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FREEDOM BD BOX SET (BLU-RAY)
The sci-fi OVA Freedom (2006) takes place in the 23rd century. Decades earlier, a space station crashed, initiating a series of ecological catastrophes that left the Earth largely uninhabitable: humanity survives in the rigidly controlled lunar megalopolis of Eden. Frustrated by this restricted environment, 15-year-old misfit Takeru and his friends Kazuma and Bismark run afoul of the authorities when they try to break into the illicit equivalent of street racing. While performing his sentence of "volunteer work" on the lunar surface, Takeru discovers a photograph of a girl. Smitten, he tries to discover her identity. Alan, an eccentric ex-scientist, reveals the picture was taken on Earth. But Takeru has been taught that the Earth was reduced to barren rubble: Humans exist only in Eden. The ruling council pursues Takeru and his friends as they search for the truth. Determined to find the girl in the photo, the teen-agers take the only way out of Eden: a century-old emergency rocket. Takeru and the fussy mechanial genius Bismarck escape just ahead of the police, vowing to return to get Kazuma. When the two exiles reach the Earth, they discover the planet is largely desolate, but plants, animals, and small colonies of humans still exist. Takeru meets Ao, the mystery girl, and resolves to break down the barriers that separate Earth and the Moon. At various times, all of Takeru's friends comment, "When I hang out with you, there's never a dull moment." Although some sequences reflect the influence of Akira a little too obviously, Freedom is an entertaining blend of 3D computer graphics and 2D drawn animation. The Blu-Ray set is a vast improvement over the HD release that only included one episode per disc and no English track. (Rated 13 and older: minor violence and risqué humor) --Charles Solomon
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This anime took me by surprise. It has action, comedy, drama, and romance. The characters are likable, and the story is original and fantastic. My only complaint is the animation. The animation is very good; I just dislike the style. It's very different. You'll see what I mean if you watch it. the voice acting, and soundtrack are also quite well done. I think that this is something that everyone can enjoy. I strongly recommend it.
With so many top-tier talent involved in this project, the expectations were indeed high.
And from start to finish, I found myself enjoying the series thanks to its unique storyline, beautiful visuals and animation and on both the Japanese and English voicework were well done.
The storyline of "FREEDOM" takes place in the Republic of Eden. A man-made area on the side of the moon where millions of people live due to the Planet Earth being destroyed by a shift in the climate.
The series takes place 160 years later since Earth's destruction and focuses on is three friends. Takeru, Kazuma and Bismarck (Bis), teenagers who live on the city of Eden. Takeru has turned 15-years old and has completed his compulsory education and thus will be integrated to society but for a short time, he has a little freedom. So, he and his friends take part in races. Takeru being the hot headed racer who wants to be the popular racer who gets the girls like his rival Taira. With the help from his friend Kazuma and the gifted mechanic, Bis, with spare parts, the three manage to build a vehicle.
As the race begins, a mishap gets Takeru in trouble and so, he has to do 15 hours of volunteer work. While walking through the lunar landscape, Takeru discovers an area which has a bunch of rubble but a photograph of a girl and for Takeru, it's love at first sight.
With the help of their friend Allan, an older person who is knowledgeable about Earth (or overly a big fan of Earth's classic space programs) peaks Takeru's interest in the girl and the Planet Earth. Thus with Allan's help, Takeru and Kazuma get themselves involved in an illegal search through the landscape to uncover more photos but while looking, they see the Planet Earth. And a message from the photo that the residents are doing well.
Both Allan and Kazuma are shocked because the citizens of Eden have been told that the Planet Earth has been destroyed and that there were no survivors, thus the guys hatch a plan to go to the Planet Earth to learn the truth about the planet and also to find the girl in the photo. The only problem, the Republic of Eden will do what they can to make sure their secret of the planet Earth is kept.
The seven episodes in the OAV series was just so enjoyable that there are key parts in the storyline that happen, that for me to even describe each episode can easily spoil the series for people, so I refuse to do that. Instead, all I can say is that the storyline, the animation and the acting is top notch. You'll no doubt enjoy the series from beginning to end and most of all, "FREEDOM" looks spectacular on Blu-ray. And don't be surprised if you find yourself craving for Nissin Cup Noodle (thanks to the not-so-discreet promotion of the group loving to eat the food a lot and its product placement).
VIDEO & AUDIO:
I have not watched the series on DVD or HD-DVD, so I can't really compare the quality differences but I can say that the series utilizes the 3D cel-shading work that anime viewers enjoyed from films such as "Appleseed: Ex Machina" and "SOS Metropolitan Explorers". But not only do you get the sci-fi technological look courtesy of the Republic of Eden, you get the lush and beautiful colors from the planet Earth. Well, done. Beautiful animation and lush, painted backgrounds. There is a lot of detail featured in some of the artwork and was very impressed.
As for the audio, you get Dolby TrueHD and the various sounds of the vehicles from the screeching of the tires, the metal and the sparks and various sound effects from each speaker was done quite well and sounds awesome on my home theater.
