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Planzet (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 27, 2012 by  



Jun Azawa, the man responsible for creating the “Negadon” sci-fi animated short is back with an alien invasion film titled “Planzet”.  If you love mecha battles and storylines featuring Earth’s survivors taking on the evil aliens, you will definitely enjoy Azawa’s latest computer animated film, “Planzet”!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Sentai Filmworks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Planzet

MOVIE RELEASE: 2010

DURATION: 53 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

RATED: TV 14 V

COMPANY: Sentai Filmworks

RELEASE DATE: May 22, 2012

Directed by Jun Awazu

Screenplay by Jun Awazu

Music by Shingo Terasawa

CGI Director: Makoto Miyahara

Production by Comix Wave Films/Media Factory

Featuring the voices of:

Kaori Ishihara/Brittney Karbowski as Koyomi Akejima

Mamoru Miyano/Blake Shepard as Taishi Akejima (Hiroshi Akejima)

Junko Takeuchi/Tiffany Grant as Yūra Yoshizawa

Kenjiro Tsuda/Illichi Guardiola as Ken Tazaki

Masami Iwasaki/Rob Mungle as Kōshirō Akejima

Yuka Terasaki/Luci Christian as Kaori Sagawa

Yuusaku Yara/Tiffany Grant as Commissioner Yura Yoshizawa

Yuusaku Yara/David Wald as Narration

In 2047, an unknown, alien lifeform descends upon the Earth, destroying all the major cities in one fell swoop. The survivors unite and build a Diffusor to stop the Februus, the invaders the military would later codename the FOS, and a temporary peace is achieved.

Jump forward to 2053, the present. A last, desperate counterattack is being mounted against the enemy. Hiroshi Akishima, soldier in the Planetary Defense Forces Alliance, would like nothing better than a shot at the aliens responsible for his father’s death six years ago. However, the new offensive requires the Diffusor to be dropped, leaving the entire planet terribly vulnerable once more. Will humanity regain the stars or lose everything in the final, ultimate gamble?

In 2003, 3D artist Jun Awazu and his independent company Studio Magara surprised people with his 25 minute computer animated short “Negadon”.  As a throwback to old Kaiju films of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Jun Awazu amazed people because his work on “Negado” was pretty much a one-man team.  And in three years, his film would gain international recognition.  Here in the United States, “Negadon” would receive a DVD release and also air on the Sci-Fi Channel.

But for the next two years, Awazu would go to work on video games but then would be hit with family issues that made him think about the importance of family during tough times.  And the result was working on another computer animated project.

But this time, in a slightly bigger scale and this time directing a team of animators, through Comix Wave Films, “Planzet” was created in 2008 and released in 2010.  And now the sci-fi computer animated film has been released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sentai Filmworks.

“Planzet” begins with an introduction to the Akejima family as teenager Hiroshi is being ridiculed by his father Koshiro and younger sister Koyomi of not taking his role in passing the test to become a soldier so seriously and rather play video games.  As the family plans to go see a movie, Koshiro receives an urgent call and that his military services are needed.

As Koshiro leaves his family to report to the military and was expected to return back home, it never happened.

In the year 2047, an alien lifeform known as FOS has invaded Earth and by melting the polar caps, they managed to flood the cities and destroy most of the world.  In response to the alien attack, the surviving countries form a union known as the Planetary Defense Forces Alliance to fight back and have put a Diffuser in place to stop further invasions.

Fast forward to 2053, Akejima is now a pilot and along with his team, Ken Tazaki and Kaori Sagawa, with the East Russian attack against the FOS ending in failure, only Japan is left to fight the aliens and all that is left are the three mecha pilots.

The three are informed that they ar to go to battle against the FOS but are revealed by Commissioner Yoshizawa that the Diffuser must be disabled as an amazing beam has been created to destroy the FOS mothership.  But they need at least 14 minutes to power up the beam and it will be up to Akejima, Ken and Kaori to prevent the FOS from taking out the beam.

With a few hours before he goes to battle, Akejima meets with his sister Koyomi and begs her to leave to Mars, as he prepares to go into battle and avenge the death of his father.

Will Japan’s final three mecha pilots be able to thwart the alien invasion in order for Earth to counterattack and destroy the FOS mothership?

 

VIDEO:

“Planzet” is presented in 1080p High Definition and similar to Jun Awazu’s last film “Negadon”, while working with a team this time around and the story being much longer for “Planzet”, you can only go so far with a limited budget.  With that being said, there are scenes where the CG looks amazing.  From the distant look of the cities and Mt. Fuji, to the closeups and mecha design.  But what takes a hit when it comes to creating an a computer-animated film is timing.

There is only so much time for development and with a team working on this project, unlike a major animation studio that has years and millions of dollars invested, suffice to say, independent small-budget features tend to take a hit in other areas.  In the case of “Planzet”, there are times where movements are not smooth and a bit jerky and while emotions are shown for characters, you lose those natural transition of emotions.  In some way, one can say the CG animation of “Planzet” was more in tune with the CG for a scene in a video game, rather than on the same scale as other Japanese animated films such as “Final Fantasy VII Advent Children” or “Resident Evil: Degeneration”.

