Magic Knights Rayearth Memorial Collection 1 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2000
Release Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2000



What They Say
Magic Knight Rayearth tells the tale of three junior high school girls hear a voice asking them to save a world called Cephiro. The voice belongs to Princess Emeraude, the Pillar whose will maintains the peace of this magical world where belief is power. But the peace in Cephiro is now threatened as Princess Emeraude is imprisoned and monsters begin to invade the land. With her last bit of strength, the princess summons forth the three girls destined to become the Magic Knights in the hopes of saving her world.

Daybreak (Levels 1-4)
Step into a world where your willpower determines all and your beliefs turn into magic. Join three girls from Tokyo as they are meet with a mission unlike anything they have encountered in school – to save an alternate world from doom! What will this strange journey hold in store for our heroines Hikaru, Umi and Fuu?

Sunrise (Levels 5-8)
Hikaru, Umi and Fuu continue their journey in Cephiro. Guided by the ever-fluffy Mokona, the girls fight their way through the land. As they fight, they realize that sometimes they get help from unexpected places. And they find the price they must pay to continue on their quest is larger then they ever expected.

Noon (Levels 9-12)
The Magic Knights’ quest to bring peace to the land reaches a turning point when they finally revive the legendary Rune-God, the last element needed for the inevitable battle. However, new revelations about the legend of the Magic Knights turn the end of the journey into a new beginning.
Twilight (Levels 13-16)
Steadily, the Magic Knights defeat their enemies and gain new
friends. Growing closer together, the three discover new abilities, new tools to aid their quest, and new insights. But as the three girls come ever closer to their goal of becoming true Magic Knights the legendary battle draws near.

Midnight (Levels 17-20)
The three girls from another world have braved many dangers on their journey to become true Magic Knights. With one Rune-God left to revive and with Cephiro’s destruction close at hand, Hikaru, Umi and Fuu hurry to end their quest and save Cephiro.

The Review!
If there's one thing a lot of anime fans love, it's getting an entire season of a series in one fell swoop. Though there haven't been many box sets released to anime on DVD yet, those that have, have done very well. Magic Knights Rayearth Memorial Collection 1 appears to be no different from what I've heard.

The discs are provided in two flavors of audio, the typical for anime releases. The Japanese and English tracks sound good with no real distortion or drop outs. There's some amount of directionality across the front soundstage throughout the episodes, but not a whole lot. Dialogue was very clear and easy to understand and overall is what you expect from a TV series.

The video was a little shakier, but for a variety of reasons. The transfer itself for the episodes is very well done, with only a few spots that really looked soft and only a few bits of pixellation here and there. The openings and endings though were a bit overcompressed and looked a touch blocky in some areas. The animation itself really does vary, giving some episodes a less than stellar look while others look very good. The first disc overall looks much more flat and dull than the first three episodes on the second disc. But this isn't really a fault, just the way it was animated. When the more fluid and brighter colors are used, things look wonderful, but when the flat backgrounds are used and things like softer blues on Umi's hair in the early episodes, it doesn't look as good.

Each of the discs is a DVD-5, or a single layer single sided discs. Checking the first disc, it's practically full with 4.5 gigabytes being used. This is obviously the main reason that they did something different with the openings, which we'll get into in a moment. With things being so close and the need for the openings and endings being done in a different way, I wish that they had gone to DVD-9, or dual layered, discs instead. This would have helped quality overall.

With the shortage in space, they had to do something with the openings, and it's something that's caused problems for a number of people, or at least a lot of confusion.

The disc defaults to English language, just like almost every other anime disc out there to date. What scared a lot of people is that during the opening, they tried to change the audio on the fly, which failed. What was done was that the opening is a separate block of video that is re-used at each episode. When episode one plays, it pulls the opening and then goes to the episode itself. When episode two plays, it grabs the same opening and then plays the episode. It also depends on the language you have set. If it's defaulted to English, it will grab only the English block. The Japanese language with hard matted subtitles is encoded separately. If you select Japanese language from the menu, it will play that. You can't go back and forth between two video blocks.

I would have preferred one video block for both, with DVD subtitles and switchable audio, but for some reason this wasn't done. I think it would have saved space overall in dropping one video block, but there may have been some encoding incompatibilities doing it that way. But, I digress.

Doing the openings in this way is something that was suggested by folks for other studios to use, and hopefully after seeing it in action, we don't see it again. Not that it was horrendously done, but just that it doesn't really help that much. Since I believe this was primarily done for space reasons, it would have been a lot less overall to simply bump this up to dual layered discs.

