Aquarian Age Vol. #3 - 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: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Aquarian Age

Aquarian Age Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     December 13, 2004
Release Date: December 07, 2004


Aquarian Age Vol. #3
© ADV Films


What They Say
Success never comes easy, but for Kyouta, it may not be worth the price! Shingo and Junichi have morphed into the harshest of music critics, pop idol Ryuusei finds fault with everything Kyouta does and girlfriend Yoriko thinks his songs are boring! Of course, Yoriko is not quite herself anymore either. Reveling in her newfound powers, she rather enjoys wreaking havoc on others. And no one seems capable of stopping her madness! Let's not forget Abuto, either: He just decided it's time for Kanae to slice open Kyouta and his friends. Ack! If Kyouta survives this obstacle course, he may get a chance to save the woman he loves, but he'll have to drop everything and take the risk of missing his own debut concert! What's a boy to do?

The Review!
Coming to conclusion sooner than feels like it should, Aquarian Age ends the small chapter of a much larger story in a surprisingly satisfying way.

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:
The last cover of the series goes with a large cast shot of the various women from the show in their powered up forms, some of them minor characters some of them more important. All told, it's a very busy cover and the artwork has a slightly washed out feel bit there's a lot of detail to it and it looks really good. 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 and the cover for Kiriko is really tempting to use as my main cover. 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. Also included in here is a two panel piece that shows what groups everyone fits into and how their relationships work. It's a complicated flowchart but pretty useful in clarifying things.

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 series finishes with essentially the same kinds of extras but with new material. The Behind the Scenes piece continues by going with the project lead for the series and then goes into a good run of material with voice actress Monica Rial, which has an amusing moment or two before she gets into the booth and does what she does. 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 TV 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)
The Aquarian Age: Sign for Evolution series comes to a close with this volume and going by where things start at the first episode on this disc, you get yourself into the mindset of wondering just how they're going to wrap it all up with only four episodes left. While the realization does come in about halfway through the series that this is just a small chapter in a much larger storyline, there's still enough subplots and character arcs going on here that need some kind of resolution to end decently enough. Amazingly enough, the bulk of the show gets wrapped up in three episodes and then finishes out with a flourish.

Throughout much of the volume, Kyouta's arc has him being pushed and pulled in different directions as the various sides try to use him to their own advantage and manipulate either him or things around him to get him to do what they want. This does make Kyouta look pretty wishy washy in a number of ways since he doesn't seem decisive about wanting to save Yoriko from the fate she's seemingly trapped by. But even Yoriko tries to get his help by appearing to him in timeslipped moments where she shows up in mirrors or other flat surfaces, pleading for him to save her. While Kyouta does eventually get to make some decisions on his own, it's unfortunate that he's not able to really exert himself until just the critical moment itself.

One of my favorite new arcs of this series was the one that started in the last volume that had Kiriko working in the entertainment industry after her fall-out with Asumi. After she got discovered in the last volume, she gets to really shine this time around as she starts to come out of her shell and frees herself to the passion that's hidden within that Kyouta's music helps to unleash. Her quick ascent to popularity is pretty comical though as that's got to be one of the fastest photo books to get made out there but it does help to tie things together a bit and it works really well later on when she as Asumi finally make amends over things and realize what they really wanted wasn't Kyouta.

The real arc though that focuses on the inner battle that Yoriko is fighting against her darker self in the form of Sarasvati is what really is the main focus here as things move towards a final battle with her that Abuto tries his best to control. With Kyouta more confident about things and realizing his place in all of it, he's able to finally confront Yoriko in her current incarnation and tries to work through what's there with the help of the girls from E.G.O. serving as his bodyguards. Amusingly, they end up in that role through some of the manipulation done by Yui of Wiz-Dom as she's come to realize that Yoriki in her present form is too much of an unpredictable variable and needs to be eliminated. Watching the various forces slowly revealed and with their own agendas that are tied to this characters problem is an interesting piece though it's hard to keep track of it at the same time.

This is a series that could have really benefited from being twice as long. Since the show opened so slowly with the interesting angle on exploring Kyouta and the band, it ended up having to move pretty fast to keep the rest of the plot in pace with what few episodes were left. Getting twice as many episodes would have allowed for more exploration of the various factions and providing more background that would have fleshed out the game more. In a way, I'm guessing that while they hoped for some mainstream appeal and would gladly take what they could get, they were working more towards pleasing fans of the game and providing a story that isn't critical to the overall franchise but can be told well enough to hook new folks and satiate the fans. I know I'm tempted to find out more about the game now.

In Summary:
Aquarian Age's concluding episodes do a good job of bringing a number of arcs together in a way that doesn't feel incredibly forced. It seriously messes over a couple of characters and frees others from the things that bind them. The main characters of the show are given enough time to work through things and actually explain themselves and most of the important secondary characters have some solid closure. There are more that I'd like to spend time with, particularly those that were really doing the manipulating, but the air of mystery about them only enhances things here. This show came out hard and fast and told an interesting story. It's definitely one of a very few shows that are based on a card game that I think successfully made the transition without really keeping much of a campy or corny level. This is good stuff.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation, Production sketches,Original Japanese trailer and DVD spots, Behind the Anime feature

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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