But considering what was accomplished by this team on the budget that they had, it was much better than a lot of independent CG animated productions.  Detail was very well done and the mecha fighting sequences were exciting and well-done.  And as for video quality, the film looks very good on Blu-ray!  I didn’t notice any banding or artifacts during my viewing of “Planzet”.

AUDIO:

Despite the back cover showing that the English and Japanese lossless tracks are DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0.  They are actually both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  There are some moments where there is good use of the surround channels and there is some immersion during the more intense action sequences in the film.  But it could have been better, more use of LFE and directional audio.  Acting was good on both English and Japanese soundtracks but preferred the Japanese dialogue much more, as the emotional scenes which were more natural in the Japanese version.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Planzet” comes with the following special features:

  • Interview with Mamoru Miyano (Hiroshi) – (10:16) Interview with the Japanese voice actor for Hiroshi.
  • Interview with Kaori Ishihara  (Koyomi) – (10:05) Interview with the Japanese voice actress for Koyomi.
  • Interview with Jun Awazu (Original Creator) – (14:28) Director and original creator Jun Awazu talks about how “Planzet” came to be and the challenges that he faced while creating this computer animated film.
  • Side by Side Animatic Comparison with Director Jun Azawa – (21:49) Director Jun Awazu is being interviewed with the animatic of a scene, pre-rendered and fully rendered.
  • Commentary with Jun Awazu (Director) and Takeshi Maeda (voice of Nakamura) – Audio commentary between Jun Awazu and Takeshi Maeda about the film.
  • Japanese Trailer Collection – A collection of several Japanese trailers for “Planzet”.

For those who are familiar with Jun Azawa and what he was able to accomplish pretty much nearly on his own with “Negadon”, many people were highly anticipating his next project.

We have seen how Makoto Shinkai, a man who started out creating his own anime short film, had gone on to work on bigger projects with a larger team and receive critical acclaim.  But with Jun Azawa, I respect the man for doing the same with computer animation.  But unlike Makoto Shinkai, computer animated films are expensive, laborious and people are much more critical that graphics, special effects, movements are on par of what people are used to seeing.

In the case of computer animation, many people all over the world are used to seeing Disney Pixar films or big budget animated films from America and a few other countries.  In Japan, with “Final Fantasy VII Advent Children”, “Resident Evil: Degeneration”, “Tekken: Blood Vengeance”, especially with the evolution of CG animation in video games, it’s a competitive environment in which audiences can literally support or destroy your career.

Jun Azawa won people over because it was a man with a vision tapping into old ’50s and ’60s Kaiju films but now with “Planzet”, while not a huge budget, still has the backing of Comix Wave Films and has an entire staff working with him on this film.  So, the stakes are a little higher.

There is no doubt that Jun Azawa is a talented individual and “Planzet” was a fascinating, cool, mecha project. For mecha or action fans, who doesn’t like mecha battles or alien invasions.  But the problem with this film is perception.  Can one young man take on an entire alien fleet?

I suppose with sci-fi films, we are used to seeing a large group, a team, going on the offensive but with “Planzet”, the characters are limited to six in this film.  I would think that this is the case due to budgetary reasons but also because the film is only 53 minutes, with plenty of action, there was only so much time that can be dedicated to characters and character development.

So, the storyline could have been made better if it was longer.

But with that being said, I still enjoyed this film.  I always look forward to these type of films and the CG was good.  From the emotions displayed by the characters, the voice acting was well-done and the action sequences and outdoor scenes look stunning.  And for a animated film that didn’t have a high budget as other animated films, Jun Azawa definitely made the film work.  Yes, there are some movement issues, the story was too short and could have been better but as a fan of “Negadon” and seeing Jun Azawa getting the opportunity show off his talent, but in this case with a larger staff…it was a step forward in his career.

But one can only hope to see how far Jun Azawu would go for his next film because anticipation but also expectations will be high.  I can definitely see his career continuing in the video game industry but rarely do you see Japan taking on full CG animated films, unless it is based on a pre-exisiting, popular title.  And it was no surprise to see Square Enix, Capcom and Bandai Namco , three major video game companies releasing CG animated films with a larger budget.  But where Jun Azawa’s career in computer animated films will be in the future, I guess we will have to wait and see.

Overall, “Planzet” is an enjoyable, short computer animated film that definitely shows progress in the career of Jun Azawa, but the next logical step is a full-length feature over an hour long.  “Planzet” was a good film but as mentioned earlier, there is only so far Azawa and his staff can go with a limited budget and a feature that is only 53 minutes long.  Still, what the staff managed to accomplish was well-done.

If you enjoy mecha films, especially alien invasion storylines, definitely give Jun Azawa’s “Planzet” a try!






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