What They Say
The evil Phone Pole Team has one goal: world conquest! This has proven difficult, however, so they’re revising their strategy and taking over the world one prefecture at a time. When the mayor’s office leans of their plans, they recruit the entire high school baseball team, (all three of them) to combat this threat. Can they contend with faceless minions, rampaging cyborgs and their own desperate attempts at undercover police work?
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. With the very small and specific audience for this title, no English language adaptation was made for it. The stereo for the show is pretty much what you’d expect from something of this vintage in that it’s essentially a full forward soundstage mix that doesn’t have anything really noticeable in terms of directionality. It is a clean and clear track though with only a very small touch of noise at some of the highest pitch sounds. Beyond that, the track is clean and clear and problem free.
Originally released to video back in 1986, the transfer for this three part OVA is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The transfer for this release is nice and clean but it’s showing some of the age an inherent problems with the source material itself. While colors, for the most part, look good and maintain a solid feeling, the blacks are more grey than black which is something we see with a lot of shows from then. The other thing that crops up during a lot of scenes is varying levels of cross coloration but it never gets to the point where it’s in everything, more often restrained to a few areas or a particular item. What does shine through beautifully in this transfer is something else that’s seen a lot in shows of this age is the amount of detail to the animation. There’s so much in some scenes that in its own way it really outshines a lot of more modern animation.
With this being a budget release and intended for a smaller market it’s not the slickest looking package out there but it gets the job done. The front cover has a mixed piece of character animation against a starscape with the layout of text designed to mimic the Star Wars franchise. The character artwork is cute and detailed as it provides both for regular and small-bodied types and the text layout parody definitely works for people of my generation. The back cover is straightforward in its design with a number of round edged boxes that have shots from the show, the summar, and the special features listings. Even the technical grid has been broken up into smaller boxes so they can achieve the same feel. It’s cute looking but not something I’d want to see elsewhere. No insert is included with this release.
Using the same design as the back cover, the top two thirds of the screen has small boxes of screenshots dropping down in a space invaders like format that disappear as they hit the bar that separates it from the navigation section. It’s a cute layout and one of the more animated ones from ADV lately. Access times are nice and fast and due to it being only in one language the player presets are essentially a non-issue.
There are a pair of extras here that will appeal to those who want to know more about the jokes and origins of this show and trivia surrounding it as there’s some extensive liner notes on the disc and the main program features an amusing and informative commentary track from Matt Greenfield, David Williams and Janice Williams. The trio have done a number of commentaries together in the past and have worked together for a long time so there’s a great casual nature to the piece and it hits points and humor like previous ones.
Based on the original manga by Koichiro Yasunaga, the three part OVA release, or four if you include the epilogue, is in its own a way a precursor to the kinds of TV series that got a lot more popular in the quite some time ago such as Excel Saga and Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. While there is a basic structure of plot, the show is more interested in parodying a lot of different kinds of shows and related jokes.
Similar in a way to Excel Saga, the premise behind the show is that there’s a mysterious organization known as the Telephone Pole Group that intend to take over the world and rule with an iron fist. However, they’ve learned from the mistakes of others and they don’t intend to hit Tokyo first only to get beaten back, they intend to start out in the countryside prefectures and work they way from there. It’s brilliance in its own way since they know the heroes won’t leave Tokyo and those in the outer prefectures won’t be able to handle things. Unfortunately for them, the prefectural governor where they intend to strike first won’t take this lying down and has brought in a trio of kids from the local high school that will become the Prefectural Earth Defense Force.
Made up of two guys and a girl, it’s your basic team type that have sentai style outfits but are in a sense rather inept at the job. In their way, I don’t think they actually accomplished anything good outside of their introduction scene where they show off their uniforms. But much can be said about the folks the Telephone Pole Group send out because their plans aren’t exactly top notch either. When they realize they can’t take on the PEDF in a frontal attack, the word comes down from the boss that the lone women in the group should infiltrate the school and seduce the teacher that manages the PEDF group so they can take out their command structure. She’s so conflicted by it and takes such advantage of him when it comes to food that they never really get towards the full seduction that’s required.
In the middle of all of this, and at times the real driving force of the story, is a young Indian transfer student name Karmi. Karmi is the first person we really met in the show and he’s the most unfortunate; he had just been in a traffic accident of some sort and ended up in a hospital where the doctors that got to him started turning him into a cyborg. He’s equipped with a lot of strength and shoulders that now open up to shoot out missiles. Everything that happens to Karmi seems to be bad and perpetrated by Japanese people that he really starts getting frustrated with them all and wanting to hurt a lot of them. He ends up in the middle of the fight between the PEDF and the Telephone Pole Group and tends to fall on the side of helping the PEDF but often only because his flailing about benefits them.
There’s a lot to like about this show if you can get into the period comedy. Comedy in general is something that’s very difficult to do and can divide people faster than almost anything else out there. If it doesn’t work, everything else falls completely flat. Having both grown up with shows of this era through either seeing them or reading about them in magazines that came out during the 80’s, as well as experiencing a lot of them as they’ve come out in the last few years, every time I see a new 80’s comedy I find more to laugh at as more things have a connection. PEDF has a lot going for it in its parodies and references. It’s interesting to see the origins of the show and who worked on it as well. With only four volumes of the manga made and that’s apparently all by its creator, this isn’t a title that would have gone far but it was more open to interpretation. The people who worked on it all have a small list of credits to their name and not much that’s terribly big all told, though some interesting scripting chores on shows like Urusei Yatsura or Future Boy Conan. The credits that were interesting to me were the voice actors which have the leads from Kimagure Orange Road working together yet again.
While it may seem contrary to how a lot of more recent and new fans feel, older shows like this simply feel more alive, more animated and more detailed than most productions today. The detail in all of the shots, the little jokes that are now more apparent with the greater video resolution, the way that the camera is able to flow so much better than some of the digital mannerisms, it all just provides such far more appealing production. Prefectural Earth Defense Force is a very narrowcast show in its humor and its appeal but for those that do enjoy these kinds of show, this is a great looking production with just the right amount of extras for it. It’s unfortunate that this release ended up getting mostly negative attention during its announcement phase for its poor distribution than for the positive aspects of its cast, creators and the actual program itself. For those that do take the plunge on this budget-priced release, you may just find a quirky but very enjoyable comedy.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Translation Notes, Commentary Track
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: April 18th, 2006
Running Time: 50 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480 i/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.