Argentosoma Vol. #6 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Argentosoma

Argentosoma Vol. #6

By Chris Beveridge     December 04, 2003
Release Date: December 02, 2003


Argentosoma Vol. #6
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
The largest alien mass ever seen is headed towards Earth and humanity seems powerless to stop it. In desperation, an attempt to turn the Ulysses into a giant thermonuclear bomb is conceived with the remaining members of Funeral returning home in an attempt to attack their former home and free the Commander and Frank. With time running out for the Earth, the group will have to confront the one who betrayed them. The key to salvation rests with Frank, but will he save the Earth? Can he save the Earth? And will anyone be left standing when it's over?

The Review!
With all that’s happened, the ending here provides some closure and leaves some questions unanswered…

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Though it’s very recent, it’s a pretty basic stereo mix with only a few areas of really good directionality, mostly during the combat sequences, across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout without any noticeable dropouts or distortions.

Video:
The transfer here continues to look very solid. Colors are spot on, cross coloration is non-existent and aliasing is extremely minimal during panning sequences. There are a few areas where some dark scenes with blues in them look a little grainy, but it looks to be by design for atmosphere. Bandai’s approach has changed a bit with this release in how they handle things though; the opening sequence retains the original Japanese credits (which we like). The end credits, which used to be untranslated as well, are now done in ADV-style, which means we get fully translated credits in the rolling up format. I’d personally rather have that at the completion of each episode and retain the original Japanese credits, especially since some shows do them up so nicely.

Packaging:
The final cover is one of the most striking ones yet with a great shot of Soma and Hattie with strong confident looks to them. The dark blue and silver coloring used here looks great with the character illustrations and the washed out feel of their outfits. The back cover provides some very small shots of animation and several paragraphs of show description. The episode numbers and titles are clearly listed (with volume numbering on the spine and the front cover) as well as the discs features and production information. The insert has another shot of the cover while it opens to talk about some of the background characters and a little more on the aliens. The back of the insert provides the full production information including bilingual cast listings. Bandai also went the extra step and did this release as a reversible cover; the front of it has an interesting shot of “Frank” in both his misshapen form and in his human form, all done in the same stylish format as the main front cover while the back cover goes minimalist with just the artwork pieces and a Shakespeare quote.

Menu:
The menu design here is really nice and reflects well the shows opening mentality, as everything is set up like mirrors, which shatter upon loading and then reform in a crooked way when you go to submenus. Moving about is nice and easy and the layout is pretty standard and access times are nice and fast for the most part.

Extras:
The extras are again pretty minimal here, with another segment of the basic tech file areas that provide some more minor bits of background information and a small character gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Argentosoma has been one of the more challenging series to watch over the past ten months. With the series opening and playing out for the first half in an interesting way but filled with so many moments of simple pure stupidity on the part of some characters or countries, it was hard to take seriously. Add in some simple elements of poor continuity and it made for a difficult viewing experience for me.

With the second half of the series, where things start to come together much more fully and more is revealed, it does become more exciting and intriguing to watch. With this last volume, we get the final three arc episodes and an extra episode. According to one source I inquired with, the series was budgeted for 26 episodes but could only gain 25 weeks of airtime. So the last episode was done as a DVD bonus. This final episode, which is at the end of the run here, is a story that goes back to when Ryo had just joined the group and we get to see the current team without him dealing with a small mission. It focuses heavily on Sue and provides some great background for her, particularly since she does get the short end of the stick throughout the show.

I’m about 95% ready to recommend watching that episode first since it’ll feel anticlimactic after episode 25. But I think there’s maybe one spoiler in the end credits about it.

With the three arc episodes before it, the show is really rushing fast. Spoilers ahoy kiddies. The final three are broken in a two part finale and then an epilogue follow-up. The two part finale really moves the show along. After all the revelations before that came due to the manipulations of General Lawrence, such as Ryo and Guenevere finally revealing their origins, the team has managed to stick together for the most part. Though Dan has switched sides and Commander Ines is imprisoned, the remainder remain free and set their own plans in motion to storm the base, defeat the dark sarg’s that are running around there and free their commander.

Of course, there’s also the matter of the massive alien that’s hurtling towards the Earth that will smash it into oblivion by the sheer force in front it before any piece of it would touch it. So we’ve got some happy people in the command level at the moment.

The battle sequences go quite well, lots of danger and visual excitement to them with the dark angel like sarg’s fighting against Guenevere while Ryo and Hattie sneak into the base so that they can free Frank. With the belief that Frank can stop what’s coming, since he’s essentially been fighting against himself all this time, they’ve managed to buy some time due to the sacrifice of General Lawrence as he plays the various forces against each other, allowing enough of a distraction for Sue and the others to try and retake parts of their former base.

All of this plays out rather nicely, though there is an element where you breathe deeply and then it sort of just poofs out without much else. Normally this would be a poor ending, but Argentosoma does something I wish more series would do and do like this. While many end with a brief minute or couple of minute epilogue that goes to the future, Argentosoma gives us an entire episode that starts off six years after the events of the two part finale. Through flashbacks and carefully placed newspapers and oblique references, we learn the fate of most of the cast members during that time. Hattie is given the primary role here as we learn she’s spent the years taking care of children who lost their parents during the alien attacks while studying hard in some specialized fields.

A new journey for humanity into the stars is about to set sail and we move about the remaining cast members to see how they’re involved in this new adventure. It’s a solid follow-up to the series and helps breathe more life into them, letting them feel like they really exist beyond the few events we see in the series. If I had any surprise with the follow-up though, it’s in wondering how Sue ended up so… well, white in the interim. While hair color and styles change, her skin color really goes through a change, which is even more noticeable if you watch her EX episode afterwards.

In Summary:
Argentosoma has definitely been one of the more challenging series I’ve seen. While the first half feels rough, I can see why parts of it was done the way it was in retrospect. That still doesn’t forgive a lot of the continuity errors that are rife throughout the show. The epilogue episode has an amusing one with a character in prison with his prisoner number of 231 on his back. Yet verbally they call him prisoner 303. Go figure.

Argentosoma is definitely an intriguing show if given the time. This is the kind of series that will end up doing better on a second lower price run or if it gets shown on TV in some form to bring more people to it.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Tech Files,Character Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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