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"Mars Daybreak" Needs More Depp

OK, so we’ve had pirates sailing the seven seas, pirates racing across the universe, and pirates ransacking pretty much everything they’ve come across. But we’ve never had pirates on Mars. Have no fear. This gaping hole in pirate lore is about to be filled.

Mars has been terraformed and is now mostly water. People live in gigantic city-ships (Stargate Atlantis except not as futuristic), and the Earth government makes the people their lap dogs. As a result, jobs are extremely scarce, to the extent that trash collector work is admired for its security. A young teen named Gram is pretty much fed up with life as it is and wants out, though he’s too lazy to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, a renegade pirate vessel known as “The Ship of Aurora” has docked and is about to meet its newest crew member. Somehow, Gram ends up inside a giant robot (known in this series as “Round Bucklers”) that literally appears out of nowhere. And his childhood friend, Vestemona, has re-appeared on Mars, working for the military! Can Gram make sense out of all this and escape? And why is the President of Earth’s daughter on Mars anyway? And what’s with the talking dolphin?

And not just any dolphin, but one that lives in and operates its own robotic suit and actually helps in the maintenance of the ship. [SeaQuest, anyone? -Ed] Poipoider is one of the strangest things about this series, though he doesn’t appear much in these initial episodes.

The stories are decent but not mind-blowing. The way Gram’s Round Buckler appears out of nowhere seems way too convienent, and the crew of The Ship of Aurora is full of clichés, from the grizzled but chumly female captain to the cute girl who’s all business to the spunky kid trying to prove himself to the deadly killer guy voiced by Steven Blum. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before in other series, and aside from the underwater fireworks, the remote-controlled mechas, and the talking animals, the series doesn’t really try to be anything more than it is. Heck, there’s even a mysterious evil guy who looks like Spike Spiegel with a sword coming out of his hand, though we don’t meet him in Volume 1. And why does everyone keep saying “The Ship of Aurora”? Can’t they just called it “Aurora”? [It's a pimp called Slickback, you got to say the whole thing. -Ed]

Still, it’s not bad, just generic. The battles are actually pretty exciting, and the scenery is different for an anime. The water backgrounds and the city backdrops, while presenting nothing new in and of itself, are still pleasing. And the story does pick up by Episode 4, and Episode 5 is pretty entertaining as everyone is confused and we get a good look into the mind of the Mars Representative. So, harmless fun.

The animation is pretty standard. The action scenes have some good fluidity to them, and the CG doesn’t look all that out of place. Though it won’t leave a mark on your mind, it still looks nice. Thankfully, the presentation doesn’t look nearly as sloppy as Gundam SEED, though I do wish we could get some English credits on the episodes themselves. I mean, why watch the English language version when all the credits are in Japanese?

While it’s not Bang Zoom’s best dub work, the acting in this series is still pretty decent. Johnny Young Bosch gives in another excellent performance as the laid-back Gram, and other LA favorites like Steven Blum, Barbara Goodson, Melissa Fahn, and even Megan Hollingshead (who many people remember as the original voice for Mai in Yu-Gi-Oh!) make appearences. None of their performances define their career, but they’re better than some actors in previous roles. The Japanese version is also here for you purists, though none of those voices were all that standout to me, either.

For extras, there’s the textless opening and closing. Those who get the Limited Edition tin also get a magnet frame with magnets of the volume 1 cover and Poipoider, and the first soundtrack. The music fits the series pretty well, and it’s actually pretty fun to listen to, but it reminds me a lot of the soundtrack to the Escaflowne movie, especially with the drums and the chanting.

However, two things went wrong in this CD: the opening and closing themes on here are the TV-size versions, and about half the disc are these “Log Books,” in which either Gram or Vess narrate what’s going on in the story in diary-form. Now, I wouldn’t really have a problem with this except that Gram & Vess are speaking in Japanese and, obviously, I can’t speak Japanese, so I have no clue what’s actually being said. The best solution would be to make two CDs, one with the English voices and one with the Japanese voices, but I guess I should just be glad that Bandai decided to package the CD in a slimcase instead of the thicker jewel cases.

Overall, Mars Daybreak is very samey. If you’re expecting something groundbreaking, look somewhere else. But if you just want a simple sci-fi action-adventure story, you can do far worse.

Episodes on Mars Daybreak, Volume 1:
Episode #1: Raid! The Ship of Aurora
Episode #2: Ferocious Attack! Round Buckler
Episode #3: Junior’s Deployment Dream Fulfilled!
Episode #4: Contact! Gram and Vess and a Submarine
Episode #5: Anna’s Struggle! The Fleet of our Dreams!

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