Daphne in the Brilliant Blue Vol. #5 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 22, 2005



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The Review!
A few minor stories that either stand alone or hint at larger things play out before the show moves into more serious territory that may be key to the final storyline.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a fairly active stereo mix that has a number of good moments of directionality both in action sequences, notably with the guns and sniping style shots, but also with a fair bit of dialogue that moves across the screen. The mix isn't completely immersive but it's well done and a bit more active than we're used to hearing since so many shows are dialogue driven these days. In listening to both tracks, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being such a recent show and one that deals heavily in water, the blues in it are very lush and layered well, both when it comes to the water sequences and to the skyline sequences. They do a wonderful job of fading it into a lighter color as it goes farther into the horizon. Some of the material at times looks a bit like it's lifting off of the background but most of the time the meshing is pretty well done and the show maintains a good solid feel to it. The transfer is essentially problem free as there's hardly anything noticeable for aliasing, cross coloration or even the gradient problem. Add in no noticeable blocking during the large areas of color and you get a pretty solid looking show.

Packaging:
Using the artwork from the regular edition of the Japanese release, Yu gets the front cover this time with a mean look to her face as we get mostly a full body shot where she's making a thumbs down gesture. The back cover provides a large illustration shot of the mystery man from this volume while next to a brief summary of the premise and a rundown of the episodes and titles. A few small shots from the show and the discs features fill out part of the bottom while the usual production and technical credits take up the rest of the space. The insert has a few shots from the show along the right while the chapter listings are to the left. It opens up to a two-panel shot that has an illustration of Maia from the new ending sequence. The back of the insert provides street dates for all volumes of the series. The cover for this release is reversible and the main side has the full shot of Maia as a child from one of the Japanese covers.

Menu:
The menu layout is done in an interesting way that keeps it in-theme but goes off in its own direction. The background is actually a brief clip of the scene underwater from the opening with the bubbles flowing up but its underneath a couple of layers of angled pink and purple lines where small face shots are put located and beneath the white sections of menu navigation while in the center there's full color clips from the show cycling through all set to a bit of music. The navigation is fairly straightforward though without it being linear you can find yourself moving in unintended ways. Access times are nice and fast for the most part and it's the disc correctly read our players language presets.

Extras:
The only extra included in this round a clean version of the new ending sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the last volume of four episodes before going into the two sets of three episodes that will close out the show, we get a few episodes that are essentially standalone pieces but have some subplots running through it that culminate in the last episode here that can potentially be what the final storyline of the show will be, which as we've slowly gleaned along the way is something to do with the real past of Maia and what exactly happened to her and her family.

Before they get into that too much they do have a bit of fun though as someone has left a baby outside of Yu's apartment and she's taken to caring for it. Initially she was all set to take it to the police and let them handle it but a chance meeting with Gloria caused her to change her mind for a bit. Gloria goes on about her own past and the way orphanages really are as well as making a rather good case for why the parents of the child will come back for her. So Yu takes on the challenge in her straight faced dead pan nature of caring for the nameless little baby boy. Enough of it is just comically bad enough, such as going an entire day before doing the first diaper changing or feeding scene, but the number of spit up and whizzing scenes against Gloria make it worthwhile. It may just be having experienced a lot of this myself in the last few years that I find a bit more humor in it than I would otherwise. They do miss out on a chance for some serious fan service though when Yu takes up breastfeeding the child as they barely really do anything but make it seem sweet. It's got a good gag ending and the material up to that is fun overall but it is mostly just a toss away episode with some extra snarky moments in the dub.

Shizuka gets a tale to herself as well as on her way home from work one night she comes across her usual round of stray kittens that she wants to take in only to find a very handsome wounded man in the alley. She takes him in as well as he claims to be Trevor, a spy who is now on the run from a criminal organization that he escaped from after finding out some nasty things about them. He tells her a few tales and she plays up being a cute innocent office lady and just enjoys having his attention and time. Naturally there's something bigger going on here and there are various people combing the streets for him so it doesn't take long for her to really learn the truth about him as Maia and Gloria find themselves caught up in what's going on. It's a simple and cute episode but is incredibly formulaic and predictable from the start to finish.

What that episode does have that starts to show up throughout the rest of the episodes here is a mysterious man in black and sunglasses with white hair that seems have some kind of interest or relationship with Maia. He's there to save the day for her just in time on several occasions and doing it mostly off screen at that, such as during the episode when May and her three wacky brothers show up and swipe the Yomogi-1 submarine so they can resume their plans for getting to Elpida. Maia ends up kidnapped along the way and circumstances put her in a life or death situation that the rest of her friends aren't able to deal with but he mysteriously shows up and saves the day. And at the time he does this, without Maia's knowledge, she starts to have cracks in her sealed memories about a brother of some sort when she was a little child. The flashbacks start opening up more and more which sends Maia on an interesting chase into her past again as she starts putting together things and visits her old friends who helped her after her parents died.

Little by little we're seeing more of her past but the possibility of it being interpreted wrong or just being made up memories is still strong. The drive for it though is very strong within her now that she's at a certain age and gained some level of confidence having worked for Rena for so long now that she's adamant about pursuing it, which leads her back to Siberia City so that she can look up links that may reveal something about her family. It's all very tenuous at this point and it plays out in small bits up until the last episode that gives her the full time to really start getting into it, all while the mystery man shadows her.

In Summary:
Even this far into the show I'm really not sure what to make of Daphne in the Brilliant Blue. It's storylines have been uneven at times and some of the things it's done in terms of revealing background has taken far too long but I've adjusted to the character clothing designs and even the sometimes far too rigid character designs themselves. There are some interesting aspects to the world they've created here but it's often kept to the background and minimal as well as some of the more interesting characters that need more time such as Rena. It feels like it has some real flashes of creativity and neat ideas but is trapped in a shell of mediocre storytelling and a plot that's too thin to handle the number of episodes that the show is running. It's easy to see why it has the fans it does but just as easy to see why it isn't able to break into a larger audience.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Ending Two

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: B-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Daphne in the Brilliant Blue