Bandai // 2003 // 325 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Mac McEntire // May 25th, 2006
It's the future. Mars has been colonized, with various domed city-states now calling the red planet home. To settle disputes or make agreements, each city relies on gladiator contests. In Serena City, the top fighter is the young but strong Layla Ashley. Deciding she's had enough of the gladiatorial life, Layla leaves the city and goes off on her own. She's in search of Volk, the most powerful man on Mars, who may or may not be her father.
In her travels, Layla picks up two companions, Nei and Speedy. Nei is a "doll," a robot made to look and act like a little girl, created for the purpose of performing household tasks. Speedy is a "doll breeder," an all-around fix-it man and charming rogue. He suspects that both Layla and Nei are more than what they seem.
The first thing to note about this box set, containing all 13 episodes of Avenger on three discs, is just how nice the packaging is. It's a big, oversized metal box, with the characters and the title nicely engraved onto the front. Inside, the three discs are comfortably held in place with a fancy-looking (but not really) piece of soft foam, and a few reproduced animation cells are also included. The question, then, is whether this series deserves such VIP treatment.
On the plus side, the action elements are the big draw here. All of the many fight scenes are cleverly staged and directed, never getting repetitive or confusing. Layla is sort of like an anime babe version of Clint Eastwood. She's quiet and stoic, and can kick all kinds of butt when she needs to. Each episode also gives us a few moments with Volk and his creepy lady friend, which, although ambiguous, builds some nice tension as the series heads to the inevitable conclusion. For another plus, the futuristic setting offers animators the opportunity to go crazy with their designs, making this world a visually rich one, yet with a consistent "lived in" look to it as well.
For negatives, there are the dolls. I'll leave it up to you to decide for yourself whether robot servants made to look and act like little girls are creepy, but you should know going in that this series places a lot of emphasis on the dolls. Just why these girl-robots are so important and why they're such a source of constant drama in everyone's lives is beyond me. Nei is a pretty cool character, innocent yet mysterious, but besides that, I don't see much of a reason for each character to go all bug-eyed and open-jawed anytime there's a plot twist involving her or another doll.
The transfer here is a good one, showing off the animation's smooth movement and nice attention to detail. Colors are bright and vivid, with deep black levels. The stereo audio is just as solid, especially when the booming sound effects kick in during the action scenes. Audio is in both English and the original Japanese with English subtitles
Avenger is fast-paced and breezy, with plenty of cool sci-fi action to satiate fans. It sometimes gets a little too weird for its own good, though. Gorgeous packaging notwithstanding, viewers will want to test the waters first with a rental before blind-buying this one.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Original Unedited Japanese Opening
* Original Unedited Japanese Closing
* Four Bonus Mini Cells
* Official Site