Anime DVD Review
Once upon a time there was a show called "Lost In Space", which, much later, became "Star Trek: Voyager", except that Lost in Space knew it was vapid and cartoonish, while Voyager took itself too seriously.
Vandread follows the Voyager formula: two groups hostile to one another are suddenly thrown into another part of the universe and have to work together to find their way home. However, the two groups that are hostile enemies in this case are "males" and "females".
Raised with the belief that women are horrendous, drooling, disease-infested monsters, Hibiki Tokai is in for the shock of his life when he encounters an entire shipful of buxom babes. Hibiki is a lowly mechanic living on a planet inhabited only by men. Generations before, the genders separated, and since then, both male and female perceptions of each other have become a bit... skewed. While launching a new "male" warship, Hibiki stows away, and becomes one of the few survivors of a female assault against the ship.
The notion of men and women separating themselves to live on completely different planets for a never clearly-defined reason is pretty ridiculous, but it works rather well for a series that explores - however superficially - the differences between men and women. In truth, the series highlights the differences between the sexes for laughs and a bit of harmless fanservice. Surprisingly, the fanservice isn't nearly as bad as it could have been, and in for once, actually seems to be a part of the plot rather than a meaningless add-on to attract a male demographic.
Anyhow, due to an explosion, the surviving men and women are blown into another section of space and must find their way back to "civilization". Men and women, who've never seen each other in the flesh are... well, they get to find out about each other (ooh-la-la), as they work together, and they encounter quite a few surprises on their trip back into their own territory. I don't want to give away the plots twists as some are quite surprising.
Campy and silly and way more kawaii than it needs to be, Vandread shines when it doesn't take itself seriously, but sometimes suffers from the occasional case of preachiness. Thankfully, the serious moments are few and far between, and the ridiculous premise and cheesy action more than make up for occasional slip into trying to teach us viewers "something important". Fortunately, Vandread knows it's vapid and cartoonish, and often takes advantage of that to extremes.
But ultimately, it's about the characters and they are quite endearing, which is really what makes this series a winner, because really, it's "Lost in Space" and "Battle of the Sexes" and everyone, even the producers, knew it.
Reviewed by Brian Cirulnick, August 2009
Below: Scenes from Vandread.