Magic Knight Rayearth Season 2 Remastered Set (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Years have passed in Cephiro since the Knights last visited and time has not been kind to the land.
What They Say
The Pillar of Cephiro is dead. The Magic Knights, Hikaru, Umi and Fuu are filled with the sadness of the tragedy and resolve to return to Cephiro and do something to help its people. Contains episodes 21-49.
Media Blasters really surprises again with this release as the Japanese stereo mix is encoded at 448kbps while the English language mix is at 192kbps. The Japanese mix certainly sounds much stronger and more dynamic here, not like it did in past releases and certainly not as good as you might expect for a show of its age. The mix does a good job with the forward soundstage as the dialogue is very clear and the full nature of it gives the show a lot of impact during the bigger action scenes. There isn't much in the way of any discernible dialogue placement but everything is clean and clear. My only disappointment is that the English dubbed songs are no longer here with the English track.
Originally airing in 1995 and 1996, this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show has twenty nine episodes spread across six discs with five episodes per disc while the sixth has four using the remastered Japanese edition. This release, while certainly not flawless, it leaps and bounds ahead of its previous edition that Media Blasters put out years ago. I had actually queued up a few episodes of this a couple of months prior to this release for my kids to watch and had forgotten who grainy and murky so much of it was. This edition is far cleaner, though it still has a grain and noise to it, with colors that are more vivid and a look that's generally a whole lot more pleasing. While it won't be confused with a show animated today, the remastered edition gives it a whole new life and is one that's very much worth the upgrade. Adding in new authoring tools in the years since the original and you get a show that is more accurate to the original source material with only some line noise being the other main offender, but even that's pretty minimal overall.
Like with the previous season, I'm not a fan of digipaks but this one is decently done and gives us lots of very appealing artwork. The show has a good if thin slipcover that has some great artwork from the show of Hikaru and Nova. It has a look of an illustration but with the color and shading of animation itself, giving it a great blending. The back of the slipcover has a good shot of the rune gods themselves along the right with pink petals flowing around it set against a black background. There's a beautifully ornate summary box with a good breakdown of the shows basics along with a clean listing of all the extras and that it's coming from remastered film elements. Add in some basic production credits, a disc and episode count and a spot on technical grid and this is a very appealing release that's distinctly different from the previous editions so it stands out well.
Inside we get two slim digipaks that each house two discs on the right side interior. Each cover has a different color, with the first featuring blue for Autozam while the second volume is a shade of purple and red for Fahren. The first volume has a full shot of the cast members for Autozam while the second mixes both Fahren and Chizeta. The back covers are laid out the same with a breakdown of episode titles and numbers for each disc as well as some nice in-show quotes from Nova and Hikaru. Each also has unique shots from those respective volumes to give it a bit more color. This is a really striking release overall that harkens back to the old days with its artwork while feeling very professional and new. It's a great anniversary package overall and one that this show really deserves.
The menu design for the series is pretty good with each menu featuring a different illustration piece of the various cast members to good effect. It has a fairly dignified and strong approach, going for an artistic feel rather than just a straight shot from the show itself with nothing to sweeten it up a bit, and that adds a bit of class and elegance to it. The navigation is spread to the four corners though you can't move side to side and it is fairly easy to move about once you realize that. Submenu selection is horribly slow, especially when you're doing the language setup section which again has the unusual four selections that populate many but not all Media Blasters titles. The look of the menus are all pretty good but the functionality of them all is halting at best. As expected, the discs did not read our players' language presets and defaulted to English with song/slate subtitles.
The Rayearth set has a good collection of extras that came from the original releases. There’s the art gallery material and the basics of the clean opening and closing sequences. The special short omake endings are included, some good sketches and storyboard material and the always fun outtakes. Even if I don't listen to it dubbed, I loved the outtakes Media Blasters used to do regularly as they were a blast. Add in a directors commentary for an episode and a cute little Mokona piece and you have a good release, especially with the inclusion of the short pilot film as well..
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Clocking in at twenty episodes, the first season of Magic Knight Rayearth gave us a solid little fantasy series with the three girls saving the world of Cephiro, discovering what a deep love is and learning a lot about themselves. When it ended and they were sent back to Japan, you knew it was just a matter of time before something drags them back again. At twenty-nine episodes, the second season of Magic Knight Rayearth takes us back to a very different Cephiro and adds in a lot more characters and settings and invariably drags it out a bit more than it should. Or a lot more in some cases.
