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Kiddy Grade Complete Collection Viridian Edition Anime DVD Review

11 min read
An early-aughts classic revisited.

Several hundred years in the future when humanity has spread out into the galaxy, trouble is discretely handled by an organization that employs people who can’t die.

What They Say
In Star Century Zero-One-Sixty-Five, the Global Union was born. To provide an impartial mediator to the various planetary governments of the G.U., the Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs, or G.O.T.T., was simultaneously formed to settle economic disputes amongst the member planets.

Existing in the shadows of the G.O.T.T., the ES Force serves as the G.O.T.T.’s primary law enforcement organization. ES Force members Eclair and Lumiere are on the front line, pursuing all manner of criminals and bringing them to justice. This is their story.

Contains all 24 episodes!

The Review:
Funimation has covered their bases well with the audio on this release by providing three language options for people depending on their equipment. The original Japanese mix is presented in its stereo form that’s been encoded at 256kbps. The mix is pretty solid, especially in the opening and closing sequences, with some nice depth to it and a real sense of fullness across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is well placed when needed but for the most part, it’s a fairly standard stereo mix. The English stereo mix is included at the same encoding and has much the same feel. FUNimation has also included a 5.1 mix with this for the English language track that’s done at 448kbps. This adds a lot more depth and overall placement to the dialogue but it’s mostly just hopped up a bit in terms of loudness, but it works for the way this show is made. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout all three mixes and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2002, this series is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. The transfer brings the vivid color palette used to life both in the characters and their backgrounds. The space background shots look fantastic as well with the blacks holding solid very nicely. Like other Gonzo series from this time period, there’s no noticeable cross coloration throughout the program and there is very little aliasing. What little there is crops up during some of the panning sequences but that’s about it. This series was originally authored by Vision Wise before FUNimation started authoring in-house and the work holds up well over the years. With three episodes on each volume and single-layer discs for all of them, they aren’t really stretched thin for space or bandwidth. While the show may not have as much flash and snap as newer series do, it certainly stands out as one of the better-looking titles from this period.

Kiddy Grade has had a number of releases over the years. It started off in singles, then got a bunch of double-disc mini boxes and then a full box set release. This release is part of the “FUNimation Green” program in which the packaging is made of recycled material and is more ecologically friendly. As we’ve talked about in other releases that are part of the program, there’s an ambivalence about them that we feel because it’s good for the environment but it’s not too consumer-friendly. The more I think about it though, the more behind it I get as I realize that as a consumer I need to change my approach to products like this.

With all the various releases from before, I have to say that this one is my favorite of them all. Made entirely of cardboard outside of the discs themselves, it’s a slipcover with a “digipak” of sorts to hold all eight volumes. The slipcover is bright and colorful as it features Lumiere and Éclair embracing each other with some light pink petals floating around them. With the white background, it stands out very strongly and even the green Viridian Collection logo along the top left looks good. The spines and the back cover are done in a really nice shade of purple for the background and some light pink and white text to cover the basics and the extras that are on it. The green text that covers the brief summary is a bit awkward though. There are a lot of shots from the show and a really great small strip along the bottom that contains a series of character designs for the two leads in their different forms.

The interior package contains a lot of really nice artwork and is well laid out once you get used to its cardboard nature. The exterior is a great wraparound piece that sets it so that Lumiere is on the front while Éclair is along the back with both set against a beautiful blue sky with a few wispy clouds. It’s a bit awkward with the spine containing a bit more of Éclair than I think the designers wanted, but the overall effect is really good. The interior is where the packaging has some problems but it’s more just getting used to the design. It’s basically two sections glued to the back where each section holds four discs. The opening flap has a great image of Éclair while the back flap has a very good shot of Lumiere that can be interpreted in a very wrong way. The individual pages for the discs are very minimal since they’re meant to just hold the discs, but they use a good font for the text that lists the volume, episode numbers, and episode titles. No inserts are included with the release.

With this release utilizing the same discs as the original run, what we had on those is still the same here. That’s not a bad thing as the menus, while basic, get the job done well enough. The menu layout is pretty standard with a static series of images, such as the main menu having shots of both Éclair and Lumiere set to some music from the show. Selections are quick and easy to access though I don’t like how in the language menu, when you make a selection, there’s nothing to indicate that it took or what it’s actually going to play.

