[NB: It's clear from this blurb that no one at Kiseki has actually watched the video. Sol Bianca is the name of the space ship, and the girls are not sisters]
"Sol Bianca a space pirate, travels on his space ship with his 5 sisters."
"One day his sisters meet a boy named Rim who was on his way to attempt a coup against the military dictatorship. In exchange for promises to receive information about the palace treasure, the sisters go with Rim to his planet, and here the space war begins..."
Concept: Toru Miura Director: Part 1: Katsuhito Akiyama, Part 2: Hiroki Akiyama Character Design: Naoyuki Onda Mecha Design: Atsushi Takeuchi Copyright: NCS/NEC Aveneue/AIC Language Format: Japanese Language, English Subtitles Running time: 55/45 mins Certificate: 12/12 Catalogue no: KIS 94046/KIS 94048 Label: Kiseki Films Price: £10.99/£10.99 Release Date: Jan/? 1996 DVD version: Language Format: Japanese Language, English Subtitles Running time: 100 mins Certificate: 12 Label: Kiseki Films Price: £19.99 Release Date: 7th August 2000
Sol Bianca is not exactly a new title; the original Japanese release was in 1990, and the first official English language version was AD Vision's in 1993. In the light of that, it seems a little superfluous to go into detailed story synopses, and in any case I can add nothing to Pat Munson-Siter's excellent article in Anime-UK #10. Yet despite the age of Sol Bianca, it seems an fortuitous time for Kiseki to be releasing it in the UK, as AIC are now considering continuing the story with three new OAVs (http://www.anime-int.com/rumor.html). What we have is a space-opera action-adventure story about five pirates and their technologically superior spaceship, the eponymous Sol Bianca. And if that sounds a little reminiscent of the basic premise of Blake's 7... well that's a comparison that's been made before, and one that brings to mind Rene Laloux's view that animation is an ideal medium for science fiction "because you are limited by your imagination, not by your budget". Of course, this being shonen anime, the pirates are all attractive women.
In fact there are not very many original ideas in Sol Bianca, but the old ones are well done. The action scenes are good, the villain suitably hissable, and (after a brief aberration) the good guys suitably cheerable. And yet for such lightweight fare it is oddly satisfying, and I think the reason is that it never tries to be more than what it is; an enjoyable romp.
AD Vision took a lot of criticism for the somewhat "creative" translation complete with added profanities in their release. Fortunately Kiseki have opted for a new translation by Jonathan Clements which is a considerable improvement.
The video transfer on the review copy was acceptable for VHS, but the sound rather muddy and indistinct. A quick comparison with the AD Vision Laserdisc revealed that this transfer was done in mono (although still in HiFi). I hope that's an error Kiseki put right on the final version. With so few UK releases in subtitled format it seems churlish, ungrateful even, to moan, but I do not like the "black window" style of titling that Kiskeki's subtitling house uses. Sure, it's readable, but it covers too much of the picture and looks ugly. Even a translucent box (as favoured by Channel 4) would be better than this. And I don't really like having the trailers for Urotsukidoji, etc. before the main item rather than after, but I understand and sympathise with the commercial reasons why this has to be.
Minor niggles aside, this is a worthwhile release, and I'd have no hesitation in buying it. If the subtitling were better, I'd definitely prefer it to the AD Vision version. Certainly it gets my vote as the best UK release of this month and I hope it sells well. [Neil Morris]