Kiddy Grade Vol. #5 (of 8) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, January 10, 2005
Release Date: Monday, January 10, 2005
What They Say
In a futuristic multi-planetary government, the Galactic Organization of Trade and Tariffs (GOTT) provides structure in dealing with economic matters between formerly warring planets. As part of the superpowered ES Force team, crime-fighting partners Eclair and Lumiere work hard to enforce the laws of the GOTT and bring justice to the global alliance. But in the wake of a botched assignment, the girls begin to question the motives of their employers and set out on a quest to both resolve their suspicions and come to grips with their own mysterious pasts.
This fifth volume of the thrilling sci-fi Animé series includes the episodes 'Conflict/Destiny', 'Steel/Heart', and 'Break/Down'.
Well into it's stride, Kiddy Grade continues with more surprising events.
I listened to the Japanese track for my main reviewing, and continued to enjoy the performances of the Japanese actors. The emotions of Éclair and Lumiere come across really well, and the conflicts within the other characters are also portrayed well. The stereo mix is nice, with the music sounding particularly good. I noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
I also listened to the whole of the disc in English. I am really enjoying this dub a lot, with Colleen Clinkenbeard as Éclair and Monica Rial as Lumiere being particularly good. Occasionally the track does sometimes stray a bit too far from the literal translation for my liking (which is often the case with FUNimation dubs), but it didn't seem quite so bad with this volume. The 5.1 mix is pretty nice, adding a bit of directionality, though it didn't seem that great a difference over the stereo track to me. I noticed no dropouts or distortions on this track during regular playback.
As this is a FUNimation production, we also get dubbed openings and endings, and in the case of Kiddy Grade, they're very good. It's quite a feat with the opening song, too, since the original is quite nonsensical in its use of English. Dub songs really do add big brownie points in my book, especially since they're not cringe-worthy like some older dubbed themes.
With only three episodes on this disc, and coming from GONZO, you would expect Kiddy Grade to look great, and this transfer doesn't disappoint. The video continues to look crisp and clean, and colours are extremely vibrant. This is one of GONZO's typical digital looking "shiny" shows, and it looks great. There was also no artifacting that I noticed, and aliasing is pretty non-existent.
We also get alternate angles for the openings and endings. This means that you can either watch the translated, English credits in the opening, or the original Japanese opening with kanji, and the same for the ending, depending on which language you select from the menu.
Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, as opposed to the white font used on the US discs, and I didn't notice any major grammatical or spelling errors.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
The menus are simple but functional, with a brief introduction sequence continuing to the static opening menu (I don't consider a rotating logo to be much motion!) featuring a shot of Un-ou and A-ou from the front cover, this time to the right of the screen with the logo above them. There are the four choices as static buttons, with some background music looping over the top, and the volume number and title at the top of the screen. Sub-menus are similarly static with much the same use of text and buttons, and the same image on the right of the screen (except the Episodes selection). The sub-menus have no music playing, however.
Again we don't get many extras on the disc. There's a brief image gallery, essentially a series of screenshots set to some of the show's music. I do find screenshot galleries pointless, because I'd much rather there was some production art instead, so this one wins no points for me. We get the textless opening again (though unfortunately it only contains the Japanese language track), and some more textual character profiles. Not exactly a mouth-watering selection.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kiddy Grade certainly got off to a slow start, but has recently really been hitting it's stride, and the momentum built up over the last volume of the series carries over considerably here, as the over-arching story continues at a brisk pace. I do still think there's that unnameable something holding it back from greatness, but nonetheless, it has been hitting the realms of "very good", and that's been very promising.
At the end of the last volume, Lumiere and Éclair were left on the run from GOTT as outlaws, having disobeyed orders. With the opening episode in this volume, Armbrust is facing an inquiry regarding his involvement with the Lumiere and Éclair situation, and how they managed to escape capture by the purging squad. This leads Eclipse to send two members of the ES team out to eliminate the fugitives: Un-ou and A-ou. Lumiere and Éclair are hiding in a place that they have ties to from the past, but unfortunately for them only two other people do, and they've been sent after them. Un-ou and A-ou arrive on the scene and a battle ensues, but Lumiere is critically injured in the process, leading Éclair to take them to a place from their past when they were on a planet and Éclair was injured, and they got help from a doctor there.
This episode works well as it exposes some more of the history of Lumiere and Éclair, and at the same time throws in a healthy dose of action with the face-offs against Un-ou and A-ou. With the constant references to how many decades it's been since certain events occurred, and with a bit of exposition shown through a conversation Lumiere and Éclair had with Franz in the past, we get a real feel for how long these characters have been alive, and how many different situations they've been through. It also works because Un-ou and A-ou defy their initial portrayal and end up being three-dimensional characters that are both quite sympathetic in a way and make their own choices.
