Orphen II Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, April 18, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, April 13, 2004



What They Say
Majic explores his feminine side. Cleao runs away. Lycoris forgets about her mission. It seems like everything is changing in Orphen's gang.

Yet the monsters keep coming. But how can that be if Flame Soul is dead? And what happened to the missing sorcerers? Is the mysterious Esperanza behind the disappearances? Or is she the only one standing between Orphen and utter destruction?

The Review!
While Flame Soul's involvement has ended, what he's done has set a change into motion for the investigation done by the Tower of Fang, all while Orphen and company continue to wander around towards their eventual goal.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. This continues to be a straightforward stereo mix where the majority of dialogue is through the center channel with only a few scant moments where there's some faked directionality across the soundstage. Dialogue is nice and clear though and there weren't any noticeable dropouts or other distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 1999, the transfer for this second season of Orphen looks about on par with the first season but a touch better. There's a significant drop in the number of dark and murky night scenes in this first volume, which lets the softness that was prevalent during a lot of the first season out of the picture. Colors are much the same style with backgrounds being somewhat bland but solid while the foreground colors such as characters are much more vivid and varying. Cross coloration creeps into things in a few places and there's some noticeable aliasing, but neither are showstoppers.

Packaging:
While the style remains the same, the choice of artwork for this cover really doesn't fit all that well since it's a good shot of Flame Soul and Orphen both in fighting modes set against a simple backdrop. Why doesn't it work? Flame Soul's arc ended in the last volume and he's not really in this one at all. While we get volume numbering on the cover and spine, the back cover only gets episode titles and no number listings. The production credits and extras are clearly listed, but some of the features in the technical box are a bit obscured with a reddish brown color used for some of the text since they tried to blend it to the book format. There isn't an insert this time around but instead a four panel fold-out poster with a great illustration of Cleao and Lycoris leaning on top of a grumpy looking Orphen.

Menu:
The main menu layout uses elements from the cover set against the book format, with two cards overlaying it. One card uses the artwork from the front cover and insert while the other provides direct episode access and the usual selections such as languages and extras, all of which plays music. Access times are nice and fast, and since there isn't much here on the top level, things load quickly without any transitional animations.

Extras:
The extras section mirrors the earlier releases, with the clean opening and ending sequences. There's also a new set of dub outtakes. The outtakes continue to be an area where your mileage will vary on how humorous they are, but they do generally get a couple of chuckles out of us.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this volume of the series we get past the halfway mark of the show and past the opening storyline that lead up to the encounter with Flame Soul and the various Creatures he was sending out into the lands to kill Orphen. While there's still that plot's larger storyline to go on, the show refocuses its energies briefly at the beginning before getting back to the standalone stories.

Since Flame Soul was eliminated, it's had reverberations in various quarters. Esperanza herself gets some grief over it from MacGregor since he's tried to avoid bloodshed for the most part, but she manages to sooth things over with the simple fact that she did it on her own and he's uninvolved in it. Flame Soul's death has also caused issues at the Tower of Fang where they've found that he was murdered and no indication of who it could be. Letecia believes it's tied to the Creatures themselves and the new information about three missing sorcerers from the Tower who have been gone for awhile now. There's a low level of panic brewing around there with some of the mysteries of late and she's finding that there are small but tangible links between all of them. Hartia's also good enough to bring Orphen up to speed on everything during an encounter but Orphen refuses to even think of coming back to the Tower to help deal with things.

He's got better things to do. Like getting to a free all you can eat festival!

Naturally, since it involves free and food, everything in the world will stop Orphen from getting to experience it. This time it's Lycoris as she's caught a cold, the Abira cold in fact. So since they can't move on in their journey to reach the festival, Orphen is naturally grumpy. But he's also determined and sets off to find medicine that will help cure the cold and ends up at a variety of pharmacies that are seemingly in league to aggravate him with various methods. While he and Majic are out looking for a cure-all for the common cold, Cleao has decided that she's going to make the ultimate stew that will kill the cold for poor Lycoris. The problem for her is that she's putting everything under the sun into the pot and making a stew that will kill whoever drinks it instead of killing the germs. Add in the pint size brothers who end up having the one fruit that could actually cure things and it's one of those stories that has everything coming together in the end all for naught, but providing some good laughs along the way. It's a mixed balance episode and weak at times, but there were some good laugh out loud sections as well, particularly with Volcan and the fruits.

The less said about the second episode with Majic in a dress entering a dance competition the better.

The last two episodes on the disc are a fare bit of fun though. The first has one of the more traditional events happening and that's Cleao leaving off in a huff after an argument with Orphen over something inconsequential. So she and Leki stalk off into the forest on their own. When this happens, it's usually a chance for Cleao to get some time to herself and a bit of a story for her. While the two of them are off wandering around and thinking about things, Cleao ends up in two situations. One is she deals with the pint size brothers and their attempts to capture a bird and the other is that she comes across Esperanza playing her piano on the lake. Interestingly, she and Esperanza seem to have something in common and the two spend some time together lightly conversing about things. We don't learn a lot about Esperanza but just her getting more screen time and interacting with people other than MacGregor is a plus. Her motives are also starting to become more clouded as she's finding herself dealing with this group more and more and even ends up helping out inadvertently.

The last episode was more than I expected since it's basically a Titanic style parody. The group ends up taking a detour from their trip to the Royal Order when Lycoris wins a trip for two on board the newest big ocean liner that's been built. Cleao convinces her to not say it's for two until all four of them are on board at which point she lets Orphen and Majic know that they're working the ship for their passage since she and Lycoris took the free ticket way out. So Orphen and Majic spend time peeling potatoes, serving dinners and other menial tasks. The two women continue to rack up the bills an Cleao keeps giving them to Orphen, forcing them into more debt and working them harder. The bulk of the episode is fun in this manner but the larger story does project itself in again when one of the Creatures shows up and starts wrecking havoc.

Throughout all of these episodes there are a minute or two given over to the bigger story. Since we're in the second half of the season we get to see a new phase of it. While the first season focused on Flame Soul this one gives things over initially to the place where MacGregor oversees things with Esperanza. But we also move inside and have some small scenes with a young girl whose nameless but seems to want some friends to play with, something that MacGregor continually tells her he's working on. She's obviously going to be something of a key for this part of the arc, so we do get some time with her and the others but it's pretty minimal stuff.

In Summary:
While the show continues to be the same for the most part as the first season, something continues to just not feel the same with it. It's still enjoyable but something that clicked with me during the first season just feels like it's missing and not letting me enjoy it quite as much. These episodes are good overall, though I never want to see Majic in a dress again, as there's some good moments where the characters are more serious than normal due to Esperanza's involvement which seems to be lightly guiding things forward. The designs and feel of the show has finally settled with me as well, so that's no longer bothering me or feeling as jarring as it did at first.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Outtakes

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: B-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & 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: Orphen II