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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Zaizen Jotaro TV vs. DVD Part 2: Can Anything Make Episode 1 Better?

It's Part 2 of the comparison between the Zaizen Jotaro anime's original TV airing & its improved animation for the DVD release. Last time we looked mostly at Episode 3, with a quick look at a fix from Episode 9, but the episode that has the most changes is obviously Episode 1.

I want one of these...  Right now!

Being the first episode it likely suffered from the weakest animation in the entire show & needed the most fixing, & the inclusion of the "TV O.A." version of Episode 1 in the set, where it gets an entire disc all to itself, is meant to show the differences between the two. Honestly, though, the changes are focused around two specific scenes: The ridiculous truck escape scene (read my Zaizen Jotaro review for an explanation of said scene) and the final scene where Zaizen meets up with the government official he had been hunting down. So let's get straight to the truck scene:

The scene starts with Zaizen buying a brand-new car, and the most-obvious change is that the car has gone from being animated to being all CG. Also, shadows have been added to the car as well as the car in the top-left corner, not to mention some softer lighting to indicate a setting sun, which we'll get to later.

Now comes the real beginning of the truck scene, and we now see that not only has the car been CG-ed, but the trucks have been, as well! Trans-Arts even went the extra mile and made sure that the trucks were all different colors, unlike the TV airing. Hopefully the "Transport" trucking business got paid for this endorsement...

Here's a shot which shows the benefit of using CG trucks. In the TV version, the trucks were barely animating any sort of veering, so it really looked like Zaizen had little to no visual indicators of where he was. The DVD version fixes that by making the shot look much more realistic, and I must add in that the trucks do veer, slow down, and speed up while holding Zaizen's car in place, very much like how it would look in real life. Also, the DVD version does not remove the "DANGER" and red dot on the GPS, since both versions had them blinking in the scene; I just didn't get them appearing on the DVD shot.

The last comparison from the truck escape scene is only to show that Trans-Arts even fixed the background, making it look more like a forested area than a desert. Granted, I don't know the area around Los Angeles, but I'm going to say that more than likely the DVD version is more accurate, not to mention just looks better.

Now we get to the final scene where Zaizen and the official meet up. The most-immediate change in the entire scene is that Trans-Arts decided to change the time of day from daytime to dusk. I honestly really like this change, since using dusk really shows that Zaizen has been on the hunt since the beginning of the day and that time has passed, whereas the TV version just makes it hard to tell just how much time has gone on. It really helps the scene out, overall.

This fix is done more so that Episode 1 is in the style of the rest of the show. While it doesn't happen for every cut-in like this, a good number of them do darken the part of the shot that isn't the focus so that it's easy to follow who's talking and what the focus is at the moment. This was also done to the shot where Zaizen, in the car, is looking back after escaping the trucks and they are shown falling off the unfinished road via cut-in.

In our final comparison we have the moment where it's revealed that Zaizen called in the special forces, and even some helicopters were brought along! Much like the truck escape scene the main fix is that the helicopters were changed from animated to CG, complete with realistic bobbing and weaving, but we can also see that the officers' positions on the roof were altered to help give a sense of scale to everything.
Overall, the changes made to Episode 1 were all for the better, honestly; hell, even the CG looks pretty good! But, unfortunately, Episode 1's problems were more with the actual story it told and what actually happened in the episode itself, and no amount of visual changes and fixes can make a bad standalone story better from a storytelling standpoint. As it stands, the DVD version of Episode 1 is much improved from the TV version, but on the whole it still sucks and should be skipped or saved for last if you're going to watch Zaizen Jotaro. It's kind of funny how much extra work was done on Episode 1, because it was never going to become an enjoyable episode in the first place, but on the whole the DVD version of Zaizen Jotaro is obviously the definite version of the anime. The show looks nice and sharp due to the DVD-quality video & the fixes and changes made to the animation are for the better, but don't go expecting the show to be any more animated than it originally was. Like I said in the review, Zaizen Jotaro isn't a show that needs lots of fluid animation in order to tell its story, and Trans-Arts' use of cut-ins does get pretty inventive to the point where you might be pleasantly surprised by some of the cut-ins' uses.

Unfortunately, there are no rips of the DVD version, so if you're going to watch the show you have the deal with the lesser TV version. Maybe one day something awesome can happen with Zaizen Jotaro, but for the time being just know that there is a better version of the show out there... You just can't see it at the moment.

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