Wild Arms Vol. #2 (of 5) (Mania.com)

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

What They Say
The course of true love seldom runs smooth, and in this case it's positively enough to derail a train. Sheyenne and Kiel are still searching for Sheyenne's body and they're still running into Loretta and Mirabelle every time they turn around. Now their search is further complicated by a host of love-struck characters. A train trip becomes a journey through the absurd with cheating lovers, a trio of little girls infatuated with Sheyenne, a conductor obsessed with arriving on time, criminals galore, an expectant mother in labor and a circus troupe alone for the ride. Add a convent with an elderly Mother Superior waiting for her lost love, a pair of feuding families that would shame the Montagues and Capulets, and round it all out with a visit to Las Gomoras, the sleaziest, shadiest den of iniquity in the West. There's love and something more in the air in the second volume of Wild Arms!

The Review!
After a surprisingly enjoyable first volume, I had a feeling that the second installment would disappoint and it would start to seem repetitive or feel like it lost that something. Thankfully, it’s just as much fun and enjoyable as the first five episodes.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Throughout the episodes there was a solid if somewhat unexceptional stereo mix. There’s a bit of directionality throughout, but not enough to really raise expectations for much of an immersive track. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and we noted no dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing in late 1999 and early 2000, Wild Arms budget looks fairly average, but they managed to milk it fairly well, resulting in some decent looking animation that comes across quite well in this transfer. Colors are fairly muted for the most part with the backgrounds and the general western feeling, but there’s several areas of much more vibrant colors that shine through nicely. Cross coloration is pretty much non-existent here and we only saw some minor aliasing during some panning sequences. A solid transfer overall.

Loretta and a great side shot of her cleavage take up the second volume cover, and though the character designs are fairly minimal, it all looks good here as it’s set against the same kind of background as the first volume. The back cover provides only two animation shots and a lengthy summary explaining the shows premise. The volume numbers, appearing on the spine and the front cover, are accentuated with the episode titles and numbers being listed on the back alongside the discs technical features and production information. The insert provides a nice shot of the six main characters facing off of each other while the reverse side lists the episodes and chapters.

Done in a similar layout to the front cover, the menus features different character artwork in each location set against the shaded brown western motif of the series. Setup and features are quick and easy to navigate and access times are nice and fast without any transitional pieces to deal with.

There’s a handful of good extras included here. First is a ten minute video of the original Japanese actor interviews where they talk about the show and the characters they play and how they perceive them. There’s a brief video gallery of model shots, showcasing the designs of the series and another Japanese DVD preview commercial. To round things out is a very brief segment of dub outtakes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the slight drop down from five episodes to four, the show overall doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming here in trying to take it all in during one sitting. In fact, with the shorter episode times of just over twenty minutes, it’s pretty easy to breeze through a show like this and enjoy it for the light and snappy comedy adventure it’s intended to be.

Kiel and Sheyenne are continuing their journey across the landscape, this time having saved enough money to actually take a train part of the way. As with other parts of their journey, anything that seemingly comes easy will increase in work, and the train ride is no exception. The entire ride eventually turns into a comedy of errors as the two deal with the varying types of passengers, from the pregnant woman with three little girls who all love to talk to Sheyenne to the performance group that the conductor mistakes for criminals, causing Loretta’s scheme to have them leave her alone go awry. And when you toss in a misunderstood case of love between three passengers, one of which has a rifle, it only gets weirder as everyone tries to figure out what to do. At least up until a real criminal shows up.

Another episode that played out with great laughs has Kiel and Sheyenne stumbling across a massive monastery of sorts in the desert. Since it’s hard to pass up a nice place to crash when you’re traveling in a sandstorm, they take a chance and check it out only to be welcomed by the priestesses who fill the place. It turns out that the woman who has been leading them, for something over one hundred and thirty years, has foresaw their coming and is bound to fate that Kiel is the man who is her prince riding a white horse to save the day. Naturally, Loretta and Mirabelle show up on the scene as well, posing as priestesses as there is rumor of treasure buried deep within. A lot of the episode is made up of Kiel trying to avoid the pasty death-white Liz and her ruby lips of wuv, but also playing up to them as he tries to help everyone figure out what the treasure may be. There’s a lot of hilarious moments throughout here and the episode worked really well.

Also ranking high was an episode that I think I’d normally cringe at, as we get the Las Vegas styling as the group hits Las Gomoras. While Loretta and Mirabelle hit there first and end up in a really bad situation, things get even more amusing when Kiel and Sheyenne show up in town and Kiel finds himself being attached to the woman who is essentially treated like a queen there in how she’s managed to manipulate them all and gathered massive amounts of property ownership through the card playing. There’s some great character revelations here as it goes on and we get to see Loretta in something even less than she normally wears.

The shows brief running time really helps things keep a steady flow here as the pacing on this show is solid. There’s usually very little down time during an episode other than some very light exposition so that they can prep the second half of things. The characters all have a great relationship, very well defined, very early on in the series which allows these usually dull character building episodes to be much more enjoyable than normal.

This series really isn’t going to be for everyone, but I think it’s going to be one of those hidden gems that will go over well with those who find it. Any series that can bring a smile to my face as regularly as this one is something I want to see more of.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Interviews with the Japanese voice actors,Model sheets,Original Japanese preview,Outtakes

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: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Wild Arms