Figure 17 Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, January 02, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, November 18, 2003



What They Say
An alien police agent named Oldeena arrives on the scene, but with all her training, she still runs into trouble with the ferocious Maguar. Now the task falls upon Tsubasa and Hikaru and their ability to form into the fighting bio-android Figure 17 to neutralize the alien threat!

The Review!
With backup now arrived, the situation for DD changes while Hikaru and Tsubasa become even more involved in their new lives as sisters.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo track here is decent, though the bulk of the show is dialogue based which means the center channel is getting most of the workout. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing on SkyPerfecTV back in 2001 and broadcasting just one episode a month, we get a show that’s essentially OVA quality and done in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The end result is a great look transfer for the bulk of the print that shines through beautifully. Colors are lush and deep in many scenes, lots of vibrant moments during the action and fully fluid movement. Saturation is just right throughout and there wasn’t any noticeable bleeding. The only area that had some problems comes during the opening sequence when it pans over the large fields of multiple colored flowers where that area of the image looked a bit softer and a touch pixellated.

Packaging:
Though not as eye-catching as the first cover, this release looks good with a similar layout but bathed in purples, where the central image is the two girls holding hands to become Figure 17 while Oldeena is in the background on the hoverbike dealing with one of the Maguar. The back cover has a few shots from the show itself and a quick summary of the basic elements. Production information is nicely laid out and we get the usual technical grid. The insert does a color negative style reverse shot of the front cover but with blues and lays the chapter listings on top of that. As usual, the reverse side of the insert has boxart advertisements.

Menu:
Working with the shaded blue and purples, the main menu is a nice static image that has the two girls to the side from the front cover with the translated logo along the top left. Selections ring down along the left and some of the nice instrumental/sort of vocal music plays along. Moving to submenus can be problematic if you’re going through all of them in one sitting, since it uses the same transitional animation for each one. Depending on how fast your player can load and access them, this can be tiresome. Our Panasonic loaded it quickly but the Toshiba took a bit longer which got frustrating as we hit each submenu.

Extras:
The extras make out very well here, which is something of an understatement. Split into two parts is the Behind the Scenes series for Figure 17. The first one runs just under twenty-seven minutes in length while the second one runs just over fourteen minutes. Both of these are filled with all sorts of interesting details about “challenging the future of animation” and what went into making such a series as this, with its very different schedule, format and length. There is a lot of very interesting bits throughout this, very much a solid set of extras for the Figure 17 fan. Also included is a two minute promotional video for the show that was used as an extended teaser/trailer for it before it originally aired.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first installment of Figure 17 truly ended up fascinating us. The two opening episodes to the series were so wonderfully paced and realized while being so different from just about most other shows we’d seen, but still using a familiar storyline, that it managed to infuse new life into a routine plot.

The two episodes on this volume bring in only one new element, namely the blonde Oldeena that’s something of a superior officer to DD. Oldeena’s rather surprised at what DD has done while on Earth, from not being able to capture and deal with the Maguar to revealing his true nature to Tsubasa. She doesn’t believe his claims about the Maguar being different on Earth and having adapted to things there far too easily, and you’d almost swear the look in her eyes over Hikaru indicates that she just wants to eliminate what she sees as an anomaly. DD doesn’t defend himself much other than trying to show that things are different on Earth and it’s affecting them in different ways.

While he and Oldeena continue their search for the Maguar and clean up after the crash and after effects of his arrival, Tsubasa and Hikaru are for the most part living the lives of two sisters. Therein lies much of the charm of this show; while there are the money shots, such as when the two girls transform into Figure 17 to help deal with the Maguar or the chase sequences with the Maguar, it’s not all about that. In a regular twenty-five minute show, I can imagine seeing the transformation sequence happening at the same time in each episode after a formulaic opening half to the episode. But here, when you do get to that scene, it’s much more engaging since it’s so rare.

With Tsubasa and Hikaru, much time is spent just watching them be young girls going about their lives and dealing with what comes to them. The focus of the first episode, where summer break starts, has them going back to school the following weekend for an outdoor camping event where the bulk of their class has come to camp, cook meals and just have fun for a night. It’s interesting watching this, since presumably much of it is based on actual things classes do (mine never did this); into groups of four, they go to the local market to get the foods they want to use in their curry meal, come back and prepare it, have the meal and then play with sparklers and otherwise have fun. The rest of the night is spent supposedly sleeping, but there are the fun events like playing cards and just messing around with each other.

This particular outdoors trip doesn’t last too long into the night though as the winds pick up from a typhoon nearby, one that won’t actually visit but still affect things. The teachers move them into the gymnasium instead, but that only leads to more fun as a couple of groups head off at first to go to the bathroom but then explore the mysteries a dark and empty school can provide. These kids act so much like kids that it’s almost disturbing sometimes how they are, but it’s great to watch Tsubasa come more and more out of her shell as Hikaru leaps into every part of life and wants to try it.

The second episode brings things closer to home as Sakura’s mother takes ill and has to spend a few days resting. Since we haven’t seen much of the dynamic in the household, this provides a large look into how the store and ranch operates as well as the multi-generational family that lives there. A good part of the focus is on Sakura herself, an eighth grade girl who is trying to assert her independence without first really acknowledging just how dependent she is. It’s the typical story of a girl who wants to do what she wants without having to work for it, and when she does work for it she only gets picked on by everyone for not doing a good enough job. She ends up rebelling without understanding the lesson being taught. From Tsubasa and Hikaru’s point of view, they see it more as younger kids do in just wanting to help out and please their parents, but I think there’s a twinge in there as well about their wanting to have a mother to even interact with.

The look and feel of the show is much like the first volume. There’s a touch of softness to the world that we see with Tsubasa and Hikaru and a touch of sharpness when we shift to DD and the Maguar hunt, but overall it’s a great looking picture. The wider nature of the framing provides for some much less cramped scenes for both girls to share at the same time without looking like they’re on top of each other and the same framing allows much of the outdoor scenes to look like they were approved by the Hokkaido Tourism Board.

In Summary:
This isn’t your typical anime. Much of what makes it up is pretty standard formula, but there’s something akin to magic working through this show that allows it to become much more than its parts. Each episode purposefully takes its time to tell the story it wants to tell and isn’t bound by the usual commercial restraints placed on it. Though it’s hard to see what there may be for a larger story arc element right now, the smaller pieces are engaging and enjoyable to watch. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Behind the Scenes Part 1,Behind the Scenes Part 2,Promotional "Intro to Figure 17" Video

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Figure 17