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Atom: The Beginning Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read

The relationship between man and machine.

What They Say:
In the aftermath of the Great Catastrophe, grad students Hiroshi Ochanomizo and Ummataro Tenma are working at the forefront of the exciting new field of super-robot development. Creating the next level of technology isn’t cheap, however, and not only do the guys have to take on side jobs to keep their research going, they also have to contend with both jealous rivals and sinister organizations who want their secrets. Fortunately, our heroes also have an ace in the hole: their latest prototype, A106, who may just be the smartest, most powerful robot yet, and might even possibly be ATOM – THE BEGINNING!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show has a decent mix where it’s a lot of dialogue for a good chunk of it but it also focuses on the action side really well when it gets there. The action has some decent impact when the fighting gets underway and the show works some really solid mechanical elements throughout to give it a good bit of life. The dialogue side of it is handled pretty well also as there’s some good placement and use of internal pieces when it comes to A106 at times as well. It’s not a hugely immersive show but the mix has some good moments and the encoding captures it well and without any problems such as dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by OLM, Production I.G., and Signal.MD, the series has a pretty good look about it as it plays to the older style from which it originates while keeping to the cleaner look of modern shows and the color design. The encoding gives us a very clean look throughout it with no problems such as noise or blocking while it shows off some very fluid animation at times and some really good detail in the backgrounds and mechanical design.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds both discs against the interior walls. The front cover works the familiar key visual of some of the main cast spread out over it but where their bodies take up a large chunk of the space. The logo is pretty nice and it does show off the overall style of the property. The back cover goes darker with a mix of character shots spread around and a simple tagline to draw you in. The summary of the premise is good but the fading white text as you get further along on the black doesn’t work well, nor how faded it is with the extras. A number of shots from the show are kept along the middle while the bottom brings out the production credits and an easy to read technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The only extras included here are the clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Tetsuro Kasahara, Atom: The Beginning is a twelve episode anime series that aired in the spring 2017 season. The show has some solid talents working on it, such as Tatsuo Sato as the main director and Junichi Fujisaki handling the overall composition, and it’s working with some good studios. The original manga is an interesting one as it began in 2014 and has six volumes so far and was conceived as a kind of prequel to Tetsuwan Atom, looking at the events that lead up to Tezuka’s series. That’s something you don’t see too often in Japan, though we’ve had plenty of reworkings and adaptations of Tezuka’s original work. Unfortunately, something about this series simply didn’t click for me (and viewers in Japan, going by sales numbers) and it left me somewhat unsettled.

Taking place in the recovery period of the Great Catastrophe, we see how robots have become part and parcel of life in the area. They’re used for a lot of things and have all sorts of uses that people have adjusted to. There isn’t anything that looks at the current view realities of employment and changes to social structure with it but rather just a kind of simple approach, which is fine. The main focus is on Hiroshi and Umataro, two college kids that are doing their robotics work and trying to move on to the next level of things with what they’re doing. Funding is hard to come by, things are getting tighter and more problematic, but they have a dream and they want to reach it.

What they end up with through a somewhat convoluted series of events is a robot that becomes known as A106 and nothing more than they. The robot, first in costume and then as something of a member of the group, has a more responsive AI than expected and that leads to more exploration of what he’s capable of. The first half of the series works this pretty well along with a few other characters, such as Motoko and Ran, as we get something that’s almost akin to standard introductory episodic pieces, such as the on-eoff with the detective they encounter or the festival episode. There’s some decent school based material here with the lab and what’s going on but none of it feels like it gels well as Hiroshi and Umataro simply feel a little too simple, without anything that really defines them well beyond the most basic of personality traits.

But it does work well enough to move along to and see how A106 is involved in things, especially with the girls and their involvement with it. But it’s the second half of the series where it kind of lost me a fair bit as we end up with a tournament show. The main involvement here is that of Dr. Lolo and what she has in her arsenal to use within it. Naturally, there’s appeal to the whole thing in the potential for some money and all, but there’s also disdain in regards to the whole idea of robots fighting. There’s enough personality in A106 that he’s easily humanized, more so because of his frame than anything else compared to some other robots, but overall it doesn’t take long until we get him involved in the fights and surviving well enough to keep progressing.

The show doesn’t make the tournament material compelling as Lolo doesn’t offer up much to engage nor does our main human cast around A106 offer up much either, resulting in a kind of perfunctory by the numbers piece. It’s well-executed, mind you, with good animation and a sense of style and tone that will be appealing. But it doesn’t have that oomph to really take it to the next level. So when we do get A106 beaten hard toward the end and we spend an episode inside of its mind and looking at early parts of the show in a new light through it there isn’t enough here to really make it resonate well and it doesn’t pack any emotional punch as you wait for it to get A106 back into functional form. While A106 isn’t the same as when the series started there’s also not enough of a difference here for it to really click either in that it’s significantly different.

In Summary:
The idea of a prequel for Tetsuwan Atom is certainly intriguing and I’ve liked a lot of Astro Boy projects over the years that reinvented or updated things because there’s a simple timelessness about it all in the Disney vein of storytelling. A more serious look at the backstory in prequel form was intriguing when the show was first announced but seeing the end result here I found myself largely disinterested as it didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be. Sentai’s release is a pretty good one with what it does being a monolingual project without much in the way of extras but fans of the show will be able to own it in really solid quality form and that’s the important thing.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 1st, 2018
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

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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