Mezzo Forte (Uncut) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, September 29, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2001



What They Say
Double the Girls, Double the Guns!!

For Mikura, danger is routine and killing is just like breathing. Sleek and sexy, she was born with a gun in each hand and a smile on her face. She specializes in taking risks, but things get a little too hot when her company takes a kidnapping job.

The target is a wealthy baseball team owner named Momokichi, but he turns out to be a powerful underworld boss. Mikura and her team are beset by countless heavily armed bodyguards and Momokichi's vicious daughter, Momomi.

She's used to getting her way, and with world class marksmanship skills, she may be the perfect match for Mikura!

From the acclaimed writer, director and animator, Yasuomi Umetsu, creator of the best selling Kite.

The Review!
Probably one of the more highly anticipated titles to be released by Media Blasters since Kite took fans by surprise, Mezzo Forte takes the style of that show and builds upon it with a slightly more comical story with a new cast but still manages to retain that truly dark edge.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. While it's a very recent show, there's little use of the rear speakers in this basic stereo mix, though the forward soundstage is nicely filled. There's little in the way of directionality there as well, but it's a good full sounding track that works great with the amount of gunshots and general mood of the show.

Video:
This is a great looking transfer from Media Blasters that really shines. With fresh materials and it being a show that's awash in great colors and cinematography, it looks wonderful here. There's no noticeable color bleeding, cross coloration is non-existent and the most that bothered me was during one night time sequence there was some grain feel to the scene with its mixture of dark blues and blacks. Otherwise, things look great here.

Packaging:
Sporting a different cover than the edited version, Mezzo Forte Uncut has a great picture of Mikura in her Orange Girl outfit as it's peeling off with a tattered version of Momomi behind her. It's definitely eye-catching and if you're familiar with Kite, you'll notice the character design resemblance very quickly. The back cover gives a good rundown of the show and provides a number of screenshots. Features and production credits are clearly listed as well as the usual warnings for mature titles. The insert provides another great picture of Mikura alongside the chapter listings.

Menus:
The main menu provides an amusing shooting gallery style piece with the two female leads getting pot shots taken at them while some music plays along. Submenus are simple static ones with some nice artwork and access times between them is pretty fast. Everything is laid out nicely and works well.

Extras:
There's two extras included here with this show. The first is a set of three storyboard to animation sequences, where on the left you see the storyboards progress while the animation/final version plays along on the right. There's some interesting storyboards used, particularly during the Mikura/Momomi fight sequence. There's also a roughly five minute interview with Umetsu that has a static image of him and a voice over of his answer while animation from the show plays. He reveals a few interesting things in it including his desire to do this as a series and to move away from the Girls Killing Girls genre.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When the artwork for the covers first started to come out, I really found myself entranced by it. The look of Mikura in her Orange Girl outfit reminded me so vividly of Steve Rude's artwork for my favorite comic character of Sundra Peele from Nexus oh so many years ago with its sleek line designs and its almost 40's style of cheesecake. It's definitely a part of Umetsu's style, and it's one of the things that draws me to his works.

Mezzo Forte is an interesting piece of work for Umetsu to follow up with after Kite. Kite garnered him a sizeable following in the US, so it wasn't terribly surprising that he'd do something similar. In a good and bad way, he tends to rely too heavily on things we've already seen, though thankfully he doesn't copy himself verbatim. The show revolves around three characters who take on dangerous jobs for those who will pay. They don't like violence, but will deal with it if necessary.

Mikura's the real lead in it, being an incredibly athletic young woman with great gun skills and a huge appetite for food. Her partner is Harada, a guy a few years older than her who specializes in building underground Androids that are used for brothels and other uses. The two are held together by Kurokawa, an ex-detective whose written a book exposing all the cops secrets and now makes his money and earns his living this way. He also genuinely cares about the two kids though.

Our introduction to the team is during a segment where they're selling a sex android to a couple of guys who are definitely scum. Being scum, they try to stiff Mikura and Harada, which leads to the opening round of fast paced action and excitement. Amusingly, these two guys end up showing up at the worst times throughout the two episodes and provide a number of amusing moments to give the show a more comedic feel.

The real gist of the show is centered around the Momokichi, the Boss and owner of the baseball team the Peach Twisters. The feel of Momokichi is that he's definitely a gangster and has moved into baseball to make some money and earn some legitimacy. But that doesn't stop him from doing what he likes doing, which is violence. When the pitcher causes the team to lose again, he meets him in the parking lot and takes a bat to him with bloody results.

Momokichi has one daughter who lives with him, the attractive Momomi. She's adopted her fathers way, much to the chagrin of those around her, refusing to believe that you have to be a certain age to behave like her father does. So she's just as casual a killer but with something of a lack of subtlety. She's definitely faithful to her father though and adores him and only wants what's best for the family. She does take things into her own hands at times and has a few casual killings.

Mikura and the others are hired to kidnap Momokichi and to hold him while the person who hires them gets out of the country, allowing him to leave unseen while everyone focuses on the kidnapping. Mikura doesn't have a clue who this guy is, and the other two only have a vague sense of knowing who it is, but when they finish the kidnapping and figure out who it is and what kind of trouble they're in, they only want to get out of town. Momomi's known to them as a psycho bitch, and by all accounts, she's one to avoid. The show then moves pretty easily into a cat/mouse style chase with each side trying to outdo the other until the finale.

There's a lot to like about this show even with its predictability. While it does have a good amount of substance, it's the style and flash the makes it ever so much more enjoyable. The character designs, mostly for the women, are just fantastic. The couple of fight sequences between Mikura and Momomi are great and is something that a lot of anime fans just lust over in how well its down. The fight sequences in general, especially the hand to hand segments, are practically choreographed like a ballet. Smooth sweet movements of the characters beating the crap out of each other with the blood flying is the stuff that keeps people coming back, much like the cinematography used in John Woo films.

Lupin fans will also be pleased to see that Kurokawa owns a little yellow car that gets almost as much of a beating as a long time favorite car of theirs.

Amusing fact: The English voice actress for Mikura had a voice double. Apparently she doesn't do the sex scenes.

What didn't I like about this release? The complete lack of Japanese voice actor credits. There isn't even a cover such as a request by the Japanese actors to not have their names listed. Which is just silly to begin with, especially if they're using pseudonyms to begin with. Of course, the English credits aren't much better with things like the translator being known simply as "EM". C'mon now. I expect that from fansubs, not from professional releases. Stuff like that adds to the lack of legitimacy of a release and to the people releasing it in my mind.

Mezzo Forte is an hour of fun, guns and f***ing. Highly recommended for those who aren't afraid to have some sex mixed into their violence.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Storyboards,Interview with Umetsu

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: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Kitty Media
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mezzo