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The WINGS of REAN Vol. 3 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

August 24, 2008 by  



“The final volume concludes with a more political storyline, more battles, more confusing characters and an ending that only Tomino Yoshiyuki would dare do in an anime series. I was literally left with a ‘what the heck just happened’ moment and had to scour the Internet to get everyone else’s opinion the final scene. You’ll either see it as brilliant or cruel!”

DVD INFORMATION:

DVD TITLE: The WINGS of REAN Vol. 3

DURATION: Approx. 48 minutes + 18 minutes (special features)

DVD INFORMATION: COLOR/NTSC / 16:9 LB / Japanese Audio (Dolby Digital 5.1 ch and Dolby Digital Stereo / English subtitles

CATALOG #: BUDH0108

COMPANY: Bandai Visual/Honneamise

RATING: Suggested 13 and Up

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

STAFF INFORMATION:

DIRECTOR: Tomino Yoshiyuki

VISUAL CONCEPT CREATOR: okama

CHARACTER DESIGN: Kudoh Masashi

MECHANICAL DESIGN: Shinohara Tamotsu, Sakura Takumi

COLOR DESIGN: Yokoyama Sayoko

ART DIRECTOR: Ikeda Shigemi

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: Oogami Youichi

MUSIC: Higuchi Yasuo

SOUND DIRECTOR: Wakabayashi Kazuhiro

PRODUCED BY SUNRISE, BANDIA VISUAL, BANDAI CHANNEL

Aura Battlers dance wildly in the skies above Tokyo. Who is the Wings of Rean warrior who will save the two worlds from total annihilation?

Guided by the Auro Road, Aesap and King Sakomizu roam beyond time and space. To wipe out the festering hatred, Aesap musters his last ounce of strength and streaks through the sky!

The Hojo Army and resistance force have passed through the Auro Road and emerged on Tokyo Bay. There, the two armies decide to join forces and follow the same path. In cooperation with the Hojo Army, Rori and Kanamoto strike down Tokyo Tower, shocking the city into a state of unprecedented chaos. Meanwhile, led by the Wings of Rean, Aesap and King Sakomizu arrive in Japan at the end of the World War II. Skies riddled with B-29’s…atomic booms…the battle of Okinawa… Sakomizu is filled with anger and sadness. Aesap sees his parents before he was born. When their journey to the past ends, they find themselves in the skies above present-day Tokyo Bay.

Tomino Yoshiyuki is a director and writer that is a person who I highly regard his talent for creating such series such as “Mobile Suit Gundam” (and many more series under the Gundam monicker), “Heavy Metal L-Gaim” and “Aura Battler Dunbine”.

With the latter, Yoshiyuki introduced to viewers back in 1984, a new world known as Byston Well (a world that exists between the land and ocean) and from the 49-episode series of “Aura Battler Dunbine”, in 1988 with the three episode OAV series “Aura Battler Dunbine: The Tale of Neo Byston” and an OAV with the 1999 “Tales from Byston Well: Garzey’s Wing”.

In 2005, Tomino returned with the six episode ONA (Original Net Animation) series titled “The WINGS of REAN” which is based on a light novel of his published back in 1983 through 1986.

Before I review this final volume, I just want to say that each time I can watch a Tomino-created series, I’m excited. Similar to Shirow Masamune and other mangaka and directors, I have admired those who are able to create anime series with a detailed storyline but also see how their experience from their well-know work from the past three or four decades deviates from their modern work.

“The WINGS of REAN” is Tomino’s modern work. An ONA (original net animation) series that he said he didn’t want to recreate from the novel and at the same time create something with his young staff in mind and creating for a new generation of anime viewers.

So, with an anime series like this, there is so much story to be told, so many characters introduced but only six episodes to tell it. And unfortunately, this is the caveat for a series like “The WINGS of REAN”. Where Tomino has had the luxury of telling his stories from “Mobile Suit Gundam” to “Aura Battler Dunbine” in many episodes, but for this he has only the luxury of six episodes.

Six episodes are not enough and this series is so beautiful, characters aplenty but because the technical accomplishments of the battles and use of 3DCG, Tomino was able to get his staff to create something special but the double edge sword hurts this anime series with the fact that you hardly get any character development and viewers are limited to battles galore, characters and mecha all over the place and all out chaos.

Episode 5 titled “Above Tokyo Bay” features that similar, confusing battle of episode 1 between the Hojo Army, the resistance and this time, major buildings and landmarks in Tokyo are destroyed and possibly mass casualties.

One thing that I found important from the series is Tomino’s interview when he said the main story was always between Aesap and King Sakomizu. But early in the series, you are somewhat led to believe that the story was about Aesap and Sakomizu’s daughter Lyukus.

In episode 5, as war between the factions are now taking place in the Upper Realm with everyone fighting including the Japanese and American military, both Aesap and King Sakomizu get to see an almost real glimpse of the past during World War II.

For Sakomizu, his Japan, his Tokyo was during a time when there were land, trees and not the concrete jungle that it is now. His face and reactions is captured as a man of awe and disgust to see the land he loves, no longer the same. His goal to protect Japan from the US aggressors are spoiled to find out that Japan and the US are allies. But to see the atrocities committed through war not by the Americans who dropped the nuclear warheads in Japan but also the Okinawans and what they suffered from the Japanese Imperial Army.

As for Aesap, watching his parents….Japanese mother and American father married and even Sakomizu seeing for himself, a Japanese and American in love.

