Project Arms Vol. #9 (of 9) (Mania.com)

By:Luis Cruz
Review Date: Saturday, May 08, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, May 04, 2004



What They Say
All good things must come to an end... but what about the bad things?

Jabberwock is under attack and unless Ryo can find a way to counter the venom of Gance Call, his chances look grim. Hayato gets in touch with his inner weapon as well. After a bit of the old silent treatment, White Knight owns up to what's been bugging him - a dark secret that threatens the fabric of what holds the "Arms" together.

Finally, after a hard day's work, the "Arms" are off to meet Kei's boss, the founder of the Blue Men, and it isn't your average quarterly review either. Blue has some wisdom to impart... but does he raise more questions than answers? Only time, and travel, will tell.

Strap yourself in for the emotional rollercoaster end to the first series of Project Arms.

The Review!
The first chapter of ARMS closes as it should, satisfying but leaving you wanting more.

Audio:
For my final session, I listened to the Japanese audio track; no surprises here as Viz lays down another solid stereo track with no discernible problems. Dialogue was sharp, and the action sequences made good use of the front soundstage. The audio for the entire series has been exceptionally good. While the English script has not been to my liking, the English voice cast has done a fantastic job throughout this volume and the series. Both tracks sound great and will provide its fans with an enjoyable experience.

Video:
Viz has provided a solid and sharp transfer throughout the series, and this volume is no exception. There were no noticeable original print defects or defects caused by the digital transfer process; colors remain sharp and vivid providing a considerable amount of detail. As the series closes, it transitions from the dark night to the bright light of a new day. The colors for both are vibrant reflecting the essence of the content well.

Once again, the original credits and title cards are replaced with English equivalents placed directly onto the print. There are no credits present on the disc for the Japanese voice actors. While not a technical issue, having these alterations degrades my viewing experience, especially when DVD technology allows for multi-language content to exist on one disc. This has been the only disappointment during the whole series.

Packaging:
The stern visages of Ryo and the Jabberwock take up the sides of the front cover while a bizarre spiked ball floats between them. Al and a group of individuals are lined up across the bottom. Gone is the volume indicator that appeared above the volume title on the previous cover, but the yellow marketing star returns and obscures one of the faces in the line-up. The back contains the requisite episode list, synopsis, screenshots, and disc details. Inside the case is a one-sheet insert outlining the chapter breaks.

Menu:
The main menu plays a loop of animation to the left while the menu options are lined up along the right. An ominous techno beat plays in the background. There are no transition delays switching between menus.

Extras:
The last batch of extras consists of textless versions of the opening and ending songs, character design sheets, and episode storyboards.

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Out of all the series I have reviewed to date, Project ARMS has been the biggest surprise. The packaging did little to prepare me for the well-written story that rose above most of the "young heroes with powers" series I have watched. It combined a good set of characters with a conspiracy laden plot reminiscent of the first few seasons of The X-Files. With the first story arc drawing to a close, the writers managed to tie up some things yet leave plenty of reasons for the viewer to continue on into the second arc.

As the chapter draws to a close, Ryo confronts the Jabberwock and understands the pain and isolation it has felt. Diving into the deepest portion of the Jabberwock's body, Ryo finds a little girl alone and sobbing. Thinking that this is the true nature of the Jabberwock, he tells the girl to come with him so they can fight all of those that have wronged them. The little girl accepts but informs Ryo that she is not the Jabberwock. As she floats away from Ryo, she tells him that her name is Alice, and she merely was the one that bore the Jabberwock.

Pledging themselves to each other, Ryo and the Jabberwock become one mind allowing Ryo to control the full power of the Jabberwock. After quickly decimating Gall's Red Caps, Ryo rejoins his companions and celebrates their victory in Aisora Stadium. Their celebration is interrupted by a low flying helicopter; inside are four clones of Keith Red and more importantly Katsumi. Katsumi professes her love for Ryo, and Ryo watches the helicopter fly off vowing to follow and bring her safely home.

Providing them with a direction to go is the leader of the Blue Men; Ryo and the ARMS are shocked to learn that the leader is Keith Blue, a clone similar to Keith Red and the Keiths in the helicopter. He informs them that the Keiths were the first attempt at making ARMS; his fellow clones have sent him a message informing him that Katsumi is being taken back to the Egrigori stronghold in Arizona. It is most certainly a trap, but the ARMS members, Yugo, and Al say their good-byes and prepare to fly off to face the enemy directly.

The ending for the first chapter was simple yet perfect; it brought the long battle for Aisora City to an end as well as the battle between Ryo and Jabberwock for control of Ryo's soul. While Ryo and Jabberwock have formed an alliance, the Knight within Hayato reminds us all that the Jabberwock is still powerful and dangerous; the day might come when they have to destroy the Jabberwock and Ryo along with it.

One thing I have enjoyed about this series has been its sense of style; it always knew how to make the animation and camera movements appropriately creepy or dramatic. Using a series of pastel stills, exaggerated facial expressions, and sight gags, the animators and writers manage to lighten things up a bit and provide a few chuckles during the celebration and preparation for departure. It provides a chance for our heroes and the audience to catch their breath after the long battle and prepare for the next. The defining moment for the episode and perhaps the first chapter comes right at the end.

Ryo sees a group of birds flying high in the sky; he raises his arms to the sky and pretends to catch them between his hands. It was a beautiful and symbolic scene on a number of levels and has managed to etch itself into my collection of memorable anime scenes. With a number of mysteries left to solve, I am hoping that Viz chooses to release the second series or that someone else will if they do not. Hopefully, Viz will eliminate the major complaint consumers have had about this release and will increase the episode count per disc if they do release it. Project ARMS has completely sucked me into its world, and I desperately want to see how the story ends.

In Summary:
The first chapter of Project ARMS has been an unexpected delight to watch and tops my list of great titles that seem to get little attention. The writers have told a great, engaging story that featured style and substance. It has combined action with a large-scale conspiracy plot to form one of my favorite series in recent memory. Do not let the packaging fool you; this is more than your typical action anime, one that I highly recommend.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Behind the Scenes,Line Art and Storyboards,Clean Opening/Ending Credits

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and audio cable.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 14.98
Running time: 50
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Project Arms