Mezzo Vol. #3 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, January 31, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, February 08, 2005



What They Say
Stay alive long enough in the danger business, and you'll get a reputation. The funny thing about that - the better your reputation gets, the more people want you dead. The DSA know this all too well.

Every body blow, fireball, and ricochet lets Mikura, Harada, and Kurokawa know that they're doing something right. And, it must be something very, very right - because the line separating them from a closed-casket funeral keeps getting thinner. From the undead to the Black Scissors gang, from trained assassins to the boys in blue - with so many enemies, even the tiniest friend can mean the difference between life and death.

The Review!
Mezzo runs through its final four episodes with a background arc to it and a couple of fun stories before getting to the finale.

Audio:
For our primary viewing sessions, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. While not completely attached to the voice cast from the OVA, the continuity aspect was a plus. The series sports a solid stereo mix that has a good sense of directionality across the forward soundstage in both dialogue and action effects. There's a lot going on with this show and the track handles it well and it's all very clean and clear. During regular playback on either track, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in the first quarter of 2004, the transfer for this release is just beautiful. Much like a lot of Umetsu's works, there's a wide range of very vibrant colors mixed into the show and they shine through great here. From the oranges of Mikura's outfit to the splattering blood, it's a solid set of colors with no visible blocking and only the slightest hints in one or two scenes of some slight color gradation. Aliasing and cross coloration are virtually absent for the bulk of the print and all the high paced action is kept very solid. While it's not quite OVA level, it looks great here and is a transfer that's very easy to get lost in once it gets into gear.

Packaging:
Going with another full cast shot with all four of them in full color along the bottom, it's balanced out by some darker shaded material along the top half of one of their main antagonists in this volume. The big draw of course is the bright shiny orange outfit Mikura is in and she's definitely eye-catching here and the colors do a good job of drawing you in afterwards. The back cover is very nicely laid out with everything sectionalized and easy to find. There's a small number of shots from the show and another look at Mikura as well as a good summary of the premise. The discs production information and features are all clear and easy to find. The reverse side of the cover has a great dual panel shot of the team in, on and around their pink car. No insert is included (nor needed) with this release. I continue to like the lessening of useless inserts in releases.

Menu:
The main menu is a decent piece that uses the image of Mikura from the front cover set against a bloodied and grimy brick wall where underneath you get bits of animation flowing through that looks mostly like fog or dust clouds moving by, all of which is set to a brief loop of part of the hyper paced opening song. Episode selections are lined along the right and submenu navigation is quick and easy. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players language presets.

Extras:
Much like the first two volumes, this release has only a few of the basic extras that you can expect to see. The opening and closing sequences are presented in textless form and there's an art gallery in video form as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the third volume bringing the series to a close, Mezzo DSA ends up finishing faster than it feels it should but probably right around the right time for it. As enjoyable as the series is, I'd rather just see a series of OVAs produced at a higher quality over a longer period of time instead. The quality of the TV series is decent, though the character models are off here and there throughout, but it definitely has its low budget feel to it. The loss of the slickness and detail of the OVA that preceded this is deeply missed.

The four episodes on this volume are still a good bit of fun though as it plays through a couple of overreaching pieces before settling into a finale that closes up some of the things that have been going on since the beginning of the show. The opening episode is a fun one that deals with a tightly controlled middle eastern country that's kicking off a sixteen country tour showcasing a former ruler that's been mummified. The mummy has some of the biggest diamonds in the world as its eyes and had its teeth replaced as well so it's a big draw for people to come and see. The mummy of course has a curse attached to it but those are generally made up to help keep thieves away from it. Fearing that someone will try to swipe it during its transit time, the owners opt to hire the DSA group to transport the mummy while everyone else takes the rest of the artifacts go the normal route. The curse of the mummy affects the DSA folks in different ways, from Kurokawa getting nailed with some bad noodles to the truck Mikura picks up for the transport exploding on them. It's a fairly typical caper with a fairly obvious ending once certain people step into view but it's a fun trip.

There are two things that come across in the four episodes here that play out to varying degrees before the ending where all things eventually come together but not necessarily to close up the entire series. One of them is the training aspect that Asami starts taking on. She's wanted to be like Mikura since the very beginning when she was being bullied by the girls she knows and has made small fitful attempts at doing just that since meeting the DSA people. She's gotten a bit distracted along the way with a crush on Harada which is just cute as well as having to conquer a few fears herself, but with these last episodes she's actively taking hand to hand training from Mikura while wearing one of the spandex outfits, a nice charcoal gray at that. There's a good mix of words of wisdom from all of them to her on her training, though she seems to only want to train with Mikura. Her evolution of the series has been fairly subtle but she eventually does change by the time things roll around here and it's a plausible piece, not a piece of high fantasy where she's suddenly a pint-sized Mikura.

The other arc that plays out among all the other shenanigans that are going on in the individual episodes is that there's a contract out on Kurokawa that's slowly being attempted and fulfilled. The young man that's doing it ends up coming close a number of times and even gets a few shots off on him but whenever he catches an eye of Mikura he ends up hesitating and often just bailing out on the attempt at that time. This killer gets involved in a couple of the episodes in a background sort of way but also stumbles into another case where he's mistaken as someone wanting to take down a crime boss and gets wrapped up into the chaos that ensues from there. This is actually a fairly decent stalker/assassination attempt in that we're given some interesting background on the killer and on those who hired him to take Kurokawa out.

Though the series kicked off with some really fun episodes and managed to burst out of the gate with a great action episode, it never seemed to really recapture that kind of energy again. The remainder of the series has some good episodes to it and the characters are fun to watch and deal with, but the kind of energy and fluidity seen early on just didn't make it for the rest of the series which is a shame. The characters remain intact throughout the show but they don't really encounter the same kind of things as they did in the first few episodes so they really didn't get to shine in the same way further on, nor were there the kind of really solid action pieces where you had Mikura tossed through walls and over buildings, which is really part of the draw here.

In Summary:
Mezzo DSA ends fairly quietly all told compared to how the series opened but during its time we got to see how this city operates and some of the dark side of it. There's a lot of interesting material that can be told with this particular cast and city but the series went for more traditional stories instead of really flexing out too much and trying to be unique. The characters themselves though continued to be the main appealing piece and while they managed to help us keep interested right up through the end, I don't think they got the to keep up with the promise in the premise and suffered from budgetary issues.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation,Production sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, 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: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mezzo