Illumitoon Entertainment‘s first announced anime series license, Beet the Vandel Buster, has arrived to show off what the new company can do. Beet the Vandel Buster: The Sacrifice introduces us to Beet, a young would-be adventurer who seeks to defeat the Vandel demon race which has plagued the entire world into the Century of Darkness. Pulled from the pages of Monthly Shonen Jump and animated by Toei Animation, Beet’s journey spans two series as he gathers a group of friends and warriors to help bring peace to the land.
Audio: English 2.0 DD, Japanese 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English (CC)
Extras: Original Kanji Opening/Closing, Trailers
Notes: Review is based on a Screener copy of the final product. Preview audio clips are available.
While Illumitoon has gone through the effort of including the Japanese track, the DVD only has a closed captions track that conforms to the English dub. This has rendered the addition of the original audio useless and our review will only be based on the new English dub. It should also be noted that the opening sequence for these four episodes is different from the “Kanji Opening Credits” that is included as a bonus in the Extras section. Several sections of the opening have been replaced with “battles” that happen during the series. The addition of brand new edgy opening and closing theme songs for the English dub delivers a completely different feel from how the original series’ credits flowed. Illumitoon has also replaced instances of Japanese text such as a character’s name, special move, or location with their own hardsubbed English translation. All of these changes are starting to remind me of how a certain series was delivered to America years ago from FUNimation. Hopefully these decisions can be fixed quickly.
Beet the Vandel Buster opens with a village being terrorized by Vandel Gilam. The 3-star vandel meets little resistance as he destroys the village with his army. Gilam throws a fireball at a fallen mother attempting to save her baby when the flame is deflected. Beet challenges the vandel to a fight and easily tromps Gilam with his Excellion Blade. We now rewind to three years ago when a young Beet signs himself up to become a Vandel Buster just like the village heroes known as the Zenon Warriors. A constant annoyance for being too overeager to join, the Zenon Warriors have tolerated Beet’s hero-worship of the group for a while now. But with Beet now officially signed up for Buster duty, each group member attempts to give some helpful tips while also hoping to persuade Beet to give up his dangerous dream. Of course, Beet also has someone else to discourage his life-long dream: Paola, daughter of the family that took Beet in after his parents were killed, rains on Beet’s parade with the reality that he’s too young and weak to join the Zenon Warriors.
With all of these events going on, the Zenon Warriors have their hands full protecting the village and humoring Beet’s enthusiasm. Only the Warriors’ leader, Zenon, truly tries to discourage Beet from joining the harsh reality that is a Vandel Buster’s life. From afar, the vandel Hell’s Lightning Zande scopes out the village, attempting to figure out why the powerful demon Beltorze has such interest in seeing it fall. Before Beltorze can succeed, Zande decides to crush the village himself and gain another star to his rating. He walks towards the gated entrance of the village as Beet is passing by. Thinking this is his chance to prove he can be a buster, Beet climbs over the protective wall and challenges Zande. But Beet’s lone spear is too weak to take on Zande and the Zenon Warriors join to take over the battle.
The second episode begins with Beet still determined to become a buster and practicing against some water snails. Back at Beet’s home, the Zenon Warriors sit down to enjoy a meal with Beet’s foster family. The parents explain Beet’s unusual nature of having energy for three days and then collapsing into a deep sleep each fourth day. Zenon contemplates this information, since a buster’s power is linked directly with the amount of R.E.M. sleep they can achieve. Meanwhile, Beet continues to practice into the night when a sudden attack of sleep hits him. He collapses into the water as the Dark Overload of the Vadels, Beltorze, approaches the village’s main gate. When Beet awakes he discovers the Zenon Warrior deep in battle with Beltorze. Zenon draws out his special sword, the Excellion Blade, to finish off Beltorze when Beet starts to cheer atop of a nearby hill. Beltorze escapes the deathblow, grabs Beet, and blasts him with an energy ball at point-blank range.
Beet falls to the ground as the Zenon Warriors distract Beltorze in order to save Beet. Beet apologizes for getting in the way as each member realizes that he is going to die. The only way to save Beet now is to harness their own life forces into their special weapons and bestow them into Beet before it’s too late. Beet tries to protest, but each warrior is certain that this final act to save who could possibly be the Vandel Buster to end the Century of Darkness is the best thing to do. After all, the only warrior that could possibly be as good as Zenon is his little brother, Beet.
The final two episodes for this disc re-introduce us to the village three years after the fall of the Zenon Warriors. Beet went off on his own to train and hasn’t been heard from since. Paola has grown up to a become Vandel Buster trying to keep the village safe as best she can. And a vandel called Lord Mugine has moved into the area and has been attempting to take over the village to expand his bog. Lakes have become swamps and villagers are often kidnapped to become slaves for Mugine’s construction. Over the years Paola has become a skilled fighter at level 21 but not strong enough to defeat a vandel such as 2-star Mugine. Regardless, Paola charges into the bog to take down Mugine and save the enslaved villagers. Just as Paola starts to be overwhelmed by Mugine’s forces, Beet arrives to thrash the soldiers. Easily defeating any challenge Mugine puts up, Paola and Beet succeed for the moment. However, the victory is short-lived as Beet sees the results of having been gone for three years. The fight with Mugine isn’t over yet.
Beet the Vandel Buster: The Sacrifice can be a bit slow-paced at first as we get the backstory to Beet’s skills as a fighter. The later two episodes are far more interesting as we see the whiny nuisance of a child grow up to become a good Vandel Buster. Paola’s role is also far stronger as an adult and will be interesting to follow as the pair gain more warriors to fight at their side. Illumitoon has produced the English dub with a local studio that gathers quite a few familiar names from the Texas dubbing area. Colleen Clinkenbeard’s Beet is all right, but could still use some refinement as the series goes on. Luci Christian, on the other hand, is a natural in the role of Paola and someone to look forward to next volume. The remaining characters become a mix of cheesy and fair representations of minor characters and villians. If you’ve watched some of the later seasons of Dragon Ball Z or any of Dragon Ball on Cartoon Network, these stereotypical character voices will fit right in.
Beet the Vandel Buster: The Sacrifice is Illumitoon‘s first DVD and it has some issues that need to be addressed. The subtitles and replacement of various things to make the series more adaptable for a TV network should not be here. If you want to make changes for a wider American audience, leave those to be seen during the TV broadcasts if a network picks up the show. The in-house dub shows some promise with the leads and some effort could bring the background cast and villians out of the cheesy afternoon cartoon feel many of the characters sound like currently. The video reveals some artifacting during the show, but the extras is where the poor encoding job becomes very obvious. The three trailers included look more like a poorly-streamed WMV video than something to get viewers interested in Illumitoon’s other upcoming series. This is a tough sell. The DVD MSRP of $24.98 means that most retailers will have it priced very nicely for 4 episodes. However, the lack of an accurate subtitle translation for the Japanese track means you should only look for this at a deep discount unless you really like some of the English voice actors. I really started to enjoy the series by the last two episodes and would highly suggest grabbing a copy if these problems were not here. Hopefully, if enough fans contact Illumitoon and let their voices be known, the rest of the series might be fixed before it’s too late.
Update: Illumitoon Entertainment is offering a trade-in program for this volume to correct the subtitle error. Offer expires 5/30/2007.