Needless to say that this episode features part of modern Tokyo being destroyed because of war and past Japan being destroyed by war. But most of all, Tomino’s gutsy coverage of the battle of Okinawa on an anime series, especially since its a touchy subject between the Okinawans and the Japanese government today.

In episode 6 titled “Sakura Tempest”, the war continues but Sakomizu’s rage of seeing how Japan has changed is starting to consume him. But most of all, to find that he was a man that was fighting for his homeland, now knowing that those who are fighting against him are the Japanese and USA military.

As for Aesap, he confronts his terrorist roommates who want nothing more but to cause destruction to Japan and he tries to put a stop to their destruction.

As volume 2 featured a spontaneous kissing scene never seen in an anime series, Tomino does something at the end of the final episode that is definitely going to make people either really ticked or people to think Tomino as creative and gutsy for the final scene alone.

VIDEO:

Since this DVD release is from Bandai Visual, and BV releases are known for its quality, the video is 16:8LB and presented with a framerate of 1.78:1. As for the animation, the animation was very colorful and the character designs are by Kudoh Masashi, known for his work his character design work for “Aquarian Age”, a few episodes of “Planetes” and “Witch Hunter Robin” but mainly for the popular series “Bleach”. The mechanical designs were done by Shinohara Tamotsu (known for his live action work with the “Kamen Rider” series and creature designs for “Samurai Deeper Kyo”) and Sakura Takumi (who has worked for Tomino in series such as “Turn A Gundam” and “Brain Powered”).

AUDIO:

With the amount of battles happening in the first episode, that is where you start to enjoy the audio from Banda Visual releases. Again, known for their quality for encoding at 448 kbps, “The WINGS of REAN” sounds very cool ala Dolby Digital 5.1.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The special feature on volume 3 features a promotional trailer and “The Wings of Rean ‘Orchestration Guide'”.

This was quite interesting to watch as Higuchi Yasuo talks about creating the music and not being held by any boundaries by Tomino and given somewhat free reign to create what he wanted.

Most of all, to hear from the musicians talk about Yasuo’s style and talking about the stress and frustration of creating the musical score for the animated series.

A lot of information and found Higuchi’s approach to music and working with Tomino quite interesting.

And similar to the past two volumes, the behind-the-scenes booklets are very informative.

Included is an interview with Shinohara Tamotsu who designed the Aura Battlers and a mechanical settings gallery. Also, an interview with Chief CG Designer Katayama Ayuki and 2D Effects Chief Furuhashi Hiroshi in regards to the challenge of creating the scenes, especially the chaotic war scenes.

A very interesting interview with Tomino Yoshiyuki in regards to his directing the 3rd installment of the series. I find his interviews fascinating, nearly cerebral in his answers of logic and more. Reading these interviews is actually what enhanced my appreciation for this animated series and what he was able to do, is not something that can be easily conveyed in a live action film Especially with so many characters and so much destruction.

And last, the book concludes with the storyboards for episode 5 and 6.

I have to admit that on my first watch, I felt that this story was just too confusing with so many characters being thrown at the viewer. Things got much better in vol. 2 as it featured more character development but vol. 3 returns to a similar setting as vol. 1 but instead of the battles galore and many people being shown (and can easily confuse the viewer), I felt that Tomino’s coverage of Sakamizo and his eyes of seeing Japan in the past and how he sees Japan in the 21st Century.

And his prejudices and how it contradicts Aesap (a half Japanese and half America) and his view of a more modern Japan just goes against everything that Sakamizo believes or thought he believed in.

Episode 5 was quite a political episode and episode 6 was more or less the grand finale.

Personally, I felt there was just too much story that could have been told and so many characters introduced that I wish that an ONA series this complicated, could have had a longer episode run.

So, with what they were able to accomplish in six episodes, especially visually, was well done. Animation was just beautiful, acting was well done and for mecha and action fans, battles galore.

And what you are left with is enjoying the series on its technical merits and what was accomplished or a lack of a strong, character driven storyline.

I’ve read so many Japanese blogs that credit Tomino’s logic and perspective and I can agree 100% with these fans because he really has an answer for every question thrown against him in the interview. So, I really enjoyed reading how his mind works (in the special booklet).

“The WINGS of REAN” is not a perfect anime series that has a share of problems and mainly, the series is just too busy with the Hojo Army and Resistance at war and Japanese and US military just thrown into the mix. It does get confusing.

But I can’t help but enjoy this series on a different level for it’s animation but also the logic behind those scenes. I will admit that the booklets that came with each volume enhanced my appreciation for this ONA series.

And last but not least, the final scene. This will depend on the viewer but I find it interesting to see how it all played out and Tomino’s way of showing that not all things end with a happy ending.

+ Another story from “Aura Battler Dunbine” written and directed by Tomino Yoshiyuki

+ Cool video and audio and an informative booklet provided again by Bandai Visual/Honneamise. Gives you appreciation of the work of the director and character designer.

+ Very good voice acting

+ A very cool interview included in the booklet. Full of information!

– No English dubs for those who need that.

This anime series is not for everyone. A lot of characters and a lot of storyline that is pretty much made into six 20-minute OAV’s on a world and storyline that probably could be effectively told in a dozen or two dozen (or more episodes). The focus is more on the battles, character philosophies and not so much on character development.

+/- – The final scene of episode 6. You either will love it or hate it.

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