Vandread The Ultimate Collection Review
Gonzo‘s Vandread ran for two seasons, mixing science-fiction, comedy, mecha and ecchi (“naughty” in Japanese) elements. The story of a mismatched group of men and women who must work together to defend against a common foe, it ran for one season in 2000, then Vandread: The Second Stage came out in 2002.
With the rumor mill claiming that Gonzo will produce a 3rd season, FUNimation has slapped the series – plus two OVAs – onto a 4-disc DVD set called Vandread The Ultimate Collection.
FUNimation Distributes Gonzo’s Vandread The Ultimate Collection
In a far-flung future, men and women not only live on separate planets, they’re also at war with each other. On the all-male planet of Taraak, the men are fed a daily dose of propaganda about how evil women (living on Majere) love to eat men’s livers . . . with or without fava beans and a nice Chianti.
When 16-year-old Hibiki Tokai sneaks aboard a battleship to steal a Vanguard mecha on a bet, he finds himself in the middle of a battle between spaceships piloted by men and women. However, things shift when the men and women’s starships inexplicably fuse together and gets hurled into an unknown portion of space, and the combined craft is then assaulted by an unknown enemy. The men and women must set aside their mutual distrust and suspicion and work together to save their planets from this new, merciless foe.
In the process, Tokai discovers that (a) he’s actually a pretty good mecha pilot and (b) when his Vanguard gets too close to one of the female’s Dread class fighters, they combine into a super-mecha – eventually called a Vandread, hence the title – that’s more powerful than the two separate units.
This ten-year-old anime does look a little dated when compared to more recent offerings. But the space battles are nicely handled, even if there’s that distinctive glossiness that characterizes low-budget CGI work. The character designs are mostly distinctive (you’ll need a cut-out-and-keep guide to keep some of the women straight), and the voice actors had a lot of fun with their roles.
Vandread’s central theme – men and women work better as a team – is delivered in a fairly heavy-handed manner and indeed Gonzo does use a club when offering up any moral lessons in the episode. While the show’s Gonzo pedigree implies a fanservice-heavy romp, Vandread actually develops a rather sweet relationship between the two teen protagonists, and one that’s quite easy to get sucked into.
That said, there are the standard PG-13 ecchi sequences: all the young women wear skintight clothing with obvious cutaways and no bras, plenty of shower and upskirt shots, plus the infamous “clueless man groping a woman’s boob” and “man’s head falling into a woman’s cleavage” gags. Oh, and get used to plenty of jokes about men and women “combining.”
Vandread The Ultimate Collection DVD Extras
There are two Original Video Animations (OVA) included in the set, which essentially summarize the events in both seasons.
Vanguard The Ultimate Collection: Dumb, Sweet and Addictive
While Vandread doesn’t really advance the art of animation or storytelling, it does offer a comic love story, plenty of CGI space battles, and an intelligent mid-season twist. It’s also surprisingly easy to watch, which is why Vandread: The Ultimate Collection gets a 3/5.