Big O II Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, July 27, 2004
What They Say
The War for Paradigm City has begun! Roger, Dorothy, Norman, and the Big O face their greatest challenge ever as the enemies of Paradigm City set out to destroy the city for their own personal satisfaction. Gordon Rosewater wants to destroy what his father built and re-create the world in his own image. Will the mystery behind the ?City of Lost Memories? be revealed at last? All that stands between the innocent citizens of Paradigm City and certain doom is the Big O!
Now that's pretty messed up.
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. The final cover goes back a bit closer to the feel of the originals as it blocks off the various sections and it gives Angel more prominence as she takes on such during these episodes and we get some really detailed shots of the latest Megadeus. 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)
After the last volume brought in so many new bits of the past and flashback memories of various characters that only asked more questions than it answered, the final set of episodes on this volume brings the series as it stands full circle in a way that Konaka seems to have a beautiful knack for.
That said, the finale to the Big O is a finale that will engage its fans for years or until someone behind the creative side simply connects all the dots. Leading up to the last episode, we're treated to a variety of great moments. The Unionists begin bombing Paradigm City, Dorothy's memory core is removed and used in the Big Fau, Alan takes on the controls of the Big Duo and leads a fascinating attack on Roger and the Big O and a lot of the cast find out exactly what their place in life is all about, for better or worse. As Alex tries to bring the city under his control and take his place as the God of all he surveys in an effort to rewrite history in his own way, Roger deals with helping those closest to him and trying to discover his own destiny.
There are a lot of really Big Points to deal with up to the final episode and it's all executed quite well, mixed in with the action sequences of massive proportions, from Roger and the Big O taking on the Big Fau or Alan's own gambit as he merges with the Big Duo and tries to bring about his own form of change into things. Mixed in with flashbacks of past lives, we watch as the city begins to crumble under not only the initial bombardment but the damage caused by all these rampaging Megadeuses. The true capping off point though is when the sky lightens just enough that you realize that the points of light far above are actually massive stage lights.
It's from here, as it moves into the final episode, appropriately titled "The Show Must Go On", that it all gets surreal. Well, not surreal, but it starts moving into territory that will have strong effects on people watching it. A good chunk of the audience will start whimpering from comparisons to Evangelion while the rest start seeing shades of Dallas and TV/dream explanations coming up as the entire city of Paradigm slowly disappears and more and more of the stage sets are revealed and the exposition comes down to just a few characters dealing with all of it. Or rather, dealing with Angel who has now become much more central to the show as opposed to waiting in the wings as she's done for quite some time.
Whether this is Konaka's attempt to throw his hat into the ring for creating one of the most confusing and oblique endings of any series is up for grabs, but I know that as it all played out, from the subtle religious aspects to the simple wipes of the scenery and revelation of the TV cameras and stages, I was on the edge of my seat following it all. And after spending several hours reading various forums and analysis pages about the ending of the series I'm not any closer to really understanding the ending. It can be interpreted in a number of different ways, each of them seemingly valid and equally interesting really. For a lot of people, these kinds of endings are frustrating and can ruin the entire show. I've had that happen with a few before, but with Big O I find myself fascinated by it and actually interested in reading all the different interpretations. While this one does have a few religious overtones to it, it's not as heavy as some other certain shows, which allows for a wider interpretation. Add in some of the little background bits that are scattered into the episodes and this is a show that could provide years of enjoyment in coming to grips with.
From its simple beginnings and confusing "ending" of the first season, Big O became a rarity in the anime world by getting a second season due to its popularity on Cartoon Network who then helped produce the second season. And by all appearances, the fears so many expressed about the series being dumbed down ended up so far from the reality of things that it's comical to think back on it. The second season upped the ante and took the basic premise and created a highly fascinating show with strong iconic characters all wrapped in a few simple premises. While the ending of the show isn't going to be a crowd pleaser, Big O has always stood apart with a slightly different kind of fan. This is a show that will be continually looked at and examined in detail for years to come, ensuring it a long and worthy life.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production Sketches
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