Shangri-La: Part 1 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)
August 9, 2012 by Dennis Amith
Once in awhile, complex sci-fi anime series do make its way to American shores. GONZO’s “Shangri-La” is a sci-fi anime series that takes on complexity in a post-apocalyptic Japan, features a wide cast of characters and a fascinating, clever storyline. I like where this series is heading but it does require one’s attention. “Shangri-La: Part 1” is a slow-paced but intriguing anime series that is definitely setting things up for an explosive second half.
Image courtesy of © 2012 FUNimation. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Shangri-La: Part 1
DURATION: Episodes 1-12 (300 Minutes)
DVD INFORMATION: 16:9, Japanese and English Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English
RATED: TV M
Release Date: August 21, 2012
Directed by Makoto Bessho
Series Composition by Hiroshi Ohnogi
Music by Hitomi Kuroishi
Original Creator: Eiichi Ikegami
Character Design by Range Murata
Anime Production: Gonzo
Featuring the following voice talent:
Mikako Takahashi/Lindsay Seidel as Kuniko Houjou
Yui Ariga/Apphia Yu as Mikuni
Yuka Iguchi/Jad Saxton as Karin Ishida
Daisuke Hirakawa as Souichirou Hata
Hidetoshi Nakamura/Bill Jenkins as Sergei Tarsian
Houchu Ohtsuka/Randy Perlman as Mi-ko
Jouji Nakata/Kent Williams as Momoko
Jun Fukuyama/Micah Solusod as Shion Imaki
Kenyuu Horiuchi/Bryan Massey as Takehiko
Kumiko Watanabe/Trina Nishimura as Claris Lutz
Makoto Ishii/Austin Tindle as Kunihito Kusanagi
Naoko Kyooda/Linda Leonard as Nagiko Houjou
Rei Igarashi/Jennifer Seman as Ryouko Naruse
Rie Ishizuka/Anastasia Munoz as Sayoko
Sachika Misawa/Emerick Jade as Yuri Gamagoori
Takahiro Sakurai/J. Michael Tatum as Shougo Kudo
Tetsuya Kakihara/Joel McDonald as Medusa
Tomoko Kaneda/Heather Walker as Hiruko
Yūichi Nakamura as Retto Imaki
Yurie Yamashita as Yuuka Yamazaki
Hiroyuki Yoshino/Anthony Bowling as Zhang
Miyu Irino/Justin Pate as Digma 0
In the distant future, earthquakes and the effects of global warming have splintered Japanese society. Some struggle hand-to-mouth in the jungle-tangled ruins of civilization. Some live comfortably within the closed-off city of Atlas. Others lurk online, anonymously hacking the global economy. As nature grows more violent and the divide between classes expands, one spirited girl, Kuniko, must face her destiny and lead her people into the utopia of Atlas.
The city’s ruthless government isn’t going to welcome them with open arms, but Kuniko won’t give up until the gates of Atlas are kicked open for good – even if it means discovering that the promised land she dreamed of is built upon a foundation of twisted secrets and lies.
In 2004, writer Eiichi Ikegami and illustrator Ken’ichi Yoshida worked on a Japanese sci-fi novel titled “Shangri-La”. Featured in Newtype Magazine from2 004-2005, a manga series adaptation was released on January 2009 and featured in Kadokawa’s “Ace Assault” and “Shonen Ace”.
That same year, “Shangri-La” received an anime adaptation and now the anime series will be released in two parts on DVD courtesy of FUNimation.
“Shangri-La” is directed by Makoto Bessho (“Armitage: Dual-Matrix”, “Iczellion”, “Countdown”), series composition by Hiroshi Ohnogi (“Aquarion”, “Area 88”, “Arjuna”, “Birdy the Mighty”, “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood), music by Hitomi Kuroishi (“Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion”, “Planetes”, “GUNXSWORD”) and character design by Range Murata (“Blue Submarine No. 6”, “Last Exile”, “Solty Rei”.
“Shangri-La” takes place in the mid-21st Century and the international committee reduced CO2 emissions to prevent the global warming crisis. This led to the economic market led to the trading of carbon.