There is also the issue of default player selections. With some players, you can have it set to play a certain language and/or subtitle by default, overriding what the disc tells you. The authoring folks can however override your override. Which is why I don't bother, in addition to watching many more English language DVD's that aren't anime to begin with. So when people were putting these discs in, they were getting things mightily confused. Subtitles wouldn't work but languages would, or vice versa or nothing at all.

There is a trick though for you on the fly folks who are quick enough! When the Media Blasters animation begins, you can switch tracks there for the audio and it will pick the right video block for the disc. The English language track will have sound for the logo animations while the Japanese language track won't. Easy, eh? Thanks to the gent who mentioned that to me... you know who you are!

With all that's said about the video, there really isn't anything completely wrong with it. It's just not how most of us are used to it in terms of the openings and endings. Once I figured it out on the first disc it became a complete non-issue on the rest. Interestingly enough though, when playing it on my DVD-ROM player, if I let the English opening come up and play and during the middle of it, give it a skip to next chapter, it players the Japanese opening. Whoops!

As with any box set, there are going to be complaints. Some won't like how its package. Some will love it. Some don't care either way. It's all about the anime, neh? But I can understand the complaints (even if I don't agree). The MKR box is something that comes in the halfway point of a standard box set release (Die Hard, Aliens) and a Pioneer box set (Fushigi Yugi, Tenchi Muyo).



The box itself is one complete box. You slip it open from the top and extract the five keepcases contained within. Each keepcase has unique art and information as well as UPC codes so they can be resold individually later should Media Blasters choose (and I hope they do!). The box itself is very nice with embossed artwork. When we put it into our anime racks, it definitely stood out from the crowd around it with the single big picture of the embossed Hikaru and the shows logo.

Each of the five keepcases have great artwork (though I admit to not being as keen on disc fives art choice). The covers for these look really great and the uniformity of them is something I like a lot. I remember seeing some of the VHS covers when they were being released, but the DVD release in my opinion easily outclasses them. A big kudos and job well done to Meredith Mulroney for this release. Just remember to get her to do the second box set for this series, okay guys?

The main menu is pretty straightforward, giving you the option of playing one of the four episodes or going into the extras or setup submenus. The menus are laid out pretty well, but unfortunately the movement from one selection on the screen to the next on the same screen is agonizingly slow, much like the Pioneer release of Battle Athletes Victory.

There's also a most copious amount of extras in this package overall. They're spread across all five discs, and you can check out the list from the top of this review. Some of these are quite good (we found many pieces in the gallery we really liked) to poor (the voice actor interviews, due to the poor audio). The omake sections were brief but cute and the cast menu on the first disc was good if you listen to the English portion of it.

The five discs included in this set cover the entirety of season 1 for this series, containing all twenty episodes. The show is pretty straightforward, in that three eighth grade girls are transported from Tokyo Tower (the whole conversation about the field trip was amusing) to the world of Cephiro. There, the girls are told that they must become Magic Knights in order to save Princess Emeraude from the High Priest Zagato before the world is destroyed.

Of course, they can't go back to Tokyo until they do this. So with pure hearts that only young anime girls can have, they set off on wild adventures to awaken the three Rune Gods and become Magic Knights. They encounter various minions of Zagato along the way as well as making new friends. The majority of the show has a very RPG (role playing game) feel to it, and is even commented on by the characters during the course of the show. While with a lot of anime this would actually hinder it, it seems to work well here. There's some repetition among the adventures to awaken thee Rune Gods, but there's enough variety to keep it going.

The show doesn't get bogged down in huge amounts of exposition or long winded fight sequences. The early episodes do contain a lot of super deformed moments and such, but these do slow down and become less frequent. I believe the last disc had none of these moments and only one or two in disc four. The characters do evolve and grow nicely along the way, but not with any huge changes. Since the three were unfamiliar with each other when the adventure started, I do have to say that the last scene worked particularly well.

The only thing on this set that I found really weird is that the voice credits are only on disc one. If they want to market these separately in the future, this will be something that should be on each disc.

With only three previous releases under their belt, it was a bit of a gutsy move in my opinion to do a box set. It's early in the game for them and there's always a learning curve. Other than a few very minor mis-steps with this box set, they did quite well. With luck, those of you who can't swing an entire box set may see these discs released individually someday. This was definitely a fun series to watch, and one that went by quite fast. I'm looking forward to season two!

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Outtakes,Alternate Intro Song,Animerica Interview with Toshiki Hirano,Hikaru Voice Actress Interview,Umi Voice Actress Interview,Fuu Voice Actress Interview,Mokona Voice Actress Interview,Zagato Voice Actress Interview,Group Interview

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 149.99
Running time: 500
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Magic Knight Rayearth