What They Say
Charged with a murder he didn’t commit, Shogo Yahagi is once again on the run from the military and the police. But this time he’s not flying solo – guided by the artificial intelligence EVE and surrounded by a gang of renegade bikers – it’s choppers versus mechas to the end!
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 1986, the transfer for this OVA is presented here in its original full frame format. The release looks good but some of the basic problems with the materials of this age show through. There’s a fair bit more noticeable dirt and scratches on the print and some of the pastel and soft colored backgrounds show more movement to them than before. They’re not breaking up in a bad way, but if you get a wide section of the same color it’s not going to maintain a solid feel for too long. Colors look good overall though with no noticeable cross coloration. There’s some aliasing in various fast motion scenes but it felt more just a part of the animation style than anything else. While not as smooth and good looking as the first piece of the series, this is probably one of the better-looking releases of this title in some time in standard definition.
Going with the same layout and color style as the first volume, we get the green stripes along the top and bottom and the very stylized character artwork in the middle. The differences in the styles between the two releases are striking just from the cover art. 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 done in a black and white watercolor feel of Yui and Shogo by Umetsu. The reverse side of the poster has a number of production sketches and a lot of text going over the origins of the sequel and a discussion with the director over what his message and goals were 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 only included extra here is a production art gallery. Sadly, a commentary track was not done for this release and already the show feels like it’s missing something.
At the time of the first OVAs release, there was plenty of controversy about it in general, from the violence to the sex, by the time the second one came around the controversy shifted to the look of the show. The violence and the sex stepped up a bit (though still pales next to more recent material) but the changes in the style of the show generally put people in the love it or hate it camps. Combined with a thinner storyline than the original it didn’t help for a lot of fans of the original. For English speaking fans, the second OVA ended up being rather elusive in coming over in any form, though there were some English dubbed versions used for educational purposes I believe in Asia.
The second OVA picks up six months after we last see Yahagi dragging his bloodied body down the streets of the city. In the time since then he’s gone to ground and hasn’t been seen by the military that’s been looking for him. The military has used their time wisely by beefing up their numbers in recruitment and using the revelations made during Yahagi’s escapades as a way of cementing their authority and control. While they’ve survived their initial meeting with the other craft, the ship is now in negotiations with another starship with the aid of those in the financial sector. More and more people know what’s really going down but there are still plenty of sheep out there.
While BD and use his use of Shiratori have the military in shape and ready for just about anything, especially with the new ships they’ve built to go outside of the Megazone itself, Yahagi’s time underground has been put to good use as well. With the knowledge he does have, which is plentiful and limited at the same time, he’s managed to bring together a good sized youth gang of bikers that while maybe not believing him completely have thrown in with him anyway. A lot of it seems to come from the way he seems to know about the changes Eve has gone through as her influence is still strong. Her current controlled material hasn’t won her any fans and has ended up with people like this listening to her old material in seclusion. With their base under an old abandoned embassy, Yahagi and his group of ruffians stock up on weapons and wait for the right moment to do? something.
Two pieces fall into place that brings Yahagi back to the surface. Eve’s return to the situation with her constant calling for the Operator of 7G lets Yahagi know that some remnant of who she once was is alive and well down in the bowels of the second city and that he has to get there to find out what it is she wants him to do. The second thing is the return of Yui to his life. The two haven’t seen each other since he initially left to find Eve and he never looked for her again since he didn’t want to drag her into everything. But now she’s back in his life and ends up falling in with the biker crowd pretty easily. Before you know it, she’s sporting a new hairstyle and learning how to ride a bike. The number of women in the group help her feel at ease, but it’s only when she and Yahagi get back under the covers do things really move well.
While there is a lot going on in this OVA through the first two-thirds of it, it really doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. We get a lot of action scenes based around the military and their fight with the mysterious tentacle enemy and we get a lot of movement with Yahagi’s group as they move around the city and fill in the blanks, but there’s no real drive towards anything. This does hit in the third act when Yahagi makes the decision to finally go after Eve so he can find out what she wants and this leads into heavy exposition and plot material, but it’s just so far into things that you can imagine plenty of people falling off long beforehand. I love the final third of the show and the way it plays out and all that it reveals, but it’s a bit of an effort to get there.
Visually, this OVA is like night and day from the first one when it comes to character designs. The original was the epitome of 80’s style designs. But when they moved to the second OVA, all of the original character designs were dropped for various reasons other than Eve. Her design is the only bit of real continuity throughout the three parts to this series with Mikimoto only getting more and more detailed as it progressed. The director ended up bringing in one of his favorite designers at that time, Yasuomi Umetsu, who years later would become somewhat infamous for his OVA series Kite. Umetsu’s career has been interesting overall, from those two extremes and with some hentai releases in-between. Umetsu’s style is completely different of what the first OVA did and this one ended up with very strong realistically built characters. With a lot of key animation to them (and with Umetsu as the key animation director), there is a striking amount of fluidity to them that sometimes is too fluid, giving it a really strange feel. All of the gang members are outlandish in their designs, heavy with paint and colors. By contrast, the military characters are all over the map in body shapes and feel. In particular, BD changes completely and is now a purple haired muscleman of sorts. Yahagi’s transformation isn’t too much of a shock since you can imagine him changing his look during his time hiding out, but when you have such differences with characters like Yui and BD who don’t resemble their original in any way and you’re going to alienate a lot of people.
There are still a lot of little jokes and nods throughout this OVA that are fun to find. Since it’s been ages since I saw this I was only able to pick out a few (and there’s no commentary track to help with the others) but some of my favorites were just seeing the pinball games for Silver Hawks and Thundercats. I also have to wonder during some of the biker sequences when they hit the city just how much of it was homaged by Otomo in Akira, such as the scene of them going down a straightway and the horns honking and the flag waving. It felt like a cheaper version of the same scenes early on in Akira and this predated it by about four years, release-wise anyway.
MegaZone 23 Part 2 is a fascinating watch for a lot of reasons, particularly to view the differences in style and storytelling as the series evolved with its different crews. This’ll annoy the heck out of some people but others may find it fascinating. Watching this for me is like watching something in a film history class where the times and context of the film are just as if not more important than the show itself. The things that made up the production become more interesting than the end product itself. Part 2 is an enjoyable romp for a lot of reasons but I still think they failed at some very basic storytelling aspects and missed chances to really expand on things but providing more in-show context and emotion. In Part 2, action trumps plot.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Production Sketches
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C+
Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: July 13th, 2004
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.