DVD Review: Shangri-La – Part 1

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The latest release from MVM Entertainment is none other than the mysterious Shangri-La, but what do we think of the series and this DVD Release from MVM Entertainment? Find out in our DVD Review of Shangri-La – Part 1.

Synopsis:

In the distant future, earthquakes and the effects of global warming have splintered Japanese society. Some struggle hand-to-mouth in the jungle-tangled ruins of civilization. Some live comfortably within the closed-off city of Atlas. Others lurk online, anonymously hacking the global economy. As nature grows more violent and the divide between classes expands, one spirited girl, Kuniko, must face her destiny and lead her people into the utopia of Atlas.

The city’s ruthless government isn’t going to welcome them with open arms, but Kuniko won’t give up until the gates of Atlas are kicked open for good – even if it means discovering that the promised land she dreamed of is built upon a foundation of twisted secrets and lies.

Our View:

Forgive me if I sound vague, but even after watching all of the 12 episodes included with this first half of Shangri-la the story itself still remains mostly a mystery, that being said Shangri-La is not a completely boring series as in reality its actually rather good, even if it’s not entirely clear why.

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To start off with Shngari-La is set in the near distant future whereby the earth has been ravaged by various natural disasters resulting in humans to live within Shantytown styled cities. Elsewhere a giant high-tech styled City known as Atlas watches over the commoners and monitors their movements, especially when it comes down to the rebellion group known as Metal Age. Its not just rebellion groups that Atlas monitors either, as to avoid any more natural disasters the group maintains C02 admissions and issues penalties to anyone that goes over the recommended limit.

Interestingly neither Metal Age or Atlas are the real “hot topic” of this first instalment, instead its Kuniko Hojo a young girl who speaks her mind and defends herself by using a boomerang. Kuniko is introduced by leaving a girls prison, it’s not entirely made clear why she is in her but throughout this first half of the series we see Kuniko grow from an energetic girl to the leader of the resistance group, all the while uncovering dark truths surrounding Atlas and its mysterious plans, especially its dominant leader.

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To make matters even more confusing there is a variety of different stories being told within the series, none of which have yet to overlap. For instance the story involving Kuniko’s rebellious life unfolds in the shantytown city of Duomo, while in the City of Atlas we witness the dominant mistress executing soldiers and orders at her whim – move on further and you find yourself within the mysterious Moon place which sees a child priestess who is unable step outside and mutilate humans for no real reason, and finally there is the child hacker known as Karin Ishida who uses the medusa system to earn money through Carbon economy market. Each location provides a unique story with a unique protagonist for that location but, for the time being at least, they don’t really overlap into each others storyline so feels like a mash-up of four shows in one.

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It’s because of this “mash-up” that I find Shangri-La entertaining while slow at the same time, as it provides a variety of different character perspectives while never giving you the full picture, thus leaving the viewer wanting more (and an explanation into what is happening). If you are the type of person that wants something explained straight away, rather than over the course of an entire series, then sadly Shangri-La is not for you, as with each passing episode the story becomes more confusing, but interesting. The simple fact is I found myself asking “why am I enjoying this” as in reality you shouldn’t, its like a book that you can’t put down and you don’t know why.

Extras:

Considering Shangri-La is a relatively unknown series, even to most hard-core anime fans, there is a variety of extra features included.

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The ‘regular’ extras are included, such as text less songs and English Cast Commentaries, but surprising additions include a Promo Video and trailers for other anime series.

Disc 1:

  • Episode 1 English Cast Commentary with Tyler Walker (ADR Director) Kent Williams (Momoko), Lindsey Seidel (Kuniko) & Austin Tindle (Kunihito)

Disc 2:

  • Episode 10 English Cast Commentary with Tyler Walker (ADR Director), Anastasia Munoz (Sayoko), Apphia Yu (Mikuni) & Randy Pearlman (Miiko)
  • Text less opening song
  • Text less closing songs
  • Promo Video for “Magical Gina the Akiba Fairy”
  • Trailers

As always the English Cast Commentaries are entertaining to listen to, as it provides an interesting ‘insight’ into how a series is dubbed into English, but even more so as one of the lead female characters is voiced by a male actor (this particular character in the series is a trans-sexual).

It’s also interesting to see the inclusion of a ‘fake’ promo video for Magical Gina the Akiba Fairy. Magical Gina is a ‘fictional’ character within the Akiba district, so you could say it’s a ‘fictional’ character within a ‘fictional’ anime series (which is comical in itself).  This promo trailer promotes that particular anime, which is often reffered to in the TV Series – so even though its included as an extra it doesn’t feel out of place. Disappointingly it’s only available in Japanese with English Subtitles, which is slightly disappointing.

To round out the special features are text less opening and closing songs (both of which are great songs) and trailers for other MVM released series, in this Kiddy Grabe and Red Garden.

Specs:

Media:  DVD 9 x2
Region: 2
Running Time: 2:22:04 (Disc 1 & Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-2
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 448kbps (English), Dolby Digital 2.0 224Kbps (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps

Overall:

Shangri-La is entertaining series for all of the wrong reasons, the story is relatively confusing  and more importantly it doesn’t seem to go anywhere, instead it’s the characters I found highly entertaining and it is because of them that I carried on watching the series. Each character, whether it be good or bad, has a unique characteristic and it’s these enticing characters that kept me interested in the series. For instance Momoko is a trans-sexual and blurts out all sorts of innuendo styled comments in front of people, with Kuniko usually left baffled by what she’s talking about, meanwhile Karin (the girl hacker who earns money through economy markets) has her own troubled issues, for example she has plenty of money but no friends and is afraid to venture outside.

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There is also the princess (priestess) from the Moon Phase, at the start of the series she is portrayed as an evil witch who can kill humans at her whim – yet progress further and she turns out to be a gentle innocent child that just wants to go outside. It’s these ‘developing’ characters that make the series rather unique and entertaining as you always wondered what would happen next to that particular character. Viewers of the series will no doubted find a favourite, but honestly all of the characters have something interesting to offer – whether they were intended too or not.

Back on track with the story, it is the tale of Kuniko becoming the head of the Metal Age rebellion group and attempting to overthrow Atlas so that everyone can live in within it, meanwhile on the inside of Atlas, the dominant leader is carefully monitoring everything and calculating everyone’s moves while waiting for the prophesied day to come.

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In regards to this DVD release the picture quality is amazingly sharp with no pixilation or distortion noticeable in the picture basically it is that clear that I thought I was watching a Blu-ray. This fact is made even clearer when watching the DVD upscaled through a Blu-ray player. Audio is presented in both English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 Stereo (with optional English Subtitles) and each soundtrack was clear, however the 5.1 Surround was a better audio experience for those with a surround sound kit.

Overall Shangri-La – Part 1 is a real mixed bag, the anime itself is slow and a bit boring, but it is the characters themselves that provide the entertainment and not the developing story. While the anime is of ‘questionable’ taste it is the DVD quality that receives high praise. The picture, audio and extra features quality is all top-notch, it is just a pity that the anime wasn’t in line with the quality of the DVD.

Score: review-stars-3

Shangri-La – Part 1 will be available on DVD from the 11th November 2013.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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