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R2 DVD Reviews
Monday, 07 January 2008 16:00
009-1Time for a look at 009-1 ("Double-oh Nine One"). It's James Bond with women, Najica with no panties (no, not in that sense), a cold-war Ghost in the Shell - sort of. Sex and espionage, although with more of the latter than the former - welcome to the world of Mylene Hoffman and her team...

1 - Infiltrators
Zond Soyuz, a scientist in the Eastern Bloc, has discovered what could be a devastating new explosive - more powerful than even a nuclear weapon. Fearing that his government will use his discovery to start a war, he tries to defect to the Western Bloc, but intelligence agents from the East manage to stop him before he has a chance to leave or to hand over his research data. Aware of what Soyuzu was planning, Western Block sends a team of special agents, led by the beautiful 009-1, to recover Soyuzu - or failing that, his research. But Eastern Bloc are well aware of what 009-1 and her colleagues are up to, and have their own plans to stop them...

Ugly politicianMylene in Space!

2 - Holy Night
It's Christmas, and after a hard day's training, 009-1's been given the night off - a rare chance for her to get out and enjoy the festive season. For some children, though, it's far from being a happy time - kidnapped by the military, they've been taken to the lab of one Dr Green, to be used as test subjects for some very illegal research he's been working on. A Western Bloc agent recently came into contact with one of Green's creations, with fatal results. A specialist team has already been assigned to the case, and 009-1 is sent along to make sure things don't get out of hand - but the special unit's commander doesn't take kindly to having an "amateur woman" assigned to his team...

MutantInvestigator & Sidekick

3 - Hard-Boiled
Egg, an Eastern Block assassin who's a crack-shot with a sniper rifle, is of the old-school - when he takes on a job, he takjes it on on his own terms, and he completes it in style. He's also been taking out a growing number of Western Block targets, which has brought him to the attention of the Zero Zero organisation & Mylene's squad. But while he's ruthlessly efficient, he also has a number of little personality quirks that will hopefully make his easier for Mylene's Nine Number Group to deal with - but Egg is already aware that 9-1 is on his trail...

Boss enjoying the view?Sleeping with the enemy

4 - Invitation from an Old Castle
One Dr Satonaka has been kidnapped by an agent known as Phantom, head of an organisation known as Golden Bat - maybe linked to the Eastern Bloc, maybe not - and they've been kind enough to issue an invitation to the Zero Zero Organisation to come and get him back. How polite. Whoever answers the invitation is likely to be on the receiving end of trouble, though, so Mylene is tasked with travelling to Phantom's 'haunted castle' to find out what's going on. When she getws there, she finds that she's not the only person with an invitation - and that Phantom seems to have planned a little murder-mystery weekend, where the winner will receive Dr Satonaka, but the losers are likely to be the ones who are murdered...

The mask just ruins the look...Up for the chop

So when I say "Najica with no panties", I mean you just don't get to see them, not that 9-1 and her friends aren't wearing any. Now that would be fanservice. 009-1 is set in what's best thought of as a slightly parallel world where the Cold War never ended - the East and the West have coalesced into full nations, and although there's been over 100 years of peace between them, the enmity is still very much alive. Now, though, the East's leaders are beginning to tire of peace and are looking for reasons to get aggressive.

Enter Mylene and her team (their names aren't actually used in the show - they just refer to each other by their codenames), members of the Zero Zero Organisation and together forming one of its most professional units, the Number Nine Group. Highly trained and augmented with technological implants (the submachineguns in Mylene's breasts are a particular highlight, and used to good effect several times here), they're at the forefront of the West's undercover attempts to keep the upper hand over the East.

As you can probably guess, the stories themselves are fairly typical secret-agents tales - recover the scientist, prevent killings and so on - just with a slightly futuristic feel to them. While the world as its presented on-screen looks as you’d expect 60’s / 70’s Europe to look, the use of ray-guns and other neat little gadgets remind you that it’s not the world we’re used to, and that’s just one aspect of the show’s distinctive visual style. Another aspect is in just how ugly most of the characters outside Mylene’s unit are – while the girls are lovingly-realised and very easy on the eyes, the rest of the folks on view have mostly had numerous run-ins with the ugly tree, and if you’re the sort of person who’ll judge a series on first impressions that may be a little off-putting. Don’t let that bother you, though, as under the surface this is one worthwhile series.

Along with the Soyuz tale, Mylene has to deal with mutant children, ruthless killers, and revenge-obsessed scientists – all in a day’s work for an augmented secret-agent, but while the action side of the stories rightly takes centre-stage, there’s also some time spent looking at Mylene the woman, in how she reacts to her assignments, and in how she uses her killer body for practical advantage, both on- and off-duty. While the action gets a little over-the-top in places – I wouldn’t have it any other way in this sort of series – all the stories hold together well and make sense. There’s nothing thrown at the viewer that leaves you scratching your head and wondering what just happened. The missions themselves are reasonably varied, and while you don’t see too much of Mylene’s team-mates on this volume, they form a team that has a good range of specialist skills, leaving options open for a few different types of story later in the series.

What’s most impressive is that, despite being based on a 40-year-old manga, 009-1 still manages to feel fresh. Yes, some tweaking of the source materials was apparently necessary to keep it from feeling outdated, but that’s been done really well, resulting in a polished and entertaining show.

If the original manga weren’t so old, I’d be saying that 009-1 borrows inspiration from a number of sources to build its world – except that the most obvious sources for quoting all came after the manga, so it’s amazing that the show still feels contemporary. Some good visuals (some character designs excepted), interesting characters and good storylines all add up to create a series which maybe doesn’t have as much immediate appeal as it could, but if you give it an episode or two you’ll find yourself quickly hooked. I’m looking forward to the next volume, and this one comes well recommended.

Rating - ****

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