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Science Fiction - Delta State

Delta State The Complete First Season
The Rifter Apocalypse Has Begun
2 DVDs 13 episodes
English and French versions
Peace Arch Home Entertainment 2007

I love cartoons or, to be learned, animated series but am much less interested in science-fiction animation. Perhaps because too often image trumps story so you get lots of pretty looking scenes and no plot. This is not the case for Delta State The Rifter Apocalypse Has Begun. This Nelvana produced series based on the Douglas Gayeton comic book not only looks cool on DVD, once you get used to the noses, but is well written with interesting characters and plots. These episodes originally aired on Teletoon, the Canadian Nickleodeon.

Delta State is about four unwilling sort of superheroes in their early twenties who find themselves living together with no memory of anything before six months ago and no real idea of who they are. The bad guys are humans from another dimension called Rifters who are out to control humans in this dimension by somehow replacing the original with a copy they inhabit. Each member of the gang has a special power. The gang, or staters for want of a better expression, are: Philip Graff who has psychometry which is using objects to connect with their owner; Martin Gold who is telepathic, Claire Donally who can see from far away; and Luna Palacios who can see into the future sort of. There is also Bill Brodie, a mentor of sorts, who also works for the government.

If there is one reproach to Delta State The Complete First Season DVD is it starts without much background information that the narrated opening does little to fix: "Four young amnesiacs hold the fate of human-kind in their hands. Their mission is to protect you from the Rifters who want to control the human mind. They may appear to be harmless and self-absorbed but they have astonishing, paranormal powers and an invincible motivation: To retrieve the secrets to their past-lives, hidden deep in the parallel dimension of the Delta State." You basically find yourself in media res trying to figure out things. This may be a voluntary move to have the viewer as confused as the twenty somethings in the series but it feels like you are joining a science-fiction movie in the middle. The fun thing is you still want to watch and it only gets better.

The two part opener, First Contact, sort of establishes the ground rules while the Staters -for want of a better expression-try to rescue (something called closing the acquisition) science-fiction author John Weller from the Rifters. It also clearly establishes the rule of all for one and one for all that allows them to travel from what is their real, surreal, world to something called delta state where they can really battle the rifters and where the clues to their past are hidden.

Visually, Delta State The First Season The Rifter Apocalypse Has Begun takes a little getting used to. The animation process is rotoscoping where artists (or computers) draw the animation over live action scenes. This makes for rather bizarre moments where someone's shirt tends to glow over his jacket and clothes tend to strobe. There is a lot of attention paid to scenery, especially the very New York-ish (the flatiron building) and Boston like (the tramways) city in which the 4 good guys live. The camera often pans for cool visual effects that here, unlike other series, is not just filler.

Episode three has Luna witness a couple of abductions and try to solve the mystery while under threat from two college professors. A little confusing is episode four, The Reading,  where the guest character, a tarot card reader named Chantal, looks and sounds a lot like Luna. Philip wants to know more about himself and by doing so puts Chantal in danger. There is a really cool scene where the staters find themselves literally in TV land and find out a bit about themselves in the process.  Philip has a really great line in Fusion, another good episode: when the evil scientist tries to explain his nefarious plan, "If you're going to kill me, I don't want to hear your plan. (putting his hands over his ears) La la la la la la." He is the goofball character that brings in a little comedy from time to time.

Story wise the thirteen episodes also take some getting used to. You really have to pay attention to get what is going on and remember past episodes' details. In terms of watching this as a TV series this can be a little difficult for a casual viewer. This is the advantage of having the Delta State DVD set where you can watch a few shows in succession. You want to skip Blast From The Past however as it is a really long show with a minor revelation.

Still, there is a certain lack of linearity that makes the show confusing even if you are an avid watcher. A good example of that is Cabin Fever where there seems to be a few connecting scenes and details missing.

Special features for this 2 DVD set is an interesting of Delta State where they explain the rotoscoping process and a few other tricks. Cool.

Giant kudos by the way to the people at Peace Arch Home Entertainment for the really, really cool almost 3-D looking menu for Delta State The Complete First Season The Rifter Apocalypse Has Begun. Someone definitely cared and put a lot of effort into making this usually boring part of a DVD respect the spirit and style of the animated series. It is one of those small touches that makes a buyer feel this is not just commercial fodder out for his money. You have to get used to how episode selection works as it is a bit contrary to visual logic but then again the series takes a little getting used to.

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