What They Say:
On the planet Zola, the statute of limitations for any crime is just three days, so when Jiron Amos’ family is murdered and he fails to catch their killer before he receives full immunity, Jiron snaps and continues to pursue his quest for revenge; even though that now makes HIM the lawbreaker!
With the help of desert drifter Rag and her gang of Sand Rats, Jiron soon finds the opportunity to steal the perfect weapon for his quest: a giant robot called the Xabungle. Taking the Xabungle, however, entangles our heroes with culture-obsessed rich girl Elchi Cargo, the highly dysfunctional crew of the giant land ship Iron Gear, a bevy of chorus girls, gun-toting toddlers, a Man with No Name named Timp, and an insanely escalating series of increasingly strange plot twists in the weirdest, wildest and most hilarious parody of outer space westerns ever animated: Blue Gale Xabungle!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language only in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The audio for the series is definitely representative of its time where the stereo mix is one that plays largely to the center channel with a wide feeling and that’s about it. This isn’t a series you look for a lot of depth, placement, or impact from when it comes to the action or the dialogue. What you want is something that’s clean and clear throughout and gets to the heart of it and this encoding does just that. The opening and closing sequences stand out a touch more just for the music and its mix there but the bulk of what we get is pretty straightforward. But it’s exactly what was originally presented and in better quality through the lossless encoding, making it a real treat if you’ve only been exposed to second or third-hand copies over the years.
Originally airing in 1982 and 1983, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 480p using the AVC codec. This is a standard definition release on Blu-ray so it looks better than the DVD would with the encoding tools used and it takes up less space overall, which allows for the fifty episodes to be spread across two discs in a thirty-five/fifteen format. Animated by Sunrise, the show has a pretty good look here overall but it is most definitely a standard definition show. This is a flat color palettte and we get a good amount of film grain throughout it that may give some life in some areas, especially during panning sequences, but this is again how the show was put together and will always look. There’s a good solidity overall to it and the bit rate varies well to handle the bigger action sequences. Mostly there’s just the line noise that comes in during the various panning sequences and there’s a looseness to the animation itself that may throw some since distance shots are kept minimally animated in terms of details, areas that are a lot more noticeable on larger screens of today. It’s about what I expected for the show and it looks good but it’s not materials that will blow you away.
The packaging for this release is presented in a standard sized Blu-ray case with both discs against the interior walls. When you see a fifty-episode listing you do end up expecting something a bit heftier and more discs until you remember the SDBD aspect of it. The front cover goes for the neat Japanese artwork that has Jiro balancing seemingly everyone on top of him, which makes for a busy and comical piece in how they’re all placed and wedged together like that. The rest of the cover is done up with a yellow filter over the background which does showcase some of the mecha and landscape but is obscured enough that it isn’t really seen until you look closely at it. The back cover gives us some big mecha action with some amusing character material along the bottom. There’s a deep block covering the summary of the premise that digs in and we get a few shots from the show as well. The set is clear that this is in standard definition and includes a ton of episodes and the movie on both the front and back in a good way. The technical grid conveys all of this as well in clear fashion. We don’t get any inserts or artwork on the reverse side though.
The menu design for this release goes for the simplest route possible to handle the copious amount of episodes on each disc. That means a static screen that uses a bit of the barren landscape as the background to set the mood and tone. The logo is kept to the upper right and looks good while through the middle we get a small series of selections that provides the episodes by number and title done in a yellow and red format. There’s maybe just about a dozen or so per screen that you can tab through for the four screens and that makes it easy to get around in. The problem for me is that with this being an SDBD, there is no pop-up menu during playback. You can hit top menu and it’ll take you back to see what episode your own. Which makes me wish that Maiden Japan would list the episode number in their post-credits translation of the credits, especially for shows like this that do not list the episode title or number as their opening arc. Everything is quick and easy to navigate, especially being monolingual, making for a solid experience overall outside of the pop-up problem.
