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Zoids Vol.1: The Battle Begins DVD
100 Minutes
It's not the deepest show you'll ever see, but Zoids still manages to provide some lighthearted entertainment. It's candy for your brain.
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Zoids Vol.1: The Battle Begins DVD
By Patrick King

For those of you who may not know, Zoids has been around for quite some time. For more information about the detailed history of Zoids, check out this month's website showcase. We're pretty sure you'll be able to find more than you ever wanted to know about Zoids at either that site or a site it links to. Personally, despite being old enough to remember the 80's, I don't recall Zoids. I was introduced to it one day when I discovered my younger brother watching it on the Cartoon Network. Thanks to the immensely positive viewer response it received, it was quickly slapped onto a DVD and brought over from Japan. Sadly, the original Japanese language soundtrack seems to have fallen off the disc as it traveled across the ocean...

Our story begins by introducing us to the main character, Bit Cloud, a traveling scrap dealer (and occasional thief). While traversing the desert (there are a lot of deserts in Zoidland), a Zoid battle erupts practically on top of Bit. He soon becomes involved with the Blitz team after interrupting their battle with a rival team. While in their care, he discovers Liger Zero, a mysteriously unstable and rare Zoid that takes an immediate liking to the happy-go-lucky Bit. Soon enough, Bit is fighting on the side of the Blitz team and discovering his own as well as Liger Zero's potential.

In the first four episodes, at least, the rationale behind Zoid battles is not really given. Zoids are huge sentient animal-shaped mechanical beings that are equipped with customizable weapons and then pitted against each other under the control of a human pilot. How they work and why the battles take place is really none of our concern; the point is, Zoids are neat, and if they could be purchased in toy form, then they should be at all costs. Luckily for its viewers, Hasbro produces the show AND supplies fans with a huge toy line as well, so you can sate your Zoid model-building urges by heading to the nearest hobby shop or toy store.

The plot does go beyond the suggestive "buy me" theme, but not far. This is a simple show by nature, and within these four episodes, not much complexity arises. There's some character interaction, then a Zoid battle. For each battle, the Blitz team is up against sizable odds, and so far, Liger Zero is able to bail them out every time. Hopefully, the story begins to go somewhere eventually, but I'm sure it could keep following its current path and manage to satisfy plenty of people seeking a Japanese fighting mech fix.

Now, on to the actual show. It was created relatively recently as the high production values suggest. Quite a bit of 3D computer animation is used to tell the saga of Zoid warriors. The visuals are clean and crisp, utilizing a good variety of bright cheerful colors. The traditional animation is not spectacular, however, and gets downright stiff at the show's slower points. The perky character designs help out a bit, doing well to liven things up even when characters are static. Yet, what truly makes this show shine is the clever use of cel-shaded CG to animate the Zoids.

The Zoid battles are quite impressive to watch, despite their formulaic predictability. They're easily one of the primary draws to the show. In fact, one of the DVD's bonus features allows viewers to instantly access every battle scene on the disc. This is pretty handy if you can't get enough CG mech action. On the more technical side of things, this DVD presents the show rather well. The menus are functional and aesthetically pleasing, and the transfer quality is high, as can be expected of a recently authored show. Zoids is by no means hard on the eyes.

The music and sound effects, while not terribly striking, certainly don't offend. I won't be getting the soundtrack anytime soon, but the music got the job done, enhancing the battle scenes and emotional scenes appropriately. My biggest gripe about this entire release, however, would be the lack of an original language track. Yes, this is a mainstream show, meant to appeal to a mainstream audience, and producing a subtitle track would have taken effort, but even a dubtitled Japanese language track is better than nothing. This isn't the worst dub I've heard, but it's not fantastic, either. I've never understood the need for English voice actors to scream so many of their lines, but it occurs more than enough in this show. However, the MSRP for this disc is not very high, and it contains four episodes, so fans of the show will most likely be satisfied by what is given.

There are a few extras included with this release, too, though only one goes beyond the standard anime bonus features. It has a cute section called "Zoids File 01" detailing certain Zoids and the associated pilots. It's nice to have all the specs for the machines in one place, so this is a good feature to include. More original, however (and potentially more lucrative) was the inclusion of a Zoids mini-manga, promoting the Viz Comics release of Zoids: Chaotic Century. This is probably a wise move on the part of the publisher as manga gains more and more popularity in English-speaking countries, and it was a welcome addition to the title.

So, for those of you who haven't yet seen the show, if you don't mind dubs and want some lighthearted entertainment that may be a little high on the cheese factor, this disc is priced low enough to be worth it. Otherwise, you might want to wait for a Japanese language version. Who knows? Maybe they had bad voice acting as well, but at least you won't be able to tell! Unless, that is, you speak Japanese, in which case you might be too cool to watch this show. ^_^

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