No extras were removed from this release so what was on the original release is still here. There’s a good selection of extras included for this series overall but there’s obviously a lot of repetition across the discs. The releases start off with a nice full-color video art gallery that runs about 90 seconds and shows off various scenes from episodes for that particular volume. The opening song is provided in clean form, though you can choose to listen to the dubbed opening and/or have subtitles on for it. The promotional video is included on the first volume, something from the Japanese release, but apparently, according to those who saw it originally, the song that was used in Japan for it couldn’t be brought over so a different song is used. It’s a great video regardless and it shows off the series beautifully. Rounding out the extras, there’s a couple of commercials for the Japanese DVD release of the various volumes and a series of character profiles that are pretty much single paragraph summaries that are spread across all of them.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kiddy Grade is a twenty-four episode original series created gímik and Gonzo Digimation. At the time of its airing in 2002, one of its big calls to fame was that it was directed by Keiji Goto who was making quite the name for himself. While he’s seemingly fallen off the map for the most part since then, this work stands out as one of his better moments when looked at in full. We had seen the series when it was released on its original schedule back in 2004 and 2005 but like many shows, when you take it in a smaller window of time it has a very different feeling.

During that original viewing, the series had a very episodic feel during its first eight or so episodes which was covered in the first three volumes. It’s not until the fourth volume that things start to get underway and it’s really around episode ten before it starts to come together to where you realize just what kind of depth there is. Taking place in the future year 342, it revolves primarily around two women named Éclair and Lumiere. The pair are operatives for the Galactic Organization for Trade and Tariffs that operates under the Global Union that is the government for this widespread galactic human civilization. Terraforming is pretty common and relatively routine even if it does take a few years and humanity seems mostly at peace. There are more rumblings of planets going independent but by and large, it’s an unheralded age of humanity.

All is not golden however as there is a class war going on even though most aren’t aware of it. While humanity has spread far and is at peace, they aren’t completely in control of their destiny. Nearly 100,000 “pureblood” original Earthlings are running things under the name of Nouvlesse. They control the Global Union and the GOTT as well and utilize them to their own ends. With various planets starting to make noise about changing things, the GOTT finds itself becoming involved in many of these disputes, often on the side that the operatives don’t entirely agree with. It’s during these missions in the first eight or so episodes that we get a good feeling for how everything works and the lead characters’ personalities and basic beliefs.

In addition to understanding the galactic make-up during these episodes, we’re also introduced to a number of other GOTT operatives in the same “ES” class that Éclair and Lumiere are in. Paired in a similar way, they’re all-powerful in different ways with abilities that allow them to perform their jobs well. And similar to Éclair and Lumiere, they’re long-lived as well with decades or more of life and experiences behind them. It’s when we start to see these backgrounds and the way the relationships among the ES members have been in the past that the series really starts to come together. The focus is squarely on Éclair though as she’s following similar patterns from her past in which she pushes back against authority and continues to believe in people’s right to not be ruled over but rather properly governed.

Kiddy Grade was a series that had a real slow start during its first third but it really picks up in the second third before it starts to really reveal itself in the final third. There is a good deal of material that must be covered about how everything works and the relationships they all share that it’s hard to imagine a better way of doing it. Éclair’s past is surprisingly fascinating, especially when we get shown what things were like for her just prior to the series as that really changes how you view all of it. The relationship she has with some of the other ES members is explored to varying degrees of detail but some are really intense. When her past in relation to one of the Nouvless is revealed, it was one of the few moments of real surprise in the series and one that again alters the perception of earlier episodes. In that way, Kiddy Grade has a great deal of replay value which has made this second viewing of the show a wonderful experience.

What helps keep things flowing is some very solid animation and really fun character designs. The series gets called out often for its fanservice, generally in regards to Lumiere because of her young appearance, but I have to admit that I found it to be quite good overall. What helps set Kiddy Grade apart is that there is such a breadth of character history here that we get to see many of the characters in different appearances. Being reborn here and there as well as having the leads reborn three times in the current continuity, that kind of change to their designs is unusual and very engaging. Lumiere doesn’t make out quite as good as Éclair simply because of her size, but between the two of them and their long past, we see them in many different forms. And each of those forms has a different story to them that would be fascinating enough to watch on its own. Combine the great designs with some very fluid animation, more towards the second half than the first as is to be expected, and Kiddy Grade really shines as a whole.

In Summary:
It’s been a few years since I first saw Kiddy Grade and it wasn’t a series that was at the top of my list to rewatch, even though I had liked it overall during that first viewing. With the Viridian Collection edition, I decided it was time to sit down and revisit the series and we did that over three days. While the opening episodes were again slow here, having some recollection of where it was going helped to make it easier to take in and pay more attention to. Kiddy Grade in its second viewing turned out to be far more enjoyable than I would have thought it would be and the uncertainty about where it was going because it’s been a few years helped to keep it fresh. If there’s a complaint I have with the show, it’s the strange burning need of almost any anime series to want to include a giant transforming robot if possible. If not for that, then this would have had a wonderful final epic storyline that deals with the upper class trying to flee the galaxy. Kiddy Grade’s Viridian Collection edition is nothing we haven’t seen before when it comes to the discs themselves, but it’s priced right and leaves a very small environmental footprint.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Image Gallery, Japanese Promotional Videos, Original Commercials, Character Profiles, Textless Songs

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: January 22nd, 2008
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 400 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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