Back to the Vaults — Vandread: The Second Stage

Vandread: The Second Stage
ヴァンドレッド the second stage

REVIEW (may contain mild spoilers)

When I initially watched Vandread several years ago, I was not into mecha titles but I was rather impressed with the story of that series, so much so that I bought it and Vandread: The Second Stage before completing the series. It was well worth the purchase of those Pioneer discs (before Pioneer became Geneon).

Every sequel has some notion of surpassing the original. Some fail and some succeed. Fortunately, Vandread: The Second Stage is in the success category. Gonzo gets things rolling both in terms of an added element to the enemy that forces the crew of the Nirvana have to face (the “red light”) as well as taking time to briefly get new viewers up to speed. There are no heavy recaps, but the way Gonzo gets things started successfully merges important bits of information (Paksis; the special connection between Dita, Hibiki, Jura, and Meia; the long separation of males and females) into the story.

At the same time, Gonzo brings in a new character, Misty, who originates from Earth and has been in space for a very long time in suspension. Gonzo uses her character to move the plot forward by revealing certain things that happened on Earth in the past and why the harvester ships were being used. After Misty serves that purpose, she then is used to be a rival for Dita for the affections of Hibiki. Gonzo doesn’t stop there because they use Misty to continue to expand on the male-female relationship aspects that the crew of the Nirvana are only just now starting to come to grips with. As such, Gonzo makes excellent use of the character.

The writers don’t stop there. The character of Bart had solely been used for comic relief purposes throughout Vandread, but early on, the writers have an episode dealing with a planet where the people have been subjected to experimentation by Earth so that the effects of diseases can be documented. While the crew of the Nirvana do what they can, Bart is given a chance to shine and does so, though his efforts do not ultimately result in saving some people he longed to save. What impressed me is that Bart shaved his head in honor of those people and Gonzo kept him shaved from then on. Gonzo still used him as comedic fodder afterward, but he was different from then on while still being Bart. I found that to be a mark of good writing.

Other characters are also given a chance to shine. We get some background information on Gascogne which seemed to tie in with the disaster that effected Meia’s life on Mejere. Barnette more than makes up for her behavior in the first series by taking on a new role in the Nirvana crew. The pirate leader (“Okashira”) Magno Vivan gets to show how much she truly cares for her crew with what amounts to a throw-away scene. Gonzo favorite Meia gets more character development when she’s forced to care for Ezra’s baby. Ezra has to come to terms with having a child and how much she’s come to rely on Pyro to care for the baby. There was (Doctor) Duelo’s having to learn prenatal care. Even recurring guest character Rabat gets some background fleshing out.

It is these character moments that make both Vandread and Vandread: The Second Stage take a step above your traditional harem comedies or even traditional mecha outings. The only problem here is that with only thirteen half-hour episodes, time is limited on how much character work can be done while at the same time advancing the plot AND maintaining the harem comedy aspects of the show. In all honesty, I would have liked to have seen how Magno broke away from the elite rulers of her world and founded her pirate band. I would have loved to have seen how Jura and Barnette met and joined the crew. I would have loved to have seen why Dita was picked to not only be a pirate, but a pilot as well.

Gonzo does a few plot twists and surprises during the course of the anime. I’ve already mentioned in a fairly spoiler-free manner what happened to Bart. There are a couple of other big surprises that happen including the major shocker towards the end of the series. That plot twist goes off well because when one thinks back or rewatches Vandread, some signs were given. The other event (and I’m struggling to word this without spoiling anything) is a rather devastating moment for the crew of the Nirvana. However at the end of the series, all of that is chucked out the window and Gonzo says, “We decided we didn’t like that devastating even earlier, so we magically made it not actually happen.” It is a terrible development despite my liking the characters involved.

Hibiki has some things revealed about him that don’t prove too shocking I suppose since this reveal had been laid out from the start. However, there were some elements that surprised me though.

As I mentioned earlier, Gonzo does continue to explore males and females living together both in a serious and comedic fashion and Misty helps that. I laughed as nearly the entire crew watched the antics and drama of Misty using her knowledge of how to get a guy interested in her while Dita floundered. Seeing Dita lose points wasn’t funny but seeing the girls get so caught up in the idea of a male-female relationship was. Clearly, Hibiki was always interested in Dita but just could never say it. There relationship follows a typical path for shounen romantic-comedy titles, but that’s OK given all the other good in this series.

