Kiddy Grade Vol. #4 (of 8) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, June 09, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, June 08, 2004



What They Say
The former lives of most ES Force members are erased to protect their own good. However, after a recent scare on the planet Dardanos, Eclair's suppressed memories of her past invade her present with enough agonizing force to drive her over he edge. Making matters worse is the ever more apparent truth that the power behind the G.O.T.T. is not what it seems.

Fleeing for their lives, Eclair and Lumiere take refuge on an obscure colony. Little do they know that the Purging Unit has already arrived.

The Review!
The meaty episodes of the series kick off here as Éclair's past becomes the present

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a rather good stereo mix with a good flair for forward soundstage directionality both in the dialogue and action departments. We also sampled the show in the English 5.1 mix that was done and noted some really good moments where particular effects come across much more distinctly. Dialogue is nice and clear in both tracks and we had no issues with dropouts or other distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for the first three episodes of this twenty-four episode series looks great. The transfer brings the vivid color palette used to life both in the characters and their backgrounds. The space background shots look fantastic as well with the blacks holding solid very nicely. Like other Gonzo series, there's no noticeable cross coloration throughout the program and aliasing is very little, resulting in a nice clean print. FUNimation continues their use of alternate angles for the opening and ending sequence, with one angle providing the original Japanese credits text (i.e. untranslated) while the second angle provides the translated bilingual credits.

Packaging:
Presented in a clear keepcase, the "management" level of the show gets a cover shot with the Chief, her secretary and everyone's favorite auditor all together while the background is made up of some dark looking imagery in purple hues. The back cover has a number small character shot bubbles all over it and lists the three episodes and their episode numbers. The summary is pretty basic, but along the bottom is a mishmash of information. Placed into a small space are the various production credits and a listing of the discs features. The reverse side of the clear keepcase has a new illustrated piece of the leads and a girl from one of the episodes on this volume playing around in a water fountain while the other side is various head and bodyshots of the cast from the cover. The insert replicates the front cover and opens to a two panel shot where one side has summaries for the three episodes and the other has a large number of animation bubbles floating around it. The back of the insert has an advert for the next volume.

Menu:
The menu layout is pretty standard with a static series of images, such as the main menu having shots of the duo from the cover while also providing some good Éclair imagery. Selections are quick and easy to access though I don't like how in the language menu, when you make a selection, there's nothing to indicate that it took or what it's actually going to play.

Extras:
The extras for this round a pretty similar to past volumes. The image gallery has various pieces from the episodes on this disc and the songs section is essentially the bilingual textless opening and ending sequences with the added bonus of subtitles to sing along should you want them. The ES dossier and the profiles are basically what we saw in the earlier volumes with a few new ones mixed in that are relevant to this episode.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this volume of Kiddy Grade, we hit the halfway point in the shows release and episodes and the plot starts to change from its fairly episodic stories where we get to know the cast and the universe they're playing in to something where the secrets are really starting to be revealed. With only three episodes, these secrets are revealed fairly quickly and they leave you wanting more as soon as it ends.

A lot of the secrets come at an interesting pace as they're done as fragments of Éclair's memories coming back to her, mostly due to the events in the previous volume which seems to have triggered the opening of the floodgates. As she's given some time off after that mission, she can't even distract herself with the current reality and instead continues to slip into this memory fragments of the past. These images of herself, which she ends up talking to at times, haunt not only her dreams but her waking hours as well. One segment has her almost sleepwalking to her favorite café where she simply sits down and barely interacts with her friends who own the place. While sitting there, these dark and violent images of her doing things she doesn't remember continue to flood into her mind, almost to the point of where she's starting to lose control.

Even with her continuing mental decay, the chief, Eclipse, continues to send her and Lumiere on missions. The latest one brings the pair alongside Armblast to the planet Aure, one of the few that is completely and privately owned by the Nouvlesse, the wealthy "pure breeds" of the humanity. This planet underwent some changes during its terraforming days under the private ownership and a deal was struck with the working class at the time. Through the contract that was laid out between the rich and the workers, Aure became a society and planet of two classes, one where the lower class of workers can never achieve anything more, even generations after the contract was first written. While this can and does have its benefits, particularly when entire generations' lives are on the line, it doesn't last very long beyond its inception and this current generation is on the verge of fighting back.

All of this is something that strikes deep within Éclair as she works the assignment given to her and Lumiere in working with the Nouvlesse in keeping the planet in control. While at first it doesn't come across as too bad of a job, the more she interacts with their contact among the Nouvlesse and then with various regular working people and their kids, the more she starts to question the validity of her assignment. But this is something she's not supposed to do since as an ES member they're not supposed to question their superiors, much like the laborers on the planet aren't supposed to question the Nouvlesse. With her being called such things as an attack dog and worse of the Nouvlesse as well as more internal denials over this mysterious past of hers she's confronting, her stability starts to crumble until she can take full control of herself.

There are a lot of really interesting pieces to these episodes, mostly centered around Éclair's past and the way she seems to be into repeating patterns, and how everyone else but Éclair seems to realize it. The story really moves along well here and while it's something that you can see happening a few episodes ago, particularly with Éclair's questioning of the GOTT and trying to figure out if she's really on the right side, it's done well enough that it doesn't feel so completely predictable that you're just waiting to get to the material beyond it. These pivotal episodes are very engaging and I especially liked the way Éclair engaged her darker self in conversation in her mind.

In Summary:
Kiddy Grade continues to be a very fun and enjoyable show with the same problem as past volumes in that we just don't get enough of it at one time. While the release pace is nice and swift and that does help, each volume is a mixture of joy and annoyance since it all goes by so fast. These episodes are the real turning point in the series although it was something that was projected much earlier, the larger plot is really starting to come through here and it looks to only become more and more enjoyable. And probably frustrating at the same time.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Songs,Image Gallery,Character Profiles

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: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kiddy Grade