Betterman Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, February 02, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, February 04, 2003
What They Say
Hinoki and Keita inch ever closer to discovering the secret of Algemon - A new attack begins anew. Everyone is assaulted by mirror images of themselves, revealing images of the past, a side of each person that have long been buried and unspoken. But are these doppelgangers merely the voices of insanity, or are they speaking the truth?
With Akamatsu organizing a raid on the secret society - The group will face a barrage of deadly traps and the reincarnation of an evil long forgotten. As the deadly Brahman rises, the fate of humanity looks very bleak.
As the series gets closer to its conclusion, the cast seems to grow and the focus shifts, allowing me to get nice and confused again.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The series appears has a decent pro-logic track, so the rear speakers at least come alive on occasion. The majority of the rear activity tends to focus in the music as well as some incidental music and sound effects throughout. It’s not major by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s definitely there. Dialogue is well placed along the forward soundstage and we noticed no dropouts or distortions on either track during regular playback.
Betterman continues to be one of the darker shows I’ve seen in its use of the black and gray palette, though it does branch out a bit better here. Colors throughout look good without being over saturated, and have a slightly soft feel to them, which seems to be very intentional by the style. Combined with the animation style, the show at times feels like a theatrical piece, with several sections reminiscent of Metropolis. This isn’t a show that’s going to look stunning since it’s intended to be murky, even in the bright daylight sequences.
Again using the foil method, the front cover looks gorgeous! The mysterious yellow woman gets the cover here and it just shines with the coloring used on the foil. The back cover uses the foil as well, mixing the animation shots into one swipe. There’s a good summary of the show as well as the episode numbers and titles here. The discs features and production information is also listed. Bandai makes more friends with this cover by making it reversible and having that front cover look very similar to the Japanese one as well as providing the Japanese title logos for it on the front and on the spine. The back cover provides a variety of new artwork as well. The insert provided has the front cover art used again while it folds out to talk about the Betterman a bit. The back of the insert provides the full credits listing. The included card with this release is of Sakura against a shimmery pink/purple background.
There’s a brief and rather loud lightning flare-up before the menu settles in to a version of the front cover with the Betterman image and lightning striking down on the logo and selections. The layout is very well done and the images used for everything sets the mood perfectly. Submenus are quick to load and easy to get around, and the language menu was done up just as I like them.
The extras in this round are about the same as the previous volume, where we get a few pages of sketches and information in the Mode Warp Files section as well as some good looking sketches in the production sketches section. There in general doesn’t seem to be a lot of extra material associated with this series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This disc opens well with an episode that has the focus on Keita and Hinoki at school as they go through a cultural festival. One of Keita’s friends manages to score some nice mirrors that are actually part of a prototype project, so they use all of them to create a wicked house of mirrors for their class. The relationship between the two characters grows nicely here as they play off of each other and there’s some decent humor as well, such as the cat ears and maid outfits all the girls wear for the festival.
Tied to this, Asami starts filling in those at Akamatsu’s about what she thinks has been going, after making some discoveries from the previous encounter at the chemical plant where everyone was nearly taken over. From her background, we get to look into the origins of the Superhuman Federation, a splinter group that was formed close to the same time as NEO, the overhead group of the Dive companies and related technologies. It turns out that this Federation is after Kaede for the power she possesses and has been doing anything and everything in their abilities to try and win her away from Akamatsu. From promises of ten times as much money to real influence on world events, but Kaede hasn’t budged. Until they just outright kidnap her.
The loss of Kaede has its most profound effect on Shou who almost at times seems like he can’t function without her. So the operations go into place to try and rescue her and bring her back into the group. All of this gets played against an even larger and frankly more confusing plotline of the creatures like Betterman who are continuing their fight. We get to see Seeme introduced into the battle now and her relationship with Betterman explored lightly, but just enough to justify her actions as their battles start to sprawl more openly.
While their encounters tend to be very flashy visually, and the right sequences a real treat to take in, the way it’s playing out seems to really minimize the existing “human” cast and pushes them further to the background of usefulness. So much of these episodes have them simply trying to understand what’s going on, and I’m still feeling their confusion. Every now and then I think I catch up and figure out another piece, but then they shift direction and lose me again.
Visually, I’m still in love with the show. I love the way the designs of the characters work and I love the style used for the backgrounds and the adult minor characters. But as more and more revelations are made about what the larger plot is all about, the less sense it makes to me. I’m simply beginning to smile and nod as it all plays out.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Mode Warp Files,Production Art Gallery
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: C
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: C-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2