Also on the romantic front, Duelo and Parfet continue their little relationship, though again, there’s not much there due to the shounen aspect of the series. Bart decides to shoot for the stars and goes for BC with comedic results. ^_^

Jura’s interest in making a child the normal way is amusing, especially at the end of the series when she gives specific instructions regarding the kind of man she wants. Other comedy elements are derived from the rivalry between Misty and Dita, Pyro’s obsession with Ezra’s child (whom he addresses as “Pyro-ni,” or as translated into English, “Pyro-2”). Also as I mentioned earlier, Bart is still used for canon fodder in some of the comedy routines. As such, Gonzo nicely balances the serious elements with comedic elements.

The one final issue I have with the show is that at its core, it is a shounen anime title. Because of this, the writers go to “stock” verbiage that one might traditionally find in shounen titles, especially during moments of crisis or fight scenes. I also found the gathering of forces for the final confrontation against the Earth Harvesters rather unbelievable, at least when it came to the people of Mejere and Taraak. When people are indoctrinated so completely as the people of those two worlds were, it is difficult for me to believe that they’d suddenly accept the truth when in fact most people won’t accept the truth even when it slaps them in the face. However, one has to have everyone rise to the heroes call to arms and let’s face it, were I 20-years younger (or more), I’m sure this wouldn’t bother me a bit. ^_~

Visually, Gonzo goes all out on the space scenes with the CGI technology. There’s a bit of a disconnect between the space shots and the more traditional anime shots. However, Gonzo knows how to make some beautiful work and it shows here with some huge battle scenes if you are into that kind of fanservice.

Ultimately, Vandread: The Second Stage combined with Vandread make one of the more interesting mecha series I’ve ever seen. When mixed with the harem romantic-comedy elements and fascinating characters along with (mostly) good writing, Gonzo produces a real winner and one of my top-10 favorite anime titles of all time. I’m glad FUNimation rescued this, though I still have my old 8-disc collection from Pioneer. ^_^;

Note: I poorly wrote an article on Vandread in October of 2008 for anyone interested. ^_^

Vandread: The Second Stage
Vandread: The Second Stage
Vandread: The Second Stage
Vandread: The Second Stage
Vandread: The Second Stage
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 Responses to “Back to the Vaults — Vandread: The Second Stage”

  1. Incidentally, I felt that the people from the Man and Woman planets coming to their aid to be quite believable because most of both planets did _not_ come. Some were convinced and came but that was it.

  2. AstroNerdBoy says:

    The ones that came were already part of the militaries of both worlds except for Magno’s remaining pirate ship and crew. The military folks coming as they did without orders which is what I found unbelievable.

  3. junior says:

    Well…

    First, both fleets are already out in space. They’d been called out due to the reappearence of the Nirvana (which is the result of combining the biggest ships in both the Tarak and Mejale fleets – and thus bigger than the ships in either fleet). This is probably the single most important element – the fleets don’t need to be called out of port.

    Second, we know that Magno leaks Hibiki’s speech at the colony leaders to the public at large. Although it isn’t shown, she probably also leaks the rest of the conversation between the leaders. If so, then she showed Grandpa and Grandma discussing the harvest fleet which would tell the populations that it’s a real threat.

    Third, Gascogne shows up in one of the Harvest Fleet ships. So you’ve got something that everyone can point to and say, “This is what the bad guys look like.”

    Fourth, you then have two independent fleets (Rabat’s rag-tag fleet, and the anti-Earth fleet that Hibiki met back at the end of the first season) show up, publicly announce that they’re allied with Magno’s crew, and then take up a defensive posture pointed out-system (i.e. into what should be open space).

    Fifth, you then have the big bads finally show up.

    If, at this point, you don’t believe that there’s a soulless menace coming to steal your genitals (which, iirc, is what was to be harvested from Tarak and Mejale), then imo you’ve got to be incredibly stubborn.

    “They’re coming to steal my WHAT!? Screw that! I’m gonna fight!”

    Or so I would imagine the conversation would go.

    :p

    The fleets are already deployed, and they’ve just learned in a very dramatic fashion that their collective backs are up against the wall and their enemy will kill them all no matter what. I don’t think that they’re going to wait for orders – especially if there’s a suspicion that those orders are never going to come.

    I love this series. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Very cleverly written and well-done. You’ve got tons of inverted anime stereo-types (and not “kick you in the gut” inversions, either, like the ones that Nadesico had). You’ve got a very distinctive and yet still (largely) believable cast. You’ve got an excellent rom-com story that starts from one of the strangest, most out-there locations. And you’ve got a satire that pokes fun at the stereo-types of both genders. And if you watch the episode ‘Wonderful World’ using English spoken dialogue, then I feel sorry for you – you missed out on the song that gives the episode it’s title.

