About This Item

Preview Image for Baldr Force EXE
Baldr Force EXE (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000112188
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 19/1/2009 14:52
View Changes

Other Reviews, etc
  • Log in to Add Reviews, Videos, Etc
  • Places to Buy

    Searching for products...

    Other Images

    Baldr Force EXE

    7 / 10


    There's nothing that can send chills down this reviewer's spine faster than the words, 'based on a computer game'. I suffered near fatal injury to my sanity early on when I was subjected to classics of the genre like Streetfighter, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros, and Wing Commander, and later adaptations like Tomb Raider and Resident Evil did little to alter my opinion that this is a medium best left untouched. There couldn't be two more similar visual media around, games and film, but for some reason, they just don't work together. So consider my confusion when Baldr Force EXE turns up for review. It's an anime, which is my current obsession, one that quite honestly I can't get enough of. But then I learn that it's based on a PC, PS2 and Dreamcast game. I'm already torn between love and hate, and I haven't even put it in the player yet. But then I think back to the other anime that I have seen, and surprisingly quite a few have tie-ins to computer games, or have been adapted from them, and shows like Lunar Legend Tsukihime, and Rumbling Hearts haven't turned out all that badly. It has something to do with the greater degree of narrative in some Japanese console games, especially those weighted more towards adult players. It's enough to earn Baldr Force EXE the benefit of the doubt until the bottom of the page.

    This is Manga Entertainment's first 2009 release of Funimation product, following their licensing deal of 2008, and the release of xxxHolic last year. It's the herald of a whole glut of Funimation anime coming through the auspices of Manga in the next few months.

    Inline Image

    It's the future, which means that everyone is jacking into the net, preferring the escapism of the online world to the miserable reality that waits for them outside. Pretty much like today then, only advances have been made in bioelectronics, which mean that people literally plug into the net, inserting their consciousnesses into virtual worlds of their own design, where their dreams can come true. Except something is going wrong in Paradise. When we first encounter the world of the future, a squad of FLAK mecha simulacra is searching a virtual town, rendered lifeless by a mass flatlining. When one of the squad discovers a mysterious young girl, apparently a sole survivor, all hell breaks loose. And in the real world, those divers plugged into the net all die when their heads explode. FLAK, the net police, need someone more talented to help them find out what's going on, and they turn to Tohru Soma, one of the now defunct Steppen Wolf hacker group. Together with his friends Akira, Tsukina and Yuuya, they attempted a super hack of FLAK headquarters, only to be captured, while Yuuya was killed in the virtual realm. Faced with a long prison sentence Tohru agrees to work for FLAK, but only if his friends are released. Yet all the while he has an ulterior motive, find the FLAK diver who killed his best friend. But the company behind the future Internet technology, VSS, is engaging in dangerous research, while the Fe Tao cyber-terrorist group proves to be an even more immediate danger for Tohru and his FLAK diver colleagues. Then Tohru meets that mysterious girl, who impossibly hacks into his own private virtual world, and insists on calling him 'big brother'.

    All four episodes of Baldr Force EXE are presented on this disc from Manga Entertainment, First Contact, Again, Truth, and Rebuild.

    Inline Image


    Baldr Force EXE gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that's quite pleasing on the eyes. It's got just a hint of the NTSC-PAL signs, but more obvious will be the slight compression artefacts during moments of frenetic motion on screen. It's an imaginative and visually impressive show, with a good deal of imagination gone into the world designs and some rather striking and memorable characters. When you have an endless vista of virtual worlds to explore, the sky is the limit, and the anime does a good job in giving us some variety in looks and moods. There's also a good contrast between the virtual worlds and the real world, with its rain soaked, grimy, rundown feel. As you would expect from an action anime of recent vintage, 2D and 3D are combined seamlessly to good effect.

