Zaion (I Wish You Were Here) Volume 1: Epidemic Review
A meteorite has crashed on Earth, unleashing a virus known as "M34" that causes a massive chain reaction from within the human body, turning those infected into beastly killers. An organization calling itself CURE (Committee of the Universal Resolution of Ecocatastrophe) has been put together to fight against this ongoing threat.
NOA (Nano Osmolar Armour) is a small group of soldiers led by Yuuji, assembled to take down those infected with the disease. Implanted with Nano technology, these soldiers can form an outer-protective shell when their cells trigger the devices in their bloodstream. During the fight a young girl named Ai is called upon as a means to end the carnage. This girl, used as a weapon against evil is the last line of defence in a desperate situation.
Zaion (as it shall be referred to from here on) is a series that thinks it is clever but fails to deliver what director, Seiji Mizushima and his team promise. Mixing action, science fiction, a love story and computer generated effects; the crew seem to think they have a unique concept that is quite different to every other anime out there.
Truth be told it is far too much like a lot of anime out there. Zaion offers hardly anything of value, save for a substandard plot that cowers behind a feeble love story that is mostly driven by action and less of the promised character development. All of this is a shame because ADV put together a great trailer that is ten times more impressive than the two episodes featured on this volume.
The trouble with this generic mess is that it tries to wrap everything up in just four episodes that run for less than thirty minutes each. It might have been fine if the project had been better developed, for while there is some interesting techno babble regarding the virus in the series, the rest of the show lacks any kind of research and ends up as a mish mash of ideas.
There have been several successful OVA series that have taken the time out to offer something different, one of the greatest of all time, Macross Plus should have a few leaves taken out of its book as a study of how to put together a spot on mini-series. There are indeed other shows that deserve equal amounts of praise but that would be straying from point that I think you all get by now.
It seems that most anime series from 2000 onward feature computer generated effects in one way or another. Zaion displays them in a less discreet and more in your face manner, which I feel is too bad because the action in the show is actually decent when the cel characters aren't fighting CGI robots. Again I am confused by the comments (that appear on this DVD) suggesting a great concept lifts the series to a higher level. I even began to wonder if those interviewed had been given the opportunity to see any footage or read the finished script.
Gonzo president, Showji Murahama says that Zaion is special because it deals with things that go on inside our bodies. Well more fool me then because that was the last thing that jumped out and hit me in the face with a big old banner saying "Eat this, all you other studios!"
Aside from the occasional burst of enjoyable action the only other thing worth noting is the soundtrack, composed by Kenji Kawai. Kenji offers a varying mix that ranges from strange synthesizer rock, Southern American guitar jams and sweet melodic, classical pieces.
Zaion does little to develop characters in the first two episodes. It shows us that the soldiers are friends but rarely does it keep its focus there. The director is more interested in the two main characters of Yuuji and Ai, but instead of trying to flesh out their background and offer more of an understanding about them he just has them falling in love at first site.
Why does this happen so much in tired love stories? As soon as the virginal young girl sees a boy she blushes and there we have just another clichéd addition to the story. It wouldn't have been so bad had it not felt so forced. I found it incredibly hard to connect with any of the characters in this volume.
Volume 1 contains the following episodes:
Episode 1: "Encounter"
The "M34" virus threatens to take over mankind, the NOA defence force take action and attempt to put an end to the terror that it is inflicting upon humans. Yuuji is a young soldier who works for the NOA. He is torn between his loyalty and his confused mind, but a chance meeting with a young girl named Ai is about to change all that.
Episode 2: "Farewell"
Yuuji receives some bad injuries from his last battle and is rushed to hospital. Ai is shocked when she goes up against the power of the "M34" virus and as Yuuji sits in hospital thoughts go over and over in his silly little head.
ADV present Zaion in an attractive looking DVD package. Also included is a nice booklet featuring production notes, sketches and interviews. The sleeve is also reversible.
The transfer is crisp and clean with no major defects. If anything it is slightly too bright but perfectly watchable. The biggest disappointment comes from the transfer being Non-Anamorphic 1.85:1. What gives? ADV don't often let themselves down but in this instance I feel they have. Saying that, Non-Anamorphic 1.85:1 isn't too bad (unlike non-anamorphic 2.35:1 material). Can't win 'em all.
The usual standards apply to the audio tracks here. The Japanese dub is presented in 2.0 whereas ADV offer an English 5.1 Surround version. Both tracks are clear and both dubs are respectable.
ADV give us a couple of interesting features.
Japanese Promotional Clip
A three and a half minute promo clip that starts off by saying "A classic, digital, science fiction drama coming to you from GONZO this fall!!"
Right that's enough.
Interview with director Seiji Mizushima and writer Natsuko Takahashi
This runs for thirteen minutes and has the director and the writer kidding themselves over how innovative their little project is.
Interview with GONZO president Showji Murahama
Running for a little over four minutes, this has Showji kidding himself over how ace the use of nanotechnology is to help move the story along.
This is a collection of character designs that run for three minutes.
Trailers for: Pre-Tear, Final Fantasy: Unlimited, King of Bandit Jing and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris
I find myself with little else to say. This is barely an average show and I just don't see it improving over the course of the final two episodes.