    My only real disappointment is Misty, who I feel is rather pointless and could have been safely left out. She doesn’t really fit into the silliness that makes up the rest of the series. And she only really seems to exist to add a rather artificial-feeling triangle to what we already know is an established couple by the time she shows up.

    Due to a number of links that are pointed out between Meia and Hibiki (for instance, Magno flat out telling Meia in ‘Wonderful World’ that Meia and Hibiki actually have quite a bit in common), as well as the kid descended from the two of them that turned up in the ‘Endless Voyages’ artwork, I suspect that the original plan had been for Meia to make up the third corner in a romantic triangle. But for whatever reason, it didn’t happen and my guess is that Misty’s story purpose was to fill that role instead.

  4. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Well, I see your point on the military, but I just think of my own military days and it is just hard to see going against your own country no matter what is revealed. ^_^;

    As to Misty, I agree that she’s a weaker link, but she was used to bring the info from Earth (though that could have been delivered by another means) and her use to show the girls how a normal girl behaves around guys worked for me too.

    Meia was always my favorite character and I know there were hints that she could show interest in Hibiki. However, a potential chemistry never really bubbled up during the first series but instead a warrior’s respect emerged. That may have been when Gonzo decided to add Misty and also give them another cute anime babe to market. ^_^;

    As to episode 6 of Vandread, since I never watch anime in English, I didn’t know the English version had a song change. ^_^;

  5. junior says:

    I introduced a friend to this series at AX many years ago, and they always show everything dubbed. As one might expect, the episode shown was of course the one with the biggest changes between language versions – i.e. ‘Wonderful World’. Thus my familiarity with the song change. I’m guessing that involved the cost of licensing the song.

    As for Meia…

    Maximillian Genius was able to turn “warrior respect” into love. It can be done believably, particularly with people who are dealing with hormonal-related culture shock. The problem is that the Meia relationship didn’t end in the right place for it in First Stage. Assuming that there was indeed a plan to insert her into the triangle, she needed to have been angling into the triangle before the end of First Stage – preferably by the end of episode 8. If First Stage had ended with the two girls in clear competition, then there would have been a believable triangle in Second Stage. Otherwise you just end up with the Misty situation, where it looks like a tacked-on relationship to help generate fake suspense (since everyone already knows by the end of First Stage that Hibiki and Dita are going to end up as a couple, just as they know that Duero and Parfet are probably going to become a couple).

  6. junior says:

    Yeah, it’s been a month. So sue me.

    Had a random thought a couple of weeks ago. Vandread is in many ways a rather silly series, and the comedy keeps most of it fairly light-hearted. But if you stop and think about what’s not really being said…

    The series doesn’t really give you much time to think about it, but if you do anyway you quickly come to the realization that the enemy in Vandread is one of the most horrifying that you’re likely to encounter in any story. They don’t want your real estate. They’re not in it for revenge or some simplistic warrior code. They’re not naughty tentacles in search of nubile females.

    They’re just looking for spare parts.

    And they’re very methodical about it, too. They apparently approached the various colonies 100 years earlier and told them, “You will provide us with high quality xxxxxxxx, and you will cooperate. Because if you don’t cooperate we will utterly destroy your planet instead of just ravaging your population.”

    And then the other day I started playing the game ‘Xenogears’ again. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve played through it. And the thought struck me, “The bad guys in Xenogears are a lot like Earth in Vandread.” Not quite so soulless, perhaps, in part because the antagonists actually get characterization that the Earthlings don’t get in Vandread (particularly on a replay, when you hopefully understand what’s REALLY going on in each scene). And the exact methods used as well as the ultimate purpose are quite different. But there are some eerie similarities.

  7. AstroNerdBoy says:

    They apparently approached the various colonies 100 years earlier and told them, “You will provide us with high quality xxxxxxxx, and you will cooperate. Because if you don’t cooperate we will utterly destroy your planet instead of just ravaging your population.”

    My impression, at least based on how Mejere and Taraak were colonized, that the colony ships were sent out expressly with the purpose of providing certain body parts for harvesting. Only the “Indian” (for lack of a better term) colony doesn’t appear to have been set up for harvesting.

