Neo Ranga Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, May 02, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, April 15, 2003
What They Say
When Neo Ranga first appeared in Tokyo, he was on a mission. But this time, he's on display. Suddenly, the mighty monster-god has been reduced to a marketing gimmick.
On the surface, it's all fun, games and greed. But things are not as simple as they seem. While everyone is having fun and making money, criminal forces are working behind the scenes. As corruption runs rampant, the conflict grows. The mystery escalates. And some rather interesting characters - including strange visitors from Barou and a newer, more powerful ASE robot - join in the action. With plot twists, risqué humor, lost innocence (and Ushio's lost swimsuit), Neo Ranga: Lost in the Spectacle is a must-see!
After an intriguing first volume, things sort of fall apart here and lose a lot of what made that first batch of episodes so interesting.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The show has a pretty decent stereo mix for both language tracks, though the majority of dialogue is center channel based. The action sequences provide a number of good moments of forward soundstage directionality while the music does a solid job of filling an overall field.
Originally airing back in 1999, Neo Ranga’s transfer is reminiscent of a more traditionally animated show. The color palette used for the majority of it is very muted and earthy, giving it a darker and slightly dirtier feel. The area where this makes things look not so hot is in some of the water scenes or dark night sequences where the dark blues look very grainy and shifty. Colors otherwise look good, though there are some moments where you can see some blockiness in Ranga’s brown face when they have him move up and down. Cross coloration is non-existent and aliasing is very minimal, so overall the transfer is pretty good looking.
Continuing with the clear keepcases, this volume has another great looking cover with Ushio covered in the squirlies and wielding a sword that looks bigger than her, all set against the red/black imagery like the first volume. Fans of the original ‘skin’ version get a great reversible cover here, much like the first volume. The back cover of the modified version has more of the squirlies and provides a brief summary of things and a listing of the discs features and extras while the reverse side of the back cover provides a nice shot of Ranga at rest. There is no insert included with this release.
It’s not that often that a menu is as darkly black as this one, but it again fits the Ranga character perfectly with its deep black background offset by some of the red squirlies keeping menu selections to the left side. Like Kurumi, you can jump to any of the eight episodes right from the top while the remaining selections provide quick and easy access to the extras and setup. Access times are nice and fast as well as being free of transitional animations.
There’s a good run of extras here, though not quite as copious as the first volume. The translator’s notes continues with lots of interesting tidbits and explanations, but not quite as many as the first volume needed. The opening and ending sequences get another run here in textless form as well as the series trailer. The production sketches gallery is a video gallery that runs about three minutes to the opening song and provides a look at the various character designs of the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Right from the start of the first volume, I was very intrigued by the show. Once the opening sequence and its music got into my head, I was hooked. The opening episodes, though scattered in style as they adapted to the half-episode running time format, provided an interesting story of a trio of sisters who end up bringing home a huge ancient god from some remote island like a lost puppy.
The second volume moves more towards character driven episodes while also slowly moving something of the plot forward. The main instances of the larger plot come in the form of the military that’s trying to duplicate Ranga’s size and abilities, having failed to capture him early on in the first volume. There are some hints of the mystical side of Ranga being explored as well as the three shrunken rulers of the island Ranga came from arrive in Japan and take up residence near him.
A lot of the focus here is on how everyone is adapting to having Ranga in their lives. We see this heavily in the TV broadcast world where there’s constant coverage of Ranga and what he’s doing, with shows ranging from children’s style reporting to more serious adult coverage. One episode later on has the entire family being given a free trip to a remote part of Japan where they’re having a Ranga celebration, though the entire event is actually a cover for something else the locals are trying to do. Overall though, Ranga is becoming enmeshed into Japanese society.
One element that becomes pervasive in these episodes is the current relationship between Ushio and Hiromi, her childhood friend whose parents run the Super Andou’s convience store down the street. Their store becomes a focal point early on as the political-yakuza have managed to make some money off of Ranga by putting in a Niku-mart just below where Ranga lives, meaning that all the reporters and tourists end up going there. With the store having a shady backing of the National Interest Party and it’s mafia-like background, there’s little the Andou’s can do.
Well, until he gets the brilliant idea of getting Ushio to work there. Their greed gets the better of them though and they end up in a nasty situation against the Party. With Hiromi caught in the middle and her own loyalties divided due to Ushio being involved, we start to follow her story more as she brings things to a head and then flees into the city itself, only to end up with the wrong crowd.
There’s a lot going on here, with all the Party related episodes, the travel aboard the cruise ship which has a tale of a stolen swimsuit to an amusing bank robbery gone wrong. But all of it feels like it’s not focusing on the right thing, keeping Ranga as something in the background for the most part, and little more than a tool when he does hit the forefront of the show. And with most of these episodes focusing on Ushio and Hiromi, the other sisters get the short end of the stick, and they’re the ones that are actually more interesting than fairly bland Ushio.
Of course, every time the opening sequence plays, I get all excited again about the show. This volume has some interesting moments, but definitely felt less than the first one. Hopefully things will pick up in the next one.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Translator's notes,Production sketches,Clean opening and closing animations,Neo Ranga trailer
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: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 120
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Neo Ranga