Soul Taker Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, August 19, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, August 13, 2002



What They Say
Kyosuke challenges the leader of the Hospital and learns that the path to the truth leads to the Moon. He immediately travels to Moon Colony No. 8, his birthplace! There, he learns the horrific truth about his grandfather and a mysterious Beta Applicon outbreak. The revelation of the final truths comes with a painful price, and Kyosuke must now face the flickers that he once saved. Even this climax only leads to the ultimate showdown: Kyosuke versus his conscience. Will he choose to be the world savior or destroyer!?

The Review!
The final installment of Soul Take comes to a very active and colorful end, with a number of twists and turns that some will have foreseen but others will be blindsided by.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. This is a very slick sounding stereo presentation. There's a fair amount of directionality throughout the episodes and the music comes across fantastic. The music is the primary place where things are sent to the rear speakers as well. There's no dropouts or other audio issues at all, essentially a solid pro-logic audio mix that fits the material nicely.

Video:
This is just an absolute treat. There's so much style and flair to the animation that this anamorphic transfer really brings it to life. The vibrancy of the colors is practically reference material. The numerous blacks and darker colors are very solid, and the swaths of straight colors shows no color banding or breakup at all. This is just gorgeous. We noted no cross coloration at all and even aliasing seemed to be non-existent.

Packaging:
The final volume provides one of the stronger covers for the series, though I still like the first volume the best. There’s more color to this one, as the background is the cathedral style windows with the image of a half transformed Kyosuke holding his sister in his arms. With a title simply listed as “The Truth”, it’s a solid overall image. The back cover continues to use the various effects of the paper to provide a nice foil piece, with a couple of lines for the summary and a few images. The discs features and production information is all clearly listed as well. The insert uses a piece of artwork from the ending while it also provides the chapter listings for these four episodes.

Menu:
Keeping the whole theme of revelations, the shifting light coming from behind the characters and the darkness on the main menu works nicely here and gives things a very eerie feel. Moving between menus is nice and fast and the layout works just right. Selections are easy to see what it's set at and access times are nice and fast. Great looking stuff, especially a neat layout in the scene selection section.

Extras:
For the final release, there’s a small amount of new extras included here. The textless opening and ending sequences make another appearance as well as a sing-a-long version of the ending. The only other new item is the art gallery. And while I knew from the first volume that the live action music video likely wasn’t going to be here, I’m still disappointed they didn’t squeeze it in somehow. If at all possible, it must be seen for the absolute undiluted pure cheese value. It’s so bad, it’s great.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having been taken with this show from the moment I saw it in import form, Soul Taker has been a show that I will easily admit is basic in its plot and premise, though as others have said, weak in its execution of it at times, lending itself to being taken too far off course.

With these final four episodes, things most definitely get back on track. Kyosuke is convinced that he has to take on his father to bring some sense of closure to things, as well as something he can’t quite pin down deep inside him. His father knows that this battle must come, and looking back at the interplay between them in earlier episodes, you can see how he’s brought it about as something that must be done. The father battling the son is an old and very well used piece in storytelling, and it’s done up very well here.

Perhaps it’s something parental, but with Richards motivations becoming clear in these episodes, I took on a very appreciative view of him and what he’s doing for both Kyosuke and Runa. His own way of acknowledging his past and the mistakes he made, and his desire to correct them, brings out some of the more noble aspects of the character, a character early on in the series we knew only as potentially the big evil of the series. Instead, he becomes something much more important, something that every parent is in the end, and that’s a teacher.

His guidance takes things to a completely new level, and sends Kyosuke and Kogumi onto their final journey. This brings Kyosuke to his home, which is surprisingly Moon Colony #8, a rather advanced moon colony at that. It’s times like these that it becomes more apparent that outside of the Kirihara Group structures, we saw precious little of this futuristic world, so when we make a jump like this, it feels out of place at first but then makes perfect sense. It’s here in the colony that a lot of the past is revealed, with the origins of the Beta Applicon, the tests that caused the spread of it and the motivations of those who were behind its general use.

There’s a number of instructive things about how this ends, such as a good number of the characters from earlier episodes making nothing more than almost token appearances at the end, becoming little more than observers while characters who’ve been on the fringe the entire time, moving in the backgrounds and just outside of view, take the center stage against both Kyosuke and Yui. The Flickers importance is changed, Runa’s motivations revealed and a whole lot more. And I’ll be frank about it; while at times things confused the hell out of me (due to watching so many different shows between each release), I found myself fascinated with this ending.

As with previous episodes, the shows style is also very prominent here. The closing battles, which are very void of any real symbolism, manage to use the cathedral window style very aggressively, serving as backdrops to the landscape as the characters battled for their own truths. While the greatest stories told tend to survive through ones memory over the years, there are images that just stand out in ones lifetime as well. The visual balance of these episodes, especially where we see various characters etched into these massive windows, is one that will likely stick with me for a long time. It’s a very strong and powerful image, extremely vibrant and imposing.

I’ve definitely enjoyed Soul Taker and it’s earned a spot as a series that I will likely get more out of in one continuous viewing rather than staggered over a bi-monthly schedule. It’s a show that’s very hard to recommend, since it sets up various expectations of what it should be, and then moves off to a different area to play in. For many, it’ll likely be considered a failure, but for those who’ve found something unique here, it’s something that may quite well become cultish.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Rainbow Holographic Foil Cover,Non-credit openings and closings songs,Art gallery,Limited edition glow-in-the-dark stickers

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: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Soul Taker