Monday, February 18, 2002

Armored Trooper VOTOMS

Armored Trooper VOTOMS

3/5 Stars

Director: Ryosuke Takahashi
Publisher: Central Park Media (US)
52 Episodes in 4 stages

Released: 1983

If you love anime for the stunning animation, beautiful art, and the most sophisticated mecha around, then you probably won't like VOTOMS. The series was made in the early days of anime, and it shows. Don't let the dated art and giant punch-card computers fool you though, VOTOMS is a thoroughly satisfying sci-fi action series.

The story takes place in a distant galaxy, shortly after the end of a century long war between the two superpowers, the Gilgamesh and the Balarant. In the closing days of the war, renegades working for a mysterious "Secret Society" stage a raid on a military research facility, kidnaping a mysterious woman in a suspended animation tank. With them is a Gilgamesh special forces trooper named Chirico Cuvie, who's unaware of what's going on. Not wanting to leave any witnesses, the Society tries to kill Chirico and leaves him for dead. He's soon picked up by a Gilgamesh battleship and interrogated as a member of the Society. Chirico soon escapes and makes his way to war-torn Uoodo City.

The first few discs are the hardest to get through, mainly because the art is so unappealing. Chirico's complete lack of emotion and machine-like fighting ability offer an odd contrast to the overdone emotions of his companions, but they are one of the main reasons the series grows on you. Chirico's inner torment that drives the series can be a little hard to get from the subtitles, but stick with the series and you will be rewarded. The other three parts of the series follow Chirico and the friends he makes as he attempts to reconcile his past as part of the "Red Shoulders", the most ruthless unit in the Gilgamesh army. He also attempts to find love with Fyana, the prototype "Perfect Soldier" he saw in the suspended animation tank at the beginning of the series. Standing in his way are bandits, revolutionaries, the Balarant and Gilgamesh armies, the Secret Society, and quite possibly God.

The art and animation are crude by today's standards, but good at the time it was first released. A lot of shots are used more than once, especially in combat, but there's so much action and combat that it's not a big problem. The most annoying thing is possibly the character designs, with their odd cloths and hair. But this too, can be forgiven. There are on going plots with in plots from the very start, some of which are not revealed to the last stage, "God Planet Quent". The end was touching, and I felt it to be totally appropriate to the series.

The series is only available in Japanese with English subtitles, and has been recently released in a 16 DVD set, with all 52 episodes. The disks were nicely done, with bonus material on every disc revealing more about the enormous VOTOMS universe that has been created over the years, as well as episode guides and cover art from the orginal VHS release. There is an enormous amount of VOTOMS material out there, including several games, an RPG, and tons of manga. The series is worth seeing if you are a serious anime fan, or have been a fan since the 80s and can forgive the dated animation. Still, paying almost $400 for the entire series might be a little hard to justify and I recommend renting it from a place like

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Record of the Lodoss War

Record of the Lodoss War

3/5 Stars

13 - 30 min episodes
Released: 1990

Record of the Lodoss War is a pretty standard D&D spinoff, so if you like D&D inspired fantasy, you'll like this. Just don't expect anything too original. Lodoss War is a 13 episode OAV series that covers the adventures of an aspiring knight, Parn, and his companions as they attempt to stop the Emperor of Marmo and his armies from acquiring the Scepter of Domination. With the Scepter, the Emperor will be able to control the Goddess of Destruction. This, of course, is bad news, and all of the assembled forces of good are out to stop them. This being a D&D style fantasy, under-trained Parn and friends are right in the center of all the action. During their adventure they'll face mauradering armies of beast-men, dark elves, and be forced to raid the lairs of ancient dragons in an attempt to get teh scepter before Marmo does. Luckily, the villains aren't united, and the only real threat they face is Ashram, the Black Knight. Ashram is a spectacular villain, and the most likable character in the series. On the plus side, the art work is superb, and the character designs are excellent. I enjoyed the movie, despite it's formulaic plot. The character of Ashram in particular stood out, which is probably why he's in both of the sequels. The soundtrack is also very good, especially during the opening sequence. Unfortunately it seems as if the studio was given too small of a budget for the scope of the series. While the art is great, the animation is sub par, particularly with the Dragons, which are a central piece of the story. Many shots are reused, and it shows. If you're a fan of D&D, or just want to see a classic fantasy anime, then Record of the Lodoss War is for you. The series has been immensely popular in both Japan and the US, with two spin-off series, and a Sega Dreamcast Game. The series is itself a spin-off of a popular series of Japanese novels based on D&D. I'm not aware of any plans to translate the novels or release them in the US.

Record of Lodoss War - The Complete Series (DVD)

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