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DVD Review

DVD cover

Baldr Force Exe


Starring (voice): Kenichi Suzumura, Noriko Shitaya, Daisuke Ono and Hitomi Nabatame
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £14.99
Certificate: 18
Available 26 January 2009

In the not too distant future, cyberspace - known as The Wire - has become another accessible reality. The Wire is used by both public and the military, and groups of hackers delight in breaking into encrypted servers. One such hacker is Souma Toru, part of a group who collectively go by the name of Steppenwolf.  However, during one hack the group run afoul of FLAK, who has set a trap for terrorists, and a member of Steppenwolf is killed. With his group mortally wounded, Toru accepts a job with FLAK to find and kill the person he blames for his friends death...

Baldr Force Exe (2006) is a four episode OVA directed by Takashi Yamazaki and based on the original console game. The anime is touted as a mix between The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell (GitS) - big boots to fill indeed.

Like GitS, this is a mecha story - the only difference is that the mecha is how the characters appear in the virtual world after they have jacked into the system via chairs (not a million miles away from The Matrix). Although it plagiarises from some of the best stuff out there, does it have anything of its own to offer?

One of the strengths of the OVA is the script, which presents an intelligent, adult view of the protagonists’ lives. The eighteen certificate reflects the level of graphic violence on show and a rape scene which only just circumvents its hentai roots. It’s not just the addition of sex and violence which helps the story break away from its roots. In Baldr the intelligent writing has you actually caring for Toru as he discovers that the world isn’t as black and white as he thought.

The mecha scenes work okay, but the level of the animation does just not hold up against GitS. The 2D effects seem dated after a plethora of shows have gone over to CGI. That’s not to say that there aren't moments that make you sit up and take notice, the problem here is that they are interspersed with some pretty average fare. Some of the characters are just off the shelf stock, so you get the grumpy army boss and a bunch of cute girls. The female President has almost impossibly large breasts, so it is relatively easy to see who the producers thought would be their audience.

I never played the original game, but it’s obvious that the show really takes off, once it shrugs off its origins, with a central mystery whose resolution brings the show to its bittersweet end. Mention should be made of the OVA’s score which is above average and creates a truly atmospheric soundscape.

The show is presented in English and Japanese stereo,with subtitles which, although it does a nice job, a 5.1 remix would have been better. There is nothing in the way of extras, save for three trailers.

So the show has a strong script, good music and a convincing English dub, but this is let down with the uneven animation. Overall I remained impressed with the finished product.


Charles Packer

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