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Megazone 23 Part 1 Anime DVD Review

9 min read

One of the true classics of anime and one of the titles that was a turning point for the industry, Megazone 23 Part 1 delivers the goods.

What They Say
Street racer Shogo Yahagi’s having a lousy week. The military’s after him, the government can’t help him and his new set of wheels is so hot that it may cost him his life! And that’s only the beginning of his problems; the world that Shogo and his friends have lived in for their entire lives isn’t even real, and now their only hope is an artificial intelligence that may or may not be telling them the truth about the fate of the human race!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language as well as the at the time new English language dub. Having seen this show so many times over the years, it just doesn’t feel right to listen to it in any other language as I’ve gotten so used to it so we listened to this release in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is very well done here considering the age of the materials and it sounds very solid without anything going too high or clipping. We did spot check the English track in a few scenes in its 5.1 mix and liked how that came out a lot. While there isn’t a lot of heavy directionality to it, everything sounds much more crisp and distinct.

Originally released back in 1985, the transfer for this OVA is presented here in its original full frame format. With it just nearing its twentieth anniversary, the materials here really shine especially in comparison to past releases. Just in the start of the program it looks so fresh and vibrant that it’s hard to believe it’s as old as it is. Colors look very rich and solid for its time with a wide variety of colors used. There are a few touches of cross coloration in a few areas where the animation is very tight and detailed and some of the panning sequences have some aliasing going on, but most of it is just inherent in something of this age. The only thing that really shows the age of the materials other than the designs in the show is some of the dust and nicks that are on it throughout. These are pretty minimal in general but they do show up and it does give it an older feel, but it also just doesn’t feel right without some of that showing up.

It took long enough but this series has finally gotten some very good looking covers, compared to both past VHS and DVD releases by other publishers. Going with a green color based off of Yui, there are stripes along the top and bottom that contain a really great shot of the two leads set against the city. The original logo along with a translated one along the top with what I consider a very important phrase kept, “Original Video Animation”. I was so pleased to see that left there since it’s something that’s really fallen into disuse over the years but is very important to this show. The back cover uses the stripe effect a bit more and provides a decent summary of the show and several shots of animation. The discs extras and technical features are all clearly listed and easy to read. The insert is a gorgeous four panel fold-out poster of Eve done as a watercolor style piece by Mikimoto (I think). This looks to be one of the pieces used ages ago by the style and the lettering used and it gives me a warm feeling. The reverse side of the poster has a number of production sketches and a lot of text going over the origins of the show and how it transitioned from a planned TV series to an OVA as well as a look at the various characters and mechanics of the series.

The menu layout uses the varying green stripe effect to a good use here with the logo and some of the sketch designs along the top and the few selections lined underneath it set to some of the strong instrumental music from the show. The layout is easy to navigate and has a few cute 80’s quirks with the computer style with fast access times and now transitional animations to deal with.

The extras are minimal but deep depending on your point of view. The first extra is a series of production sketches that cover a variety of areas. The second extra is something we don’t get often from ADV and one that I just can’t get enough of in general and that’s a commentary track with Matt Greenfield along with David Williams and Janice Williams. Matt’s commentaries, particularly with the older shows, are just so richly filled with trivia and golden nuggets of information that really enhances your viewing of the show. With a show like this, there are tons of in-jokes and “visiting” characters from other series in addition to all the nuances from the creators themselves that I’d almost expect that Matt could do the commentary twice and not cover the same territory twice. While the transfer and new dub are worth an upgrade alone from previous versions, it’s this commentary track that I think adds the most value over all the previous ones.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Megazone 23 is one of those shows that I’ve managed to see numerous times over the years and each time I get to see something new in it or come to a new appreciation of it. Part of the appeal of the show is just in its place in history and how it came about from being a TV series whose sponsor dropped out to becoming the second OVA release in anime history and the one that ended up changing the market in more ways that one.

