Black Heaven Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, December 26, 2000
Release Date: Tuesday, December 26, 2000



What They Say
Six-String Affair! Oji’s love his music has been rekindled by his frequent sessions used to activate the ultimate weapon against the invading aliens. Unfortunately, his late nights and frequent absences worry his boss and infuriate his wife who is convinced Oji is having an affair! Oji is too distracted by his music to perceive the tension, but it can only get worse – the scientists have realized that the invading aliens are getting stronger. Can Oji defeat them by himself!

The Review!
Let me be quite up front here. If you thought the first volume of this series rocked, you'll definitely be pleased by this set of episodes. While not entirely the same, the evolution of the story is going along quite well... and more Michael Schenker!

Audio:
With a show so focused on music, the audio tracks here are definitely something that's paid a bit more attention to. While only a stereo recording, they both sound quite good and help push the music to the forefront when required. Dialogue throughout is spot on and we didn't detect any distortion or dropouts.

Video:
As I've been saying with so many very recent series, if this is the future of anime, I'm definitely on board for it. The obviousness of certain CG scenes have dropped considerably since the first episode as the team has learned what does and doesn't work and things look stunning here. One of the biggest advantages, at least in my opinion, is how good the digital camera panning looks over the traditional, especially in how it cuts down on the shimmering effects of solid lines. Colors continue to look wonderfully shaded and to me, the eyes of these characters, especially the aliens, are great. Anime eyes have always had a great depth to them, but this style of coloring and layering is adding new depths.

Packaging:
While the first cover was definitely eye-catching, it wasn't too terribly anime styled. This cover does fall more under the anime style while keeping the similar theme to the first. Layla takes up the center stage with the guitar in hand, passion oozing out of her. We managed to get one of the great foil cards and it definitely is great looking. The insert is pretty minimal in terms of new art, but it's in keeping with the series style and looks nice.

Menus:
The menus are pretty shiny looking and continue to have excellent sound, especially since they're identical to the first volume. 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.

Extras:
Much like the first disc again, things are pretty good here in the extras department. Including the opening and ending again is great (especially that cute ending) and having more line art and images to check out.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ahh, poor confused Tanaka. He tries so hard to recreate his past, please his family and get through his job. This proves once again that I'm really enjoying this series with its focus on older characters and their different problems. Never mind that intergalactic war where he's the Earth's best hope of keeping it out of the war.

Oji definitely has a bit of a crisis with himself here as he tries to get back into is Gabriel Tanaka days. There's a sequence early on with him going into the bathroom stall in his work clothes and coming out wearing his old band outfit, which of course includes the blonde wig. Oh man, I was just laughing damn hard at that point, never mind the hilarious camera zoom in on his crotch multiple times.

This of course goes over wonderfully with his poor wife. She has some great reactions to it, though the show did turn a bit more uncomfortable with that arguement and its outcome.

Oji does his best to keep up on things though, and heads off to Layla's to play his new song for them. This leads into a series of issues where he's practically told he's not wanted anymore. This ends up churning him up inside, so much so that he ends up doing a 180 degree turn in his personality. Much like his attitude during the first episode of the series, this change doesn't feel like the real Oji either.

It's not until, after much interesting manipulation and several real revelations to Oji, that he cracks the shell that's around him and reveals his true spirit and personality again. There are a lot of events that lead up to this, and they're wonderfully written and animated. Some of these sequences really touched me, with my own view of things in life changing these past months with my infant daughter.

Black Heaven has really caught me off guard from what I initially expected of it this past summer after the trailers for it. While the first disc essentially threw me for a loop, the second disc is showing that it definitely has some legs to stand on. Excellent writing, great art and a solid tale to be told.

A winning combination in my book.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Non-Credit Opening/Ending,Line Art,Image Gallery

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



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Black Heaven