But when a great earthquake destroys a large part of Japan, Tokyo becomes a jungle city that begins to absorb carbon dioxide. While the carbon tax throughout Japan is not lifted, an organization known as Project Atlas wants to rebuild Tokyo and oversee the government.
An area known as Atlas is then built to house only 3.5 million people and many are not allowed to migrate to the city. Those who live in Atlas are known as elites, while those who live in the jungles outside Atlas’ walls are seen as refugees.
But Project Atlas is opposed by the Metal Age group because they have been oppressed and opposes the government’s drastic policies on environmentalism. The Metal Age, the anti-government organization is based in Duomo where the main characters of this series live.
The series follows a teenage girl named Kuniko Hojo, a young girl who is skillful in fighting with a boomerang and defends Duomo from the military. Kuniko was imprisoned at a girls detention center for two years and while being returned to the city of Duomo, she is being grouped to be the future leader of Metal Age. Her grandmother Nagiko Hojo is the head of Metal Age and her wish is for Kuniko to lead Metal Age, but her granddaughter is not interested.
The citizens of Duomo are constantly protecting their city from Atlas attacks, because for some unknown reason, Atlas is holding Duomo responsible for an incident. During one attack, Kuniko using her boomerang and Major Kunihito Kusanagi of Atlas using a dagger, throw their weapons towards each other and when both clashed, it resonated and led to mysterious black dots appearing above Duomo and as those black dots fell, caused massive destruction.
The antagonists of the series are Project Atlas which include the sinister Lady Roko, a high authority figure who is following Kuniko’s movements for some reason. Also, featured is Mikuni, an aristocrat that uses the highways of Atlas as her playground; Karin Ishida, a young computer genius who knows how to blackmail major politicians from other countries to working with Atlas.
Karin is also one of the creators of MEDUSA, a computer program that was built by Ishida Finance used to find debts around the world in countries who’s CO2 Emissions and Carbon credits are not equal. Using MEDUSA, they can easily manipulate countries who are in debt.
And for Lady Ryoko, she wants to know how Duomo was able to use such a destructive attack (the black dots). So, Atlas then begins to allow for a ballot to allow Duomo residents to live in the city.
Meanwhile, the attacks by Atlas on Duomo has led to residents fearing for their lives and Kuniko starts to wonder if people would be happy not living their lives like they are in Duomo, having to raid supplies that were meant for Atlas. So, after Kuniko finds out from her grandmother that her biological mother lives in Atlas, Kuniko and friends decide to take a trip to Atlas.
And what they see is a city with so much room, they wonder why the Atlas organization has limited the city to only 3.5 million people when there is enough space to take in more.
As Kuniko and friends are in Atlas, they are unaware they are being watched by Atlas. What happens when Kuniko runs into Kunihito, a Atlas military officer who has a sacred dagger identical to the dagger owned by Kuniko and Mikuni? And both are forced to go on a date, thanks to Momoko.
Meanwhile, what happens when Lady Ryoko launches a sneak attack on the city of Duomo? Find out in Part 1 of “Shangri-La”.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Shangri-La” is presented in 16×9 with an English 5.1 Surround and Japanese stereo soundtrack. For the most part, GONZO does an excellent job in taking the characters to various locations throughout Duomo, Atlas, Akihabara and Ikebukuro. While scenery and art backgrounds are well-detailed, animation is good and well-shaded. The mecha designs, which are 3-D based are well-detailed and for the most part, I’m a bit surprised that “Shangri-La” was not given a Blu-ray +DVD combo release.
DVD picture quality is good as one can expect on DVD, there is a bit softness and banding as can be expected and for audio, with the English dub soundtrack having better dynamic range than its stereo Japanese soundtrack. Voice acting are well-done on both soundtracks but once again, for an anime series that has its share of action, it’s unfortunate that “Shangri-La” was not released on Blu-ray.
Subtitles are in English.
“Shangri-La: Part 1” comes with the following special features:
- Episode 1 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (ADR Director/Line Producer), Kent Williams (voice of Momoko) and Lindsay Seidel (voice of Kuniko) and Austin Tindel (voice of Kunihito).
- Episode 10 Commentary – Featuring audio commentary by Tyler Walker (ADR Director/Line Producer), Anastasia Munoz (voice of Sayoko), Apphia Yu (voice of Mikuni) and Randy Perlman (voice of Miko).