But then things go from bad to worse for our pair of runaways, as Tweedledee and Tweedledum are the next pair to be sent after them. While Éclair ponders what has happened recently, she also tells Lumiere that if she, Donnersclag and La Muse (their mecha fighters) hadn't been with her, she wouldn't have been able to get through it. They land on an empty planet so the machines can be fixed, but Tweedledee and Tweedledum get to Donnersclag and Wirbelwind (who are referred to constantly as "children") and infect their AI with a program called Hashish, which turns them against Lumiere and Éclair with only one mission - to ensure their elimination. This leaves the girls on the run, and having to fight their friends while trying to find away to save them.
I found this to be another pretty gripping episode, as it showed the vulnerable nature of Lumiere and Éclair once more, but also showed how other ES members, Tweedledee and Tweedledum in this case, are pondering the actions they're being forced to take on behalf of the GOTT. While they follow their orders they find them irrational and harsher than necessary, and they question what they should do in the future. The significance of the two machine's AI wasn't really made clear, as unless I'm forgetting something in earlier episodes we don't really know why they're referred to as "children" and why Lumiere and Éclair have such an attachment to them, but presumably their AI is based on the minds of people they once knew or something. Nonetheless, it's an engaging episode, and one that once again pushes the characters to their limits, but this time forcing them over the edge, leading them to one course of action.
And naturally, that action is the destruction of the GOTT. As Armbrust stands watch, Alv and Dvergr ponder what a good time it is that Lumiere and Éclair have picked since Dextera's team is away. Tweedledee and Tweedledum are once again waiting for the pair at headquarters, and while Lumiere goes off to carry out her part of the plan, Éclair faces off against 'Dee and 'Dum. During the confrontation, Éclair's powers seem to have grown further, and 'Dee remarks that she must have awakened her past memories and powers, and remembered that she's the most powerful ES member. Meanwhile Lumiere faces Viola and Cesario, but when she escapes them, she comes face to face with Alv and Dvergr. As the face-off continues, more ES members begin to fall, and Lumiere and Éclair seemingly undergo a transformation.
Another really enjoyable episode, this one is another of the episodes that feels like something of a turning point. It's clear from these events and dialogue that Éclair has somewhat awakened to her past, and with it has soared beyond the abilities she had before, and is said to be the most powerful ES member. Indeed, we get a good glimpse of all her abilities here, and are told that now she's G-class, which seems to be a cut above her previous classification of C-class, and even the S-class that some ES members were classed as. She completely overpowers Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and we know from past episodes that they are formidable opponents.
We also see that Lumiere has grown considerably too, but there's something more sinister at work. Throughout the final episode there's a heavy emphasis placed on the machinations of Alv and Dvergr. There are a number of interesting scenes with those two, right down to Lumiere's collapse. But then Lumiere reappears as Éclair is being chased by 'Dee and 'Dum, only she seems different. She doesn't speak, and more importantly is now wearing Dvergr's necklace. Once Tweedledee is down and Tweedledum retreats with her, Alv appears behind Lumiere and Éclair, and when we next see them Éclair is wearing Alv's necklace, and speaking in her voice. They then decide to seemingly end the current reign of GOTT by carrying out an assassination.
So things are left completely up in the air with the end of this disc, as we don't know exactly what's happened to Lumiere and Éclair, and exactly how Alv and Dvergr managed to carry out their plot. Nor do we know what the future will hold for any of the characters, given that at least Cesario and Tweedledee are severely hurt by the events that take place, and what exactly the future will hold for GOTT. I don't know where things will go after this, as there's an air of climax about these events, but I'm definitely looking forward to finding out what happens.
The story of Kiddy Grade continues strong in these episodes, and though there's still that something holding me back from calling it excellent, it has got very good, and this disc is highly entertaining, with a lot of plot twists, some essential revelations and plenty of intense action. If the series continues at this pace I will certainly enjoy it through to the end, though there's still the possibility that the quality won't be maintained through to the series' conclusion. My biggest gripe with this series continues to be that there are only three episodes per disc, as by the time you really get into what is happening it's all over. That's something beyond MVM's control though, and given that the series is currently improving with each disc released, I'd still recommend giving Kiddy Grade a try, because it's a pretty slick production overall.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Image Gallery,Character Profiles
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kiddy Grade