    As I see it, Grandpa and Grandma and the ruling elders of both Mejere and Taraak were in on the plan from the start, staged the event to cause males and females to go their separate ways, then had some children, including Vivian’s little brother (or so it is implied), sealed away in a bunker in cold sleep to be revived AFTER the harvest. Hibiki was the cog in the wheel of that plan.

  8. junior says:

    The video that accompanies Misty implies that the colonies didn’t know about the harvest plan initially. Otherwise the scientists wouldn’t have felt the need to send a warning out. Nor would they have needed to booby trap the message.

    On the other hand there’s the planet that was being harvested for spinal cords – obviously the people who set that colony up knew about the harvest, as there was the intricate arrangement with the spiral tower.

    Quite a while back I read a comment from a random fan who indicated that the Tarak/Mejale colony fleet actually bumped into an early form of the harvest, and that was what made the elders aware of it. But unfortunately I don’t know of any sources that might be able to clarify that.

    I also suspect that only a handful of colonists didn’t go into hibernation. During the conversation between the elders late in the series it’s mentioned that only eight people have voting priviledges, and the vote keeps tying as a result. And then Hibiki is mentioned as a tie-breaker because he’s a member of the first generation. You also have the doctor in one of the early episodes expressing surprise that Hibiki knows a member of the first generation. The obvious implication is that there were only a handful of members of the original generation of colonists, which means that the rest of them must have been asleep.

    That doesn’t stop the succeeding generations from having large numbers of colonists, though, as the colonies have artificial inception and birthing technology (i.e. the way that they produce offspring from two males) that could have been used to make up for the population shortfall.

  9. AstroNerdBoy says:

    The video that accompanies Misty implies that the colonies didn’t know about the harvest plan initially. Otherwise the scientists wouldn’t have felt the need to send a warning out. Nor would they have needed to booby trap the message.

    The scientist may not have been fully informed of the government’s plans and thus sent out the warning in the hope of letting the colonies know the truth, something the colony leaders certainly had no intention of letting out. When they found Misty’s pod, the harvester forces went after it big time. I figured this meant that they knew it had been launched, they’d not been able to find it, then they found it and were determined to keep it out of anyone else’s hands, especially the Nirvana crew.

    I also suspect that only a handful of colonists didn’t go into hibernation.

    If that’s true, then they are all on Taraak with Hibiki’s “grandfather.” Also if true, it is surprising that Vivan was kept out of cold sleep.

    While I think the males kept to the plan and suppressed the sex drive with the food pills/pellets, thus providing perfect male sexual organs, the females obviously broke away from the plan by apparently retaining their sexual drive (Barnette and Jura’s implied relationship for starters) and the 2-parent family structure (Meia’s parents; Ezra and her “spouse”).

    Further, the fact that there were female pirates shows how far things had deteriorated on Mejere, to say nothing of the major accident that affected both Meia and apparently Gascogne. Things were still pretty orderly and efficient on the male side from what it seems.

  10. junior says:

    If that’s true, then they are all on Taraak with Hibiki’s “grandfather.” Also if true, it is surprising that Vivan was kept out of cold sleep.

    Given that at least half of the people present during the meeting toward the end of the series seemed to be related (including Magno), perhaps not so surprising. It appears that Magno was at least a few years older than Hibiki when he went into cold sleep. That may be why we was placed into hibernation and she was not.

    And while not related to the reason why Hibiki was placed into hibernation, it’s probable that – similar to Abel in Xenogears – Hibiki made some sort of connection to the Praxas on the colony ship. That would explain why he woke up at the same time renovation work was begun on the old ship.

    (Note – the above is not really a spoiler for Xenogears since the character name means virtually nothing *unless* you’ve played far enough to know what I’m talking about…)

    While I think the males kept to the plan and suppressed the sex drive with the food pills/pellets, thus providing perfect male sexual organs, the females obviously broke away from the plan by apparently retaining their sexual drive (Barnette and Jura’s implied relationship for starters) and the 2-parent family structure (Meia’s parents; Ezra and her “spouse”).

    Eh… If human nature tells us anything, it’s that you’re going to see those male sex organs used even if that use isn’t strictly what nature originally intended.

    ^^;;

    And it’s probably safe to say that at least half of the wombs on Majere didn’t get any use.

    Further, the fact that there were female pirates shows how far things had deteriorated on Mejere,

    You’re going to get rebels no matter what, and piracy turns up anytime you have a group that can successfully evade the authorities. BC’s presence seems to suggest that the authorities at least tolerated the presence of the group for some reason even if they disapproved of it (after all, BC had been around long enough to become Magno’s first officer on the pirate cruiser). Magno’s presence as a member of the first generation also would have lent additional weight to the group when recruiting.

