Betterman Vol. #6 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Betterman

Betterman Vol. #6

By Chris Beveridge     May 03, 2003
Release Date: April 08, 2003


Betterman Vol. #6
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
The Akamatsu team finally tracks the deadly Algernon to its source! As they mount a final assault, the team wrestles with the idea that this mission could essentially be a suicide mission.

Each member of the group must find their own reason to go on and continue to fight. All the secrets of Betterman are now revealed! What is the nature of Sakura's illness? Will Shou and Kaede find happiness? What will become of Keita and Hinoki? Will any of them survive? Even Betterman may not be strong enough to protect them all.

The Review!
You simply have to love a series that finishes its last couple of episodes by essentially killing the vast majority of its cast.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The series appears has a 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 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, even in the bright daylight sequences.

Packaging:
Again using the foil method, the front cover looks gorgeous! Lamia gets the final cover and pulls off that completely cool look as some men in all leather can, as well as the multicolored hair whipping in the wind. The back cover uses the foil 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 look 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 Mode Warp organization in some detail. The back of the insert provides the full credits listing. The included card with this release is of Akamatsu against a shimmery reddish/purple background.

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:
The extras in this round are about the same as the previous volume, where we get a few pages of sketches and information in the Mode Warp Files section as well as some good looking sketches in the production sketches section. There in general doesn’t seem to be a lot of extra material associated with this series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final four episodes, Betterman reverses its past trends of obscure and incomprehensible moments to instead provide an almost formulaic ending to the series.

In some ways, this is good, as the final explanations of, well, everything coming rolling out during each of the last three episodes, sometimes at such a pace that it feels a bit rushed. The main plus is that everything is pretty much clearly laid out, and it helps to make some of the earlier episodes make sense. There’s still plenty that made little sense, so it doesn’t have a huge impact on the previous episodes. But upon rewatching, with knowledge of what’s really going on, things may make more sense.

This disc opens with a Christmas party and the usual celebrations that ensue at Akamatsu’s company. There’s plenty of shenanigans going on at the office, but far less so elsewhere, which is where Hinoki and Keita end up going to get away from it all. While their trip out is fairly uneventful, Keita ends up experience more flashes of things going wrong when they finally arrive at his house. Hinoki is understanding, but Keita is flat out confused by all the imagery of death and the like that he’s getting. But in the end, the two end up in the fun situation where Hinoki finds herself being kidnapped.

Once back at Akamatsu and bringing everyone up to speed, things move quickly as they decide that Hinoki really does need saving. The problem being is finding her, but Asami manages to provide the location once Sakura provides some foreboding imagery. Hinoki’s apparently been taken to the Mode Warp island headquarters. This is pretty bad, since it’s been quarantined and is going to be bombed into nothingness in a few hours due to certain UN mandates about security and safety.

So all the primary cast gears up and takes a variety of crafts and ships to get to the Mode Warp HQ. This place has been silent for nearly a month now and no teams who have gone to it have sent communications back. The groups descent into the bowels of the massive structure end up playing out with a mix of formula as well as the creepiness of the beginning segment. With three episodes to do this, they provide some basic exploration, some good fighting sequences and a whole lot of death. There’s also a fair amount of revelations mixed in that provide the clear reason for the entire show, from where things started in South America to the final plans to surpass the Better Man to create the Best Man.

The final three episodes are probably the most lucid ones of the entire series, even with all the techno/spiritual-babble that gets thrown around by the cast. It does feel a bit rushed in places, and the ending leaves you uneasy, but at least it all makes sense. I really liked Betterman at the start of the series for its sense of style as well as the way it played itself out. The little things, like obscuring the faces of unimportant characters, worked ingeniously well, providing something very different from many other series. But this vagueness was applied in a different form in the final battle with the real enemy, and that was just bizarre in general.

I liked a lot of aspects of Betterman, but it’s a series I think really fell apart in the middle and could have been tightened up a lot better with a few less episodes. They really hooked me from the start, but the meat of the middle just wasn’t there and the ending plays out in some respects like many others, though they get a definite kudos for treating the haraters like dirt for most of the last episodes. Those who’ve enjoyed the series will likely love to see the conclusion, but if you’ve been struggling with it like I have, the payoff feels weak.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Mode Warp Files,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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