Arc the Lad Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, September 04, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, September 04, 2001



What They Say
Seeking Whitehouse, Elk and Lieza find themselves lost in the desert, but being rescued may turn out to be an even worse fate! An unlikely ally comes to their aid and at long last Elk begins to learn the truth about the enigmatic Arc and the genesis of the chimeras. But truth can be a bitter pill and there’s a horrifying revelation lying in store for our heroes!

The Review!
With yet another batch of five episodes, we zip past the conclusion to the first arc, throw in some character development and set the stage for the second half of the series. And that plot that Elk thought he found in the last disc? It looks like he was right.

Audio:
For the purpose of our primary review, we listened to this in its original language of Japanese. Being a TV series, there's little surprise here in how it sounds. The opening song is strong and probably the loudest part of the show. Dialogue is crisp and clear with no noticeable dropouts or other distortions. There's some rather good directionality across the front soundstage through a couple of scenes that works really well.

Video:
One advantage to watching two discs in a row is that you can see the differences, if any, pretty easily. Often from month to month (or longer), things get fuzzier, especially when you watch as much as I do. With Arc the Lad, the problems we saw on the third volume are practically non-existent here. In fact, comparing certain aspects, this disc is a sizeable improvement. One of the problems we had noted was the jitter/jaggies in or around the eyes of characters. This shows up briefly in the first episode, and then isn't seen again. The other was with the rainbows, where we could see them easily at the very end of each opening. They're completely gone here. And the color banding issues are not only heavily reduced here on our Skyworth, the colors look even more vivid and vibrant than they have in the first three discs. During the last three episodes in particular, it was quite a difference that even my wife commented on it.

Packaging:
Amusingly, Shu gets the background of this cover, and he doesn't even make an appearance in these episodes. Elk's rage takes up the lower portion of the cover, which is mostly rather dark and purplish. The back cover mixes some lighter colors in the same style as previous discs, and it looks nice with all the artwork and the good summary. The spine art continues to match up with this release with the earlier volumes. The insert is a cleaner version of the front pieces at different spots, while the disc is silkscreened with the Elk portion of the cover.

Menus:
The menus are pretty simple since there's little to do with the disc beyond watching the content and the trailers. The main menu is done in a similar cut style as the cover with one section playing part of the opening music and animation. Access times between menu selections are pretty fast and without issue.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Surprisingly, the conclusion to the first large arc, with Elk and the crew of the Silver Noah attacking the White House, manages to wrap itself up fairly nicely within the first two episodes here. There's some very emotional moments here, with a great display by Elk that's true to his character, and the voice actor carries it off perfectly. While things have been sort of wandering in terms of setting up the emotional conflict for the first arc of this series, it apparently did do its job properly and the payoff here was nice.

With that section wrapped up as well as can be, Elk and Lieza along with Pandit take up with Arc and his crew again and head to a sanctuary within Smeria, a place where the children from the White House can reside safely until things are properly taken care of. It's here, in this sealed away area, that we meet Kukuru, the purple haired vixen priestess whose got the hots for Arc. We start to learn more of the past of Smeria and of Arc and his family, and how things have been manipulated by the current leader, Andel.

And speaking of the bad guys, we also start getting some more subtle hints about the mysterious Clive, who now finds himself doing all kinds of nasty things for Andel, and it appears that as usual, he enjoys doing these things. Be it hunting up someone to birth more Chimera's or setting the stage for political executions, his fingers seem to be dipped into most every pie in this land.

With most of these episodes after the first two, there's plenty going on but they're not a straight focus on any one set of events. They're more set up episodes, moving particular pieces into play, bringing new subtle bits of information about the characters up and figuring out just how it's all working together. Elk in particular is suffering greatly after the events at White House, and his attitude is almost infectious at times to the others. Lieza also begins to really come into her own, and there's a gradual change in the group dynamic as they become more intertwined with the Silver Noah crew, and Smeria in general.

There's a fair share more action throughout these five episodes, which helps them move along at an even brisker pace. With the episodes already running almost three minutes less than a standard episode, they seemed short enough as it is. But when there's lots of shiny flashy action sequences with the nice slick looking animation from this show, it does zoom by. With Arch now being more involved in the story (he is the title character after all), things seem to be shaping up, though Elk continues to be the lead. I'm intrigued as to where things will go now. And with only two more discs to complete the series, it's a no-brainer. Recommended.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

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.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: N/A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Arc the Lad