Saber Marionette J to X Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, December 20, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, December 17, 2002



What They Say
Otaru is still a wanted fugitive in Xian, and Lime, Cherry and Bloodberry don't have any memories of their life with Otaru! Bloodberry has become mixed up in some bad company, but when the circus comes to town, some old friends show up to help her out. Meanwhile, when an injured Otaru winds up in a hospital, he awakens to find Lime and Cherry - who have absolutely no idea who he is!

When they are under attack, Otaru still fights to save them. Lime, Cherry and Bloodberry are now forced to wonder who this strange man is who fights so hard to protect them. And why do they seem to have these funny feelings whenever he's around?

The Review!
Otaru’s quest for the girls in Xian continues, but his hopes look to reach their peak and then get dashed hard as he realizes how much he’s taken them for granted.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Listening to the Japanese track we had a good pro-logic experience with the music making good use of the rear channels. Sound effects and dialogue are all forward based and had some nice moments of directionality throughout it with no noticeable dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Using a similar style to the SMJ Again OVA release with the digital look, the show fares out better by not being as polished and looking as fake as a lot of that series did. The main problem throughout these episodes is the rising level of cross coloration as it is just about at a really annoying level. Colors throughout looked good and there was little in the way of aliasing. If it wasn’t for the cross coloration, this would have been a gorgeous looking disc.

Packaging:
Luchs gets the cover this time around, with both a version of her in the normal bad ass black skin tight job as well as one in a speed skating outfit. The back cover provides a number of animation shots from the episodes and a good summary of the discs. Features are clearly listed as well as the discs episode numbers and titles. The packaging also gets the volume numbers clearly listed. The insert provides another shot of the front cover while it opens up to provide smaller summaries for each of the four episodes. The back cover provides some production credits and voice actor credits for both languages, though only the Japanese get the match-up to the characters.

Menu:
The menu is similar to past releases in using the maiden circuit animation but gets an update by using the new animation of it from the ending. Other parts of the ending animation end up in the various submenus as well. The main menu provides most of the good stuff and moving around is pretty easy and load times are nice and fast. The animation is pretty brief in general, and if you’ve seen past SMJ releases, you know what to expect here.

Extras:
There’s some potentially interesting small extras included in this release, but they fail in one area. There’s three segments of the Making Of SMJ to X, filming to dialogue recording and video editing. They all run just over a minute and a half and have some interesting looks at each piece. Once again, there is a lot of on screen text describing what everything is, but none of it is subtitled, essentially turning the extra into nothing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After having several episodes where we get to explore the new lives of the marionettes, you just know it’s not going to last. The breakdown starts pretty quickly with Bloodberry, as she manages to escape from the criminal crowd she ended up getting involved with. Her luck brings her into contact with the traveling circus from much earlier in the series, and it actually starts clicking in her mind some. But she only gets a feeling of belonging, something she definitely had earlier, and ends up moving on with this crowd.

Lime and Cherry though, both for the most part continue on with little real change. Up until Otaru actually stumbles across them that is, and then both start getting little flashes and feelings of what’s gone before them. Otaru himself finds things to be very confusing, as both ofthese girls have really adjusted to their new lives and seem to be truly happy. Otaru starts focusing a lot on how he’s taken them for granted, something I thought we’d been through in this series before, and decides that he can’t take them away from their new lives. Between the two stories here, this is a big chunk of this disc.

The larger plot of Hesse and the others trying to take over two worlds does come into play again, but it really doesn’t provide all that much new information, and if anything, changes things back to the way it was earlier in the series when you wonder just what the big picture really is. But in a series like SMJ, the big picture is always secondary to the girls themselves and how they interact with everyone. It’s unfortunate and it’s also the part that keeps the series from being something more than just another series similar to so many others.

In the end though, these episodes played out smoothly and the story did make some movement forward, especially since there’s only one more disc left. There’s plenty of enjoyable stuff in here providing you’re not looking for more than the series is intending to provide, so it’ll continue to satisfy its core fanbase.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Making of SMJ To X

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan 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: C
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Saber Marionette J