Review of Twin Signal
What is it with effeminate heroes in anime? Impossibly lean and svelte, smooth skinned and with just a touch of lip-gloss, and of course a luxuriant mane of hair (usually day-glo pink) that reaches down to the ankles, but never impedes the kung fu. I haven`t really got a point here, just making an observation. Although it`s no coincidence that Twin Signal features another such hero.
With Nobuhiko`s parents abroad, he`s left in the care of his grandfather. Professor Otoi creates a robot to act as a companion for Nobu. Signal is a lean mean fighting machine, built with the revolutionary Mira technology to look absolutely human, and programmed to act as an older brother for Nobu. There is a hitch though. During the programming process, Nobu got a fit of sneezes, and now Signal interprets Nobu`s sneezes as an order to transform. After an awesome, energetic transmutation, Signal becomes… a cute chocolate loving baby!
This OVA consists of three episodes, all presented here on this MVM disc.
Nobuhiko`s idyllic existence is about to be rudely interrupted. First his grandfather`s laboratory is broken into and the secrets of Mira are stolen. Then when looking through a family album he sees a familiar face, one that looks just like Signal. Asking his grandfather, he learns that Signal was modelled on Nobu`s father Masanobu, just as was the prototype. Which is when the phone rings. It`s Masanobu, who informs them that the prototype robot Pulse has been stolen, just after having its weapons upgraded. Pulse isn`t too far away, and he`s looking for `little brother` Signal.
The Professor`s rival, Dr Hashimaru Umenokoji is behind the mayhem, having appropriated Pulse to do his bidding, and used a couple of gangsters to steal the Mira data, leaving a booby trap behind. While Professor Otoi recovers, his apprentice Chris Sine finally has a chance to use the laboratory, and uses the time to create a robot of her own. This robot, Epsilon promptly escapes and goes on the rampage. Nobu manages to find Signal, and manages to save his friend with a timely sneeze from the lethal attentions of Pulse. Signal doesn`t get much time to rest though, as now he not only has to defeat Epsilon as well as Pulse, but Umenokoji`s henchmen have kidnapped the cute robot Elara, and Signal must rescue her.
Everyone is looking for Signal, who is still recovering from Epsilon`s last punch. Pulse, not finding any honour in defeating a fallen foe challenges him to a showdown at the old castle. But the outcome of the battle may depend more on Elara`s cooking abilities than Signal`s fighting prowess.
For an anime made in 1996, the 4:3 transfer is clear and free of defects. The image is clear and colourful throughout, although there are a few telltale moments of aliasing. The older style animation has a hand drawn manner about it, and it is effective in telling the story. A couple of scenes had a bright over-exposed feel about them, but I feel it was a creative decision rather than a problem with the transfer.
You have a choice of DD 2.0 Japanese and English, accompanied by translated English subtitles. The soundtracks are functional and without any major problems. Once again the age becomes apparent, with the dub being one of the older variety. It`s definitely inferior to the original language dub, with some of the lesser characters coming off worse. I also noticed more than a couple of typos in the subtitles, the sort that get through spellcheckers, `cowered` for `coward`, that sort of thing.
The disc comes with the usual MVM animated menus, this time based on a rather simple mechanical motif. Also on this disc is a small gallery with 8 images and stills from the anime. You`ll also find trailers for Ranma, Big Trouble in Nekonron, China, Trigun, and R.O.D. The TV. Finally there are 6 minutes of outtakes. These are from the English dub cast and feature the usual screwing around and goofing up.
On occasion the OVA can be to anime what the pilot is to live action TV, a chance to tell a story and bring characters to life without the expense of a full-blown series. And just as not all pilots make the transition to prime time, not all OVAs grow and blossom into full-length series. Twin Signal is one of those whose promise remains unfulfilled. These three episodes do manage to introduce the characters, set the scene and tell an engaging story over 85 minutes, and also lay the groundwork of what might have been. It`s not hard to see why a Twin Signal series didn`t happen though, as the show lacks that spark of originality, that sense of freshness that makes it stand out from the crowd.
It`s another boy and his robot story, played strongly for laughs. The sheer number of characters introduced, and the zany mayhem and lunacy puts it firmly in the Urusei Yatsura or Ranma frame of mind. Indeed, the central gimmick of Signal transforming into a cute kid whenever Nobu sneezes is very Ranma-esque. The story is thin, with the battle for scientific secrets waged through robotic proxies. Incidentally, with one exception, the robots are very human, emotional, petulant, given to whims and fancies. They may as well be people.
While the story may not be up to much, and the characters strictly run of the mill, what salvages Twin Signal is the humour. It`s full of gags, jokes and zaniness, which while not exactly turning the show into a masterpiece, at least kept me chuckling throughout. The show refuses to take itself seriously, and that helps by not letting the pace drag at any point. Twin Signal isn`t going to set the world alight, nor is it startlingly original, but it does provide 90 odd minutes of entertainment, and a chance to forget one`s worries for a while. Sometimes that all anyone needs from a DVD.