Aquarian Age Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen Letterbox
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Aquarian Age

Aquarian Age Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     November 08, 2004
Release Date: October 26, 2004


Aquarian Age Vol. #2
© ADV Films


What They Say
Kyota should be having the time of his life: The debut of his band has been set and beautiful girls are throwing themselves at him! Instead, he's singing the blues as the mystical war that surrounds him begins to heat up. Added to his misfortunes is his long time friend, Yoriko, who has been giving him the cold shoulder as her career as a movie star begins to take off. Why do people suddenly want to kill him and what's behind the sudden coldness in Yoriko’s heart? Can he save her from the darkness sucking at her soul while keeping his own intact as well?

The Review!
Aquarian Age shifts from the building of the band and a light touch on this larger war to large changes in the characters and the war becoming much more of a central focus, particularly for Kyouta.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a very good stereo mix to it with plenty of directionality across the forward soundstage both in dialogue and sound effects, particularly during the battle sequences. We checked out parts of the show in the English 5.1 mix and that came across very solid as well with a bit more volume to it and a slightly greater clarity to the directionality. The music for the show is from one of my favorites and I think it plays out beautifully here even if a touch louder than I think it should be. Overall, we had no troubles with either track during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, Aquarian Age is presented here in its original 1.85:1 widescreen letterbox format. The series was not released with anamorphic materials in Japan and this release matches that as the materials are likely simply not available. That said, this transfer looks very good overall and is quite pleasing on the eyes. Cross coloration is simply not visible here and there's very little in terms of aliasing, which is partially helped since while the show is fully animated, there are more stills used here than normal I think. Colors look good throughout with a solid feel for the majority of it with only some of the blacks not being quite as solid as they could be.

Packaging:
Though minimal and simple in its way, the covers for this series are shaping up really nicely. Continuing from the first, we get a focused shot in the center, this time of Yoriko in her actress mode, while surrounded by partial head and body shots of other influences but all set against a black backdrop. This really draws attention to the characters, as detailed as they are, but mostly to Yoriko and that gorgeous blue dress. The back cover has a foursome of images at the top and provides a couple of good paragraphs worth of summary that goes over the basics. The discs extras are clearly listed as is the various technical information which fills out the grid along the bottom just below the production information. The cover is also reversible and it goes the extra distance of providing two reversible covers, letting you choose from more of the Japanese artwork for the cover. The choices here are great but I love the artwork on the main cover the best. Also included in the keepcase is a booklet that has numerous staff and cast comments from the Japanese production as they talk about their experiences on the show as well as a glossary. The glossary is a bit tricky since it explains numerous terms that haven't really come about yet but provide some basis for understanding what's going on. I'm very tempted to classify many of them as spoilers at this point but at the same time they may be "givens" for a Japanese viewer.

Menu:
While not the best menus I've ever seen, the ones used here work really well for the show and are probably some of the best flowing pieces I've seen from an ADV menu yet. The main menu is simply a series of blacks and blues with shifting water motion effects playing across it set to the end song theme. When you move to the submenus, a bit of transitional animation plays where it morphs the menu slightly to bring in the new material and it's practically seamless on my decks. This is rare in general and I've only seen them this smooth on a number of Nightjar menus in the past. Though simple in general, they fit the theme well and they're pretty slick. Access times are nice and fast and the disc read our players' language presets perfectly.

Extras:
The extras are roughly the same as the previous volume but with some minor changes. The Behind the Scenes piece continues though this one moves away from the actors for the most part and spends a good amount of interesting and informative time with John Duckworth, the audio engineer for the show. Though I knew most of what's involved in the clean-up side of things, it's told well here and is surely an eye-opener for many others and even has a tip or two for aspiring voice actors. The rest of the extras are basically updated versions of the first volume or repeats, such as the clean opening and closing sequences. The Japanese DVD spots and production artwork pages get update as does the original Japanese trailer.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Aquarian Age in a way is a frustrating show since in between the first and second volume there were things I simply couldn't remember and the show opens with events happening pretty fast. The first volume did a really great job of taking its time over the first five episodes by showing the lives of this young group of people as they're spreading their wings and figuring out what they want in the world. With much of the attention focused on Kyouta and the start of the band, we got to know them well and their bonds were showed to be strong. But even in the heart of all that, we learned that Yoriko has a different path to follow that she has no choice about.

