DNAngel Vol. #3 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, February 14, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What They Say
Poor Daisuke Niwa is just a regular kid with some extraordinary DNA. As if growing up wasn't hard enough already! Now he has to carry out super secret thefts as the Phantom Thief Dark too. He's got plenty of obstacles along the way as well. The girl he loves is in love with his alter ego... His classmate is set on destroying the Phantom Thief, in other words...him. His Dad jumps back into his life after being gone for years...And on top of all that he has a lovesick rabbit!

The Review!
With a few more stand alone tales to be told to help flesh everything out, the series almost looks like it's ready to start something more with the arrival of a new potentially key character.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for this series is quite good with some very well done moments of directionality both for dialogue and for action effects throughout the show. The English track, which is in 5.1, is a bit louder and makes the directional moments a bit clearer, is also a good strong track. Listening to the Japanese mix in full, it felt more full and warmer to us. During regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or other distortions.

Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With this being a recent show, it has plenty of digital effects to it but it uses it an interesting style that makes the transfer a bit hard to pin down at times. In a number of scenes, the show has a somewhat soft and almost grainy feel to it, such as when it moves around the lower city and does some of the digital pans of the buildings. Areas such as inside the school and along the train all look very sharp though. The color palette used for the show is a mix as well with some dark earthy colors used for the city buildings and layout, lots of soft oranges and purples as well, while the character animation is very rich and vibrant in a different way. There are a lot of sections of solid colors that look really good here and avoid noticeable blocking or color gradation issues, in addition to no noticeable cross coloration and only a few minor moments of aliasing here and there during some panning sequences.

This is a great looking release from start to finish with the packaging. The front cover is an eye-catching piece with Satoshi's alternate self in wounded fashion and also with one of his wings covering half of his face along with his hair that gives it a more powerful feel. The characters design is interesting here and nicely detailed, particularly with the background shots from the show done through the purple filter. The back cover provides a small strip of full color shots from the show through the middle. The top half has a pretty good explanatory pair of paragraphs about the show while the bottom half displays all the discs extras, production and technical information in very easy to read and find blocks. The insert has a shot of Risa with her hair pulled back and wearing a cute looking purple dress while giving a wink next to the episode listings and the extra listings while the reverse side has a cute picture of With by himself. The cover for this release is reversible and provides the Risa shot from the insert. The back cover is the same as the regular back cover.

Using the image from the cover but adding dark feathers falling around him, the static image here looks good and blends well with the layout. With the menu selections and icon using the purple shade from his hair, the layout for this looks really nice and fits well with the character. The only downside is that the music loop is really far too short and ends on such a bad way that it's almost annoying, which is a shame since it's such a good opening. The menus are quick and easy to navigate with no transitional animations and the disc correctly read our players language presets and played accordingly.

The extras continue to be pretty good here with mix of material to please both types of fans. The standards are here in the clean opening and closing sequences. A commentary track is included for one episode, this time featuring Kelly Manison and Andy Mcavin. For Japanese voice actor fans, there's a segment called "DNAngel Talk 1" with Miyu Irino and Shunichi Miyamoto which is nicely followed up with an ADR session from the Japanese cast. The unplugged material is brought out here again this time with him performing "If I Could Be With You..." which just comes across beautifully.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
DNAngel hits four more episodes here and about halfway through the release it looks like it's starting to talk about something a bit bigger than just the stand alone tales we've been getting for the most part so far, particularly since Satoshi left. With his return in this volume as well as the arrival of another character, it hopefully signifies that something a bit more cohesive is about to come up.

And that we're past the grandpa stories as well. This volume has yet another one of those and while they're fairly well done, they're not exactly what I'm looking for here. They do the job of showcasing Dark in a different light and with a bit more competence while aligned with the older man but there's generally something about the stories that doesn't quite gel in the same way as Daisuke's heists. There is usually some kind of somber edge to his grandfather's tales that have the added disadvantage of time to them, making them stand out even more. This time around we have him dealing with the death of someone he once had to swipe an instrument from but was unable to do so. The two made an agreement that the instrument would be returned upon his death. Taking Risa with him, Daisuke and his grandfather go to the funeral since the man had been a famous musician if someone with a bad temper over the years. While Daisuke's grandfather goes to deal with the paperwork, Daisuke touches the instrument only to find that it wasn't the best course of action.

The instrument's got such a history to it that when Daisuke touches it, it sends his soul back in time to when his grandfather was attempting to steal it and it leaves his body in the present under the complete control of Dark. This opens a host of problems such as messing up time and history and the order of events as well as the thought of not being able to draw Daisuke's soul back into his body. There's a really awkward feel with how this tale is told and it seems like there's something really missing to it, though we do get a bit more understanding about the instrument as it begins to be played. The soul time travel aspect is really well done but the overall execution in terms of the story itself just doesn't seem like it worked right.

The other stand alone tale here is a cute one that lets With get some good screen time as we find that she's getting a bit lonely, so Daisuke tries to take her out for various walks providing she stays hidden. Daisuke ends up meeting up with Riku fairly heavily in this episode since the talk of pets becomes a big thing and Daisuke ends up talking about With even though he shouldn't, so he tries to cover by saying she's actually a lop eared rabbit. This gets amusing when they stop by the pet store and there's just that kind of rabbit in the window and With almost seems to fall in love instantly with it, which results in all sorts of problems from thereon out as With tries to leave Daisuke and the house so she can go see the rabbit. The show has a big epic moment of love and angst to it, which is amusingly cute because it's the mascot, but mascot episodes tend to be the weakest of most series and this one feels just that.

Where things get serious is when Dark is set to steal an artifact that's located in an underwater temple out in the bay. The police are all set to really capture him with high-tech gear this time since there's a limited access to it so they've got all the boats and people they can handle. But of course, Dark is able to masterfully get past this but what we see is that in the bay there's the remains of what looks to be a very old city, one with quite a history going by the style and build of it. With only a few scuffles with the police, he's able to get into the massive temple that's under here and filled with traps. To his surprise, after getting the prize he's faced with Satoshi who has apparently returned to pick up where they all left off. But this also brings his alter ego back into play and the conflict between the two is still very strong which only helps Dark in the end.

This episode is good in a lot of ways but the way this area of land is starting to turn out is just getting strange. An entire city underwater and a temple that leads up to the surface area? The fact that Satoshi managed to get in there by himself and seemingly without the police knowing about it, just so he could confront Dark on his own and without a backup plan for getting out of there should things go badly. He's dealt with Dark often enough to practically expect it to go badly so this doesn't speak well of him. With this also leading into the return of Daisuke's father to the picture, it feels like they decided they had enough of this cute little capers and sides stories and suddenly wanted to rush back into the main storyline and needed to get everyone into their proper positions quickly. It's somewhat awkward and doesn't feel as seamless as it should.

In Summary:
Since the start of the series the pacing for DNAngel has always been a little bit different so it isn't too surprising to see what happens on this volume happens as it does. The re-introduction of a main character and the way it's tied so much to the past is hopefully a sign of the show going towards something more than just episodic tales that have little meaning in the long run and instead towards something a bit more cohesive. This does seem to be the case with the other character that comes back into play and looks to be a short term but key player in determining how the second half will play out. I'm still enjoy a lot of parts of this show but as a whole it feels like it's still missing that one thing to make it all click just right.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean open and closing animation,Voice actor commentary with Kelly Manison (Eiko) & Andy McAvin (Kosuke), DNAngel Talk 1: Miya Irino & Shunichi Miyamoto, DNAngel Japanese ADR session, DNAngel Unplugged: If I Could Be With You...

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: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A-
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: DNAngel