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Anime: Stratos 4 DVD #3 "Flight 3"
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Age Rating: PG
Company: Beez
Genre: Slice Of Life/Sci-Fi
Running Time: 135 mins approx
DVD Region 2

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"Within the meteors lurks a whole new danger"


Mikaze is a pilot, and she and her three friends have the job of blasting down comet fragments as they enter the earths atmosphere. The comet blasters break up the comets in space and Mikaze and her friends have the less important job of clearing up the smaller bits. Up until this point in the series Mikaze has been in various spots of bother at the base after her headstrong nature caused a meteor to hit a small island, destroying it (it was fortunately evacuated). Mixed in with all this there has been 8 episodes of pretty much nothing happening except critically obese cats leaping about, mild fanservice, the girls restoring a plane and seemingly random kissing between some of the female comet blaster pilots. When I began this volume I wasn't expecting much except another five episodes of light, slice of life fluff. But things turned out better than I expected.

Episode 09: Vapour Trail

We start the disc off with the obligatory hot springs episode, Mikaze and her friends (it speaks volumes at the lightness of the series that the only two characters who's names I know are Mikaze and Karin) are on leave with the rest of the base at some hotsprings. However, the episode soon turns away from the springs when the girls meet a group of geeks, who have some "tin-foil hat" ideas about the amount of asteroids heading to earth recently. Meanwhile Karin is acting rather strangely, eating lots, wandering off by herself and seemingly harboring a need to kiss Mikaze while she's sleeping (she pulls away at the last moment). Up on the space-station the comet blasting team seem to be having similar strange symptoms and certain members of the blasters are beginning to suspect not all is right with their comrades...
The final plot is what is being built up to here, and behind the typical fair of light fanservice the plot is building. Its doing so slowly, but for the first time in the series I switched out of "its good but just silly" mode and took note of what was going on. Karin does seem to genuinely like Mikaze at this point, but with the weird behavior going on in the space station its hard to actually say why. There was a rather sweet moment where they walk home hand in hand though.
Episode Score: 7/10

Episode 10: Mission Abort

The girls are rather stressed (to the point of not noticing Karin's behavior) as a huge amount of comments, along with one huge one head towards earth. They are on call all the time at the base working in shifts with their colleagues to protect their section of the earth. Just as the first wave arrives, contact with all the comet blaster bases is suddenly severed, it appears the majority of the comet blaster crews have decided not to help earth...
Mikaze and co, are scrambled as the first small comet heads towards earth, but as they rush to their crafts Karin collapses. Before Mikaze can get to her side, some rather dodgy looking men in hazard suits take her away on a stretcher into the back of a plane.
Again the tension continues to mount in this episode, with very little entirely clear. It is building up the story pretty well which surprised me considering how light the show had been to this point. But it was certainly impressive that such a light and silly show could take a serious tone so quickly.
Episode Score: 7/10

Episode 11: Target Merge

The action really hots up in this episode as Mikaze and another character (seriously I've no clue what her name is, but she's been in it lots) , are given permission to find out where Karin has been taken. Using the geeks they met in episode 9 to help them, they track her to a government research facility and sneak in. This episode feels more like a secret agent anime more than anything else, and it does it pretty well. The girls adventures cumulating in what appears to be a rather epic car chase scene. This episode also reveals everything. The fact is the comet blaster space stations have been taken over by "evolved humans", who make others the same way as them by kissing them. Obviously this is possibly the most cheesiest plotline possible and has been put in purely for a fanservice type aspect. But anyway, Karin is an evolved human herself! But she has managed to maintain her humanity till now. The asterioids themselves are actually alien ships trying to destroy earth. It appears the creatures on-board the space station wish to have Karin up there with her own kind.
Cheesy and rather pointless plotline aside, this episode was akin to an episode of Najica Blitz Tactics (minus all the panty shots mind), stylish and pretty slick and some exciting moments. If I hadn't laughed so much at a few revelations it would have got an 8, but as it stands I'll give it a 7.
Episode Score 7/10

Episode 12: Engage!

This episode mainly just felt like one long chase scene as Mikaze and the other heroines rush to get a rocket to get to the comet blaster station Karin is at. Up on the space station the world finds out what's happening as some of the still human crew members broadcast a message explaining the situation. There's also a few interesting scenes where the possessed humans battle with what's controlling them, showing they are still human inside. Other than that, not much else happens here. Its stylish enough but feels rather pointless and stretched out with some unnecessary scenes. There's still a slight air of urgency to everything but not as thrilling as before.
But anyway the girls finally get to go into space as they blast off at the end of the episode.
Episode Score:6/10

Episode 13: Final Approach

Things get action-packed once again in the final episode. Back on earth the major asteroids are being destroyed but some are landing and causing death and destruction. And a big indestructible asteroid is on the way. Mikaze and her friends team up with the humans on the space station to defeat the others, and fights (albeit using stun-guns) erupt round the ship. To not spoil this rather good battle too much, lets just say Karin sides with Mikaze and friends and the leader of the villains is defeated. However, there's still the asteroid to destroy and with the clock ticking and only Mikaze, Karin and co not injured, they will have to save the day....whether they do or not is another thing I won't spoil. But its certainly a great and satisfying ending. There were some rather sweet moments again in this episode with Mikaze evidently making Karin very happy that she still trusts her despite her not being human and (for me at least) , proving Karin has a genuine crush on Mikaze. But for the most part this episode is all out action and its certainly the best episode in the anime for it.
Episode Score: 8/10

Overall Disc Score: 7/10

Stratos 4 in summary can be called a silly, light-hearted sci-fi show, with a bit of fanservice some rather cheesy plot devices, but overall a rather likeable cast particularly in Mikaze and an ending that makes up for the rather dull start to the series. If your looking for something fun short and just enjoyable, I think Stratos 4 is a fairly good choice.
Overall Anime Score: 7/10

The dub on this anime needs to be avoided like the plague. It is seriously, seriously bad and features the mot wooden acting I have heard for a long while. The sub is much better though the Japanese voices sounding cheerful and lively a lot of the time, and while there is a tendency to overact in these final few episodes it all sounds good. The opening and ending tunes are both favorites of mine being both extremely cute and fluffy, songs that I embarrassingly sing along, although not to everyone's tastes. No audio problems I could notice.
Audio Score: 7/10

Crystal clear image throughout the disc and the series in general is nicely animated, particularly some of the later parts. One flaw to be found here is that the CGI can look a bit crappy, (GONZO's expert CGI makes it look rather poor quality), but its not enough to spoil viewing. Its just a fun and colourful series throughout and fits in well with the general mood.
Video/Animation Score: 7/10

Extras to be found here are an interview with the lead voice actresses for the Japanese track and the Director (who scares me). Its quite a nice feature in general and a welcome addition. The BEEZ trailers and textless version of episode 13 unique end theme are also present. Decent but by no means great.
Extras: 6/10

Note the DVD image used at the top of this review is not that actual cover, I just couldn't find the Region 2 DVD 3 cover anywhere. The official cover has Mikaze on the girls in their pilots uniforms on ones side and if you really want to see them in their night clothes you can reverse the cover to see the same pose but with different clothes. The DVD case is plain white inside, although there's a small art booklet with bits of information about the show and artwork. The DVD has an image of a plane on it. Booklet and reversible cover is certainly rare for the UK so it's better than most UK releases.
Packaging: 7/10

Overall Scores
Disc Content: 7/10
Anime Content: 7/10
Audio: 7/10
Video/Animation 7/10
Extras: 6/10
Packaging: 7/10

posted by Mangaminx On Wednesday, September 14, 2005  
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