Brigadoon (Volume 2: Friends & Enemies) Review
Brigadoon is a charming, if odd, little TV series which continues to exert its strange appeal over me; in particular, the events depicted in the five episodes on this second volume are highly engaging and while the 'monster-of-the-week' motif is still in force, the writers are also beginning (albeit slowly) to reveal some of the show's underlying mysteries. For example, early on one of Melan Blue's former comrades-in-arms (Pyon Silver) turns up and immediately identifies Marin as the 'Creis'… a term which is later echoed by the alien creature Lolo when it approvingly notes that she is accumulating 'Creis-protection units'. Between this and Pyon's many overt references to Melan Blue's 'betrayal' of Brigadoon, we the audience are left with a lot to think about. (Who knows what it all means, but I look forward to finding out.)
Another new development is Marin's facility for locating new monomakia allies to help protect her from the assassins of Brigadoon. Seeing as all of the artwork associated with the series tends to concentrate on Marin and Melan Blue, I can perhaps be forgiven for having thought that he'd be her only otherworldly ally throughout this adventure… but such is not the case. In this disc our plucky heroine enlists not one but two new mecha mates: Poikun, a 'transportation monomakia' in the form of a giant turtle, and Kushatohn, another combat monomakia, though naturally one not quite in Melan Blue's league. I don't know how many more of these ampoules Marin is going to pick up over the course of the series, but these two definitely proved timely finds, each time saving her from imminent disaster.
Which can only be a good thing, as Marin is already starting to lose some of her human friends. As I mentioned in my write-up of the previous volume, Brigadoon has a slightly schizoid personality: on one hand you have hyper-cheerful, bouncy, light-hearted comedy… and on the other you have dark overtones and 'serious' issues affecting the principals. I won't ruin it for you by identifying who won't be around for the next disc, but let's just say that it's fortunate that Marin has picked up precisely two new defenders during these episodes.
Episode Guide (and Possible Spoilers)
6: 'The Silver Grey Visitor'
This episode sees the arrival of a yet another monomakia from Brigadoon, a grey-coloured combat model similar to Melan Blue (you know, the 'one sword, one gun' design)… but for a change, his main interest isn't so much eliminating Marin as confronting his ex-comrade over his motives for apparently abandoning Brigadoon and – by instead aiding Marin – ensuring the floating world's downfall.
Of course, all of this isn't immediately obvious to our heroine, as in a bid to protect her adoptive tenement family from police oppression she agrees to accompany them back to headquarters… and is rewarded for her noble intention with brutality and harsh interrogation. Nor does it help when, back in her cell, Lolo turns up and gives one of its usual cheerful warnings that she should vacate the premises prontissimo (which usually means that another monomakia assassin is inbound). Fortunately for her, Midori's also in the clink for some minor offence and does her best to help Marin escape custody.
7: 'The Brilliant Battle'
Doing just what it says on the tin, this instalment sees Melan Blue and Pyon Silver facing off not once but twice in epic combat. The first time is right outside Police HQ and would have seen Melan's downfall had it not been for a timely intervention by Midori and Marin. While we're waiting for the inevitable rematch, the powers that be decide to take a 'wait and see' (or should that be 'spy from a safe distance'?) approach and order the two detectives who have been harassing Marin and her family to lay off and apologise. However, sensing the apparent finality of Melan's upcoming battle with Pyon, she makes him promise to return to her, then bawls her eyes out on the phone with Moe, convinced that he won't survive…
8: 'The Night When the Sea Turns Dark Blue'
Ah, in the wake of Pyon and Melan's confrontation, things take a calmer turn, and Moe – despite her mother's continued attempts to keep her away from poor 'riffraff' like Marin – actually gets to go on a mini-holiday to the ocean with her best friend (care of Air Melan, of course) by sneaking out in the middle of the night. While it's true that not a lot happens in this episode, more transpires than the two girls realise… including a 'resource harvester' monomakia dropping into the sea nearby, which Melan quickly goes to despatch without telling the pair, so as not to ruin their fun. However, by some strange chance Marin's 'monomakia radar' leads her into a small grotto where a shrine houses another ampoule, similar to Melan's. Deciding that it must be another helpful mecha, she ends up summoning Poikun, a tortoise thingy with a handy passenger compartment (and, for that matter, a very dodgy control mechanism, but let's not go there).
