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Super Robot Wars: Original Generation – The Animation Anime DVD Review

9 min read
It was a decent way to kill ninety minutes with big robot action but it won't leave you feeling satisfied unless you're a die-hard fan of the franchise.

Humanity is threatened when a corporation decides that people make the best parts for giant robots.

What They Say:
The future. Humankind, once driven to the brink of annihilation, has regrouped under the banner of the Earth Federation, which protects its citizens from the very real threat of alien invasion. Seeking to increase its defenses, the Earth Federation Army has continued development of Personal Troopers, a form of mobile weaponry used to combat the alien menace. But when the Bartoll, the latest and most advanced Personal Trooper, is unveiled to an eager public, something goes terribly wrong…

Contains Three Episodes:

Ep 1: Swarm of the Bartoll
Ep 2: People = Parts
Ep 3: Captive of the Maze

The Review:
As is usual these days with Bandai Visual USA’s releases, we only get a Japanese track with this title. They went a bit above and beyond at the time with it as the two tracks included, both the 5.1 and the 2.0 mix, are done at 448 kbps. There are likely some diminishing returns on the stereo mix being encoded that high but the end result with both of them is a solid-sounding release. The 5.1 mix does shine more with some great rear directionality during various action sequences but the stereo mix holds up well in comparison. The 5.1 mix isn’t constantly active but when it does kick in it creates a good overall sound field for the giant robots to play in. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in2005, the transfer for this three-part OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. While this isn’t the weakest-looking show in terms of technical presentation from Bandai Visual USA, it is one that shows some limitations in the DVD format with the noise that creeps into some of the scenes. Some backgrounds have the mosquito noise motion to it – but no macroblocking – which may be related to the source material itself. Some of the panning sequences have the line noise as well which can be distracting at first. These scenes make up a very small portion of the show which otherwise looks fantastic. Colors are incredibly rich and vibrant and the fluid action scenes, be they CG or not, move quite beautifully at times. The show has a fairly high bitrate considering the inclusion of two 448 kbps audio mixes and the end result is a presentation that stands out strongly most of the time.

Packaged in a single keepcase with a flippy hinge inside, the two-disc set utilizes a very busy piece of cover artwork. There is a large cast to the series and a good chunk of some of the primaries are lined up along the cover here above the logo. Behind them are a number of their robots as well which come in different sizes and shapes. The overall look is one that has a lot of colors, a great deal of detail, and feels very busy. The back cover runs with a good mix of character and mecha artwork which is wrapped around a brief summary of what the premise is all about. The bonus disc has its features clearly listed as well. The bottom portion of the cover is rounded out with the staff listings and a line for each of the discs covering its technical information. The booklet included in the keepcase is very handy and useful. It has a breakdown of most of the robots in the show, character artwork with brief bios, and a rundown of useful terms and minor history points. The back cover has a breakdown of the main events of this timeline as well, going from 2012 to 188 in the New Calendar.

The menu design for the release is thankfully unlike some of their earlier ones like Wings of Rean in which it was just text. This one provides a framing along the left side in which the cover art is presented while the right side has an episode selection section and language options just below the series logo. Similar to earlier menus though is the lack of music to it which gives it an empty feeling. One problem that we’ve seen with the Galaxy Angel Rune series isn’t kept here in that playing a single episode from the selection doesn’t take you back to the menu when it’s over. A play-all selection has also been included – which wasn’t always a given. The disc is laid out nicely in that the 5.1 audio mix is the default and subtitles are defaulted as being on as well.

No extras are included on the main disc of this release but a second disc of extras has been included. All of them are presented with optional subtitles which isn’t something you normally see selectable. The opening sequence is given a clean version as well as all three of the ending sequences. Three music clips are included which run about four minutes a piece, resulting in a twelve-minute musical journey with scenes from the series. These are actually pretty well done and not the usual ninety-second clips you see. They’re obviously spoiler-heavy though since it covers a clip for each episode. Each of the episodes has a breakdown of character information in which there are a few pieces of character artwork and a selectable page of basic bio information, mostly from what we saw in the booklet. The mecha are also covered in this manner and broken down by each episode. The glossary of terms also appears to take the information from the booklet and transpose it here in an easy-to-read format. I typically do like having it in both a printed form and on-disc form just for the fact that some people tend to not keep their booklets or they get lost over time. What is included here in far more detail is the timeline of the series as it covers how everything has gone down over the years.