    Inline Image


    The disappointment here is that there is no surround track, merely two DD 2.0 Stereo tracks in English and Japanese. You'll have to rely on what magic prologic can work on them for any surround presence, but the opening sequence delivers an unexpected surfeit of bass. The music is pleasant enough, and the sound design offers all that you would expect from an action packed virtual reality adventure. It's just disappointing that there is no 5.1 track to make full use of it. The English dub isn't the best ever; to be honest it feels a little half-hearted to me, as if some of the actors weren't invested in their characters. It will do in a pinch, but the Japanese version is by far the preferable one. The subtitles are clear, but for once are actually a little too literal. What in the English dub is clearly Leviathan, is transliterated with the full Japanese accent in the subtitles, as 'Revia-san' Similarly, the character named Bachelor is spelt as 'Bachela' in the subs. It's identical in that respect to the Region 1 release.


    Simple, static menus offer you trailers for Black Blood Brothers, Jyu-Oh-Sei: Planet of the Beast King, and xxxHolic, all Funimation licences that will be coming soon or are already available from Manga Entertainment.

    The Region 1 disc has a 2-minute promo video, and the textless credit sequences, but I doubt that would be enough to make anyone rush off and import.


    Baldr Force EXE is a show that wears its influences clearly on its sleeve. It isn't shy of announcing just what it has plundered, and regardless of whether you're an anime fan or not, this show will be achingly familiar to you. There are echoes of Tron, The Matrix and Scanners that will be immediately apparent, while if you have seen more anime, you'll be pointing at Ghost In The Shell, Akira, and Serial Experiments Lain as influences. Of course there's the ever-impending doom that is a videogame adaptation. The thing about Baldr Force EXE is that somehow it all works. For an adaptation of a game, it has a surprisingly strong and complex narrative, with a whole lot going on, while it not only is proud of its influences and homages, it practically revels in them, flaunts them. These are anime creators who are taking the best of what they have enjoyed and making use of those ideas as well, but always making sure that the most important thing, the story is not forgotten.

    Inline Image

    There's a good deal of story in Baldr Force EXE, a hell of a lot, and we are thrown right into the deep end, with a back-story in place, and characters already developed. In a sense we are playing catch up right from the word go, and I wonder if those who have played the game have a better grounding when it comes to watching this. It doesn't matter much, as the story progresses at a headlong pace, filling in blanks as it goes. The two-hour runtime is generous for an anime disc, but we really are jam packed with narrative here. It's a little too packed really, as character development gets sacrificed as a result. Baldr Force EXE could really do with being about an hour longer, just a little more space to let the story unfold more naturally, to let the characters breathe, and to give us as the audience an opportunity to get to know, and more importantly develop sympathies for them. As it is, the show comes across at a machine gun pace, with action scenes interspersed with exposition. Some of the plot twists and character developments come across as contrived and unrealistic as a result.

    Inline Image

    In many ways, this is classic Manga Entertainment, reminding me of their old school anime videos. It's a cyberpunk title, it's chock-a-block with violence, gore and mayhem, and it's also got a bit of animated sex, although nowhere near as much as the credit sequences to the episodes promise. In that respect it's very much like a James Bond movie, and the virtual assault that occurs in the second episode is as far from titillating as you can get. The only thing that is missing is some over the top profanity; otherwise it could have been a trip down memory lane for me.

    Inline Image

    A cyberpunk thriller, with characters jacking into the net by plugging their brains directly into computers, winding up in virtual worlds where they battle in simulated mecha suits, what could go wrong? Especially when you have secret conspiracies, hidden pasts, evil corporations and cyber-terrorists thrown into the mix. It should be what every anime fan has ever wanted. In the end though, Baldr Force EXE is let down by thin characterisation. It's like a fireworks display. You'll gasp with delight at the pretty colours, be shaken by the loud bangers, and be thrilled with the spectacle of it all. But then you're left with a fading memory of good money literally going up in smoke, and the faint smell of rotten eggs. Baldr Force EXE is great to watch when your brain's on autopilot.

    Your Opinions and Comments

    Be the first to post a comment!