9: 'Pink Flight'
This episode has a serious matter at its core, but thanks to the enormous amounts of fan service present simply comes across as rather fluffy instead. Pink and fluffy, to be precise. As was only hinted at on the previous disc, one of Marin's tenement family – a young woman named Jun who spends most of her time looking after her alcoholic father – has been having a long-term relationship with a man she loves, but who himself was forced into an arranged marriage by his parents. In the end he decides to move far away, foregoing his inheritance and family ties, and asks Jun to come with him so the two can start a new life together. Of course, she is torn because she feels her father will be unable to take care of himself without her and can't decide what to do. He finally makes arrangements to leave on a certain day and asks her to meet him at the train station.
So what does she do? Erm, take Marin and Moe down to the public bathhouse. (Which in animé is more or less an open invitation for fan service and the usual gags hinging upon nudity.) While Marin and Moe stand in frank amazement at the idea of women bathing in the nude and marvel at the difference between Jun's feminine assets and their own flat chests, unbeknownst to them something sinister is going on behind the scenes… the latest monomakia assassin has arrived on the scene, and threatens to bubble up the entire bathhouse and haul it back to Brigadoon!
10: 'The Giant Monster's Brilliance'
And so Marin wins two free tickets to the 1969 International Expo (hosted in Osaka), and off she goes with 'grandma' for a nice day of looking at wonders from all over the world. While the two have a pleasant day seeing the sights, little does Marin suspect that Grandma has her own agenda for coming along, and in the end convinces the girl that she needs a rest… and then, while Marin races around the expo looking at stuff, promptly goes off to find the thing she's looking for.
Considering the show's formula, we are not altogether taken aback when monomakia assassins turn up on the grounds (although, again, you may be surprised to see what form they take!) and begin a rampage. Melan Blue is taken out of play fairly early on and things look black for our protagonist. But what's this in the South American pavilion? A golden ampoule, you say? With help from this unexpected quarter, the tide of battle begins to turn in her favour. (But the real showstopper occurs at the very end of this episode.)
The picture quality of Brigadoon continues to be a joy to behold. Featuring nearly flawless video in every respect, this is a reference-quality DVD for animé. Sometimes I'm frustrated by strange choices in the character design department, but never when it comes to the fluidity, clarity, or colour of the actual animation… but as a digital production only a few years old, it's no wonder the show looks as good as it does. As with the vast majority of animé intended for broadcast on television, the presentation here is 4:3.
Likewise, there's nothing at all wrong with the audio on this disc. Dialogue on both the original Japanese soundtrack and the English dub remains rock-solid, with no pops, distortions, or drop-outs, and the performances of either cast (with one notable exception as regards the English version) are perfectly competent. However, there's also nothing very exciting about the sound here; while a Dolby 2.0 mix, you don't get a lot of stereo separation or bass effects during battle scenes… it's all very straightforward. As ever, the show's music is catchy and remarkably cheerful (almost inappropriately at times) J-pop.
The menus on this DVD follow the model established in the previous volume, with nice clean lines and fast access times; the primary change involves the addition of quite a bit more motion to the main menu screen, although the fact that the same animation is used to mark transitions between each sub-menu means you may grow weary of seeing it before you're through watching the disc.
As before, we are presented with a decent number of special features on this second volume of Brigadoon, including a line art gallery containing 21 nearly full-screen production sketches (running the gamut from Marin to Melan Blue to Lolo), the original Japanese opening, another selection of out-takes from the English dub, and a 5 ½ minute behind-the-scenes with Wendee Lee, a fairly well-known American voice actor who has played key roles in the dubs of several of TOKYOPOP's current animé properties. Unfortunately, this last feature isn't quite as exciting as it sounds, taking the form of an interview segment intercut with video of her working… and it's only in the last 30 seconds or so that she even mentions Brigadoon.
In the way of 'pseudo-extras' we have the same set from the first volume: GTO: School's in Session, the Initial D music video, and a selection of previews of other TOKYOPOP releases (Real Bout High School, GTO, Reign, Vampire Princess Miyu, and TOKYOPOP's well-respected '100% Authentic Manga' line).
Another definite improvement from the previous DVD is that the reverse of the insert card (inside the Amaray case) is populated with handy linguistic/cultural liner notes, instead of serving merely as more ad space. While not quite as in-depth as the ones AnimEigo has become famous for, these notes do help make sense of certain aspects of the show which might not be familiar to the average viewer.
TOKYOPOP has given animé fans another very strong (and at five episodes, value-packed) DVD with volume 2 of Brigadoon. While the story doesn't progress by leaps and bounds, we are being drip-fed key elements regarding the strange floating world and Marin's involvement with same. The addition of a couple more monomakia 'friends' for our heroine is certainly welcome, as are the nice touches in the character development department. Not only that, but the company continues its trend of ending these discs on a taut, dramatic note. (You'll see for yourself.)