Lost Universe Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2001

What They Say
The newly awakened Dark Seeder is set on destroying Kain Blueriver in order to avenge an old grudge against the hero's grandmother. Later, Kain reunites with an old friend, Atlas, a fellow Troubleshooter who has seen better days. For the sake of their friendship, Kain accompanies Atlas on a mission to rescue a dilapidated power plant from sinking into a sea of acid. Roy Glen returns and has developed a ship that runs off the psychic power of humans, and the bonds of friendship start to fray between Millie and Kain. Millie soon realizes that it's a cold, dark world out there.

The Review!
The second half of the series kicks off here and after all the activity of the first half, things take a bit of a breather. The relationships of the characters, past and present, gets looked at and yes, a bit of filler overall pervades the episodes.

For our primary viewing, we listened to the Japanese language (which, being an ADV disc, was our players default and the disc picked it up with ease). The show is pretty straightforward with little real directionality except during a few areas. The music is the part that makes the most out of the front soundstage, but dialogue throughout sounds pretty good without any noticeable dropouts or distortion.

While things are by no means bottom of the barrel, there's a few things here that aren't quite all that. And as with the previous volumes, it's looking to be the source material again due to its consistancy. During the first two episodes there's a fair amount of grain throughout, which makes a few of the typical areas, such as the Lost Ship's interiors look shifty. The black space sequences though for the most part come across quite good. There's also a few sequences, notably in the third episode, which were done by a different animation house so the difference in the quality really looks abrupt when it comes up.

All around, this is a pretty nice looking little package. The front cover gives you a shot of the three main bad guys of the show doing their pose while the back has some nice animation shots and episode summaries. The insert is a bigger version of the front cover with chapter listings on the back of it.

I have to admit, the simple bit added to the menu of the zoom/flash makes a nice touch and a menu transition that isn't bulky or slow at all. Access times are pretty good and since there's only one level below the main menu, very easy to navigate around.

The one downside to the release is the so far absolute lack of extras, including textless openings and endings.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Things indeed take a turn towards filler material here, but as opposed to some of the filler from earlier in the series, these were fairly enjoyable.... almost moreso than some of the actual storyline episodes!

The bookend episodes of the four included on this disc are the ones that provide the most character development and background histories for the main cast. The first episode has Kain returning home to visit his grandmother's grave and reflect on times gone past. A character from Kain's past is introduced in the form of the infamous old pirate Jill, who used to go up against Kain's grandmother back in the day. Jill (a he) tried to take her down several times over the years, but ended up turning things into a friendship of sorts. Jill even did training with Kain when Kain was a wee lad. The relationship between the two, while a bit brief due to it all being in one episode, is interesting and does allow some interesting elements from the past to be brought to the surface, especially with regards to Canal.

The other bookend episode focuses on Millie and an incident where she feels like she shouldn't hang out with Kain and Canal anymore. She makes a dramatic exit, though hoping that they'll stop her. Since they're at her home planet, she decides to head down to the surface and check out her apartment and try and get into the routine of life again. Alas, it's reminiscent of the you can't go home cliche and things don't quite work out well for her. Her apartment furnishings have been sold off due to her being away for so long and her friends are unreachable. While we don't get much of Millie's past, the removal of her from the ship and the interaction of the group produces a more somber show.

Besides, every ship needs a woman in hot pink pants, don't they? Even Canal would seem to agree!

The middle episodes focus more on trouble contracts and self contained stories that are pretty decent and do shed a bit of light on Kain's past. Some light is shed on the Nightmare character and the Gazer Concern that is making its presence even more known. The deep dark evil plot is being tweaked and pushed forward, but it doesn't take center stage here at all. The closest we get is learning of someone in the Universal Guardians being a leak for Nightmare.

This volume of Lost Universe definitely felt more enjoyable than the past volumes. The animation is overall more consistent with only a few segments apparently outsourced, the characters have really started to find their groove and in general, the transfer to DVD is pretty decent considering the source material. It's almost got my interest piqued to see how the remaining two discs turn out.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

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: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 100
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Lost Universe