Filling in the back story for the science fiction action story Zeiram (see Stomp Tokyo's full review) required locations and effects that would have been prohibitively expensive for a live-action film. Enter the original animated video. In animated movies, fantastic vistas and massive spaceships are as affordable to depict as the abandoned warehouse districts favored by live-action low-budget sci-fi films (including the original Zeiram).
Iria: ZTA does a bit more than merely introduce Iria, futuristic bounty hunter, and Zeiram, the invincible alien killer she pursues. In the six episodes on the disc, this prequel develops the characters of Iria and Bob from relatively inexperienced "hunters" into the Zeiram-smashing team we'll meet in the live-action films. Granted, the animated Iria looks nothing like her movie counterpart, but such liberties are often taken in anime flicks.
There are some great fight sequences here; Zeiram is as repulsive as ever and Iria gets the chance to do battle with baddies other than the title villain. The most entertaining of these skirmishes is probably the first, in which some rescued hostages have multiple reasons for wanting to be set free. Much of the vintage-aesthetic technology has been retained (where does she get -- and keep -- those wonderful toys?), and we learn a bit more about the universe in which Iria lives.
The introduction of Kei, a rascally sidekick for Iria, was probably unnecessary, but some of the resulting conversations are pretty funny, so I'll forgive it. Another interesting character inclusion is that of Fujikuro (aka Fujicrow), a rival hunter and sometime partner who betrays Iria in Zeiram 2. The Iria animated episodes provide must-see history for Zeiram fans, but might be a bit off-putting to those who haven't seen the other installments.
Extremely clean animation with an excellent transfer. There's a slight bit of film speckling visible, but nothing that's likely to distract you. Both the English and Japanese soundtracks are in stereo, and the English subtitling is done in white with black outlines. The English dub can be a little flat at times, but it's above average.
The menus are fairly simple to use, although one questions the wisdom of splitting the language and subtitle options into two different sub-menus. At least the disc allows you to switch these options during playback.
Sadly, this disc is devoid of extras. I'm guessing there wasn't much room left on the disc after 162 minutes with two language tracks.
Chris Holland, 1/7/2001