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Strange Dawn, Vol. 1: Strange World (2002) – DVD Review

strange dawn volume 1 dvd cover


Original Story and Character Design: Hajime Miyakawa
Directed by: Junichi Sato
Series Structure and Screenplay: Michiko Yokote English Language Director: Laurent Soumoy
English Scriptwriter: Angus Waycott


  • Art gallery
  • Animated menus
  • Trailers
  • Online links
  • English and Japanese soundtracks
  • English subtitles
  • 4 episodes/ 92 minutes

Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:

  • Mild violence
  • Incoherent plot
  • Pervy toe fanciers

Released by: Urban Vision
Region: 1
Rating: N/R, suitable for most audiences
Anamorphic: N/A

My Advice: Skip it.

[ad#longpost]Sweet, bland Emi and cranky Yuko–ordinary middle-school girls–are walking home from work one day when suddenly (it’s not clear how) they find themselves in a desert inhabited by wee people with very, very tiny feet. Disturbingly tiny. And they’re pretty conscious of their weird feet, building a sort of fetish around them, but that’s later in the plot…. Anyway, so these girls are in this strange world somehow and suddenly they’re under attack by the bad guys. We know they’re the bad guys because they’re all dressed similarly in black and grey uniforms. Duh. They also draw first blood. Emi and Yuko were (maybe) summoned to this world by a princess we only see once, being kidnapped (for some reason) by the bad guys in a kind of flashback by Shall. Shall, who is the leader of this Lilliputian village, has decided upon seeing the girls that they must be the “Great Protectors” who are supposed to protect their village from… something… probably those bad guys who attacked the girls–no one knows why they’re fighting with Our Heroes anyway (or maybe the characters know, but they aren’t talking). Sound confusing and strangely organized? It is. Which is rather a shame because the title looks quite nice and has some cool art (and also, some really silly art).

Ignore the fact that the little suits the good guys wear have handles on their heads that would be just perfect for swinging them around. Also ignore the fact that their little belly scabbards look more like udders than anything scary. Ignore the fact that a village built by and for tiny humanoids still has doorways, food vessels, and beds that suit normal humans. And while you’re at it, ignore the weird tiny feet (if you can) and the fact that one of the secondary characters has hair that looks disturbingly like it’s stitched onto her face. If you can ignore all that, Strange Dawn might work for very young audiences…audiences who don’t care that the plot is like David Lynch on drugs (and on a bad day) and made Doc Ezra’s head hurt. Badly. There’s enough action to satisfy children that they’re watching something “sophisticated,” but not so much that they’ll be disturbed or otherwise challenged. The safe language and lack of sexual content make this title perfectly acceptable for any audience, and the only angst happens when the girls realize they don’t know where the bathroom is.

The characterization is, well, a bit flat. Selfish Yuko is the only one with a real personality, and a rather irritating and bitchy one at that. The writers tried to give a couple of the other characters some depth by making them cry periodically, but since the viewer is never quite positive why they’re crying (unrequited love? frustrated ambition? too small shoes?), this tactic fails miserably and is just rather irritating. You could try to read the myriad subplots and varied reactions of the secondary characters as depth, but it’s really just chaff, distracting you from the fact that there’s no real plot here or even any satisfying surrealism. Vaguely hinted-at political turmoil and random, sketchy romantic conflicts are no substitute for careful crafting and real depth of story and character.

Strange Dawn, Vol. 1: Strange World

The remastered visual aspect is quite good; the art directors should be proud. The colors are crisp and clear with minimum artifacting detectable. Some sweeping vistas animated into the storyline are a nice bonus, and the animated menus are cute. The sound is also good, especially for the dubbed version, and this particular title dodges the “annoying female Anime voice” bullet–no screeching. A further note on the voice acting: the main characters are voiced by Australians, a nice change from the vanilla American voices usually heard in Anime. Another character seems to have a French voice actress, while the rest of them are assorted British and American types–très internationale.

It’s also rather a shame that the music of this series is really rather good. The main theme is haunting without being melodramatic, and the accompanying animation primes first-time viewers for what looks like it would be a sweeping fantasy epic for children. Both the Japanese and English vocals are equally effective.

Strange Dawn, Vol. 1: Strange World

The disc and case are nice enough, sturdy with some colorful imagery and happy animated people on them. The disc button is a little odd, so you need two hands to remove the disk from the case, but perhaps this makes it safer for your little ones to watch this title.

In short, if your 5-10 year olds aren’t too discriminating, you should feel safe enough letting them watch Strange Dawn. Easily amused and overly sentimental adults might also be charmed by the cuteness of the pint-sized strange world denizens. If, on the other hand, they actually appreciate coherent plots, funny jokes, and characters with depth, they’ll probably just kill you in your sleep.

Have a strange day.

Strange Dawn, Vol. 1: Strange World

Strange Dawn, Vol. 1: Strange World character sheet

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