- Textless Opening Song: “Kimi Shinitamou Hoto Nakare”
- Textless Closing Songs: “Hajimari no Asa ni Hikari Are” (Version 1), “Tsuki ni Kakuseshi Chou no Yume” (Version 1)
- Promotional Video for “Magical Gina the Akiba Fairy” – (2:29) A small preview short for the upcoming series “Magical Gina the Akiba Fairy”.
- Trailers – FUNimation trailers
Once in awhile, you encounter an anime series that is complex for its storyline and its share number of characters.
“Shangri-La” is Japanese sci-fi series that contains the elements of war, strategy but also is accessible thanks to its younger characters. But I have to give credit to original writer Eiichi Ikegami for developing a plot that surrounds corporate greed after a global warming crisis. And what is interesting about “Shangri-La” is that it was created before Japan’s March 2010 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
With the talk of a second Tokyo possibly being created as a backup, just in case a natural disaster does hit Tokyo, there is no doubt that that this anime series does have an interesting concept.
In “Shangri-La”, Japan has been devastated by a major earthquake and in the world to mitigate the global warming crisis, people deal with carbon. And in the rebuilding of Tokyo, only 3.5 million are accepted into the rebuilt city known as Atlas, while many are not and those who are living outside Atlas have been oppressed.
And thus, the series sets up a storyline between the haves and the have nots. The government of Atlas, who look at themselves as the elites vs. the refugees of Duomo, who host the Metal Age organization who are against the government.
The series then showcases its characters from both cities and also from various areas that make the storyline complex and requires one to not miss an episode because there are many characters introduced. You have Kuniko, the main protagonist from Duomo, a girl who has a specialized dagger that resonates with Atlas Major Kunihito Kusanagi’s dagger to resonate as well. What are these daggers and why did they resonate to the point that black dots mysteriously appeared above Duomo and caused massive destruction?
The first half of the series is primarily about character development. Establishing Kuniko and her friends and what they are fighting for and how they have lived an oppressed life. While we are introduced to the citizens of Atlas.
Those from Atlas appear to have special abilities. Mikuni can see through lies and is able to manipulate and crus one’s body. She carries a dagger similar to Kuniko and Major Kunihito which resonates. And within Mikuni’s circle are fascinating but evil characters. Sayoko is Mikuni’s protector who thrives on Mikuni killing people. Ryoko is a bad tempered individual who lashes out on a boy named Sion (a slave) and is responsible for controlling the Atlas supercomputer known as Zeus.
While the first half sets up the conflict between Atlas and Duomo, the storyline also features the different beliefs that are held by those living in Atlas and those living in Duomo. And both inhabitants of both cities do not trust each other. With Kuniko and friends entering Atlas, now knowing that they are being watched by Atlas hacker Karin, this will set up to major destruction for the people of Duomo as Atlas plans to secretly attack the city.
And the repercussions of these events will set up the second half of “Shangri-La”.
As for the DVD, I was a little surprised that this anime series was not released on Blu-ray, but only on DVD. But picture quality and audio are very good on DVD. GONZO has done a fantastic job from creating this post-apocalyptic Japan and art backgrounds are really well-detailed. There is also a good amount of action and the audio does utilize center, front and surround channels. Voice acting is good on both the Japanese and English soundtracks and you do get two audio commentary special features plus the clean opening and ending themes.
But for now, I look forward to seeing how “Shangri-La” progresses. It’s a complex anime series with a lot of characters and with each episode, there are a lot of things taking place that I found myself having to rewind and rewatch because of the complexities and also not only do you have characters of both Atlas and Duomo working to fight each other, there are other subplots involving Karin, the computer hacker as she wants to destroy the country’s economy.
As mentioned, complex anime series is often a rarity these days as series are meant to be accessible for people of all ages. But “Shangri-La” is one of those series that is accessible but it is also clever on its approach to Japan after a major earthquake devastating its economy and the people living in the country. “Shangri-La: Part 1” is a slow-paced but intriguing anime series that is definitely setting things up for an explosive second half. And for those who do love sci-fi anime series, will definitely want to give “Shangri-La: Part 1” a try!
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