Shangri-La (Collection Two) is a two disc DVD set containing the final twelve episodes of the anime series based on Eiichi Ikegami’s sci-fi book. At the time of writing you can pick up MVM’s UK release for around sixteen pounds, although owners of a multi-region player may prefer to import the U.S edition (which collects the entire twenty four episode saga for a mere eleven pounds.) For those of you not acquainted with the franchise, Shangri-La is set in the not too distant future were Japan has been crippled by a humongous earthquake. The series follows the exploits of the Metal Age resistance group who are campaigning for Japan’s survivors to be relocated from their present jungle dwellings into the swanky, state of the art, Atlas City.
Back when I reviewed Collection One I bemoaned Shangri-La’s opening episodes that were slower paced than Val Kilmer after visiting an all you can eat buffet. Thankfully that’s not the case in this second set, which commences with an action packed assault on Atlas City. After taking command of Metal Age Kuniko Hojo leads an attack on the lavish metropolis, but is ultimately repelled by the settlement’s technologically advanced defences. To be fair I would have been surprised had Metal Age successfully managed to invade Atlas. Kuniko may be able to kick ass, thanks to her oversized boomerang, but she doesn’t strike me as a strategic genius. She is after all a pink haired teenager who thinks that going into combat wearing a mini-skirt is a good idea!
Subsequent to the attack Metal Age and the Atlas City government manage to form an uneasy truce to combat a greater threat – genetically modified mushrooms that are overrunning the country! The fungi in question, which are more potent than the shrooms that power Super Mario, could eradicate the Japanese populous if not stopped due to their deadly combination of noxious gas and seedling projectiles. In order to halt the ferocious fungi Kuniko must venture forth to Akihabara and use her haggling skills to barter for aerial bombers that can toast the mutant mushrooms from the safety of the sky.
Once the unorthodox weeding is completed it’s time for the series to wind down and wrap up its tapestry of loose threads. Albino cult leader Mikuni and boomerang babe Kuniko rush off to claim ownership of the supercomputer running Atlas, but in order to do so they must first depose the conniving Ryoko Naruse who is unwilling to relinquish the position of Japanese prime minister. All that may be for naught though as hacking prodigy Karin Ishida’s greed could signal the end of the world. In an attempt to cash in on the volatile carbon markets, Karin unleashes the Medusa virus on the global network – only for it to run amok and unexpectedly attempt to activate every nation’s nuclear arsenal. I’ve got a bad Terminator/Skynet feeling about this.
My rating for Shangri-La (Collection Two) is a four out of five. It gets one point more than the first set as it isn’t marred by the plodding pace that afflicted Collection One’s first DVD. I was initially unimpressed with Shangri-La, but it eventually won me over once it finished setting up its world and cast. Viewers who plough past the uninteresting first few episodes will be rewarded with a rich story that is populated with fleshed out characters, who each have credible motivations for acting the way they do. Well for the most part. The writer never did furnish us with an explanation for why Kuniko dresses in a panty flashing skirt.
I must give credit to Eiichi Ikegami for crafting an elaborate tale, juggling the sizable cast of characters and still managing to pull off a satisfactory ending. The conspiracy shrouding the origins of Atlas City gets a little crazy, but not more so than some other animes I could mention. Visually Shangri-La is as impressive as its script, only faltering when it needlessly decides to use chunky CG to animate the Medusa virus. The action sequences are well put together although you’ll need to suspend your disbelief to fully appreciate them. I’m no physics expert (as my GCSE grades will attest to) but I don’t think Kuniko’s ability to acrobatically dodge automated drones, atop the wings of a bomber in mid-flight, is possible. Perhaps her skirt has been enchanted with gravity defying properties? I knew I would suss out her choice of attire eventually.