Black Heaven Vol. #4 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 80
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Black Heaven

Black Heaven Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     April 24, 2001
Release Date: April 24, 2001

Black Heaven Vol. #4
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
From the creative team behind El Hazard comes a mid-life crisis of cosmic proportions!

Back to basics! Oji and the new members of Black Heaven struggle to come together as a group as the aliens' new weapon devastates the armada protecting what's left of the galaxy.

With his music losing its power and his wife losing her patience, Oji is in danger of losing everything! Oji sends out the call for all of the old Black Heaven fans. If the Earth's going to get destroyed, at least he'll go down playing his guitar!

Contains episodes 11, 12 & 13. Featuring music by John Sykes and the Michael Schenker Group.

The Review!
Hard rock saves space concludes with a lot of hard rock and a lot of space battles in this volume. In addition, we get some really great but brief fanservice moments as well. If you've enjoyed the ride so far, these episodes bring things to a proper conclusion.

For our primary review, we listened to this disc in it's original language, Japanese. With a show focused around music, that aspect of it continues to be the strongest part of the audio presentation. When things move to the dialog side of it, it's predominantly a center speaker show, though occasionally some sound effects use the left/right speakers, but it's usually accentuated by the music at the time. Dialogue is clean and distortion free with no noticeable dropouts or other issues.

After being completely wowed by the last volume in regards to the transfer, we felt the same way watching this volume. Rainbows are nonexistent, line noise is negligible and the animation simply flows nicely across the screen. The only things that look out of place is some of the CG pieces of animation that were placed into the spaceship combat sequences, but they're nowhere near as distracting as they were in Lost Universe. Colors are wonderfully vibrant and solid, compression artifacts are very minimal to none and the show simply looks great. It continues to be one of the few shows that I can simply enjoy due to its great transfer.

The final cover used for the series is done again in the angelic style with Hamil taking center stage with her super ship the Zappa in the background. The covers for this series were just dead on and worked well in marketing it as a show that's not all about cute girls and fanservice, which some of the Japanese covers give the impression of. Good choices and making them chromium inserts was even better. The reverse cover goes briefly into the show summary and fills out with animation shots and creative staff credits. Since there is no volume number indication on the front or spine, we at least get the episode numbers and their titles listed on the back.

The menus are pretty shiny looking and continue to have excellent sound, especially since they're identical to the first volume in layout with only the artwork being different. The only real downside to the menus was in the extras submenu where it gets difficult at times to be sure what selection you're about to select. Access times are very quick throughout though, which is always a big plus.

The extras this time around are similar to past volumes and with some new additions. We have the creditless opening/ending from the past volumes but we also get an extra one for the finale to the series which was done differently. Don't watch it until you've watched the show itself though. There's also 29 pieces of conceptual artwork that's both black and white and in color, with some really interesting pieces in there. The best extra included here that's new though is images of all of the Japanese DVD covers as well as the CD covers. Very nice inclusion!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With only three episodes to finish out the series, things move fairly fast here and the plot is kept pretty tight. This generally gives you either a haphazard series that really needed more episodes or a series that goes right for what it wants to do and gets its desired message across. Black Heaven manages to succeed in this way pretty well.

With the realization that they need a keyboardist to fill out the band since Watanabe died, Layla offers her assistance in the matter. She tells the band about what she's learned and what she knows from all her studying, so they give her the chance. She pulls of a technically great solo piece that wows the guys. So they give her the spot and start practicing. Unfortunately, every time she starts on her section, she's completely off. And this goes on for over a week, all the while the enemy is getting closer and closer.

Of course, it's quite obvious what the problem is. Layla's got the technical side of music down, which is very important, but the soul, or the groove as it's referred to here, simply isn't there. A bit of cultural discourse comes into play as Layla learns what makes humans tick as opposed to her race which leads to some new and interesting performances.

With the band fully assembled now, they take the lead and start the next assault on the enemy only to discover the enemy has created its own new super weapon that's capable of balancing out and then overpowering the Black Heaven's song. The sensors zero in on the new enemy ship and show close-ups of the person in charge... a mechanoid version of Watanabe!

From there the battle of the bands really starts to take shape and the final battle begins.

[Spoiler: Isn't Yokko quite the hottie in her groupie outfit?! :End spoiler]

There's certainly a lot to enjoy from these episodes. The characters have all definitely grown from when we initially met them way back in episode 1 and I'm definitely liking them a lot more as well. While the show doesn't end on a note of absolute certainty, it ends in a way that real life does in a sense, where after something big and momentous in ones life is now over and it all feels like a dream, and you begin to question it.

Black Heaven certainly garnered a lot of fans due to its older cast with most being born in the early 60's (back when real groove existed, heh heh) as opposed to the continual barrage of teenybopper characters who save the world. For a lot of older anime fans, this series rings particularly true on many levels. If there's anything truly bad with this show is the poor opening sequence which caused it to be mismarketed to many people who saw only that. With yet another series now completed, Black Heaven is one that we finished off with a smile on our face. Something a bit different than the usual shows brought over here and I'm glad Pioneer took a chance with it.


Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Conceptual Artwork,Creditless Opening/Ending/Finale,Japanese DVD Cover Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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