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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

TO - 2001 Nights


Starring (voice): Akio Ohtsuka, Aya Hirano, Jun Fukuyama and Romi Park
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 12
Available 26 September 2011

Fully CGI animated films are becoming more common, especially where budget constraints would cripple a feature, so it is with little surprise that we discover that Fumihiko Sori, director of Vexille (2007), would choose to continue in the same vein for his most recent OVA (Original Video Animation) feature TO - 2001 Nights (2009 - 1 hr, 28 min, 02 sec).

The film is an adaptation of two of the nineteen stories which originally appeared in the manga, 2001 Nights written and illustrated by Yukinobu Hoshino. Elliptical Orbit and Symbiotic Planet represent stories fourteen and twelve respectively.

Both stories share certain features; I don’t mean that there is anything connecting them. Although it would be possible that both take place in the same universe this is not specifically stated, nor implied. The first thing in common is the stunning visuals, which will be especially pleasing to techno-porn freaks, like me, with both the environments and vehicles looking fantastic in every possible detail.

The animation of the characters does have a particularly stylised look; with hard shadows traversing across their features which, personally, I feel gives the faces a slightly false look. However, the characters movements are fluid and there is enough expression there to stop them looking like they are created completely from plastic. What is not so fluid are the plots and character interaction.

Elliptical Orbit is set aboard a future Earth orbit space station whose job it is to literally shoot supply pods to a moon base. Raw materials are often gathered from deep space and, following a fifteen year round trip journey, the cargo ship the Flying Dutchman is returning with its cargo of liquid protons, a fuel which could supply the whole of the energy needs of Earth. Unbeknownst to her captain, Maria, Earth has been through a war while she and her crew have been away, leaving much of the planet in dire poverty. Shortly after she docks, the station and her cargo are attacked by terrorists intent on using her cargo to destroy the moon base.

The story adds another layer with the relationship between the station's commander, Dan, and Maria. Although, the English translation muddies this relationship, initially suggesting that they were lovers, but finally giving the impression that Maria is Dan’s mother, even though it shows Dan watching her leave, aged around twelve. So how come in fifteen years he appears to have aged thirty-five?

Symbiotic Planet is set further into the future when mankind has reached the stars, but has bought his earthbound divisions with him. On the fifth planet orbiting the star Beta Hydri, two competing earth colonies are trying to find ways of harnessing the resources to be sent back to a dying earth. Two young lovers find themselves on opposite sides of this conflict. Alena is part of the Eurasian contingent, whereas Ion is part of the American European outpost. Tensions reach an explosive point when Ion is infected with the alien spores which cover the planet. Fearing an attack the Eurasians launch a pre-emptive attack on the American colony, who are trying to understand Ion’s transformation. With the posts personnel incapacitated by the spores, Ion has to choose between saving his own life or starting another war.

Once again the story looks good, but the emotional heart appears to be missing, which is odd given that it’s virtually a future retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Both stories contain odd and inexplicable pauses when characters interact with each other, which break up the flow of the narrative.

The Blu-ray sports a visually stupendous 1080p 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, with audio options for either an English of Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1, with optional English subtitles.

Extras on the disc are pretty good for an anime, with the most substantial piece being the two interviews. The first looks at the making of Elliptical Orbit (30 min, 17 sec) with the director Fumihiko Sori, with contributions from Akio Ohtsuka (Dan), and Romi Park (Maria). The second follows a similar format for Symbiotic Planet (30 min, 23 sec) once again with the director, supported this time by Aya Hirano (Alena), and Jun Fukuyama (Ion). Fumhiko is very candid about why he works with CGI and the budgetary problems of making quality science fiction film in Japan. The disc is rounded off with collections of trailers, TV spots and teasers.

Whilst the disc may look eye watering spectacular, it’s difficult to get over the fact that the stories rely too heavily on clichés. It’s a shame that given the freedom afforded by CGI, Fumihiko, didn’t do an original story, rather than an adaptation of someone else’s work.


Charles Packer

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