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Z-Mind Anime DVD Review

7 min read

One of those little known titles, Z-Mind is a great surprise and nearly three hours of a good time.

What They Say
Old school is back! And girl power reigns supreme! Ayame, Sumire, Renge, and Satsuki are charged with the protection of the Earth from a powerful new enemy. But these girls may be in for more than they?ve bargained for!

They?ll have to not only master the experimental mobile armor: Z-Mind, hold down their part-time jobs, all this while keeping their lives? normal! But will this be enough to stop the forces of evil from conquering the Earth?

Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. This is a decent stereo mix that doesn’t have anything going to the rear speakers but does a nice job of setting directionality across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is nice and clear and the music segments and sound effects come across without any dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally released in 2001, the transfer for this OVAs are presented in their original full frame aspect ratio. This, at the time, was a very fresh looking transfer with hardly any problems at all. At most, there’s some slight macroblocking going on during some of the more solid colored backgrounds and maybe a little bit of softness in a few areas. But otherwise the six episodes included here look great with no cross coloration. The colors are nice and vibrant without being oversaturated and the overall look and feel is dead on.

Packaging:
The front cover is a nice busy one with a mix of the giant robot that’s featured in the show as well as the various characters in their piloting outfits. It’s a pretty vibrant looking cover with some nice colors and overall design. The back cover provides a number of small screenshots and a good summary of what the show is about. Features and extras are also clearly listed, though the indicated textless ending is nowhere to be found. The reversible cover is an interesting thing because the reverse side allows you to have not one but two more options since they can be flipped around. Of course, I think the insert artwork is the best and grumble that it’s not used for a cover. The insert opens up to provide a nice mini-poster while the back of it provides the credits for both languages, though only matches up the Japanese voice actors to their roles.

Menus:
The menu layout is a bit minimal in the main screen with the bulk of it being taken up by the Z-Mind unit and selections listed along the top. Moving throughout the menus is nice and fast and the layout, in general, is easy to use and navigate. Episode selection, in particular, is a bit of fun to move around in, but works well and looks good at the same time.

Extras:
The extras are a bit minimal since the promised textless ending is missing, but we do get a good textless opening. The cover art gallery also provides the original six Japanese covers that were used, which is a real treat to see.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Z-Mind is one of those shows that’s trying to capitalize on the in-thing of doing shows that look and feel like the 70’s era anime, but doing something new and unique with it. The characters themselves are more of the focus of the show as opposed to the giant robots and to also make the show somewhat self-aware. The girls who become the pilots constantly talk about how things would be done if it was an anime and come up with cool slogans and rename their mecha.

Frankly, if giant robots ever become real, they must be restricted to Japan. Only people there have gone through all the moral and philosophical issues related to their use and introduction into a society. It’s like any thirteen-year-old can just hop in the cockpit and get busy with one.

The show opens with this large family attending a Cherry Blossom festival. And as I’m sure many family gatherings are like, the father is complaining about the “young people” just over the hill that have brought their guitars and are making a racket with it. The four daughters and son all give him grief over it, causing him to become even more agitated. After a few more words, they all decide it’s time to head home. While walking along the waterways, you get a scene right out of Lupin as some Men in Black suddenly appear at the back of the family and pick up and abduct the eldest girl, Ayame. They hustle down a set of stairs and hop into a ready boat and zip off down the waterways.

Everyone is taken by surprise and shock, but the next two girls acquire a motorcycle and head off while the mother and youngest daughter see a relative in a tour boat coming by and commandeer that to chase them. Everyone’s eventually on the move and chasing after them. Ayame does her best to get away when she gets her bearings but is ultimately saved by a dashing young man in a red jacket who speaks little and disappears before he can be questioned at all.

The events surprise everyone, but they, in the end, make little of it and head back home. The usual family banter starts up again but gets worse this time as the three eldest girls all decide to go and live in the city with their aunt and uncle who own the tour boat so they can finally get away from their overbearing father. It’s not long after they’re there that they work on the boat only to have the bizarre happen again. Instead of a kidnapping, a giant alien ship appears and drops a mecha down into the water to start smashing a facility there. The young man in red shows up again, this time taking Ayame from the tour boat and bringing her to the facility where he thrusts her into a chute that leads to a chamber where the massive Z-Mind robot is. Her simple presence near the robot causes it to go live and “acquire” her into it to pilot, which she manages to do fairly well once she settles into things and realizes what’s going on.

Some interesting family secrets come out after all is said and done. We learn about the girls’ parents past and what they were involved in over twelve years ago. We also learn that the Z-Mind robot, which is set up similar to Voltron style robots where they can have multiple configurations and three distinct robots, is DNA based and only accepts members of this family. The two younger daughters decide that this is all really cool and it’s what any real anime girl would do, so they join Ayame in fighting the weird aliens that show up with seemingly little purpose.

This barely covers maybe two of the six episodes here, as a lot of the shows charm is in the characters interactions with each other and how they handle being a family during all of this. The mother is a most untraditional looking anime mother but more a real looking one, which is a nice change of pace. It’s also great to see the girls just avoid the entire angst and whiny nature of the past five or six years worth of mecha pilots and just do what needs to be done. And while I’m no fan of these types of mecha as I thought they were among the worst kinds the 70’s produced, it’s the mysterious aliens and their mecha that make the combat situations worth watching here.

In Summary:
Z-Mind had little real hype to it but it was a real bit of fun to watch. Since this is all that’s produced, getting it all in one whack for such a low price for an OVA series is great. High production values, great character designs, fun robots and a solid storyline with some good creepy factor, this one is going to delight a number of people who take a chance on it.

Features
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, Cover Art Gallery

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

Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Release Date: March 19th, 2002
MSRP: $34.98
Running Time: 150 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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