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Zipang: Future Shock, Vol. 1Zipang: Future Shock, Vol. 1
Anime DVD Review

Zipang!!! Manga sound effect for a bullet ricocheting off the headband of a Narutard? No! It's the title of one of the coolest shows of the decade!

Many years back I tuned in for the TV broadcast debut of 'The Final Countdown,' a naval war movie with a breathtaking concept: a state-of-the-art warship is inexplicably jutted backward in time to the Pacific theatre of WWII. Once the crew figures this out, they are confronted by one big gutpuncher of a moral dilemma--do they step in to save lives, thereby changing the course of history, or do they invoke the prime directive and watch the horror unfold with the knowledge that they could stop it?

ZipangI watched entranced until their decision was made and then...ZOOOP! Back to the future. I shut off my TV in disgust. A fantastic idea was crushed by a lame-ass cheapo copout ending, obviously motivated by the lack of a special effects budget. Apparently, manga maestro Kaiji Kawaguchi (Silent Service, Pineapple Army, etc.) agreed, because Zipang shares the exact same premise but without the lame-ass cheapo copout ending.

In this case, the warship is a JSDF Aegis cruiser called 'Mirai' (Future) packing cutting-edge radar and weaponry. When they realize what's happened to them, they face the same moral dilemma described above. And little by little it transpires that their mere presence is enough to turn history onto a new path. Before long they decide that their only option for survival is to come in from the cold...and then things get REALLY difficult.

ZipangThis show is plot-heavy the way some of the best seagoing movies are (Red October, Abyss, Crimson Tide, Das Boot, Ice Station Zebra, etc.) and their influence is openly acknowledged in the directing and acting styles right on down to the production design and musical score. Like those movies, the characters are shoved hard by overwhelming events and have to respond intelligently to prevent the worst from happening. I think that's what distinguishes Zipang from so much of today's anime--these are smart, mature, professional adults who understand the consequences of their actions at every step and don't waste a lot of screen time stumbling around to find out what we as the audience already know. In fact, it's usually the opposite--it's up to us to keep up with them.

The same is true of the historical figures in the IJN--rather than being played as backward bumpkins on the wrong side of history, they're every bit as dangerous and calculating as the main cast. Plus, they hold all the power to decide which way fate will turn.

ZipangSince this is a plot-driven show I can't give away many details without ruining the experience. But I will say that when the IJN Yamato looms up out of the mists at the end of episode 1 I literally felt like someone was pushing me down into my chair and saying, "strap in, gaijin."

All 26 episodes are spellbinding, and I often felt as helpless as the crew of Mirai to figure out what ought to be done next. Every move they make ripples outward to impact somewhere, but to do nothing is impossible. As the last few episodes unfolded I kept asking myself how the hell it was going to end, and guess what--it DOESN'T. As it turns out, we've got another Area 88 on our hands. The story is continued in the manga, and as yet there's no sign of said manga coming to our shores.

But don't let that stop you, especially if you're fed up with shows about horny teenagers or over-merchandised robots. Zipang is a perfect antidote to all that and is a welcome example of what ELSE can be done with anime when the adults are in charge.

Reviewed by Tim Eldred, May 2009

Below: Scenes from Zipang.







Zipang Website Links:

Zipang (game) entry at IGN network

Zipang (manga) entry at Anime News Network

Zipang (TV) entry at Anime News Network

Wikipedia entry for Zipang (anime)

Wikipedia entry for Zipang (manga)

Zipang at Internet Movie Database (IMDB)

Zipang entry at AnimeVice

Below: The Japanese opening titles for Zipang.

Below: The Mirai's first battle.

Below: Illustrations from the Zipang manga.

Illustration from the Zipang manga

Illustration from the Zipang manga

Illustration from the Zipang manga

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