Big O II Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, June 20, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, May 11, 2004
What They Say
Roger has chosen to save Dorothy and has left the Big O unmanned! While he attempts to rescue her, a new Megadeus appears - Big Fau; its pilot is Alex Rosewater. The Big Fau displays an impressive array of firepower and easily destroys the enemy, much to the shock of Union spy leader Vera. However, it soon proves to be difficult to control.
With the Union spies unmasked, the race is on to capture the group of traitors and among them is a very familiar face. The fate of Roger's memories may be linked with those of Alex too.
While past volumes have teased us with tidbits about, well, everything, this batch of episodes raises the stakes by several orders and provides some of the more revealing bits of information to date.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. We noticed a bit more sound going to the rear speakers in these last three episodes than most of the previous ones. Dialogue continues to be nice and crisp and clear with little in the way of directionality for the main speaking characters, though a number of background voices got sent to the rears. This is a solid sounding audio track all around.
Originally airing in Japan in late 2002 and then in the US, this series looks fantastic. With the fresh materials and the vibrant designs and color shading, this is a standout piece of work that really impresses. We noticed no cross coloration or macroblocking as well as no aliasing during camera panning sequences. With a transfer as good looking as this, it's very easy to just get absorbed in the show.
The covers for the series continue to look good but still seem to be missing something in their design that attracted me during the first series run. Maybe it's just a bit too much on the cover itself, as we get a good shot of Big Fau but we also get various head and body shots of four other characters and some varied backgrounds. Individually they all look good but taken together it just doesn't feel like it's all coming together right. The back continues the same style as seen previously with a lot of animation shots and a good summary of the episodes inside. Episode titles are listed but no numbers, though the spine at least lists the volume number and appears to match the original series layout so it looks good on your shelf. The insert provides an array of shots from the episodes on both the front and back while the center two-panel piece is a larger version of the front cover.
The main menu is setup as the central viewer for the Big O robot itself and looks snazzy. The layout is identical to the previous series so there's little problem with figuring out the "blank" menus if you've seen that. Access times are pretty decent overall and things are laid out in a straightforward way once you know where they are.
The only extras included are a series of design sketches which you can page through manually.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This volume had me on the edge of my seat practically for the entire time it was on. While there is a ton of mystery still surrounding things in this series, we get so much new information that helps flesh out the world in general that it's almost like an overload after getting so many small teases for so long. There's a lot of payoff in this volume but there's still plenty more to go.
After the last volume, the "world" of Paradigm City is a very interesting place. Having learned of apparently hundreds of outsides having come into the city to spy on things and to make plans for when they can launch a coup of some sort, the city definitely feels even less secure than before with just the giant Megadueses running around the place. A lot of this came at the expense of learning that Angel was indeed one of them, but she's also the more conflicted of them having fallen in love with Roger and ostensibly with the city itself. Her betrayal's haven't sat well with those she reports to, especially now that they're in the city as well and are executing their plans to find the memories that are hidden within there.
As we learn, these people are part of the Unionists, those who have banded together outside of the City and are trying to regain the lost memories of the world. This is a massive revelation unto itself, which now casts Paradigm City as the only remaining place on the planet that has any sense of real modern civilization. It also brings into play that everything that happened with the lost memories wasn't a localized event or that Paradigm City is a place that's kept separate from the real world itself. The realization that this is the only place left like this helps to change the perceptions of those like Rosewater in how they protect the city somewhat. Of course, Rosewater has apparently been using the Unionists to his own advantage as we find out.
With his father having built Paradigm City with his own hands all those years ago and having his own original memories before he "disposed" of them, Alex wants to know what his father knows so he can protect what he's inherited. To do that, he's gone to whatever lengths needed to achieve that goal including working with those who are trying to bring down the city. But with someone like Rosewater, his betrayal of them in the end couldn't even be called a betrayal but rather just his character itself. The Unionists aren't stupid themselves though and obviously expected it by the Dome-shattering moments we get. When the huge grid started to fall from the ceiling I even caught my breath from the impact of the moment. The real tragedy here though is for Alex when he realizes just how far gone his own father is at the end here, and we get him talking to him like the lost little boy he truly is in this big city.
And the little boys have very big toys. Though he'd been told it wasn't operational yet, Rosewater takes command of the Big Fau, one of the Big Three, to deal with the threats to the city as well as to exert his own dominance. Rosewater's insistence that he's a Dominus like Roger is gets to be amusing since he feels like he's in the same league as Roger. When he's out in the city in the Fau and dealing with the Unionists Hydra, which is a pretty poor machine all told, he's king of the world until things start going badly. When the Big Fau starts doing what it wants to do instead of following Alex's orders, he ends up almost going into a fetal position over it and screaming at it to do what it's being told. From this alone you can only imagine what his relationship with his father was like when he was much younger.
Some of the best material throughout here though comes from Roger and his interactions with everyone as the situations continue to change. His meals with Rosewater are illuminating as well as kicking off more hidden memories in his own head about his past as a youth and as some sort of Dominus in a past life. The imagery of hundreds of Big O Megadeueses roaming over the world is a fascinating and scary sequence. Roger also gets to the heart of things with Dastun as the two deal with the different ways they deal in protecting the city. Dastun has seemingly at long last come to grips with what the Big O has to do and Roger's part in it, but there's a sense of loss in his not being able to really be a part of it, regardless of how necessary Roger tells him he is.
But it's the women in Roger's life that continue to provide the most challenge. While he's certainly had unknowing influence over Angel, it's his relationship with Dorothy that takes on new levels here. From the early time when Alan is about to eliminate her and the Big O insists that Roger goes to save her to the invasion of their mansion and her kidnapping, her importance to him both as a person and a key to the secrets of the lost memories only gets bigger and bigger. Dorothy herself gets a lot of really good scenes, from some of the action moments against the continually creepy Alan to her bits of dialogue with both Norman and Roger over her ability to lie. It's an ability that she almost seems disgusted to be able to have, if you can infer that much emotion from her voice.
The style of the show is still just as strong a character and element in these episodes as well. The inclusion of the Big Fau into the action side of things brings a new and very interesting looking machine into play and it sets into motion a lot of changes within the Paradigm Dome itself. These scenes are beautifully contrasted with the outdoor sequences with Alex's father in the fields with the wheat blowing in the wind and the simple look of the gold, green and blue colors that fill his particular world. When you shift back and forth between the world of the father and the son, it's hard to say who is truly better off.
Big O continues to be a highly impressive show. With some of the sharpest writing from Chiaki Konaka and gorgeous animation with a real sense of its own style there's little I can find to really hate here other than each volume is too short and there's simply not enough show made in general. This set of episodes takes the known Big O world and opens it up to a lot more, building beautifully upon what's come before and setting the stage for what's still to come. There's a lot of repeat viewing value in this series as so much gets teased out that's been hinted at before. Big O is simply one of the best series in recent years.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production Art Gallery
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: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Big O / Big O II