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"Zoids CC" Vol. 3 & 4:Things Get Heavy

One of the biggest cult favorites from the “Dark Ages” of Toonami, Zoids: Chaotic Century, is finally getting a well-deserved DVD release. And while the DVDs themselves aren’t much to look at on the technical side, if you’re looking for a budget title this is the longest and cheapest there is.

ImageEpisodes on Vol. 3 (Rematch):
#13: The Battle of Cronos
#14: Wake Up! Zeke!
#15: Deploy the ZG!
#16: New Helic City
#17: The Longest Night of the Republic
#18: The Defense of the City

Episodes on Vol. 4 (Conspiracy):
#19: Prozen’s Conspiracy
#20: The Resurrection Monster
#21: The Charged Particle Gun
#22: Farewell To a Friend
#23: The Imperial Ring
#24: A Voice From Afar

When we last left our heroes, the war between the Republic and the Empire was nearing the boiling point and new pilot named Raven was tearing apart any and all Zoids that got in his way. Van, the main character, and his Organoid, Zeke, try to confront Raven to stop him from destroying helpless Zoids. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prozen is taking advantage of the Emperor’s health to plan an attack on New Helic City, and Moonbay and Fiona are trapped in a nearby volcano! His plan also includes a brand new Zoid for Raven, one that has a powerful new weapon: the charged particle gun. This extremely powerful Zoid makes its mark early, attacking Rosso and Viola and obliterating Van’s Shield Liger. And as if our heroes didn’t have enough on their plate, the Crown Prince of the Empire, Rudolph, is the target of an assassination plot!

Chaotic Century reaches the halfway mark with these episodes, and the real plot starts to kick in. With the war in a lull, Prozen is free to concentrate on his designs for the throne of the Empire and domination of the planet Zi. The action sequences are still not nearly as good as they could be, but that’s okay as the plot more than makes up for it. The Empire finally gets some development (since up until now we’ve spent all our time in Republican territory), though the reason this war started at all still eludes me, since both the President of the Republic and the Emperor seem like caring, understanding individuals.

ImageVolume 3: “Rematch” focuses on the Van/Raven rivalry that started at the end of Volume 2. Sure, there’s the whole plot about the Republic coming up with a battle plan to stave off the Empire long enough for a peace treaty to be signed, but this is overshadowed by the three Van/Raven smackdowns on the disc, fights that only get better as the disc progresses. Van is obviously getting skilled at piloting his Shield Liger, but unfortunately the machine just doesn’t fight very well. Thankfully, we’ll soon be able to leave that thing behind, and the battles become much better (still nowhere near ZERO, but good enough). The Republic plot is pretty good as well, as we get some development on Herman, the first appearence of a reccuring Imperial soldier, and a battle plan that gives a part to pretty much every major character, even Moonbay and Fiona. The disc also introduces us to Commander Kruger, the typical grizzly war vet.

The next volume, Conspiracy, gives us a bigger glimpse into the Empire characters, especially Crown Prince Rudolph, who appeared momentarily at the end of Volume 3. Rosso and Viola become much more than random desert bandits, protecting the child from Prozen’s assassins. This disc also contains the first appearence of one of the coolest Zoids ever, the Genosaurer. Seriously, this thing is so much better than Raven’s old Zaber Fang. The color scheme, the mech design, the charged particle gun, it all kicks. It’s menacing without looking goofy and proves to be an actually credible threat, especially considering what it does to the Shield Liger. Of course, this is just an appetizer for the next disc, in which Van gets the awesome Blade Liger.

This was one of the first anime to blend 3D and 2D animation, and for the most part it works. The actual Zoids are animated pretty well, though there must not have been money for many big battles as often enemy Zoids do nothing but stand motionless waiting to be hit. Transfer is what you’d expect for a budget release, and while the destruction of the Zaber Fang is pretty good, the 2D animation doesn’t really stand out. The character designs are unique, but not much is done with them.

Sadly, there is no Japanese track, but at least we get a decent dub. Blue Water doesn’t do many good dubs (see Zeta Gundam), but Zoids: Chaotic Century actually works, even if some of the characters overact their lines. It is far from a perfect dub, but it’s listenable. Since only the true fans will likely even know this series exists, they already know how much they like or dislike the dub. Still, it couldn’t have been that much trouble to include the original Japanese audio.

Extras? One character bio per DVD (Moonbay and Raven, respectively) and one Zoid bio per DVD (Gustav and Genosaurer). That’s it. Oh, and the insert has the covers of the manga graphic novels on the other side (I am so glad they didn’t keep Fiona’s hair green for the anime!), but this is still kind of pathetic. Come on, Viz! At least give us some cool trailers or the Toonami promos!

This isn’t that bad a deal. Six episodes a DVD at less than $15 is pretty good. However, the lack of an original Japanese track is a serious flaw. If you’re a fan of this series from Toonami and you can’t afford $25-$30 a DVD, though, this could be for you.

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