Greetings viewers! The name’s Samuel Savage but I’m better known as PirateBeck these days. You probably haven’t heard of me before and considering my line of work is very different to that of a reviewer, I can’t honestly blame you. However, it’s something I’ve had an interest in for quite some time so Marc’s giving me a shot. Anyway, to cut the introduction short, I’m from the United Kingdom and while we may not get that many series released here due to many different licensing issues, we have been lucky enough to receive some exclusive anime releases, such as the upcoming Summer Wars and Professor Layton movies. So I’m here to tell you what’s worth importing and since it hasn’t been released yet in the USA, I’m going to touch upon a shonen oldie…
Space Adventure Cobra is the film adaptation of the manga series of the same name, originally released in the late 70s. The movie itself was released in 1982 and I believe it’s an adaptation of the entire manga story (don’t quote me on that). The UK disc was released in August 2008 and can be currently ordered from Amazon UK for around £3.99 ($5.95 as of May 2009). Is it even worth that? Let’s find out…
So let’s start off with the packaging. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about the front cover itself, just a huge logo in the middle surrounded by space background and text telling us about Cobra is the most wanted man on the planet. The back cover is slightly more interesting; with the art of Cobra branching out with alternately colored line art, surrounded by text and screenshots from the film. However, it’s here we find our first problem as the running time is listed as being 69 minutes long despite the actual running time being 99 minutes. Oops.
The main menu itself is just as bland as the cover, showing us footage from the film while looped music plays in the background. The main menu gives us the four options of “Play movie”, “Scene Selection”, “Audio Options” and “Trailers”. I would recommend skipping the trailers as they all pretty boring and bland to watch (The Naruto DVD one is the highlight, as it simply states “NARUTO UNLEASHED PART 1 OUT NOW!” followed by two minutes of random scenes and background music from the series. I’m dead serious).
The film itself you ask? As I mentioned earlier, if this really is a condensed version of the manga, it shows. The film is messy and sometimes very hard to follow. It starts off with a bounty hunter named Jane Flower (You can clearly tell this is a product of the 70s from that alone) capturing a wanted criminal and taking him to police headquarters. Cobra spots Flower in a bar along the way and, instantly taking an interest, follows after her. They proceed to talk for a few minutes about how “Cobra died a long time ago” and “you can’t be him”. Of course, he uses the exact same ‘psycho gun’ and she instantly realizes he’s the real deal. They then proceed to make out. Trippy.
Now, that’s just the first 15 minutes and it honestly didn’t capture my interest the first time around. I won’t go into detail with the rest of the plot but involves a very annoying love story, a villain that goes nowhere fast once the usual shonen fight has been had and then, the film just… ends. There’s no real resolution to the story at hand and to be frank, it was just bad writing. I honestly wish we could have seen some of Cobra’s past since it’s stated he died and had plastic surgery to rebuild his entire body. Why couldn’t we have gotten that film instead, it sounds far more interesting?
Not only is the film bad, the video transfer is even worse. It looks like it was either taken from a master that had Clingfilm still over it or a very old VHS tape when transferred to a digital source. There is dirt everywhere, the screen has a darkened bar around the left side of the footage and then take in the usual (poorly done for anime) 24/30fps to 25fps transfer, it really makes the film look old and dated. To make matters worse, the DVD packaging lists the film as being 4:3. The only part of the film that actually is 4:3 is the TMS logo at the start, with the rest being in a matted 16:9 ratio. It doesn’t help that half of the trailers are in 16:9. Nice going Manga Entertainment.
The audio however fairs far better than the video. We are presented with an English 2.0 Dolby track at 224Kbps and a Japanese 5.1 Dolby one at 448Kbps. While the Japanese track has that extra boom that a 2.0 can’t produce, I actually found the English track far more interesting. I found the differences in the acting and voice talent to be an improvement over the Japanese one (like the robotic tone effect added to the character Lady) and Dan Worren as the ever lovable hero Cobra (best known as Byakuya Kuchiki from Bleach these days). I should also note that the dub included on the disc is the original American dub directed by the late Carl Macek and not the Manga UK dub, which included a soundtrack composed by Yello.
I briefly touched upon the extras listed as them simply being trailers. Included are trailers for: Naruto the series and the first movie, Bleach, Buso Renkin, Death Note, Origin, Ghost in the Shell S.A.C: 2nd GIG and SSS. As also stated before, none of these are particularly interesting (They seem to be the American ones just re-encoded for the most part).
So how can I sum up Space Adventure Cobra? If you want to buy the series for the dub produced by Carl Macek or just enjoy love stories, you may enjoy this venture into space. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend this at all. It’s a messy story about love that doesn’t really hold in a shonen series. There’s plenty of better star crossed love stories and this TMS adventure is certainly not one of those.
Movie: D- (A rather boring and bland movie that offers no real resolution or character development. It’s like a terrible French New Wave film)
Packaging: D (It looks alright but it doesn’t stand out well. I would have given it higher marks if not the two misleading pieces of information about the film itself)
Video Quality: D- (The video looks like it was taken from a bad VHS transfer and is notably bad in both paused and moving on a larger TV)
Audio Quality: B (The soundtrack fit but didn’t stand out too much with a well done group of actors voicing their characters well)
English Dub: B+ (A rather enjoyable dub with all around good acting and logical effects applied to certain characters)
Extras: D (Trailers that don’t advertise their series as something worth investing in, especially the Naruto one)
Overall (not an average): D (Space Adventure Cobra is a film that could be enjoyed while either high or for someone in serious need of a love story. Otherwise, it’s just a shoddy release of an otherwise uninteresting film.)
Gallery and copyright information under ad. All caps are lossless PNGs. (Caps are 768×576 matching the aspect ratio they are meant to be viewed at. Black bars are left on screencaps.)
This show was reviewed using a DVD purchased at retail.
This DVD is labeled to work on Region 2 DVD players on the packaging.