The huge extra included here are the series of cast interviews. There are twelve voice actors who are interviewed with a combined runtime of just under fifty minutes. Pretty much every main character is given a chance to talk about the show and their characters in which their character artwork is also featured. These obviously aren’t detailed pieces and fall into the realm of the usual fluff/EPK material but it’s a really fun piece to be able to see all the actors and their associated characters. When taken in total you really get a feel for the range of characters involved and the variety of actors that took on the numerous roles. Combined, there’s easily over an hour’s worth of extras on here and plenty of text and artwork pieces to go through that will flesh out the OVA series world.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Coming into a show like this is incredibly difficult. The OVA series is based on events that come after the second game of the series which was made without any licensing characters, just those owned by Banpresto. Being based on a game itself makes it difficult enough but presenting a story based on events of two games and having only the first game transformed into an anime series? And then releasing this before that TV series itself? It’s asking for trouble simply because just about every character is a cipher and it’s difficult to make a connection with any of them. Make it as big of a cast as it is here as well and everyone gets so little time to be seen, in or out of their suits and helmets.

Without looking at any of the bonus disc extras, what you learn from just the back of the booklet helps to set the stage well enough. Earth has gone through a few problems over the years with aliens attacking it. Some of those battles have not gone well and people have lost lots of loved ones. The main defense against aliens and other issues comes in the form of a variety of giant robots that were created by the Earth Federation Army. Various teams have been formed by it over the years such as the ATX and SRX teams. With the threat of extraterrestrial adversaries strong in people’s minds, the military has come up with a new mecha that can be mass-produced to deal with any serious threat.

The Bartoll is getting its debut after a sample mecha has been looked over by the military. Unknown to everyone however is that the mecha that the military was given was a sham piece to hide the real project by the corporation behind it. It’s development, led by Dr. Von Jurgens, has a much greater plan in mind and the unveiling is where it all begins. The Bartolls are designed through unmanned use to acquire people and bring them back to its Hellgate facility where they are then processed into biological cores for new Bartolls. People are parts! When used as cores within the Bartolls, they lose their sense of self and become something larger but also far easier to control through the central power behind it. The unveiling goes according to plan in that regard but for members of the ATX and SRX teams, it goes quite badly as several favored women who were in attendance ended up captured and put to good use.

With such a large threat looming against humanity, the two teams along with other various mecha owners team together to tackle the problem as they unravel what’s really going on. The size and scope of all the mecha, past storylines in the game and TV series really give this a very unwieldy feel. In a lot of ways, it comes across like the last few episodes of a 50+ episode series where it’s so completely focused on the action and resolving the big conflict. Everything is intense, there is an incredible rush to solve it all before humanity is destroyed and the scale is beyond words. There is definitely an appeal to it as well as a bit of nostalgia. This reminded me heavily of some of the science fiction OVAs that I used to see in the late 80s and early ’90s where what you needed to know wasn’t always in the show itself, but rather in a book, manga or game.

The production values for the OVA series are pretty stellar. The use of the CG mecha really works well here and they blend together with the regular animation better than I would have thought. This area has progressed tremendously since the late 90’s and I can only imagine how much smoother it will be in the next few years. There is a real sense of presence among all the machines involved here and as they battle it out the movements are fluid and detailed. It does look a bit like a cut scene from a video game at times but overall it’s something that will make most giant robot fans very happy. There is a great mix of classic designs with newer ones as well as bringing in a combination factor as well.

In Summary:
My only previous experience with any of this was with the series Cybuster, which is called Cybaster in this incarnation. That series certainly didn’t give me much hope for this but it was generally derided by fans of the Super Robot Wars franchise as being something that just didn’t belong in any shape or form. Having no experience with the games, in either their Gameboy Advance or PlayStation 2 forms, there wasn’t anything to draw from that area as well. What that all has left me with is a fairly traditional “classic” science fiction tale with giant robots that are pretty to look at. The characters are beyond shallow at this point as are their relationships and that does make it much harder to connect to the show itself. Super Robot Wars: Original Generation is impressive from a technical standpoint and its overall presentation, but the storyline and lack of real knowledge of the franchise keep it from being too terribly enjoyable. It was a decent way to kill ninety minutes with big robot action but it won’t leave you feeling satisfied unless you’re a die-hard fan of the franchise.

Japanese 5.1 Language, Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Cast interviews, Textless opening and endings, Music clips, Background information, Glossary, 24-page booklet

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

Released By: Bandai Visual USA
Release Date: October 23rd, 2007
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

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.