While life has seemed a little bland and empty since returning, the trio all get together at Tokyo Tower again to catch up on things. As would happen, the light flashes and they're sucked back to Cephiro. Cephiro this time around is not the world of bright greens and blues and a myriad of creatures and settings. It's a devastated world, one where it's all dark and blackened as catastrophe has fallen. When Emeraude and Zagato bonded together, her role as the Pillar ended. The lack of one in the world to guide peoples hearts and to be guided by the people has caused Cephiro to fall to ruin. All that's left is a crystal spire castle where Clef has brought all the people to so they can try and figure out what to do. It's not Noah's Ark though as the only creature there appears to be Mokona.
Cephiro is still hoping for a new Pillar of pure heart to appear that can take on the role, but right now the darkness is a despair caused by the hearts of its people. What makes it worse is that there are three other countries, which are displayed and viewed as very separate worlds, that are attempting to take over Cephiro itself. With the appeal of the Pillar being able to do whatever they want, not realizing what the downsides are, they're intent on capturing it and using it to secure an advantage. The three groups are all very distinct cultures that play off of standard stereotypes so there aren't too many surprises here, though again we see a few hints as to what CLAMP does in some of their future works.
Autozam gives us a more technically oriented world that has the echo of the modern world on Earth. Chizeta has a distinctly Chinese spiritual classic feel to it while Fahren introduces a more Middle Eastern mode. And they all utilize different things similar to the Rune Gods the Magic Knights get to use so there are moments of large battles and epic action. Autozam brings in a mecha, Chizeta has its leader create things out of paper and ink that comes to life and the Fahren sisters have a pair of djinn's that they control which are pretty much all macho men with lots of flexing. The encounters go back and forth and as the show goes on, each of the girls end up dealing with a particular invading country. The split of the girls was expected and it gives them time to spend with each culture and the characters that populates it.
While we get all these different cultures, which is essentially an expanded repeat of the various “villains” we saw in the first season, there's a larger operative at work here as well. Through her dreams, Hikaru sees a shadowy figure named Lady Debonair who has created a version of Hikaru to threaten everyone with for her own plans. This turns into a much more personal fight for fourteen year old Hikaru and like the arcs with all three of them facing the different attacking countries, she spends time caught up in Debonair's web. It's interesting at first but goes on for too many episodes and takes her out of the mix at the same time the other two are caught up elsewhere with Chizeta and Fahren. The split of the group is a normal exercise bit the show loses a lot of steam during it this time since the show is so overwhelmingly depressing because of the state of Cephiro.
While I like the overall idea of this season, watching it in collected form as opposed to the singles we had years ago has not changed my opinion of it. The positives are there in the core cast and seeing them come back together and I definitely liked the idea of finding a new Pillar, a plot element that didn't get dealt with properly in the first season. The villains of the first season do return here and Ascot makes out the best with his being a bit older and definitely hot for Umi and Ferio gets to reconnect with Fuu as well. But so much of the show deals with these three new places that are invading and their minor issues that the whole thing drags down. And a lot of the appeal of Cephiro is lost because of the destruction it has suffered. You want to see it repaired and returned to what it should be, but with the season running nearly thirty episodes, you know it's not going to be a main point until closer to the end.
This season of Magic Knight Rayearth is the kind of show where you really, truly want to like it and enjoy it, but it works against you numerous times. It opens well and gives us something different from the first season so that it's not a rehash, but it gets mired in itself and its inner demons. The main trio of girls and the relationships that stems from them is the highlight of the series and I liked the overall idea of this season. The characters is what kept me coming back, whether it was them dealing separately with things or when they're together as they're fun to watch and completely honest about things. Hikaru has the hardest struggle of them all but it's hard for the viewer to watch because of how long she has to endure it. Sometimes this set feels like an endurance race but the highlights are what's worth watching. Media Blasters has put together another fantastic release with this set that complements the first one perfectly and gives fans the kind of show that they've deserved for an age. While the series itself lost me halfway through and couldn't draw me back fully, it's one that definitely needed a proper collection like this. Definitely recommended for fans and worth trying if you liked the first set.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Pilot Film, Clean Openings, Clean Closings, Clean On-Air Ending, All missing sections restored, Commentary
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: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 725
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Magic Knight Rayearth