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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 12/18/03

T.M. Revolution - Sonic Warp: The Visual Fields
2003 (2003) - Tofu Records/Epic Records Japan

review by Jeff Kleist of The Digital Bits

T.M. Revolution - Sonic Warp: The Visual Fields

Program Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A/C+

Specs and Features
35 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (variable aspect ratio), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (5 chapters), languages: Japanese (Linear PCM), subtitles: English

Japanese animation and video games have made huge inroads over the past 20 years, permeating the mass American consciousness with the likes of Robotech, Pokémon and Akira. Last year, Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away took home an Oscar, beating out domestic fare for the first time in the Best Animated Film category. All of this is well and good, but what most people miss is the one element that never seems to make the trip over the Pacific for the U.S. theatrical release and TV broadcasting: the music.

Thankfully, the scores of DVD releases from the domestic anime companies usually don't have the budget to replace the songs with English alternatives, so fans have finally been exposed to a wide variety of artists, some of which have garnered small, but intensely loyal, fans here. Most of these fans are in their teens or early 20s, disgusted with the homogeneous nature of the current U.S. music scene. Bands like L'arc-en-ciel, X Japan and Luna Sea (as well as solo acts like Utada Hikaru, Hamasaki Ayumi and Tamaki Nami) have a new and different sound for people to latch onto. While several Japanese acts, like PuffyAmiYumi (currently of Teen Titans theme fame) and B'z, have made limited U.S. tours in the past, nothing has quite caught the imagination of U.S. fandom and the Japanese press as the summer 2003 visit by Takanori Nishikawa, known professionally as T.M. Revolution. Playing to a capacity crowd at Baltimore MD's Otakon convention, Nishikawa had an unprecedented amount of interaction with fans, both old and new.

T.M. Revolution's Sonic Warp: The Visual Fields has just been released on DVD by Tofu Records and Epic Records Japan. With only 35 minutes of total content on the DVD, disc space was not really much of an issue, so everything here is pristine quality. While the video is unfortunately non-anamorphic, this ranks among the best 4x3 transfers you're going ever to see. Out of Orbit's Khan-meets-Alien environment oozes texture and grit, with dark earthy colors sharply contrasting Invoke's white sterility, and the Blade Runner environment of Meteor. Following the videos are "Visual Remixes" of 2 live numbers, which incorporate vivid special effects and visualizations to the point of cortex overload. If these were anamorphic, they'd be demo material. As it is, the video is simply excellent.

Though it's fast becoming an important part of U.S. music DVDs, an uncompressed PCM track has been spec for Japanese music DVDs since the format's inception. Unlike many such discs DVDs I own, DPL2 decoding generates a much more satisfying listening field than collapsing it to 2-channel stereo. Synth and drums occupy a grey zone between your surrounds and fronts, but unlike many Japanese stereo mixes, the vocals still maintain a strong presence across all 3 fronts, not overshadowed by the throbbing guitar and basslines it's sharing speakers with.

Supplements on this disc are limited to 5 minutes of TMR's U.S. debut at Otakon, interspersed with clips from his web video diary of the visit, and both English translation and karaoke lyric (romaji) subtitles. Especially impressive in the translation are the subtleties, which attempt to bring across some of the metaphor and double meanings contained in the lyrics. While the casual viewer may not notice it, the alert experienced fan will appreciate it. All of the extras are accessed from the main menu, probably the most disappointing part of this disc. The green and black color scheme, while very neat looking on paper, makes almost anything but the highlighted choice hard to read on a calibrated set, and it's not immediately clear how to set language preferences. In addition to the navigational difficulties, the loop on the menu is only around 10 seconds long, so by the time you get your bearings the first time through you've probably cycled twice.

T.M. Revolution has a sound all of his own. The unique blend of techno, sampling and hard, old fashioned rock and roll flow into a pulsating river of energy that can't help but infect the listener. The anime fan will be interested because of the music's connection to Gundam Seed and Rurouni Kenshin. The curious music fan, on the other hand, will be drawn in by the unique blending of musical styles. The home theater fanatic should be impressed simply by the excellent video and dynamic audio. Maybe you're one of these three, maybe you're none of them... but for $10, why not take the dive and find out?

Sonic Warp is currently exclusively available through Tofu's website.

Jeff Kleist
[email protected]

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