigade, but Marlene finds that as she is regaining her humanity, Yuji’s is slowly slipping away. The remainder of the series deals with the truth behind the link between the Sleepers and the Blue and Marlene’s attempt to bring Yuji back to his former self.
The hallmark of the great science fiction stories is the emphasis on the actual people in the tale. While Blue Genderrevolves around an epic battle between man and their new insect overlords, the real story is the relationship between Yuji and Marlene and how they represent the best and worst that man is capable of. Marlene and the inhabitants of Second Earth have become bereft of the finer qualities of mankind like compassion. They feel nothing for the people left on Earth and would not hesitate to kill them if it meant success for their mission. Frequent sexual intercourse is their only way to actually feel anything beyond their hate of the Blue and their sense of duty. While they do not recognize it, they have become little better than the Blue, doing little else than reproducing, consuming, and fighting.
In stark contrast, Yuji exemplifies what mankind once was and has lost over the years. Every human life is precious to him and does not deserve to be cast aside without regard. His passion and determination strikes a chord deep within Marlene and provides her the opportunity to grow into something more than a soldier. From Marlene, Yuji finds the strength and reason to fight for his vision of the future. One of the more impressive aspects of the series was the care and deliberation taken in developing Marlene’s emerging humanity. The process takes the bulk of the series for her to realize what Yuji has that she is missing. When they are separated on arriving at Second Earth, she feels a void in her life but cannot articulate to herself or others what it is. Nor can she find anything in her life that can fill it; she simply knows that she must see Yuji again and ensure that he is alive and well.
Care is taken to continue the development over the second arc of the series; as Marlene grows closer to what Yuji was, Yuji begins to slip away into madness. It is not until she has to fight to save Yuji from himself that Marlene understands what it is to be the sort of person Yuji is. The story may revolve around an epic struggle for the Earth, but it is the love story between Yuji and Marlene that makes Blue Gender unique and elevates it above other titles. While Blue Gender contains enough nuance and subtle messages, the series can also be enjoyed simply for its action and the creepiness of the Blue. Blue Gender can be graphic at times, but it never uses the violence, gore, or sex gratuitously. Carefully crafted, the series allows the viewer to enjoy it on a surface level but also rewards them if they choose to dig deeper. It allows you to find something new on repeated viewings, a depth few shows can achieve.
The movie does not fare as well, but this is expected as it must condense the entire TV series into a two-hour capsule. To accommodate the time length, the movie changes the events of the series around a bit but manages to keep the main themes from the TV series present. However, it is missing the flourishes and details the TV series provides and loses the heart of the characters and story. It does an adequate job of summarizing the TV series, but it simply cannot develop the same attributes that made the series exceptional.
While the battle between mankind and their insect enemy is entertaining, it is Blue Gender‘s focus on the individuals and how mankind has evolved during the crisis that elevates the series above most other science fiction series. The writers do not attempt to force a message on the viewer; instead, they use the characters and their relationships to subtly introduce ideas and concepts about the nature of mankind and what its future might be. It is the superb writing that allows a broad range of viewers to enjoy this show on many different levels. With the complete series collected into one package, Blue Gender is poised to once again show what good science fiction looks like, a must have for any science fiction fan.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Character Profiles, Cast Bios, Audio Commentary, Textless Songs, Original Trailer, Blue File 1 & 2, A.S. File, Blue Gender Sketches, Image Galleries, Rough Sketch Collection, “Break Free” Extended Version, “Love Taught Me” Extended Version, Original Japanese LD/DVD/VC/CD Commercials
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 11th, 2005
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Mitsubishi 27″ TV, Panasonic RP-82, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and optical audio cable