animefringe april 2003 / reviews

Zoids Vol.4: The Shadow Battle
Format: dub DVD, 5 eps., 110 min.
Production: VIZ, LLC / Pioneer
Comments: Another dub-only Cartoon Network version of a cute show. Hooray.
Animefringe Reviews:
Zoids Vol.5: The Shadow Battle

In the world of Zoids, warriors participate in a worldwide contest known as Zoid Battles to prove who is the most talented at piloting the Zoids. Zoids are gigantic animal-like mechanical creatures with some sentience. They can be modified in every way imaginable to enhance their speed, strength, maneuverability, or any other trait. While most Zoid battles are sanctioned by the Zoids Commission, there is a rogue group (called the Backdraft Group) that caters to a large and wealthy audience that operates outside of normal Zoids jurisdiction. This group has no problems breaking the rules to make a fight more interesting, and thanks to their underhanded fighting, they tend to overwhelm standard Zoid pilots.

The main characters belong to the Blitz team, which has enjoyed an incredible number of wins since newcomer Bit Cloud came along. Together with his fellow teammates, he's destined to see just how much potential his Zoid -- the Liger Zero -- has.

In this, the fourth volume of Zoids, the Blitz team once again battles the Backdraft group, and by now they're pretty confidant in their abilities to beat the underhanded Zoid warriors. In one of the more amusing (and bizarre) episodes of the series, Benjamin falls in love with a female judge. This disc also features a reunion with Leon and a new addition to the Liger Zero -- the Panzer modification. The newest upgrade for the Liger increases its offensive and defensive abilities, but at a price. When donned, the Panzer increases the weight of the Liger and causes the Zoid to overheat quickly. Only a skilled pilot can employ it with any degree of success. The fourth episode on the disc gives Brad a chance to pick up a new Zoid, but you'll have to watch it to find out more.

The animation, as always, is rather impressive in this series. Sure it's all computer-aided, but as a result, the visuals are sharp, smooth, and colorful. The animation for the Zoids is really interesting to a CG enthusiast such as myself, though fans that only want to see traditional animation will be turned off by the frequent use of 3D graphics.

This is unfortunately a dub-only release, which keeps the price low and appeases the fans of the Cartoon Network run of the show, but for people like me (who don't watch TV and prefer Japanese to a dub) I feel a bit shafted here. After all, the Japanese language version is already produced -- why not just slap it on the disc? Bandai did it for Ronin Warriors and The Big O, and with a more recent show like this, it seems odd to ignore its origins.

That said, this isn't a painfully horrible dub, and while the acting isn't always perfect, it is bearable. The voice actors sometimes sound a little bit too corny, and while this is a show for younger viewers, it could grab an older audience with a little more care shown for the way the audio is presented.

The music is good, as always, and while I don't want the soundtrack it does enhance the mood of the show in the right way at the right times.

Extras are slim; they include a detailed look at three Zoids (the Storm Sworder, Liger Zero Panzer, and Shadow Fox), an advertisement for the Zoids toys, and the Zoids score book. The scorebook simply details the opponents and results of each battle in the series, and it acts as a nice summary of the past discs for viewers with foggy memories.

Admittedly, my enjoyment of Zoids has increased as I've watched the show over the past year. However, the quality of the show itself hasn't increased much, and thus it remains average but entertaining anime. This is going to appeal to hardcore mech fans or followers of the show on television, but there's not much to be found here except a cute show with CG animated fighting creatures.