Argentosoma Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, September 22, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, October 07, 2003
What They Say
Guenevere is recuperating from her injuries in the hospital. Meanwhile, Ines tries to prevent the scandal of the SARG's origins from spreading. And in the midst of all this chaos, the alien called Frank, thought to be little more than a soulless construct, speaks! At last, the mystery of Pilgrimage Point and the origins of the aliens will be revealed. Ryu Soma must finally come to terms with his warped existence as Funeral suddenly finds themselves at ground zero of a nuclear explosion with a traitor in their midst.
As Argentosoma rushes towards it conclusion, revelations and backstory become the key points of these episodes.
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.
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.
The front cover continues with the same graphic design of the previous volumes, though it shifts to a nice shaded purple for this volume. Guenevere takes the center stage here with a partially undressed piece of artwork of her that looks really nice and accentuates the right parts of the character, notably her eyes. 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 some of the background characters and a little more on the aliens. 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 a really nice shot that captures the attitude of the mysterious benefactor that has worked with Ryu, 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.
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.
The extras are again 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)
As the series gets closer to its conclusion, the payoff episodes are starting to spring up more and more. Early on in the series I found a number of items I didn't care for in how the story was presented and became disinterested in a lot of aspects of it. When you feel yanked out of the disbelief factor, you end up finding more and more that just unsettles the mind.
As the series progressed though, they managed to iron out a good number of these bits and my interest had gone up a bit. The chaotic mess of an opening set of episodes fell into the past and I was getting involved in the episodes of the subsequent volumes, trying to tie it all together. With the fifth volume, entitled "Our Memories", the trip into the past brings up new elements to help explain away things. This brings in some more of the "I wish they'd slipped more of that in earlier in a more obvious way", but it works in the context done so far. If anything, it makes rewatching the earlier problematic episodes more enjoyable since you can piece things together more easily. That has its good and bad points.
After the revelations in the past volume where the team learned just what their SARG's really are, never mind all the devastation and destruction done to the base, things still aren't all that good for the group. Some of the team are a bit frayed at the edges, notably Ryu. He ends up taking out his frustrations on Hattie, partially due to the tricks his mind continues to play on him, as he ends up calling her Mackie. His unresolved issues with Mackie continue to be a struggling point for him, something that manifests strangely with Hattie as he tries to get the smiles out of her that remind him of Mackie, but they're smiles that only Frank seems to be able to generate with her. And with him having the internal conflict of wanting to kill Frank but realizing that he's only helped save him several times, it's stretching his faculties a bit.
With Frank, we get to learn some pretty sizeable and interesting new information about him. He continues to talk only to Hattie, but a series of circumstances leads him and most of the team out to Pilgrimage Point where the revelations really start coming out. With an episode that focuses entirely on the past, we learn about a astronaut several decades ago named Yuri Leonov and one of his journey's into space. Moving back and forth from the mission to his time with his wife in their countryside farm, we get to know the man and how he has to handle his two loves.
Since we end up focusing on a particular mission, it's pretty easy to guess that things go wrong. Under the guidance of a friend who is in command on Earth, Yuri and his ship change their orbit and head off to investigate. The decision to change orbit is a critical one as it changes their entire mission and places their lives in not just risk, but certain death as they'll not be able to make their way home. With the politics behind it as well as Yuri's own desire to be a bright flash in the annals of space history, they head off to investigate. What happens then brings in a surprising and intriguing cycle that answers some questions but also posits a number of new interesting ones.
Frankly, I'm just damn pleased to know who that was in the ending sequence now.
As the revelations flow and cast members reveal themselves and their true purposes, such as how Ryu is really Takuto and he was the surviving member of the original accident, as well as his desire to kill Frank (much to Hattie's shock), the series really picks up its pace. The military begins to make its move as well now that Frank's status has changed and they essentially take over Funeral without a shot. Traitors within and without, secret agendas and duplicitous friends are the order of the day.
And I can't really convey just how much I enjoyed a number of those segments. When Ryu learns that he wasn't the only one that his benefactor slid into the group, or when the Commander deals with a surprise spy within the group, there's a chill that runs down my spine. I'm not positive yet whether the revelation episodes and the stories surrounding them are enough to forgive the opening episodes, but it's coming quite close to changing my opinion of the series as a whole.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Tech Gallery,Character Profiles
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: A-
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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2