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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, February 21, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2003



What They Say
Dejected and defeated, Otaru departs for Xian! Lime, Cherry, and Bloodberry remain, returning to their new lives there. But they find themselves constantly reminded that they are only Marionettes, nothing more than machines.

A broken-hearted Lime agrees to the evil Dr. Hess’s proposal to make her human. Cherry and Bloodberry try change her mind, but it’s too late, and now Hess has the information he needs that will let him destroy the Earth! One last stand, one last chance – Lime-Chan Tasukete!

The Review!
The final installment of the J to X series proves to be rather more entertaining than I expected it to be, as well as more emotional than I thought the series could be.

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:
Panther takes the final cover to the series here with a dual shot of her in her regular outfit as well as a basketball outfit, something of which she’s surely bounce out of quite easily.. 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:
Showing that sometimes how oblivious I can be, there are multiple textless opening sequences provided here. I never noticed any changes until this volume, so it was surprising to see it after reading about the extra. All are presented clean and without soft song subtitles and look great.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The end run of the J franchise moves pretty fast, as three out of the four episodes focus on the final arc and then we get a very pleasing epilogue episode that brings everything into focus.

Like the last few volumes, things start off on a down note as we have Otaru now leaving the girls in Xian since their memories are restored, but they all feel an affinity for what they’re doing and Otaru not believing that he’s good enough for them to be with him. The girls are all confused about this and aren’t sure how to proceed, whether to actually go back to their new lives and go forward or to chase after Otaru and show him the error of his ways. But there’s one thing that still sticks in their minds as they try to figure it all out, and that’s Dr. Hesse telling them he can make them human.

Hesse lucks out in having Lime fall for this and he ends up having her under his sway, though she does come willingly. This leads to an amusing coincidence of the train that Otaru is taking having a stop right by where his secret base is, which is also a coincidence since that’s where Faust and his saberdolls are as they’re looking for Otaru to figure out what’s wrong with him and his leaving the girls. All coincidences aside, things lead to a bad moment as Hesse ends up with all three girls in his new ship and he uses them to access the Mesopotamia ship that originally helped to populate the world.

As it turns out, Hesse is actually a scout from a previous mission before the Mesopotamia and got stranded here and has kept himself alive all this time through cyborg manipulations. But with the help of the girls, he can access the ship in space to get the wormhole co-ordinates and use his new ship to return to Earth and have his vengeance. All this comes out as the trio battles him aboard his ship after they realize they’ve been fooled about things.

This is a heavy spoiler section.

This all plays out pretty normally, right up until the end where the ship explodes upon re-entry to the planet and the girls actually go down with the ship. I was surprised at first, until they had them shooting out as beams of light. Then it became obvious that these are the newly generated souls of selfless sacrifice and they went directly for the first three clone bodies that are ready and hidden. In the end, the girls did get their dream.

This results in a very well done moment that had me choked up as you have Otaru reaching down and cradling the baby version of the girls and the simple smiles on their faces. The realization of Otaru that it’s now his turn to take care of them has really brought the character full circle from when we first met him back in the original series and through all of this. Having an entire episode where we see how they’ve all changed after three or four years is perfect, and really lets the new relationship shine and provide some real love for the way it all turned out.

I found myself very surprised at being slightly choked up during points of the last two episodes as I haven’t been terribly into the series but have enjoyed it on one level. The change to something much more dramatic wasn’t out of place, but the level of which it got to me was unexpected. This series really truly has a conclusion to it but also a new fresh start for things. I’m really happy with how it all ended, though I still wish they had spared a few minutes worth of the last episode for a “15 years later” kind of thing, to see what they all turn into.

The J to X series has had some odd moments and done some truly weird things, but overall it was decent. The entire Xian storyline, which makes more sense in retrospect, was just oddly started and played out, giving things a darker time than expected based on the first half of the show. But as it has all played out, I’m rather pleased with the results. J to X isn’t going to rank high on my overall lists, but it’s a show I’ll now remember much more fondly due to these last two episodes.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Endings

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: B-
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