Review by: Brenda Gregson
Publisher: RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: $29.99 US
Running Time: 650 minutes
Release Date: Available Now
Welcome to the village of Tenmo … the most mysterious place in all of Japan.
At first glance, the quaint village of Tenmo is a quiet and lovely little place where not much seems to happen. In fact, even school events like the junior high Sports Festival feel a little a major event for everyone who lives there. Oh, but even the smallest town and village has its share of secrets and Tenmo is hiding a big one as we can see from the Complete Collection of Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars.
Late April usually brings quiet sunny days and cherry blossoms in full bloom and, for the most part, it’s exactly what Japan gets when – suddenly – there’s a massive communications blackout throughout the country. Just as suddenly, a strange acorn-shaped ship hovers over Tokyo bay. It’s an alien spacecraft and, while everyone wonders what its intentions might be, a white robot-like entity appears and attacks the ship until it is safely destroyed. It doesn’t take the world too long to figure out that this is Earth’s first contact with extraterrestrials.
We witness what happens after that through the eyes of junior high student Hajime Murata, class representative for Class 2-C and the story’s narrator. He, like all his classmates, is just as interested in Earth’s first contact with aliens but all of this takes a backseat when the class is introduced to a handsome transfer student named Muryou Subaru. Mysterious yet friendly, Muryou quickly becomes Hajime’s friend. Who is Muryou and why does he wear a very dated school uniform? Why does he live in a mansion that belongs to the well-respected and affluent Lady Momoe Sanemori?
As more alien ships begin showing up again, this time a lot closer to home, Hajime witnesses a most unusual battle between his new friend and classmate Muryou and a boy named Kyoichi Moriguchi who Hajime always sees hanging out with a group of students who meet in secret. It is then that Hajime realizes that Muryou and Kyoichi have special powers. In fact, the students that Kyoichi hangs out with have powers too and are known as the “Chosen” – children chosen to be planet Earth’s defenders.
On top of that, a masked intruder attacks Hajime in his room and it turns out to be one of the female members of the Chosen who wields the power of the Shingu. She is Nayuta Moriyama and Hajime discovers her secret and her connection to the white entity that destroyed the alien spacecraft. Suddenly, things are getting a lot more interesting for Hajime as he meets Muryou’s energetic, bubbly and very mysterious sister named Setsuna.
Oh, there’s more, we also meet a group of adults that also include Hajime’s teacher and the physical education teacher. They all have secret identities of their own, especially the laidback Jiltosh who sheds some light on the alien invaders situation. We learn about the secret intergalactic war and of the Galactic Federation that is studying Earth to see if they are fit to join other alien species as part of the GF family. He even takes in an alien who accepts asylum on Earth as well as aiding the Zaiglian’s fellow soldiers who come to change their minds about Earth and its people. How can they possibly hate a planet where they’re welcome warmly?
While Hajime, Muryou and the Chosen must deal with alien invaders, they still make room for their school activities as the upcoming Sports Festival and the Culture Festival. We are wrapped up in their relationships such as Nayuta’s growing affection for Hajime (although she’s too embarrassed to admit it) as well as the love story between Kyoichi and the young girl sworn to protect him. Then there’s Hajime’s home life that includes his kid sister (who develops a huge crush on Muryou), his kind mother and a father who shows up in the later episodes to reveal his connection with Earth’s attempts to communicate with the aliens.
While the series jumps into the liveliness of the Sports Festival’s events and the relationships between different characters, the mystery of Tenmo plays a big part in keeping the episodes fascinating enough that you can’t help get wrapped up in its intrigue. As the layers of the mystery behind the adults are slowly peeled away, the series manages to be surprising and be true to its sci-fi roots. There’s even some action sequences that aren’t bad at all.
It’s also great to see that the series has a great sense of humor as well that makes many of the characters endearing and fun to follow. One of the running gags is Hajime’s narration style that often has him turning to us – the audience – to address us personally … thus making him seem weird to those around him. Nayuta’s awkwardness towards Hajime and her dislike of Muryou is also amusing as she tries to make sense of her emotions.
There’s more but half the fun of watching this 26-episode series is watching the mystery unravel on its own, although I felt that the main threat didn’t feel like a real menace, which is disappointing.
The Complete Collection of Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars does not disappoint in bringing us an intriguing sci-fi story whose mystery will keep you fascinated from the very beginning. While it doesn’t take itself too seriously, there’s more than enough excitement and danger to bring the characters and this unusual situation together quite nicely. Fans of the genre, take note, Shingu is one set you should definitely buy if you like your sci-fi engaging and likeable.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
On the surface, the village of Tenmo looks like a peaceful enough place but, when Earth finally makes contact with aliens, it becomes the center of secret intergalactic war. As junior high student Hajime is about to find out after befriending the new transfer student, Tenmo has some interesting secrets itself that range from visiting aliens to a group of students with the power to defend Earth with the help of a power known as Shingu.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The episodes definitely shine the best on DVD and while the animation can be on the dated side it still looks really good … especially the alien battles. Even each character stands out nicely throughout the series.
AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The voice acting is actually very good whether you like the original Japanese language track or the dub so whatever your preference you’re in for more than decent performances from the cast. The score by Yuji Oono is actually very charming and adds to the mystery and the opening theme song, “TAKE” by KAKO is sweet and lovely.
Each disc comes with Character Bios, Line Art Galleries and a few Original Production Notes animation fans might really enjoy, especially those who are interested in animation design. There are also a few RightStuf! trailers as well but you will certainly enjoy the 44-page booklet with English production notes, designs for places and things as well as an interview with Director Tatsuo Sato. You’ll even find a few four-panel comics in the booklet as well.
Trust in the power of Shingu for it will show you its mysteries and keep you deeply engaged in its lively and worthwhile story. Filled with colorful characters, alien battles and a group of young students trying to live their lives in a place shrouded in secrecy, the Complete Collection of this series is definitely not a bad way to get your sci-fi anime fix.
Review copy provided by RightStuf!/Nozomi Entertainment