But my surprise was to find an English and French dub track. So, I was quite pleased to know the Blu-ray disc would feature three audio tracks and for both the English and Japanese tracks are well-acted (note: I didn't listen to the French audio track).
There are quite a bit of special features included in this box set. Included are:
* DISC 1: The first disc includes the introduction trailer, Freedom 1 and Freedom 2 digest, another vehicle race, talking about FREEDOM Session 1 and the Nissin Cup Noodle TV commercial digest.
The first session which is 17 minutes long features a round table discussion with Director Shuhei Morita, Series Planner Dai Sato and Scenario Support Gich Ohtsuka. Interesting discussions feature Morita talking about how the original plan was to create an anime-based commercial and how it evolved into an OAV series. Sato talks about making the episodes on a very tight deadline and working with a variety of screenwriters. Especially the experience working with Katsuhiko Chiba (Gundam and Outlaw Star) for the first three episodes and Yuichi Nomura (Eureka) for his knowledge on romantic scenes. The digests are pretty much a two minute condensed moments of an episode.
The prologue is included also on disc 1.
* Disc 2: On disc 2, you get the digest versions of episodes 3 and 4. Also, the second part of the "Talking About Freedom - Session 2' featuring Director Shuhei Morita, Series Planner Dai Sato and Scenario Support Gich Ohtsuka. This featurette is about 18 minutes long. The group talks about the buildup of the storylines and having to create episode 1 short handed but eventually getting more staff (especially those who came from "Steamboy") to come in and help keep things organized. Then they talk about their favorite moments of episodes 3 and 4.
* DISC 3: The third disc features the digest versions of episodes 5 and 6. Also "Freedom in the USA" Part 1 and 2. Part 1 features Director Shuhei Morita and Series Planner Dai Sato at the Long Beach Convention Center for Anime Expo 2007, promoting the first anime HD-DVD and interviewing anime attendees who just watched the first episode. This first part is about twelve minutes long. Also, you learn how happy they were of meeting fans who just come up to them and not afraid to talk. You can tell the two were so happy to interact with the American fans. Afterwards, the duo go to visit Santa Monica and travel on Route 66 which plays a part in the episodes of "FREEDOM". Part 2 is about 13-minutes long and features the duo going to Washington, D.C. to visit the Smithsonian since it was depicted in the anime series and checkout the National Air and Space Museum and later, the two went to the Annex and talked about how they used a lot of the older space technology on FREEDOM and also to see their excitement to see things closeup.
* Disc 4 - Disc features the episode 7 digest, "Freedom: The Hope", next episode trailers, "FLY ME TO THE MOON: The Apollo Journey", "FLY ME TO THE MOON: From the Apollo to Freedom" and messages from the characters. "The Hope" is a short near two minute race featuring Takeru, Kazuma, Biz and Ao in their vehicles racing and somewhat of an epilogue.
The "FLY ME TO THE MOON" featurettes are about ten minutes long and pretty much showcases footage from the 1960's with JFK, the space race between the US and Russia and who would get to the moon first. A cool featurette because it's old NASA footage but the video was more or less Allan trying to get the guys know about the history of flight and the first people to get to the moon and showing actual history via phoos and video footage. The second part is continuing the featurette and is about 13-minutes long. Actually the featurette is a good primer for those not familiar with the space race and the challenges the US had to face including the tragedy. Actual video footage from the past and how it ties into the people at Eden.
The last part "messages from characters" features the main animated characters saying thank you to everyone for watching and their support.
And included with the limited edition box set is a manga featuring Takeru. Before the events of episode 1 and the storyline seems to be more deep and teenage angst than the anime series. But nevertheless, another cool inclusion to a box set already packed with special features.
Again, Bandai Visual has hit another home run with their Blu-ray releases. It's one thing to get quality DVD's and I've praised Bandai Visual's higher encoding of their DVD audio but having the opportunity to finally watch "FREEDOM" on Blu-ray was just an incredible experience.
The anime was just crisp and colors extremely vibrant, I was very pleased. But to release a Blu-ray box set that not only features the complete series but also provides us with a lot of special features and also a manga booklet.
But as for the storyline of "FREEDOM", it was so refreshing to have a sci-fi storyline to be so different, unique but at the same time lighthearted. Overall, it was just one of those exciting moments when you watch a very well done anime series and you just find yourself just amazed of what you just watched and how well it was carried out from the episode 1 all the way to episode 7.
If anything, I wouldn't watch the trailers or the special features on each disc until you finish the series because some of the trailers may contain spoilers.
All in all, the "FREEDOM" Blu-ray Disc BOX Limited Edition certainly delivered. From the all-out quality of the anime production, the well-written script, the inclusion of voice acting in Japanese, English and French, inclusion of the manga and plenty of special features, fans of the series should be pleased with this box set. Again, Bandai Visual continues their dedication to quality with their releases and I'm really impressd with their Blu-ray releases thus far. Highly recommended!