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Ice (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

November 6, 2011 by  



From the producer known for creating the pop idol group AKB48, comes a 2007 post-apocalyptic anime OVA series about humanity’s near extinction.  Featuring the debut of a few of AKB48’s members as voice talents for an anime series, “ICE” is more of a popcorn action, Yuri anime series with a message.  If you’re not looking for anything to deep and more action-oriented, “ICE” may be for you!

Image courtesy of © Coicent, Five Numbers!. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Ice

DURATION: 100 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 4:3 Full Screen, English and Japanese 2.0

COMPANY: Showgate/Sentai Filmworks

RATED: TV 14V

Release Date: November 15, 2011

Directed by Makoto Kobayashi

Screenplay by Makoto Kobayashi, Yasushi Hirano

Music by IL WON

Original Creator Yasushi Akimoto

Character Design: Masaya Onishi

Produced by Hiroaki Inoue

Theme song by AKB48

Anime Production by PPM

Featuring the following voice talent:

Erena Ono/Serena Varghese as Yuki

Junko Minagawa/Emily Neves as Hitomi Landsknecht

Akira Ishida as Giulia

Eri Kitamura/Elizabeth Bunch as Mint

Haruna Ikezawa/Stephanie Wittels as Hitomi

Kurumi Mamiya/Brittney Karbowski as Satsuki

Natsuki Sato/Shelley Calene-Black as Murasaki

Tomomi Kasai/Maggie Flecknoe as Aoi

Yoshino Ohtori/Melissa Davis as Kisaragi

Yu Imai/Carlee Gabrisch as Usuha

Yuko Oshima/Luci Christian as Rinne

Some strange virus, whether planned or accidental, has wiped out most of the population. The survivors? Beautiful women. Faced with the possible extinction of their entire race, some of these new Amazons have decided to live out their final days in the pursuit only of fleshly pleasures. Others choose to use their beauty, their might, and their minds to fight back and reclaim the planet once more.

In 2007, Japanese writer, TV and record producer and lyricist Yasushi Akimoto (creator of “Nurse Angel Ririka SOS”, “Azuki-chan”, “6 Angels” but best known for creating the Japanese idol groups Onyanko Club and AKB48) created the anime three-episode OVA series “ICE”.

Directed by Makoto Kobayashi (known for his work on “Last Exile”, “Mobile Suit Gundam XX”, “Samurai 7”), the anime OAV series was highly anticipated by AKB48 fans because it would feature the voice acting debut of members Tomomi Kasai, Natsuki Sato, Yuko Oshima, Yu Imai and Erena Ono as voice talent for the series.

“ICE” begins with a a woman named Hitomi in  Tokyo 2983.  Her brother wonders if she is fooling around with other men but for Hitomi, one day while going to work, she is hit by a truck and looks as if she is dying.

The story then fast forwards to a Japan 2010 in which something catastrophic happens on Earth in which all males and even some women have died.  Only small groups of women have survived and know that humanity can go extinct.

So these remaining women who blame the extinction of humanity towards human tampering of human nature via genetic engineering and biological warfare have a disdain towards men for their arrogance towards nature for creating the catastrophe.

But since all men are now extinct, the surviving women fight against other threats that have attacked the world and it is debatable by various women if they are the last surviving humans on the planet or they should look towards biological engineering as a final hope for humanity.

The head of the Kisaragi family believe that it is the fate of humanity to die.  She is also a product of genetic experimentation as she is hybrid human and jellyfish.  Meanwhile, opposing Kisaragi is Julia, the Commander of the Guardswomen who uses the ICE Project (a weapon that may be hope for the future) for her benefits.

But life changes when Kisaragi’s daughter, Yuki attempts to get closer with Hitomi Landsknecht, the Captain of the Guardswomen for some unknown reason.

And while Hitomi and Yuki spend time together, we see how the women opposing monsters that are on the planet are not faring to well and the extinction of all humanity seems to be coming true.

VIDEO, AUDIO AND SUBTITLES:

“ICE” is presented in 4:3, English and Japanese 2.0 with English subtitles.

I enjoyed the 3D renderings of “ICE”, especially the mechanical design.    It was actually not too much of a surprise seeing Makoto Kobayashi, who worked primarily as a mecha art designer taking the helm as director of the OVA series.

