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Twin Signal
A region 2 DVD review by CNash
 

Twin Signal, first released in 1996, has finally seen the light of day over on these shores with MVM's vanilla-flavoured Region 2 release. This DVD features all three episodes of this OVA, which is based on the manga by Sachi Oshimizu.

Plotwise, Twin Signal is as simple as you can get. Dr. Otoi, a world-renowned robotics expert, creates a state-of-the-art robot to act as a "big brother" for his grandson Nobuhiko. He names this robot Signal. Unfortunately, due to a mishap during Signal's programming, whenever Nobuhiko sneezes, Signal transforms into a child-like, playful version of himself – much to his chagrin, as he's meant to be a high-powered combat robot. In these three episodes, Dr. Otoi's arch-rival steals Signal's predecessor, Pulse, and reprograms it to seek out and destroy Signal. Of course, thanks to Twin Signal's colourful cast of characters – and the style of the story, which I'll talk about later – things don't go exactly to plan.

Even though Twin Signal appears on the surface to be an action-packed, explosive combat fest, the reality is very different. First of all, the plot is laced with slapstick comedy; running gags include heavy bookcases falling over, two bumbling henchmen – one big, one small, and of course the little one's the older brother – random penguins that aren't given any explanation whatsoever, and a cute female robot with a tendency to break every dish in the house. Secondly, the script is juvenile at best – there's no real complexity to the story, which seems designed only to connect one slapstick scene to another. Even the action is half-hearted at best.

But I digress; that's not the point. Twin Signal isn't trying to be a serious animé, it knows precisely what it is. Some of the comedy moments involve spoofing several animé clichés (something that fans of Excel Saga may be familiar with) – Signal has a habit of making unnecessary grand entrances whenever he transforms back to normal; his rival Pulse is near-sighted and makes his evil threats to a nearby tree; the main villain is hidden in darkness for the first half of the story, a la Inspector Gadget's Dr. Claw, but is revealed to be a decrepit old man surrounded by junk when someone unwittingly opens the curtains. An animé like this is a breath of fresh air after so many "serious" shows; I haven't sniggered this much since I saw Dragon Half (which covers mostly the same ground).

The series' animation bears a slight roughness that is commonplace with mid-90s animé – as a whole, the style reminds me of the early episodes of Pokémon. Action sequences are over-the-top, but all of the fighting characters move swiftly and smoothly. Characters have a habit of suddenly switching to "chibi" mode when they don't need to be so serious, with out-of-proportion bodies and facial features – a hallmark of this type of story. Probably the best-animated sequence in the series is the opening credits, but then that's to be expected; credits sequences are often better animated than the series they accompany.

Soundwise, the incidental score can only be described as "whacky", and it fits neatly with the ethic of the series. Half of the impact of slapstick comedy comes from the music that accompanies it, after all. However, I do have a bone to pick with whoever wrote the opening theme – it's too serious and dynamic for such a light-hearted series. The English voices are so-so, often prone to overacting – I suppose if we're not meant to take this show seriously, neither should they!

Twin Signal, overall, is something you'd rent from a video store if you need something to keep pre-teens happy for an hour and a half. It's clearly not designed for an adult, critical eye, and especially not one who's used to more serious endeavours. If you're looking for something to watch with kids, or as a family, you could do worse than Twin Signal; it's simple, inoffensive and entertaining.

sound and vision

The picture is framed at its original 4:3 and is an NTSC to PAL transfer, but a good one – detail, sharpness and colour are all very good, though there is some occasional blurring on fast movement.

Both Japanese and English soundtracks are available. Both feature reasonable stereo separation on music and some sound effects and are clear and well produced.

The optional English subtitles are bright yellow and easy to read.

extra features

Not much in the way of features for Twin Signal – some mildly-amusing Outtakes from the English voice cast, an Art Gallery and trailers for Ranma 1/2, Trigun and R.O.D

Twin Signal

Japan 1996
90 mins

DVD details
region 2
video
4:3
sound
Dolby stereo 2.0
languages
Japanese
English
subtitles
English
extras
Outtakes
Art gallery
Trailers
distributor
MVM
release date
7 August 2006
review posted
8 August 2006

See all of SNash's reviews