With that in mind, these four episodes become Yoriko's story but not told entirely through her eyes for a very specific reason. Yoriko's life is changed right from the start after she had her experience of awakening as almost the next thing that happens to her is that she's attacked by a Dark Lore, only to be saved by a Mindbreaker. And not just any Mindbreaker but Abuto himself. This allows him to casually feel her out to see what she knows, which is precious little as that's what the Arayashki have decided is best, and he's able to tell her enough of the truths that she realizes she's being lied to by those who she is supposed to lead. So much so that it sends her into a mode where she's ready to leave them entirely and does just that.

It becomes even worse for her though when Abuto sets things up to push her already fragile mental state over the edge just a bit. Sending Kanae to meet up with Kyouta and take him out for awhile, Yoriko comes across them when Kanae settles in and begins to kiss him, something he does resist but not entirely so. The vision is enough to break what little is left of Yoriko's trust in people at this point and her innate powers start to appear, allowing Saravasti to basically take Yoriko over. The change in her takes a slight bit of time but as we find her next, she's being groomed to be the top new actress in Japan. "A woman twenty years older than she is" is how she's referred to in how she carries herself suddenly as well as the scope of her abilities.

The loss of Yoriko sends Kyouta into a downward spiral as he tries to figure out just what's going on with her. Of course, being a blinded male he doesn't really see that she's been into him for much longer or that he's basically had three women vying for his affections recently. While it's not surprising that he's somewhat blinded to Yoriko's interest in him, he's got to recognize the advances of Kanae the most as well as the intent of Asumi herself. Yet even with all of this and the way he can play the field a bit, he instead keeps in his downward spiral. And this lets him become unfocused and unaware of things so much so that it takes a bit to realize he's being targeted by these strange forces he's become aware of and ends up in a bad accident with his band mates.

There is a lot of things going on in this volume and the dance between Kyouta and Yoriko is very much at the center of it. With Yoriko firmly under Saravasti's control now, she's making huge waves inside the film industry with her first role being of critical importance. It's also a role that brings her into contact with many other people and she's able to break them down into fits of shame that cause them to quit, which also allows for Cosmopop to start bringing in their own people. The change in Yoriko is a lot of fun to watch as she really is a completely different person now and carries herself with full confidence. Seeing how Abuto continues to manipulate everyone and gain new pawns plays strongly into this though he may have overstepped in letting Kanae be as free as she is right now.

The story of the band definitely moves to the back of the show now but the friends continue to have an up front impact on Kyouta's life. The bonds he has with them is something that the forces aligned against him are trying to cut so that he'll be alone but it's not something any of them give up easily, even with a major car accident. Some of the other tales continue to move around in the background, such as Kiriko's becoming an employee of Abuto's place and the breakdown of her friendship with Asumi. So many little pieces are built up throughout here and no visible or easily guessed of way that it's all going to fall in the final four episodes is making this a lot of fun to watch. While the focus will obviously be on trying to save the relationship of Kyouta and Yoriko, I'm far more interested in seeing where all the side relationships will end up falling.

In Summary:
While the first volume of Aquarian Age captured us with the way it moved slowly and deliberately with its pacing to introduce characters that they want you to care about, the second volume takes those characters and starts to squeeze really hard on them and twists them into the molds that they need to move forward. Everything picks up a fair bit faster here and the couple of exposition moments throughout the four episodes do a great job of building up the importance of what's going, even if they do feel a bit forced in some of them. Unfortunately it's the short shows that often seem like they'd do the best with more episodes to tell their tale and this one is definitely feeling that towards the end of the second of three volumes. The finale can't come fast enough now.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Behind the Anime video with bloopers by Vic Mignogna and Chris Patton and an interview with Jon Duckworth (audio engineer), Original Japanese trailer, Japanese DVD spots, Clean open and ending animation,Production artwork

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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