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DVD Review: Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad Volume 1

March 9, 2013

Back in the day, when Power Rangers was at the peak of its popularity with children, we started to see a lot of similar shows being produced, in order to cash in on the success of the show. Most of these were from Saban, like VR Troopers and Big Bad Beetleborgs. However, there was one other company at the time that took a shot at making an Ameri-Toku show, and that was DIC Entertainment. Known for making shows like Inspector Gadget, The Real Ghostbusters, and other hit cartoon shows, they decided to take a shot at making an American Adaptation of Denkou Choujin Gridman, a Toku show from the makers of the Ultraman series, but is not related to the Ultraman series from what I’ve been told. So DIC Entertainment was adapting a less popular, Ultraman like show into a Power Rangers-like cash-in show… and the result? Well, it clearly wasn’t as popular as Power Rangers. In fact, it’s probably remembered less by the general public than VR Troopers and Beetleborgs, which are already more obscure to the average person.

But let me let you in on a little secret… I didn’t watch that much of Power Rangers as a kid. I did watch it occasionally, and liked it well enough, but I was relying on old VHS tapes of either recorded episodes my parents had at the time, or whatever we could find at a video store (Wow, that feels like so long ago…). What I ended up watching more of was Big Bad Beetleborgs/Metallix… and this show, Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad. While they may not hold up as well as they did when I watched them as a kid, as a fan of Ameri-Toku today, they both hold a very special place in my heart. So when I heard this was coming to DVD at long last, I knew I couldn’t pass up on adding it to my collection.

So, how well is this DVD release? Is it Shout Factory level quality, or is it a complete mess? Well, let’s take a look at Mill Creek Entertainment’s newest DVD release and see how well of a job they did.

Presentation:

Front Cover: The front cover is awesome. It shows a nice graphic of Servo (the hero of the show) getting bigger to confront the virus monster of the week like he typically does in the show. It’s a fantastic picture to use, and honestly makes the cover feel much more alive than the Power Rangers/VR Troopers/Beetleborg covers. It also has a nice large version of the show’s logo (which I always loved), with the words “It’s Time To Samurize!”, which was a nice little spin on Servo/Sam’s transformation/catchphrase “Let’s Samurize guys!”. I do have a few nitpicks though. The placement (or at least the font) of the “28 Episodes” text could have been adjusted a bit. I don’t know why, but it looks a bit off to me, although it does get the job done. I’m also not a fan of the “Cookie Jar” border, which I feel takes away from the overall look of the front cover. But, since (I believe) this is part of a Cookie Jar TV collection, and they’re trying to market to parents that it’s one of the many kids shows from that company, I can let it slide. Overall, one of my favorite covers in my Ameri-Toku dvd collection.

Back Cover: While not as great looking as the front cover, it still does quite a few things right. It has Servo/Sam’s catchphrase in a large red font on top, which was a nice touch. They included two photos from the show with a picture of Sam, as well as a picture of Servo’s costume as he gets ready for battle. There’s also a nice hand drawn (I assume) picture of Servo fighting one of the more well-known Virus Monsters, Skorn. This was used on a previous VHS release, if I recall, which I loved when I first saw it years ago. The only thing I’m not a big fan of is the Red and Yellow borders at the bottom of the cover (and the Cookie Jar TV border on top, but see my comments above on that matter). It makes the box look a bit fragmented, which isn’t as appealing to the eye. Still, it hits the same notes that the VR Trooper and Beetleborg releases had, and has a nice background of the digital world that is much more appealing to the eye than some of the other backgrounds from the Shout releases. Overall, it has some pros and cons, but it gets the job done.

Disc Art: All three discs have the graphic of Servo from the front cover. There’s no variation between the three discs’ main look like with VR Troopers and Big Bad Beetleborgs. However, that’s not a big deal since unlike those shows, Servo is the main hero (although there were the zord/armor combinations on the show, but I don’t think they have any high quality shots of them to work with. And honestly, I can live without seeing them on individual discs.) Plus, the front cover shot looks awesome, so I don’t mind all three discs looking the same. One thing that was a nice touch is that each disc tells you exactly what episodes are on it (Note: There’s no little paper that lists all the episodes, nor does the case see through and show the reverse side of the cover sheet, which the Shout releases had, allowing them to show a list of what episodes were on each disc.) I personally thought this was a great idea, especially for those who travel and take just the discs with them for long car/plane trips.

One Additional Note: Ok, I don’t usually make a note of this in DVD reviews, but this needs to be discussed. The way the discs are stored in this release is horrible (and quite frankly… unprofessional). Each disc is put in a sleeve which is stacked upon the other two discs and put in the case. There is a part of the case that cradles them so they don’t go flying around or when opening the case, but is kind of frustrating to take out and put back in. I don’t understand why they couldn’t just make spots to put each individual disc on, like every other dvd release. Is it because this dvd release is cheaper than other releases? Because I’ve seen cheap dvd releases that still make an individual spot for each disc (even if it is just making it so two discs share a dvd holder, which I still hate, but at least it looks more professional than this.) Forgive me ignorance, but would it have really made the release more expensive by putting in a disc holder? You’re spending money on individual sleeves for each disc, and a dvd case that has a mold designed specifically to keep the dvd sleeves in place. Wouldn’t it just be easier to just order a dvd case that has a way to hold each disc?

