Night Head Genesis Vol. #4 (of 5) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, May 14, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The influence and nature of the Ark Corporation becomes clearer as the brothers are the main focus of its president now.

What They Say
After helping an old acquaintance, the Kirihara brothers are given just the slightest hint more about the mysterious Shouko and what is happening to her. The two then decide to take a short personal side trip and visit family, only to have an old enemy interfere with the reunion. More is revealed about the players behind all the intrigue, and while diving for information, they are confronted by enemies whom Naoto is deadly serious about protecting Naoya from. Shouko waits for them beyond the battle, ready to tell them one last thing before destiny calls for her.

The Review!
Audio:
Media Blasters has kept this release to its original language only so we get a standard Japanese stereo mix encoded at 192kbps. Night Head Genesis is something of a quiet moody show with a fair bit of dialogue at times and the occasional outburst of action. It’s a show that doesn’t really require a lot of work when it comes to the mix as it’s very center channel oriented for its forward soundstage mix. There’s some decent placement at times, but the majority of the time it’s a single character on screen talking or talking to someone off screen. There isn’t much in the way of depth or complexity here but the encoding serves the material well and it’s problem free.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With a real world environment, Night Head Genesis is a rather appealing show with its visuals because the colors look so good and there’s a certain flow to the animation that’s nicely captured here. It’s moody and the transfer utilizes that, letting the dark areas come across well. The series has some very deep colors in a few places but it’s the dark areas that tend to hold up rather well overall. Outside of some noticeable source banding in a few scenes and the occasional bit of noise here and there, it looks very well done and the relatively high bitrate works in the shows favor.

Packaging:
The fourth volume of the series is really appealing, though Shouko looks almost nothing like she does in the show in the way it’s illustrated here. She’s the main focus in the background with the moon behind her while the two brothers are in front of her, all in their usual outfits. The back cover goes for the more violent side with a lot of red hued imagery mixed all over it that pushes a sense of evil. Overlaid on that is the summary which runs through the concept a little bit, we also get four widescreen shots from the show and a very thin font production credits section. The bottom section gives a nod towards the episode count as well as the solid technical grid. No inserts are included in the release nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release uses part of the front cover artwork as it focuses in on Shouko in a close-up which really does dominate the menu overall. It doesn’t have quite the feel that the first menu did since that had background to draw on as well.. The illustration looks even better here than it does on the cover with its colors and detail which is thankfully not losing much to the minimal navigation strip that’s included. Submenus load quickly and with nothing on the disc but the show itself, getting around is simple and easy. Access times are quick and due to the single language option, player presets were an obvious non-issue.

Extras:
None.

Content
: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Night Head Genesis gets closer to its conclusion, it starts introducing more of the larger story pieces in this volume. The main focus of that storyline involves the Ark Corporation that has been there since early on and it starts to flesh it out. The series also works in some more emotional connection material for the brothers when it comes to their family as well as how they cope with their powers and responsibility. Unfortunately, as engaging as parts of this series are, it has a certain kind of jerkiness in its approach that can be off-putting. Whenever they get in trouble, it seems like the brothers have to go off and save someone else who will be key in saving the world and the future.

One of the more appealing parts of the show is the area dealing with the brothers background. Their time before they ended up in the institution where they were taught and protected has been shown through various flashbacks and we get a little more of that here as well, though it does seem to be mostly re-used footage. This all comes about when the pair finally track down their parents as owners of a small shop and they go to find out what’s going on. The past that the brothers know and the past their parents know however is vastly different. While Naoto and Naoya remember being whisked away and all that it entailed, their parents have had their memories altered to the point where they believe their sons died saving a mother and daughter from a boat in a park lake. The two can’t bring themselves to really tell the truth, but Sonezaki’s involvement starts causing problems along the way and turns the whole situation very messy. Having finally found them, to realize that they don’t even remember the reality of things is very crushing for them and it’s easy to see them becoming listless after this.

This makes an opening for the Ark Corporation even easier, though the brother’s get dragged into things in an awkward way. A man named Futami who works for them is trying to break free and he ends up getting them involved. The Ark Corporation has been helping train and utilize his abilities for years but he’s recently figured out that they’re involved in some potentially shady things and it’s making him uneasy. His ability to see past things has made him something of a loner since he can use things like phones to see the people he’s talking to. This does give him that whole ‘ghost in the shell’ kind of feeling and they adapt it in a cavalier and simplistic way as it goes on, but it does set the stage for more things to come in terms of understanding it all.

The slow fleshing out of the Ark Corporation reveals who is really running the show and it isn’t too much of a surprise that it’s an elderly wheelchair bound woman who can see the future herself. She’s supposedly doing something similar to what we’ve seen before in allying herself with those she can control in order to save the future, but it’s the kind of future that she wants to save that’s not as clear and is such a big concern to the brothers. The methods she uses, some of which are discovered when they find what Futami had realized, points to things earlier in the series and ties a lot of the loose threads together. It’s given a bit more cohesion but none of it really comes as too much of a real surprise. It’s easy enough to piece together and when the curtain is drawn back, you just nod and move on.

Where the show loses me, again, is that after all these revelations and discoveries, it seems to go back to the whole save a particular person routine. There’s greater knowledge of who is after these people and what they potentially want, but it goes back to what it’s been doing since early on and it feels very forced at this point. Even worse, the material with Shouko hints at something really big as she’s the most evolved of all of them with her abilities, but they end up sending her off into the sky with butterfly wings and putting all the pressure on the brothers. Shouko has been underused so far but has also been the most interesting of them all and to see her shucked off like this feels weird considering the grandeur that they’ve tried to place on her. I won’t be surprised to see her back in the final episodes, but the occurrence here after the battle in the sand just felt very out of place and almost too weirdly trippy.

In Summary:
The uneven nature of the series in the first couple of volumes is still very much apparent here. Every time it starts to build up steam, boom, it shifts direction back to where it was and it slows down into all too familiar territory. There are things to like here, notably when it comes to dealing with the Ark Corporation or those that are being manipulated by it, but it’s balanced out by the things that aren’t all that welcome. Going back to protecting people isn’t a bad thing – on a grand scale at this stage rather than a small one. The scope and scale of things is good, but it has a scattershot approach to it that is cutting off its potential on a regular basis. I like the premise, much as I have in other series that have used it, but the execution here leaves a lot to be desired.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 16 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 21.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Night Head Genesis