Figure 17 Vol. #6 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, July 09, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, July 13, 2004
What They Say
Hikaru is not feeling well after her last battle with the Magure. Tsubasa is moving away to Tokyo. She will miss her friends, but things will be all right because she'll be with Hikaru. Yet something seems to be wrong with Hikaru. She decides to find out what it could be.
D.D. and Orudina track down the Mother Magure deep inside the Earth and prepare for their final attack. Tsubasa and Hikara are called upon to help save planet Earth one last time against a huge army of Magure soldiers!
Coming to a firm and very satisfying conclusion, Figure 17 manages to end by doing what it did throughout the series, telling a very enjoyable tale filled with emotion.
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.
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 macroblocking still seems to be continuing in the couple of problem areas, such as the girls hair when they're getting close-ups as well as things like the green chalkboard. Most of the show looks really good, albeit a bit soft in some places, but these areas of macroblocking are pretty noticeable.
Appropriate for the last volume, the cover is a mix of soft yellows along the top that shift into full white as it moves down. This runs around the very adorable if a bit soft image of the two girls in their sleepshirts holding hands underneath a tree. This is a great cover to the end series as it keeps things down to the basics of what's really important. 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 oranges and pinks while laying the chapter listings on top of that. As usual, the reverse side of the insert has boxart advertisements.
Taking the image from the cover and then placing what must have been a sun exploding in her field of vision, the main menu's static image has her being nearly whited out with some orange and yellow flaring along the top side. Selections string across the top 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. As with most other discs from Media Blasters, our players presets were not used for language selection.
Rounding out the final volume we get a couple of fun little extras. In addition to the last production sketch gallery, there's a Japanese video segment that has the director and some of the cast doing a Q&A session at the ATX Anime Fest. Figure 17's origins as a pay-satellite network show that aired once a month are covered (wow, anime that isn't free in Japan?) are covered and some other interesting bits. The final extra is an amusing piece where a female interviewer (presumably someone mildly famous in the entertainment reporting field) does a piece on the Japanese dubbing of the show and even tries to join in on the recording session. While I know that the Japanese style of recording simply doesn't work here even with the few attempts that have been publicly talked about, I find their method to be fascinating to watch. It's so reminiscent of the old radio dramas from the 30's and 40's that I can't help but be interested and impressed, regardless of the overall performance.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Figure 17, over the course of its DVD release, had shifted from an unknown quantity where it ended up sitting on our to-watch pile for a few days longer than most other shows to being the first thing that was watched when the latest volume came in. Over the course of the nine hours that this series runs, we ended up becoming more attached to these two girls than we realized and looked forward to each new installment as a way of visiting friends we don't get to see nearly often enough. Tsubasa is one of the more detailed and real characters that's been created in some time.
A lot of that is attributable to the way the director was able to spend as much time in each episode as necessary to go into the characters emotions and let their motivations come out naturally. Without being forced to get everything accomplished in twenty minutes before hitting up the next weeks preview, they're able to give us more lingering shots, more quiet time where the characters can be seen grappling with what's happened. Tsubasa isn't a child that is out of the ordinary. She's quite normal, especially for someone who has lost a parent and moved to an entirely new area, but we get to soak in all the changes that she adopts as Hikaru shows her a different way to live. The changes are slow and sometimes obvious, but they're very natural progressions.
That in turn becomes the only real disappointment with the final volume in that as Hikaru now knows that her time is short, it becomes more obvious what she's doing as she starts to separate herself from the daily routines she and Tsubasa have been doing since they paired up. From not walking hand in hand to school in the morning and not waiting for Tsubasa after school to sitting with other people and generally putting more space between them. It's terribly obvious right from the start, but the logic of it doesn't hit with Tsubasa for quite some time. That isn't surprising for her as she takes it personally and emotionally without seeing the reason for it until much later. It's not an unexpected move, especially after the way Tsubasa has become so dependent on Hikaru's presence, but it's some that should have started at least an episode earlier.
The layout of the last two episodes gives plenty of time to the two main storylines of the series, though the Maguar storyline hasn't exactly been the forefront of things. Since its' primary reason for existing is to add to the character drama, it's been well told without taking up a large amount of time or space but just enough to add in an exciting and cool factor to it with the concept of the Figure's themselves and the creepiness of the aliens and the way they're evolving. The continuing plight of Oldina (or Orudina as it's listed in the English written credits, or Oldeena as it was written on the back of some earlier summaries; nothing like being able to keep continuinty within your own release) and D.D. as they track down the beasties and finding new ways to deal with them is a good backbone from which to work from without giving it a big up front place.
With the finale though, it plays a much larger role as expected since the only reason they're there is to find and defeat the creatures. The culture and entertainment reporter gets it all rolling as he ends up discovering the abandoned mine shafts where the Mother Maguar has been growing and breeding all this time and sets into motion the creatures there that allow the heroes of the day to discover where she is. As we go through the layers of the mine in much more detail than before, the size and scope of the Maguar problem becomes even bigger than expected and the creepy factor is pretty high. The creatures and the final battle between them and the good guys plays out very strongly in the second episode while still weaving in the character elements from the earlier episode.
Figure 17 plays to its strengths here in the last two episodes and these do not disappoint in the slightest. They're exciting and sad, action filled and yet still with plenty of quiet moments to let us digest things. Tsubasa and Hikaru's tale is the key central piece to all of it and it's given the time and care that it deserves here. Anime series tend to masterfully tell the journey part of a storyline but failed horribly when it comes to closure. While there is plenty more I'd love to know about the Figure 17 universe, the ending here is highly satisfactory and one of the better options they could go with. It's not the option I'd want in real life, but it's one that plays to what makes this series as good as it is.
If you missed out on Figure 17 during its initial release, it's a series that's very much worthwhile getting with the eventual brick release. Whether it plays as well when you have all the episodes so quickly available is another matter. In its original airing in Japan, they did one episode a month for a year. We got two episodes every two-three months so we were close in getting the same. Having it as something that can be marathoned, I think it'll lose some of the impact as you can't come away from each volume and take the time to let it settle in. Figure 17's strength is in its quiet moments, the times where the characters soak in what has happened and try to decide what to do next. This series, while featuring two young girls, is very much for adults and beautifully avoids any of the lolicon issues that typically surround such things. This is engaging and well thought out storytelling and one of the unsung highlights of the last year. Those discovering it after we've finished it will be well rewarded with a real gem of a show that most other fans will never even hear of.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles, ATX Anime Fest Interview Footage,Voice Dubbing Segment
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: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 90
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Figure 17