Argentosoma Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, May 29, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, June 03, 2003



What They Say
Ryu Soma continues to work with the men and women of Funeral, but he is beginning to doubt himself. Why hasn’t he taken his revenge upon the alien? What is he doing in Funeral?

All these questions prompt him to take some rash actions as he engages a merciless enemy in combat! With the largest encountered alien slowly approaching Funeral's home base, the team is rushed to action, but nothing seems to be able to stop it. Their last resort is the Fefnir, a charged particle accelerator, but even this enormous weapon may prove ineffective...

The Review!
Moving into the central arc of the storyline, Argentosoma starts picking up more of my interest as I try to ignore some of the things that just bother me.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Though it’s very recent, it’s a pretty basic stereo mix with only a few areas of really good directionality, mostly during the combat sequences, across the forward soundstage. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout without any noticeable dropouts or distortions.

Video:
The transfer here continues to look very solid. Colors are spot on, cross coloration is non-existent and aliasing is extremely minimal during panning sequences. There are a few areas where some dark scenes with blues in them look a little grainy, but it looks to be by design for atmosphere. Bandai’s approach has changed a bit with this release in how they handle things though; the opening sequence retains the original Japanese credits (which we like). The end credits, which used to be untranslated as well, are now done in ADV-style, which means we get fully translated credits in the rolling up format. I’d personally rather have that at the completion of each episode and retain the original Japanese credits, especially since some shows do them up so nicely.

Packaging:
The front cover continues with the same graphic design of the previous volumes, this time with a green layout, while having the nicely painted images of Hartland and Soma on top of it. The back cover provides some very small shots of animation and several paragraphs of show description. The episode numbers and titles are clearly listed (with volume numbering on the spine and the front cover) as well as the discs features and production information. The insert has another shot of the cover while it opens to talk about Dan and Guenevere, as well as providing some nice artwork. The back of the insert provides the full production information including bilingual cast listings. Bandai also went the extra step and did this release as a reversible cover; the front of it has Sue, slightly stripped down, in the same stylish format as the main front cover while the back cover goes minimalist with just the artwork pieces and a Shakespeare quote.

Menu:
The menu design here is really nice and reflects well the shows opening mentality, as everything is set up like mirrors, which shatter upon loading and then reform in a crooked way when you go to submenus. Moving about is nice and easy and the layout is pretty standard and access times are nice and fast for the most part.

Extras:
The extras are pretty minimal here, with another segment of the basic tech file areas that provide some more minor bits of background information and a small character gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The further away we get from the chaotic and poorly done opening episodes, the more forgiving I’m becoming with this series. While its internal consistency level is nice and steady at this point, it took it a bit of time to get there. With the early episodes moving into a fuzzy memory for me now, I’m able to just enjoy what’s right in front of me, for better or worse.

The episodes in this round, a much more manageable amount with only four episodes, provides some amusing amount of angst for some of the cast members and also starts providing more background on the why’s of the world as it stands. A lot of this information would have been better provided much earlier in the series and would likely have helped it, in my eyes, to not feel like we were being kept ignorant of things we should have known.

While Frank, lovingly known as EX-1 now, is important to the show and most of these episodes, he’s fairly marginalized throughout them. During one episode, after learning of the potential of a traitor within the Funeral organization (cue a sharp intake of breath from a certain Mr. Soma), we watch a transport trailer leave the facility and head towards the nearest big city. Attached to its underbelly is some kind of transmitter however, with its driver completely unaware.

The transmitter then starts broadcasting a personal ID signal of one young woman named Hattie, the strange little girl who has a telepathic link to Frank. When her signal actually reaches Frank, he busts out of his protective jail easily and starts hauling ass down the road towards the signal. It’s quite the sight to see, this huge misshapen armored alien sprinting down a vast arid expanse of scenery. Naturally, the SARG’s are sent after it and try to bring it under control.

What proves interesting is that Ryu decides to take this as his chance to finally eliminate Frank and sets about ensuring that the other two SARG’s are forced back so that he can handle it by himself. Ryu’s attempts to take down Frank are brutal in some ways, such as when he starts hitting him with crushing blows that shatter the armor. Ryu’s inability to actually finish him off starts him on a trail of situations where he realizes he’s been helping Frank more than accomplishing his goal of revenge, sending himself down an amusing spiral of self hatred.

In another area, the aliens send their next unit down to the planet, as we see from Pluto’s orbit when it arrives. Unlike previous aliens, this one is about ten times as tall as the previous ones and simply towers over everything else. It’s sheer size also gives it much stronger powers, something that the military doesn’t think of at first and are surprised to see happen. It’s reconstructive abilities are also heightened, causing the SARG’s to be useless and even for Frank to have a hell of a time doing any damage to it.

The arrival of this beast brings into play a question of loyalty and dedication when it comes to the commander, as she’s still figuring she’s something of a token figure in her command. When things start looking completely bleak, she shows her dedication when she decides to use the nuke that’s attached to Franks head, in an attempt to take down the alien with their last shot. I found this to be pretty silly, considering that the numerous missiles that were shot at it in orbit essentially did no damage.

In fact, much of the military and civilian structure in this series should be shot for being so inept. One of the best episodes here is the one that focuses on a meeting that runs the length of almost the entire episode where we have the military and civilian sides of things coming together under a central leader to determine what went wrong and what should go on next. One of the figures here, in talking about the determination of the aliens in reaching the Pilgrimage Point, talks about how it’s impossible for the aliens to all be shooting for that one target since there’s no way they could see it from wherever they are out in space, since the humans can’t see anything on another planet themselves.

Mind you, this happens just after they send that massively tall alien to Earth in the previous episode, the one that proved a lot of their assumptions wrong. Other comments creep up in the dialogue as the politicians and the military argue and while the scientists ineptly babble on about what they’ve found out. The episode is good in that it reveals things about the aliens and what has happened in the past as well as talking about Pilgrimage Point in some more detail, but if you really paid attention to what they’re saying, you realize that the plot, or at least the technobabble here, is so painfully thin and poorly thought out that you can fear for the remainder of the series if they actually intend to say something outside of providing some nice tense and dramatic fight sequences towards the end.

I made it very well through the first three episodes here and enjoyed the basic story and the characters, and while there was some good stuff in the last episode, I found myself laughing and shaking my head more than anything else about how they visualized a triumvirate would be handling the situation, even in the United States. It’s moments like these that cause me to think that the overall plot just isn’t that well thought out and things are just cobbled together as they go along by a second stringer writer who fell into the job.

My interest in it now has part of the mentality of wanting to see if it turns into a real train wreck or whether they manage to salvage something out of it.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character Gallery,Tech Files

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: A-
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: Argentosoma