Betterman 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: A-
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Betterman

Betterman Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     August 20, 2002
Release Date: August 06, 2002


Betterman Vol. #2
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Reunited with his childhood friend Hinoki, Keita has joined the battle against Algernon as a Head Diver in the Kakuseijin No. 1, a multi-purpose state-of-the-art mecha. Danger abounds as the Akamatsu team travel around the world in search of Algernon. Meanwhile, Betterman continues to monitor the Akamatsu team's progress and comes to the rescue on more than one occasion. But Betterman has secrets that no one has even guessed. Will discovering them cost the Akamatsu team their lives? 5 Episodes.

The Review!


Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The series appears to be sporting a pretty decent pro-logic track, so the rear speakers at least come alive on occasion. The majority of the rear activity tends to focus in the music, both the opening and the ending, as well as some incidental music and sound effects throughout. It’s not major by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s definitely there. Dialogue is well placed along the forward soundstage and we noticed no dropouts or distortions on either track during regular playback.

Video:
Betterman continues to be one of the darker shows I’ve seen in its use of the black and gray palette, though it does branch out a bit better here. Colors throughout look good without being over saturated, and have a slightly soft feel to them, which seems to be very intentional by the style. Combined with the animation style, the show at times feels like a theatrical piece, with several sections reminiscent of Metropolis. This isn’t a show that’s going to look stunning since it’s intended to be murky.

Packaging:
Again using the foil method, the front cover looks gorgeous! Betterman’s face makes up the upper background while a shot of lightning strikes through, while the Mode Warp woman, such lovely green hair, comes out looking great. The back cover uses it as well, mixing the animation shots into one swipe. There’s a good summary of the show as well as the episode numbers and titles here. The discs features and production information is also listed. Bandai makes more friends with this cover by making it reversible and having that front cover be very similar to the Japanese one as well as providing the Japanese title logos for it on the front and on the spine. The back cover provides a variety of new artwork as well. The insert provided has the front cover art used again while it folds out to talk about the Betterman a bit. The back of the insert provides the full credits listing.

Menu:
There’s a brief and rather loud lightning flare-up before the menu settles in to a version of the front cover with the Betterman image and lightning striking down on the logo and selections. The layout is very well done and the images used for everything sets the mood perfectly. Submenus are quick to load and easy to get around, and the language menu was done up just as I like them.

Extras:
There’s a nice selection of extras included in this round. The first is a textless ending, which I just can’t stop playing enough of, it’s so hypnotic in its own way. There’s a production gallery, which while short, gets a plus because they’re color shots, and a second installment of the Mode Warp File section which has a number of text pages talking about the technology behind the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Betterman as a series continues to be a very mischievous piece of work, but starts off doing a very surprising thing. During something of an interview session, the events of the previous five episodes all get tied together plotwise to the mysterious enemy that is Algernon. That’s something that rarely happens in any series, especially such a tightly done piecing together this early on.

The mystery aspect of the series kicks up again, as the team heads to India where their goofy guide takes them to some ruins and caves where a previous team has died in search of clues. The guide refuses to go into the ruins with them after hearing a sound that he only associates as being something called the Behemoth. As the sound gets louder, each of the team in the ruins has a different reaction, such as Kaede and Yanagi, the two new Head Divers being drawn deep inside the ruins while Hinoki drops to her knees in some amount of discomfort. Only Keita and Asami seem to be unaffected by it.

With the group split, a variety of things begin to happen to each of them, parts of their pasts coming back to life such as Yanagi dealing with a long dead brother and so forth. These pieces do a bit to help expand on the cast, but provides more of a focal point for upping the mystery aspect of things. It works well, with lots and lots of dark gray and black backgrounds. Even those outside the ruins begin to get affected, which leads to some very disastrous results.

One of the things we do get some real glimpses of here in these episodes is the newest character to be introduced, a lizard girl that only Keita sees early on. She shows up in both forms in India, but makes an appearance later on that’s a bit more interesting. The episodes after the India incident are a bit more relaxed and give a wider view of Akamatsu’s holdings and just what kind of stuff he has backing him up. One episode deals nicely with Keita and Sakura performing a Head Dive together and underwater at that, which gives Sakura some much needed time out of her confining chair. There’s also a very creepy episode with the lifeforms that surge through the ship and try to kill everyone.

Betterman continues to be a very hard show to describe, since things are explained and yet not, with the overall mystery growing and expanding. I’m really enjoying its style and the amount of substance that there is to it. There’s enough questions being asked that I’m really interested in learning how it plays out and what it all means. It’s definitely not for everyone though, especially with its slow pacing and hardly any characters you can really identify with. But for it’s larger story, I’m hooked.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending,Production Gallery,Mode Warp Files

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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