Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

1 June 2003: VanDread

VANDREAD is big fun.

VANDREAD is a comedic space opera set in a future where men and women have broken off into warring factions colonized on separate planets. They've even gone so far as to forget that men and women ever co-existed together. Their animosity towards each other is further fueled by wild propaganda and Orwellian sociopolitical forces on both sides.

Hibiki running from Dita
Hibiki running from Dita

The series opens as a male warship is attacked by a group of renegade female space pirates. In the course of the battle, a mysterious force flings these pirates a great distance along with their three male prisoners:  A low-caste mechanic turned mecha thief, a doctor, and a coward. Okay, four males prisoners if you count the robot, Pyoro. On their journey home, they forge a shaky alliance united against a new common foe.

Overall it's a good combination of space opera, mecha fights, some slapstick, and even some harem comedy. The recurring odd-couple theme is played to great effect as the three men and their female captors learn to cooperate with each other to fight the threat facing both their planets.

Parfet and Duero
Parfet and Duero

VANDREAD's great strength lies in its characters. They are all very likable and great fun to watch. Naturally, the ebuliant Dita and the boastful Hibiki (the primary leads) develop a sort of love-hate relationship (actually, just love from Dita's end and mostly hate from Hibiki's). Likewise the doctor, Duero, and the engineer, Parfet come to complement each other's strengths and forge a pragmatic union.

It's a fairly large cast, but all the characters are quite engaging and have good chemistry. They also have quite a few surprises in store for the viewer, particularly during the second season.

Meia in a rare, unguarded moment
Meia in a rare, unguarded moment

Sadly, VANDREAD is only 26 episodes long (two seasons of 13 episodes each). GONZO really needs to make a third season because there are a lot of stories left to tell. In fact, I wager all the characters could carry a show on their own, since each of them left me wanting more—well, not that closet gorilla-fucker, but he's just a guest character at best and not a bona fide member of the cast—everyone else, though. I wanted to see more of the stoical Meia in particular.

I suppose I should point out that the space battles are rendered almost entirely in CGI. I typically don't like CGI (I didn't even care for it in Cowboy Bebop), and I hate it when it's poorly done, but the CGI in VANDREAD is quite good and not objectionable. In fact, it makes for rather spectacular (albeit somewhat sterile) space battles.

VANDREAD has too many good elements to mention in such a short span—I wouldn't do them justice. Even relatively minor bits such as the men's discovery of the women's food, or anything related to Gascogne and the stagehands, are a blast. However, I will say that the first season has a sexalicious end-credit sequence. I'm not going to attempt to describe it other than to say it feels positively pornographic.

All 26 episodes of VanDread are available in R1 DVDs by Pioneer (with some kick-ass menus, to boot), although the disks are not anamorphic. Absolutely maddening.

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