For the most part, the scenery is well-rendered, while character designs were good, it was the CG-art backgrounds that probably stood out more, as they are the most detailed of the series.  Especially the vehicles.  The TV series was something I expected more from a TV series rather than an OVA.   But considering this is PPM’s first major animation production (after their 2005 OVA “Prayers”), everything looked fine.  But you tend to expect a bit more from an OVA series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The following special features for “ICE” are included:

  • Character Setting Pictures – (3:11) Featuring the  sketches for the characters of “ICE”.
  • Monster Setting Pictures – (1:02) Featuring the sketches for birds and monsters of “ICE”.
  • Accessory & Mecha Setting Pictures  – (1:51) Featuring the concept sketches for weapons, computers and accessories for “ICE”.
  • Art & Background Setting Pictures  – (2:01) Featuring the concept sketches for the scenery and locations for “ICE”.

“ICE” is an interesting anime OVA series.

I use the word interesting because it is an apocalyptic tale of how all men are now extinct and surviving women are either fighting each other, fighting monsters that they look to have no chance against and also a message by creator Yasushi Akimoto towards genetic engineering.

Obviously, Yasushi Akimoto had a message to viewers of how he feels about today’s genetic engineering and how it may lead to the demise of humanity as it goes against nature.  Also, to add his feelings about war and humanity creating biological weapons would also add to the demise of humanity.   So, for me “ICE” felt it was a storyline built around those two topics.

In essence, we get a series featuring the surviving humans of the planet, all men are extinct and women also died during the mysterious catastrophe.  The series is violent, bleak and for the most part, a series that felt it was devoid of any hope as humanity looks like it was going the way of the dinosaurs…to extinction.

So, fans of apocalyptic storylines, especially action-based anime series may find “ICE” to be appealing.  Because its more or less a popcorn action film that tries to tie-in a message but also an OVA series which felt that it was also a series to promote Akimoto’s idol group AKB48.

Bare in mind, this series came out in 2007, a few years before AKB48 would become the media pop culture phenomenon as they are today.

Back in 2007, they were promoted as a theatrical/musical group in Akihabara and the anime OVA series provided a unique vehicle to promote Akimoto’s message but also promote the group and a few members of the group by giving a few of the members an opportunity to have their debut as voice talents.

While I do believe that “ICE” may have done a bit better in Japan if this OAV series was released a few years later (when AKB48 would be a dominating group and media powerhouse as they are today), the OAV series was not exactly well-received in Japan back in 2007. Primarily because the anime series used non-professional voice talent for key roles, ala the AKB48 members, which many viewers of the series criticized as bad acting.

But fast forward to 2011, AKB48 is not only a media and J-Pop powerhouse in Japan but are well-known around the world.  Would the release of Yasushi Akimoto’s “ICE” make a difference to anime fans today?

Well, Sentai Filmworks didn’t promote the AKB48 connection, so only diehard fans would know.  But what hurt the Japanese version of the anime series, it was something that Sentai Filmworks could capitalize on and that was to hire talented voice actors for the English dub.

The good news is that the English dub does a much better version than its Japanese counterpart in some aspects, while the Japanese version was able to capitalize on the more emotional moments of the series.  If anything, the only questionable part was the casting of Chris Patton for Julia.  It made you feel that there was a man still alive, while Julia is supposed to be a woman.  So, I admit to being confused about that casting decision.

The anime series is Yuri-themed ( Japanese term for love between women) as one would expect from a tale about only women surviving, thus women being together.  Although the series is rated TV 14V, some scenes may seem a bit mature for some viewers, especially during the more implied sexual moments throughout the OVA series.

While “ICE” was rather interesting in storyline, the series became more of a futile storyline if humans can survive extinction through biological engineering.  As the character Kisaragi was created by mixing humans and a jellyfish, it’s better to have something rather than nothing in order for humanity to continue living.

It’s a rather ambitious tale but its primarily dominated through its action and I would call this anime series more popcorn action than a deep sci-fi, post-apocalyptic tale, which I was hoping the series would turn out to be.

Overall, “ICE” is a rather ambitious anime OVA series by Yasushi Akimoto and as intriguing as his message was, it made me wonder if the anime series was more geared to promote the members of AKB48 internationally through an anime OVA series.  Because among the past anime related works by Akimoto, this one was OK, not great.

If you are looking for an all-action anime series with the cast primarily all women and a storyline that deals with an post-apocalyptic storyline, then “ICE” is for you!

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