    Also, I believe Dita is implicitly identified as yet another victim of the disaster on Majele.

  11. AMTFan1 says:

    Great reviews of the series (Vandread and Vandread: second stage)! Vandread was one of my favorite anime series back in the years 2000’s despite some of its flaws. I really liked the characters’ development from beginning to end: the main theme of this series was a focus on the growth of a human being from the reclosed environment from which he originally came from to an understanding of the world and the universe outside from what he knew.

    The characters are likable and memorable and the story, even if there were few plotholes (but, as you mentioned in your review, that must be because the series had only 26 episodes), was interesting to follow and there were many possibilities to expand this universe and the story further, if the series was longer.

    Even if, somehow, I wished there could be a third stage for the series, the story feels already complete, since its the story of Hibiki: him becoming a respected leader, enlightened, finally confessing his love for Dita and being able to live together (I think Hibiki and Dita both form a great couple in the anime world).

    Besides, it has been now 15 to 16 years since the series ended with the second stage, so there’s really no hope at all that there might be a third stage in the future. And, sadly, the series is being forgotten by the audience after all those years… Maybe a third stage, if it was produced immediately after the ending of the second stage, with a more serious tone, and answering many of the questions left unanswered, could have made the series more memorable…

    Strangely, Takeshi Mori, the producer and director behind the series has mentioned, 10 years ago at Anime Overdose 2005, which has occurred at San Francisco, that he was thinking about making a third stage during an interview. But the story would occur on an alternate universe from the one in the first two seasons with completely different characters. However, there was no news about this project, meaning that it has been, most than likely, abandoned.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      Thanks for your comments. 🙂

      I do remember the buzz that came out about the possibility of a 3rd Vandread series. I was pretty happy about it because the franchise was still fairly new to me (it was one of the titles I watched when I first got into anime).

      As to why this franchise never saw more sequels, I think there are two things at work here. First, with ship and crew having returned home and defeated the Earth forces, I suppose the original creators felt that story was over. Second, in the modern anime climate, it is really difficult to get an anime created for anything that isn’t an adaptation of a manga or a light novel. (At least, that’s my understanding.)

      • AMTFan1 says:

        You mean that, in a certain way, the anime industry has become more or less like Hollywood these days? Hollywood are now making more and more sequels to already existing film franchises (Star Wars, Marvel, Star Trek, Rocky, etc…), remakes or adaptations of books and novels (Harry Potter for example) instead of creating something totally new or original.

        Currently I’m not too into anime these days, but I do know that two of my favorites anime series (Hunter X Hunter and Fullmetal Alchemist) have been remade during the last 5 years while there was already the original series from the late 1990’s and beginning 2000’s… And these anime series are already adaptations of the manga…

        Regarding Vandread, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but there’s an amateur translator who currently works on the translation of the light novels and the extra stage novel. That is somehow good news since I’ve been looking years ago for a translation of the extra stage novel telling the story after the ending of the second stage, until giving up…

        He might be only an amateur translator, but I’ve been reading his translations of the light novels and the extra stage novel, and they are great! He makes regular updates of his work on his blog. You can check his blog by finding his name on the internet: “JeruTz blog”.

        • AstroNerdBoy says:

          You mean that, in a certain way, the anime industry has become more or less like Hollywood these days?

          I wasn’t thinking Hollywood per se, but that works to a degree.

          In today’s anime market, anime series are primarily an advertisement for the source manga or light novel series the anime is adapted from. The risk is pretty low to animate a popular manga or light novel, but there is a much larger risk to create something new from scratch. I think one of the only reasons that Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki OVA 4 got the green light was because there was enough evidence for AIC to believe that they’d make money on the series. OVA’s are all but unheard of, save for OADs which are attached to Limited Edition manga volume releases.

          Regarding Vandread, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but there’s an amateur translator who currently works on the translation of the light novels and the extra stage novel.

          I was unaware of that. Thanks for letting me know. ^_^

Want to comment? Leave a Reply! Some HTML (for bold, italics, etc.) permitted. Use [spoiler][/spoiler] to hide spoiler content. Block quotes are <blockquote>Text you want to quote goes here.</blockquote>. No personal attacks on other comenters, please. Spirited debate is OK though. ^_^

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Powered by WordPress