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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, December 17, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, December 13, 2005



What They Say
"The Genesis Mission is put into action! It is the first and last battle for the people who live in the present to protect themselves and their children's future.
The Cosmic Fracture is upon us! Shima has been chosen to pilot the Halcyon, a similar machine to the Infinity while Kouta controls Infinity. However, Shima has still been having problems with the new DLS and time has run out. Now survival of the entire human race depends on the abilities of these two remarkable students, their friends and the faculty of the foundation known as Stellvia
"


The Review!
The Genesis Mission gets underway in order to stop the Cosmic Fracture from essentially destroying everything and it lands in the hands of the kids who are the future.

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 nice shade of purple that works well with the star filled background. The final cover is nicely set with the two characters who obviously should have it and their slightly awkward embrace showcases their relationship just right. 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)
Stellvia’s final four do a solid job of helping to redeem things at the end after a second half that’s felt like it’s been looking for its purpose. Some of the same issues that plagued those episodes are still evident here but with the Great Mission actually underway, the cast spend more time actually doing instead of thinking about doing or internalizing about it all.

The stakes have certainly risen over the course of the show and as several of them talk about at one point, they’re living at one of the most interesting times in human history so far. They had a big enough event with the Second Wave and all that led up to that but then the instance with the Ultima Foundation brought an entirely new aspect to humanity’s perception of the universe. But the results of that incident led to the Cosmic Fracture which threatens everything and those who are on the front lines truly have reason to believe that they are living at a time when nothing else may quite be like that. Particularly since if they do manage to destroy it, humanity will finally be able to move beyond its cradle at long last and human history will be told in vastly different ways, without any real linear sense or commonality anymore.

That’s unfortunately a very small part of the storyline since they’d rather focus on the preparations for the coming battle, the details in getting the Infi and Halcyon together in time and dealing with Shipon working herself into an early grave in trying to master all that’s related to her new craft. She ends up spending a good deal of time working through this as well as agonizing in her own way about her relationship with Kouta, who himself really still hasn’t said anything about how he really thinks things are at this point. The minimal romantic relationship thankfully doesn’t override everything else here so we don’t get an immense amount of drama over it, but at the same time it feels like the relationship just hasn’t gelled properly enough to be real enough to connect with.

That said, even though there are problems in my mind with how these episodes start out, the final two episodes are some of the best of the series and bring back a lot of the excitement of the Second Wave mission. As things start to get close and the sacrifices are made by the cast that’s remained to fight off the Cosmic Fracture, it does become quite compelling and they tug nicely at some of the emotional strings in order to get you to really feel how these few young characters are dealing with such an epic impending disaster. It’s rare that you know such things are coming and just how much is riding on it and have to act on it instead of reacting on it.

In Summary:
While series director Tatsuo Sato has never been one of my favorites, his list of credits is certainly impressive in their diversity. He’s worked on a wide range of shows in different capacities so he’s certainly the type who has the experience. This is the second series that he’s helmed that was released throughout 2005 and while it certainly has some creative moments to it I think it pales in comparison to his other show. Stellvia had some very engaging moments to it and looking back at it overall, the first half of the show could have been the entire thing and it would have probably lasted in my mind as a far better show but the second half simply didn’t meet the energy of the first half. It comes very close at the very end here but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Definitely recommended viewing overall but it doesn’t strike me as a lasting classic.

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: B
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: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Stellvia