To: 2001 Nights (UK - DVD R2)
Our Marcus reviews this new sci-fi short story double bill from Manga on DVD...
The makers of Appleseed and Vexille return with To: 2001 Nights, a manga sci-fi based on the comic book series of the same name. With two of the short stories adapted, the first is 'Elliptical Orbit' (40:11). When space exploration vessel the Flying Dutchman arrives back after its latest fifteen year journey its cargo is unknowingly hiding a group of terrorist determined to destroy the colonised moon base. The second story is 'Symbiotic Planet' (44:02) which jumps a century forward and humans are now colonising other planets. Two young colonists Ion and Alena try to have a romantic relationship despite belonging to two opposite factions.
The CG animation with the 2D art style or "CGI Live Anime" seems to grow more impressive with each passing project. It’s still not quite there for my tastes, but the computer game look to everything has a certain something about it and once animators crack the unconvincing movement (or indeed very limited movement to hide the limitations) for its characters, 2D animation might have some genuine competition. That said To offers nothing in the way of excitement like Appleseed or Vexille did before it. Instead this project opts for low key sci-fi that prefers to talk than show and really the use of the CG technique seems pointless beyond the large Avatar style space ships.
With both these stories feeling a little bit lacklustre in their approach to sci-fi but doing well in presenting a pretty well established world of the future, To winds up not being quite strong enough in any area to get excited about. The relationships between characters are thin, emotion is usually portrayed through characters sitting and staring for a few seconds longer than you’d expect, the action isn’t quite energetic enough and the romantic element of the second story feels a little too melodramatic to work.
In many ways To reminded me of some of the filler episodes in the Clone Wars animated series. There’s a lot of talk about the company, procedure and the draw of space travel but unlike the Clone Wars, To doesn’t have lightsabers to get itself out of its slumpier parts and without any familiarity with the comic books it’s based on or any sense of what this project is setting out to achieve I found it very hard to form a connection with or indeed care what was happening. Episodic stuff like this needs to me more eventful I think or part of larger series and as this was neither it was hard to get drawn into and the emotionless art style didn't help either.
The CG animation with a 2D style offers up a clean looking transfer in full rich colours and nice deep space blacks. Reds and blues fare the strongest and the clean CG skin of the characters can look very bold against the metallic backgrounds. Laser effects and engines glow nicely off the screen and a lot of the texture looks quite good but overall the image suffers from being standard definition. I’d imagine the power of HD would improve the shininess of the visuals here no end, but this DVD feels a little too soft to sell the animation technique to its fullest and in many ways makes this modern CG animated project look older than it actually is.
Dialogue is strong and central and there’s always a hint of ambience to make the space setting feel more alive. The score has its strong moments but is generally quite airy and run of the mill sci-fi without ever showing off. Honestly this is all quite simple and doesn’t feel all that widespread in the audio department. Everything remains in the fronts for the most part and none of the elements are particularly noteworthy beyond the basics.
Elliptical Orbit has an interview with director Fumihko Sori, Akio Ohtsuka and Romi Park (30:17) which runs for a decent amount of time and covers plenty from CGI Live Anime as a technique to the development that led to this new project. There’s also a trailer, teaser and TV spots.
Symbiotic Planet offers up an interview with director Fumihko Sori, Jun Fukuyama and Aya Hirano (30:23) which adds even more insight into the project beginning with the themes To covers and some of the visuals used in the stories. Once again we get a trailer as well as a couple of promo videos.
To: 2001 Nights was great at giving us a look into a possible future for mankind, but with short runtimes across the two stories it’s not much more than a skim along the surface. The disc looks okay but the slick CG technique really suffers from not being in HD. However the extras offer up plenty of good stuff in the two interview segments, so for anyone out there who’s been waiting to get hold of this 2009 anime, you get some informative extras for your patience.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 26th September 2011
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese
Extras: Interviews, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Fumihko Sori
Cast: Brina Palencia, Eric Vale, Mark Stoddard & Stephanie Young
Genre: Animation and Sci-Fi
Length: 84 minutes
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