Steam Detectives Vol. #6 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, May 08, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, May 18, 2004



What They Say
Steam City is under attack! A chance run-in with Dr. Guilty turns Ling Ling into a hostage. Narutaki springs into action, but when the doctor reveals the damage he intends to unleash, it becomes clear that much more than a friend is in danger.

Yet Dr. Guilty isn't the only one with Steam City in his sights. Knight Phantom emerges from the shadows and promises to destroy the entire town - unless Narutaki agrees to own up to a dark secret from the past. With the city's fate teetering on the edge, it's up to the boy detective to set things right. But will the burden be too much for him to shoulder?

Get ready to walk the mean streets with Narutaki as he squares off against madmen and megamatons alike! The forces of justice meet the forces of evil head-on in the final riveting volume of Steam Detectives!

The Review!
Steam Detectives comes to a close with the final four episodes the bring some of the past stories together to give Narutaki his biggest challenge yet.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series is done in a pretty basic stereo mix that's fairly center channel based but has a number of stereo moments of directionality that come across nicely. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 1998, Steam Detectives comes across decently in this print but suffers from some intentional issues. With it being part of the traditional animation time, we get some good colors throughout and some of them are very vibrant, but most lack much in the way of depth but avoid being over saturated. Cross coloration is minimal while there is a bit more aliasing going on, mostly during panning sequences. With the show having a heavy design on steam and clouds, there's a grainy feel to the print that's accentuated due to the way the backgrounds are. With the darker scenes and some of the blue skies, it becomes even more apparent.

Packaging:
The cover art for this series has been really good overall with its clean simplicity, but I think this last one is my favorite of them all with the shot of Narutaki in the foreground and the more sketchy design of Le Bled behind him but larger, both of which use an appealing shade of green for much of the color. The logo is a bit difficult to read at first, but the cover does get props for listing the volume number on the front and the spine. The back cover provides a few shots from the show and a character design piece for Le Bled alongside the story summary paragraphs. The back cover is a mix of green and white with the discs features and production information listed (but no episode numbers or titles). The final insert for the series is a foldout full color poster that shows a great rendition of Steam City with a guide to the various sites visited during the series listed around it. This is really neat and something very useful for watching the series again.

Menu:
The menu is a simple piece with a bit of somber instrumental music playing over it where the central image is of the Crimson Scorpion from the cover with a purple/blue cityscape backdrop and some black circles bubbling up over it that turn into the selections. It's an interesting looking menu with good access times and quick submenu loads with no transitional animations.

Extras:
The extras are similar to the past couple of volumes with the original Japanese opening sequence (which is what's in the show itself, but with the addition of English translated credits around them), a textless ending sequence and a few minutes worth of production sketches that showcase the various characters and equipment of the series. There are also text comments from various people involved in the production of the show, but again may contain some spoilers for these final episodes so don't check them out until after you've finished the show..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final volume of Steam Detectives, I had figured the show would end much like most of the series was done, and that was with a couple of standalone tales and maybe a two-part tale to finish it all off but leave it open for more. So I was pretty well surprised that while the first episode does stand by itself, much of what happens there serves as the opening for the remainder of the volume that gives Narutaki such a challenge.

The opening is a lot of fun since it brings back the great Dr. Guilty and has him on the run from the police once more as he's so close to finishing his next big project. The chase sequence goes surprisingly bad though and he ends up crashing into a store and flips his escape car over. But to his luck, Ling Ling is there and she tries to help him from the crash. Her services are of course utilized but he takes advantage of her and uses her as a hostage to escape with, complete with that great new car that she just recently got. So Dr. Guilty, much to both Narutaki and Onigawara's chagrin, stashes her away in his hideout as he works towards finishing his big project.

While the duo do eventually get to the hideout and Ling Ling manages to escape just before the place goes up entirely in flames, it doesn't end well. Ling Ling is fairly well roughed up and ends up in the hospital for some time while Goriki is feeling the pain from his fight with Dr. Guilty's massive megamaton. Narutaki is simply glad for her being ok for the most part (though he and Onigawara have an amusing little confrontation over who likes her more based on the number of flowers they're bringing to her in the hospital), but things seemed to have quieted down even though Dr. Guilty apparently went up in flames.

But while going around the city on his normal routine and business, Narutaki starts to feel that something is amiss, something isn't feeling right at all, but he can't explain it. The feeling is felt again by the remaining rogues of his gallery as they look out onto their city as well. As Narutaki conducts his business and presses the flesh with the people, he starts to get a bad feeling that people he knows well and interact with him a lot are starting to be picked upon in a really bad way. From the coffee shop lady who had a steel beam fall on her to the Inspector who had an entire museum collapse around him. The museum occurrence is an interesting attack in its own since it brings Le Bled to think about his own fight against Narutaki there, which only furthers his own feelings that something really bad is going on around them.

As Narutaki starts bringing all the events together and more people start getting injured or attacked, the Knight Phantom returns from the shadows and challenges Narutaki to reveal things from his past that he doesn't even know, things involving his parents and how it affected the Phantom's own past. The stakes end up raising up pretty high as those in power realize just how far the Knight Phantom has gone to deal with Narutaki this time, enough so that they start planning the evacuation of the entire city and giving it up for good. Narutaki finds himself being forced to accept things about his parents past and what they did as well as learning just how far he'll go himself when those closest to him are targeted and attacked.

While I had hoped initially to see some more final tales told with the rogues gallery, particularly to see one more final Crimson Scorpion tale, I was glad to see that they brought back the Knight Phantom and worked more on his back story and how it ties into Narutaki's parents and his own background. The pieces about the city itself is an area that I wish was explored a lot more though since there's the panicked discussions about it being strategically blown up. But overall, these final four episodes tie things together nicely and give Narutaki the kind of challenge that does require some time for him to solve as well as working with others.

In Summary:
With the bulk of the series being standalone tales, this volume brings it to a good conclusion by giving the main cast more time to work over one particular problem in smaller stages. These episodes do have a more sinister and darker feel to them, though previous ones aren't exactly light and fluffy events either. The series overall has been quite enjoyable to watch and has me wanting to go back to reading the manga series again just to be able to revisit it once more in some form. While the show is essentially a variation on the Sherlock Holmes style, it does it well and it does it with enough twists and little quirks that it stands well on its own. It certainly won't change the world, but it was quite enjoyable and worth checking out.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Creative team comments,Production sketches,Japanese opening animation,Clean closing animation

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: Steam Detectives