I wasn’t expecting much in the way of extras but I do like that we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as promos not for just the show but also the movie.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series that aired throughout 1982 and into early 1983, Xabungle was a show that caught my attention back in the early ’80s in some fanzine that I had read. It took until 2018 to finally be able to watch it after Maiden Japan set up the home video release for it, though it was available to stream through HIDIVE before that. Back in those early days when mecha shows ruled the airwaves in Japan, a show like Xabungle was highly appealing to innocent anime fans overseas with its designs and just the scale of it. With it coming from Sunrise and having Yoshiyuki Tomino behind it, it was something that was an easy connect for fans of Gundam and other works of his from that time period. Maiden Japan’s release, which is in standard definition and brings us the full fifty-episode series and the film from the summer of ‘83, is definitely an experience – albeit one that really needs to be spread out.
The series is, at its core, a tale of revenge which is distilled down nicely into the 84-minute feature. The story takes place on a world named Zora where there’s some interesting rules designed to it based on the group in power called the Innocent. When any crime is committed you basically have three days to exact justice for it as after that it’s written off and you can’t do anything about it without it turning on you in a big way. For one young man named Jiron, he’s intent on getting revenge for the death of his parents at the hands of a Breaker known as Timp. In order to do so, he needs to acquire a mecha known as a Walker Machine, the Xabungle, and that has him orchestrating how to acquire it. Suffice to say, the group that has it is one that he ends up throwing in with as there are a lot of growing resentments across the land over how the Innocent is running everything.
The group, the Sand Rats, provides a new kind of family for Jiron to connect with but it takes a good bit of time for everyone to get on a similar page. And, quite honestly, there are simmering tensions across most of the season simply because it makes for easier storytelling with an expanded run like this. There’s some romantic potential in the mix with Jiron being interested in Eltchi, the daughter of the man he steals the Xabungle from, as well as Rag, but it becomes clear quickly who it is that the series will focus on just by virtue of the amount of screen time. But it’s a decent dynamic that plays out overall and it brings its own tensions to the series, though thankfully it doesn’t really dominate in a bigger way. The other guys in the Sand Rats are all pretty straightforward with Blue, Chill, and Dyke, and with an array of walkers throughout the series everyone pretty much gets their chance to shine as the journey goes on.
The show balances some decent time with the group and Timp, whose voice actor has several roles in the series, and there’s a decent for the time exploration of the different ways people live and struggle against everything since Civilians do not have it easy while those on the ruling class side have a lot more going for them. Yoshiyuki Tomino has some decent ideas in all of this in working with the writing team for it but it is also very much a product of its time. Similar to how I can enjoy the original Gundam series or some of the other works Tomino was involved in during this time, there’s just such a light touch to it owing to its audience and intent that it is simple and it is childish – even while dealing with death and other struggles. That was all a big part of the appeal back in the day but combining that with a largely very episodic journey series means it’s something that clocks in at fifty episodes and can (and is) be a slog when you’re trying to marathon it.
There’s a lot I liked with this show but they’re almost all in the moment kind of things that aren’t part of the larger narrative. Which is in itself fairly thin, a tie that binds the journey together and gives it something to hang on. But this is very much an early ‘80s show where you could miss a dozen episodes and come back in without too much trouble to enjoy where you pick it up from. The growth is minimal but there in the cast as what we get comes more from them seeing more of the world and all its problems, past and present, and going from there to reinforce what their bigger picture objective becomes. While I’m sure there are some Deep Thoughts that can be made about the show and what it intends, they really feel more of a byproduct here than the main goal. Which is obviously to sell toys but also to tell an adventure story that people would tune into as often as possible.
Xabungle is a show that had really piqued my interest when I read about it in a fanzine back in the late ‘80s and I’ve wanted to watch it ever since, especially since I had a couple of toys from it when I was younger. The series really does feel like standard Yoshiyuki Tomino material with some neat ideas, intriguing designs for the world and how it operates, but also a heavy leaning into the standard episodic journey with spurts of growth and progress. It’s a solidly put together show from this time frame that has long been sought after and it’s great to finally get it here. Sentai’s release is a pretty solid SDBD as the show looks pretty good, film grain and all that I enjoy, as it feels like a way to really reconnect with the past. Granted, we’re watching it on a screen a few times bigger than I would have even dreamed to have own at the time and that colors the view of it as well. For fans, this set is simply ideal with so much content presented at its best for SD and at a great price. Here’s hoping for more lost classics to find life in this way.
Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD MA Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Japanese Movie Promo, Clean Opening Animation, and Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: December 18th, 2018
Running Time: 1334 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p AVC
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.