Stellvia Vol. #7 (of 8) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, October 08, 2005
Release Date: Wednesday, October 05, 2005



What They Say
"The true identity of the Cosmic Fracture has become clear! It's a sixth dimension opening also known as the crack in the space-time continuum. Whatever touches it will be primitively decomposed. All the foundations are called up in order to take emergency measures?

Shima and Kouta's relationship worsens as their friends find ways to help. Meanwhile, the Foundation commanders continue their research of how to avert the impending doom presented by the Cosmic Fracture. They develop the Genesis Mission strategy using Infi as the key. However, Shima is struggling with Infi's new DLS system."


The Review!
As the new threat is fully understood, preparations are underway to face something even more deadly than the Second Wave..

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has a good active stereo mix that features some solid directionality to it in both dialogue and sound effects. While it's not terribly deep there's a lot of well placed moments for dialogue and the Bianca ships come across well when they do their fly by's and all. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame format. Being such a recent release and very much a product of digital animation techniques, this is a very slick looking production. The show is one of the better examples of the meshing of real CG pieces and the animation itself that I've seen as well. With such heavy digital use, I was very happy to see that there were no serious gradient issues with the colors, cross coloration is non-existent and only a few bits of aliasing were noticeable during regular playback. The colors maintain a really good solid feel throughout and provide a great range from vibrant to the dull earth. This is a great looking release in general.

Packaging:
Stellvia uses the same covers as the Japanese release which use pretty bold colors for the background and feature a character or two laid over that. This volume uses the shiny nature of the covers with a mildly reddish-orange that mixes well with the characters. This one goes to bring in a pair of the secondary characters in their uniforms floating against the background. The foil cover continues to work well for this series since the bright bits are going to be the stars in the background. The back cover goes for a traditional SF look with the mix of graphics with the animation shots and summary. The discs episode numbers and titles are clearly listed as well as the volume number on the front cover and spine. The shows features are easy to check out though the production credits are a bit overwhelming with as much as there are and the small font. The insert replicates the front cover without the foil nature while the reverse side cover is a two-panel shot of an area of space near a ringed planet that one of the Foundations orbits.

Menu:
The menu layout for the release is pretty simple and relatively in-theme for the series with a look at the solar system with part of the Earth included while having various grids overlaid on top of it where the selections and some small windows of animation clips play along to a brief loop of the opening song. It's a decent looking menu though the loop is just too short – even though it's probably a music rights issue, I wish they'd just use the entire song since so many people often just have the menus running for a bit. Hearing the same 15 seconds over and over is just no fun. I'm also continuing to not like how the language menus seem to be working. On a number of recent releases like this, it's not clear that there's a sign/song subtitle track. If you select English language, the default subtitle track 1 plays, which is signs and songs. But there's no distinction within the menu for it since it just lists subtitles on/off. This is similar to the strangeness of some of FUNimations menus which have caused confusion. The other problem this causes is that since there are two English labeled tracks, a players presets grabs just the first instance it finds for English and plays that. So our default of Japanese with English subtitles grabs Japanese language fine but grabs the English sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Stellvia gets closer and closer to its finale, I'm finding more and more that the second half of the series is just very weak when I thought we'd be getting something stronger. The trick at just before the halfway mark of going through the Second Wave and bringing that to a conclusion gave to the idea that there was something more important to go through. And as we learn in this volume what it is, the threat is certainly larger but the impetus to stop it just feels so halfhearted on the part of the characters.

Much like the previous volume, a good amount of time is given over to the young cast to deal with what's going on. Not so much with the idea of this massive discovery of a three billion mile long destructive string of folded space but rather the interpersonal relationships. That's a fairly standard plot to work with but as these kids go through all of it with this knowledge of what's coming their way, their passion is just so muted and minimal that you get the feeling that they're going through the motions without understanding what's going on. They have all these emotions but don't know how to express them and instead just deadpan most of the lines and go with that.

The most obvious of that is in dealing with Katase and Kouta as these two are the most tied to each other because of the system within the Infi that allows them to pilot the thing as smoothly as they do. When they're not working in tandem things don't work as well so their relationship is important to get patched up which their friends do try to egg on. At the same time, it's almost difficult to really discern just what the problem is between the two because not only do they not talk to each other they don't really talk to anyone else or internalize it all that much. We get just the mopey looks of teenagers sitting around wondering why things are happening like they are. And after a few volumes of that it just sort of leaves you empty.

Of course, some of these kids are just so much kids that it's not terribly unexpected. Rinna takes up a good part of the first episode in trying to deal with her parents not giving her the attention she wants or thinks she deserves, never mind that both of them are very high ranking folks from the former Foundation of Ultima and there's this entire cataclysmic event on its way. She even gets chided for this from her friends now that she's on board the Stellvia permanently but it's something that her mother understands so she offers to throw a party for her and her friends. It's a sweet gesture but the party just lets the various issues covered earlier fester in a more public manner, though some of them finally do talk, but it also has a feeling of gloom about it because of the impending announcement explaining what's hurtling towards the solar system.

The concept of what's coming to hit them is certainly interesting enough and there are some neat little twists along the way about who all is really who they are as the event gets closer and closer but some of it feels like it really came out of nowhere and just serves to help make things easier or provide that deus ex machina moment that will just let other events happen without having to really write something interesting or lengthy that will achieve the same. The argument over how it's all to be approached as well among the Foundation's is initially interesting since they have to decide what to do but you have to wonder at those talking about escape because where would be safe in a universe with this thing rolling around?

In Summary:
What initially was an interesting and fun to watch show is becoming more and more an exercise of just getting through it to see if they can recapture any of what I thought made the first half or so fun and interesting. This volume feels like more of the same from the previous volume and the issues are pretty much what they were before so I'm not surprised that this series is falling off my anticipation list with each new volume. There are some nice twists to this set of episodes but combined with the slow progress of three episodes every other month and a faltering overall plotline, Stellvia's losing me the closer to the end it gets.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Stellvia