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Vandread: The Complete Collection

1 rating: 3.0
An anime DVD boxed set.
1 review about Vandread: The Complete Collection

Vandread The Complete Collection - Funimation Continues The Classic Tradition

  • May 16, 2009

Vandread isn't really all that new, in fact, having made its Japanese broadcast debut way back in 2000, one might go as far as to say it's pretty darn old.  But like most Gonzo titles, it's survived the test of time over and over again.  Funimation's recent box set release of the property represents the third time the DVDs have been released to the North American market; first through Pioneer, then repackaged and re-released from Geneon.  Suffice it to say, tales with this kind of staying power rarely reach this status undeservingly.

Funimation's release consists of all 26 episodes, which were in fact two seasons (Vandread & Vandred The Second Stage), across four discs.  Housed in an attractive cardboard slipcase, the four discs come in a pair of artistic thin packs.  Total runtime comes in at 600 minutes even and the show wears a very conservative 13 & Up rating.  Conservative because the show really is friendly to viewers of all ages save for a few sexual innuendos and extremely-light cussing.  There is no nudity to speak of and while death is presented on occasion, it is never graphic or overly violent.

This set presents the usual dub & sub dialog options; An English dub, original Japanese audio track (with English subtitles is so desired).

Classifying the show isn't near as easy as typing out its hard stats however, as I'm quickly discovering.  Technically it's a mecha entry on account of its use of robotics throughout.  In fact the very term Vandread is derived from the concept of the physically conjoining of a fighter robot called a Van-Type and a space-fighter craft known as a Dread.  When combined, the two craft become a powerful giant robot that can range in appearance from a hulking, oversize-gun carrying humanoid to a metallic crab surrounded by orbiting weapon-spheres depending upon the combination of the ships involved.

However, and unlike most robot shows, Vandread is as much a space-opera as it is a science fiction/ action piece.  It's set in the distant future in a Universe where mankind has expanded his reach of population to include multiple planets and space stations.  However, and what makes Vandread unique, the show literally opens with a propaganda film designed to frighten an all-male populous with the fact that all women are, in fact, monsters.

See it turns out that in the future, thanks to cloning techniques, male and female copulation (or even cohabitation for that matter) is no longer necessary to continue the race.  As such both sexes are only vaguely aware of the other's existence.  Yes it's a novel concept and sure it lends to Vandread's individuality as a whole, but the same-sex reproduction ideals are a bit sketchy (if not homosexual promoting).

The big gag, at least early on anyway, works off the concept of three males becoming entangled with an all-female pirate ship before being transported, via a space-warp, to a distant galaxy to avoid annihilation.  The core of the story follows this ship's (the Nirvana) voyage back home while paying special attention to the daily drama stirred up thanks to the differences between the sexes.  No, not those differences, but rather the awkwardness and feelings of passion that only be achieved through the old "opposites attract" concept.  It's immature, it's silly, it's sometimes annoying but Vandread makes certain to counteract the goofiness with a steady-dose of CG rendered action sequences that still hold up even after all these years.

The visuals are far more solid then they have any right to be considering the show's vintage.  What's that, you say there are shows far older (Gundam Wing or Macross for example) that still look nice so what's the big deal?  Well keep in mind that right around the time that Vandread was created, the world was making a collective move away from standard hand-drawn cells and painted backgrounds to an all out computer generated imaging overload.  That's fine and good, but many early efforts of the practice suffered from limited hardware capabilities, stiff animation and poor texturing.  Somehow Vandread ducks and weaves through this minefield of pitfalls by combining a beautifully vibrant color pallet in the standard animation with CG inspired exterior backgrounds and robot models.  Sure, the process has been refined in the nine years since but that isn't to say Vandread suffers any as a result.

Pacing can best be described as all over the place as the early episodes were brutally formulaic and relied far too heavily upon the whole "men and women meeting for the first time will be funny" gimmick.  Additionally most of the first season is structured more as a succession of stand-alone episodes than a single ongoing tale.  This trend degenerates to grander story arcs as the show progresses and by the middle of the Second Stage; Vandread feels more like a traditional mecha anime entry.

In my opinion the move away from the cuteness and attempts at slapstick to the slightly more psychologically engaging plots of the Second Stage was a step in the right direction.  So much so in fact that I almost feel like the series probably would have hit its stride in the third or fourth season had it lasted that long.

As a whole the show suffers a bit in terms of confliction scope, as the enemies our cast frequently engages throughout the entire series are never really known as anything other than "the enemy".  Worse still, they appear out of nowhere, get whipped, then live to attack another day.  Their motives are never clear, nor is their presence ever fully justified.  Other detractors along the way include an over-the-top (and quite obnoxious) lead male character, and overly naive lead female character, and what can only be described as a robotic version of He-Man's annoying court jester, Orko.

The soundtrack is especially well done with a reoccurring techno number that's simply infectious.  I had the pleasure of enjoying the set though a 5.1 surround sound speaker set and found that the rolling bass riff coupled with a high end of synthesized horns flawlessly.

In conclusion Vandread is certainly not for everyone but manages to survive the test of time thanks to its unwavering (if at times, forceful) charm.  While it rarely gets the credit it deserves, the show certainly paved the way for many robot-based series that would follow (titles like Gravion and Godannar).  This latest DVD release from the masters of quality at Funimation assures that Vandread will continue to spread its charm with the presentation values it deserves.

Cover art for Funimation's release

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