What’s on the disc?

Main Menu: It’s a simple menu. It just has the logo, a bland background, and an option to either play all episodes or go to the episode selection screen. There’s no brief intro transition like with the Shout Factory releases. There’s no music playing while you’re on the menu either. It gets the job done, and for a release like this I can understand why there wasn’t a lot of effort put into it (After all, I need to remind myself that I was spoiled by Shout Factory). Still, I would have at least used the cover image again as a background graphic for the menu, and maybe play the credit version of the theme song while on this menu option. Sure, using the cover image would have been lazy, but not as lazy as the current look of the Main Menu.

Episode Selection Menu: There’s no transition to the episode menu either, just a quick switch to this menu. The background has a photo of the cast looking at their computer, as they typically do in each episode. It’s a nice touch, but it makes me wonder why they couldn’t do a little more with the Main Menu in terms of a background. There’s no music playing while on this menu either, which I can live without for a release like this, but still wish they could have played something. At the end of the day, it’s good enough, and a little more creative than the Main Menu, but not by much.

Special Features: No Special Features for this release. Not sure the show had anything that could be used for a special feature anyway. And if there was, I doubt Mill Creek would put it on a release.

Content

Video/Audio Quality: For a 90’s show, it looks good enough. Again, we’re talking about a show that aired almost 20 years ago. You can’t expect it to look like HD quality. For a DVD release, it gets the job done. Same with audio. No noticeable issues on my end.

The Episodes Themselves: I won’t cover individual episodes in this review, but the more stand-out episodes were the first three episodes (“To Protect and Servo”, “Samurize”, and “Samurize Guys!” … Creative, I know.) that introduced the cast and set up the show, and the episodes with Skorn, a virus monster who could talk and had personality (“An Un-Helping Hand” and “His Master’s Voice”).

For those who have no clue what the show is about, let me summarize really quickly. An evil, self-aware computer program named Kilokhan (voiced by the awesome Tim Curry) teams-up with a gloomy, egotistical artist named Malcolm Frink, in order to have him create Virus Monsters to attack a world inside every electronic device known as “The Digitial World” (No, Digimon fans, not that digital world). When the virus there, it can either destroy or manipulate the device to do whatever Kilokhan/Malcolm order it to do. In exchange for Malcolm’s help (although he is reluctant do so), he occasionally let’s Malcolm use the virus monster in certain devices in school to get payback on someone/get what he wants/cause trouble. Yes, that plot is as weird as it sounds, and sometimes the villain’s plot can be really, really stupid, even for shows like this. But hey, we need a reason for our heroes to fight, so it’s good enough.

Speaking of heroes, a kid named Sam Collins is eventually zapped by a computer program designed to take down Kilokhan and his monsters, the Servo Program, and is given the ability to enter the Digital World and transform into an armored hero with the ability to fight the viruses. It also apparently gives his friends the ability to enter the digital world (via attack vehicles) and transform into either armor for Servo, or zord combinations to assist in battle. (And trust me, Sam/Servo needs it. You can have a drinking game when marathoning episodes for every time Servo gets his butt kicked.)

Overall, it’s not a perfect show. Sam can sometimes be uninteresting or inappropriate around some of the female characters (well, for a kids show. I’m actually kind of surprised what they got away with in a show like this, at least in the scenes where they weren’t fighting.) and the rest of the cast can have times where they can get annoying (I’m specifically talking about Amp. You’ll either love him, or you’ll hate him so much.) The best characters in my opinion are Malcolm and Kilokhan, who steal the show and are probably the main reasons to watch each episode outside of the fight sequences (although again, at times Malcolm can get a bit annoying). Still, with an open mind, it can be a fun show to watch for what it is. Gridman had fantastic fight footage, which (while burned out very quickly, as they used many monster fights to open the show, which were eventually re-used so you know how it would end…) were a lot of fun to watch. The monster designs are some of the best this type of show has to offer, especially when compared to Power Ranger’s monsters.

Final Thoughts: For the price at the time of release, this first Volume of Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad is good enough for fans of the show. Over half of the show is on this first volume, in a pretty good quality considering the age of the show. Although the release isn’t exactly on par with Shout Factory (especially in dvd storage), it’s a release good enough for a less popular show like this one. If you’re a fan of Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad, or looking to expand your Ameri-Toku dvd collection, I’d say it is well worth the price. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone though, as there are some who may be turned off by a few things the show has to offer (Save for the fight sequences and monster design).

Bottom line, for its price, I’d say it is at least worth checking out. For fans of the show though, you’ll be satisfied with this release.

You can buy this release here at Amazon.

Thanks for reading my review! As always, please feel free to comment or critique anything in the review. It helps make future reviews much better.

For more news and reviews on the latest Ameri-Toku dvd releases, check back here regularly or at my twitter account, @TSilentWatcher.

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One Comment
  1. Anonymous permalink

    In regards to how the discs are stored, this is sadly the way that Mill Creek, the company responsible for this release, does every set they make. They are a budget-minded company, and the paper sleeves and lack of disc trays are how they cut down on costs for every release. I wish they would switch to trays though- my copy of SSSS came with all three discs scratched and scuffed. Thankfully it didn’t prevent them from working, but needless to say I have been looking for a decent replacement case since then, something I would recommend that anyone who buys a Mill Creek set do as soon as possible.

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