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Space Runaway Ideon Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read
A sprawling story from some strong creatives that doesn’t quite come together.

A sprawling story from some strong creatives that doesn’t quite come together.

What They Say:
When Earth archaeologists on the planet Solo dig up a set of strange vehicles, they have no idea that they’ve unearthed something that will change the course of mankind. Even more shocking is the discovery that a SECOND human race called the Buff Clan is also seeking the mechs! A deadly competition ensues as the two races battle to secure the secrets of what the Buff Clan calls the “Ide”. While the fight initially favors the Buff Clan, everything changes when young Cosmo Yuki and his friends accidentally power up the ancient machines that form the most powerful robot the universe has ever seen! But even with the Ideon defending them, the return to Earth won’t be easy, and there’s a long hard journey filled with combat and sacrifice ahead!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language only in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is not one that’s going to wow in any significant ways but what we do get here is important. The show is more center channel based with what it wants to do and owes a lot to the time in which it was created but it has a very clean and clear design to it that’s very appealing. A lot of older shows can be problematic at times but this one works well with no scratchiness or dropouts to be had throughout it, making for an enjoyable experience. The action has some fun moments where it goes a little bit bigger but it doesn’t play across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is clean and clear and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 1980, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirty-nine episode series is spread across five discs while the two movies are on the sixth disc. Animated by Sunrise, the show has a really good look with lots of detail to be had throughout and the kind of looseness that you get from traditional animation, especially from the late ‘70s. There is a lot to like with what it presents here and especially for fans of this period as it has a kind of warmth, life, and fluidity that’s different from modern shows. Maiden Japan’s encoding is working from an HD native source that looks fantastic here with bright and strong colors, lots of detail to be had in most every scene, and no problems when it comes to background noise or blocking. The older style animation may not be for everyone but this is a really great looking encode that captures the show in its best light.

The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case where it holds the discs against the interior walls and with a pair of hinges as well. The front cover gives us a classic background image of various worlds in alignment while in front of that we get the Ideon itself from the waist up. It has a really good illustration style design that eases what the actual animation is and I like the nicely stylized logo that’s just above it. The back cover shows off the Ideon in its animated design clearly along with a few shots from the show as well. The premise is well-covered and we get a solid breakdown of the production credits and a technical grid that lays out how the set is put together in a clear and concise way. No show related inserts are included with this release nor is there a reversible cover.

The navigation for this set keeps things simple as there’s no language options or submenus for most of the discs as it’s just the show itself. The navigation is kept to the let where we get the base colors with deep reds and white with highlights in blue that works nicely, giving it a bit of an old school feeling with the blockiness of it and the font used. The right side brings us the static image that changes up regularly with a look at different parts of the show, obviously kicking off with the Ideon itself in all its brightly colored glory. There’s so little in terms of navigation here but what we get works well both as a main menu and as a pop-up menu during playback.

The only extras included here are some of the Japanese promos for the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Prolific is a word you can associate with Yoshiyuki Tomino in a big way. Tomino is very much an ideas man with so many interesting ways to tell familiar stories, creating the right kinds of trappings in order to breathe new life and ways to understand things. While Gundam is viewed as a success for a long time, the story is familiar one of the show being canceled early and finding renewed attention through its films. After the initial Gundam run, Tomino went right into Space Runaway Ideon, which landed in the spring of 1980. The series was another attempt at selling goods with a big sprawling story and set for forty-three episodes, the show ended up canceled with four episodes left to produce, which must have been another crushing moment for Tomino and the team after Gundam. Thankfully, the demand was there from the fans and we ended up with the reworked recap film and then the original film that brought the show to an expanded close.

Ideon is one of a handful of shows for a generation of fans where its reputation was prominent for years. If you got into anime during this period there were all kinds of fanzines that would lead with Macross due to Robotech but delved into Gundam, Xabungle, Ideon, and a host of other shows that dealt with war and giant robots in a big way. I can still remember that from the local zines that were produced to those first splashy attempts at more formal magazines like Protoculture Addicts. Ideon is one of those shows that certainly stuck with me over the years because of Tomino, having grown to appreciate if not always like a lot of what he’s produced. It took forever for it to finally see release here, with it getting streaming first and then a planned SDBD release before the pickup of the high definition materials in order to produce this proper Blu-ray set. And for fans and those who want to see animation from this formative period brought to life in a beautiful way, there is a whole lot to like about this show.

Taking place several hundred years in the future, the show gets underway on the planet Solo where mankind has spread out to. The idea of a fast and wide expansion provides for a lot of room to maneuver and on this world something interesting has been found in the form of Ideon, a giant mecha. The initial group of archaeologists that found it here have also discovered a much larger spaceship from a long lost time that’s well suited for human-sized people and storing the Ideon as well. Which is useful as the Buff Clan military is there as well and are trying to understand what’s going on and who these people are that are down there and what they’ve discovered. It’s this interaction over the first few episodes that sets things in motion as the initial group of humans ends up essentially under the command of the military force that was protecting the colonists and archaeologists. It’s not a big group as there often aren’t a lot of challenges but it puts Bes Jordan as the primary character.

This all sets up the two main sides with the humanity “we” know and the other humanity known as the Buff Clan who have been searching for the Ide for some time and won’t give it up for this strange group of familiar looking beings. And it’s at this point that we basically get “every ‘80s giant mecha show ever” design. I’m not dismissive of it because I come from this era but I’ve struggled with a number of these shows in the last few years as more of them have come out. Space Runaway Ideon is one that I had a much harder time with overall as it really struggled to hold my interest in it. It’s no surprise that there’s an episodic feeling to much of it until things get more serious, but close to the halfway mark, I found myself unable to really feel engaged with it at all. The stretched out aspect is a hallmark of this period and I obviously completely understand why it operates this way and how things were at that time. But Ideon feels weaker than some others from this period in working its story and having some weaker animation, especially early on where the Ideon itself just looks half-formed at times with how well it’s animated. These are areas that are easier to forgive as I do find a lot of appeal in the traditional animation style, but there are a lot of areas in this that just feel substandard.

Ideon has a lot of love post-broadcast because of the films, which were easier to get into for fans for years, and because it showed up in some games and was made accessible there. But more than anything else it’s been one of those holy grail titles that remained unlicensed even during the big heydays of pickups when so much was acquired and brought out. I can understand the appeal, especially for fans from this era that might be a bit older than I am, or those that are much more attuned to the giant mecha world. Ideon simply didn’t connect for me on a story level or a character level and that made it a lot harder to try and sustain its run. Enough so that it was the rare show where I really did give up halfway through because it felt like it made less and less sense.

In Summary:
There are a lot of charms to shows from this era but for many anime fans its hard to go back to this period depending on when your own interest in anime started. I struggle with science fiction from before the ‘70s in a lot of ways because of terminology that takes me out of the books. With Ideon, it has some interesting ideas but can’t bring enough of it – or its characters – together well enough early enough to be properly engaging. It’s a show that I know I’ll try again some day with some separation and try it just through the two movies that are included, in hopes that like Gundam that a more streamlined version will work better for me. Maiden Japan’s release is pretty fantastic and I can only imagine the joy in a many of its fans faces as they get this collection in their hands, something that they likely thought they’d never see ever. It’s the best its looked and having it in such a tight and compact form for the price that we get is beyond the wildest of dreams.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos

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

Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: February 5th, 2019
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 1158 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
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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