The premise is pretty straightforward as we’re introduced to young “punk” Shogo and his friends as they live their lives in the city of Tokyo in the mid 1980’s. They’re all young and living the big life in one of the most exciting cities in the world. Shogo’s their leader of sorts with his wild nature and his most excellent motorcycle skills. As we see the small group of friends living their life and enjoying everything, the basic theme of “living in the happiness of the now” is very strong with them and with youth in general at this time in history. Shogo and his friends have the world at their fingertips and are living it up. Shogo’s luck is even looking up after he has a brief run in with a young woman named Yui and she gives in to his charms and gives him the phone number of the store she works at.

But when his luck goes up it also goes down as he later meets up with his friend who works for an important research company in their garage. He shows Shogo a new motorcycle that his company has been building, the Bahamut, a very futuristic and fairly big looking bike that’s nothing like anything else out there. But as Shogo learns, there’s some things you shouldn’t remove from company research labs as the men in black arrive and demand the bike back, shooting first and asking questions later. Shogo manages to snatch the bike and escape but not before his friend is killed and the thugs manage to get a clue as to who he is. Shogo’s now on the run and trying to keep what happened a secret while trying to figure out how to avenge his dead friend.

As it turns out, Yui is the newest roommate with two of his good girl friends so he’s somewhat surprised to find that they’re all together now and he ends up using her garage as a place to store the bike after he gets some other friends to check it out. One thing leads to another and Shogo’s out again with Tomomi on the bike as he tries to figure out how he’s going to deal with this bike. Before they know it they’re being chased by the cops and the head into one of the tunnels, only to find the bike activating some of the guard barriers to disappear and reappear behind them, leading them off into another tunnel that they normally would even think of going down. Tomomi’s got her 16mm camera handy and before they know it, the section of road they’re on starts lowering and moving, before rising again and leading them into a massive area where a dark and empty city is both laid out below them and above them with a power source of some sort in the center.

It’s from here that Shogo starts to learn about what their world is really like and the forces that are operating with in it to try and steer it into a new future. Shogo comes up against various military forces with different goals and a computer presence that’s trying to protect everything and everyone from knowing what’s really going on. Shogo tries to deal with all of them, especially after the computer presence known as EVE tries to get his help, and finds himself being thrust into situations he doesn’t know how to handle well. This comes across particularly well when he goes up to Yui at one point and demands sex from her.

Megazone 23 continues to be an OVA that I have the hardest time trying to express what it is and what makes it so appealing to me outside of some of the basics. There’s a great element of mystery as we learn what’s really going on in this city and that plays a strong point to it. Another is that since it was being done at the same time Macross was becoming so popular there’s the inclusion of the idol singer that’s important to the storyline, so there’s a great mix of music and storytelling going on as well. Even more appealing for me is that for the idol singer character they brought in a guest character designer, Haruhiko Mikimoto. I’ve adored his material for years and his distinctive style is still strongly appealing, so going back to when he was much more active in anime is a huge plus, even for just one character.

One thing that makes this release all the more engaging this time around is that we’re getting the follow-up parts in a timely manner. Past publishers have only had the rights to the first part and never followed up, so knowing that I’m going to get to see the rest again after so many years has me even more interested in it.

In Summary: 
Megazone 23 is old school anime at its height. This is from the time before the animators and studios had to be concerned with things like copyrights and overly protective owners, so you have all sorts of very detailed items from mid 80’s Japan, from the cola cans down to the McDonald’s menu. There is so much in this show that references other shows and gives nods to the big guys at the time that the more anime you watch the more you get. This is even truer now that the US studios are going back and getting more 80’s anime, so things some of us are seeing for the time now only help shows like this even more. Megazone 23 fits the bill of 80’s science fiction anime with its heroic leads, lots of women and plenty of equipment that really makes no sense in how it would actually work, but it’s filled with lots of style and energy of a group of animators and storytellers who were doing something very new at the time.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Production sketches, Commentary with director Matt Greenfield and production staff members David Williams and Janice Williams, LE Item: Megazone 23 mouse pad w/box release

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

Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: June 1st, 2004
MSRP: $24.98/$34.98
Running Time: 85 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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