Cyberteam in Akihabara Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, May 27, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, April 19, 2005



What They Say
As if being a kid weren’t awkward enough, the arrival of the fifth Anima Mundi along with her mercilessly powerful Black Diva threatens to make mincemeat of the Cyber Team! With Parent/Teacher Night looming, Hibari, Suzume, Tsugumi, and Kamome struggle to keep their home-lives from bringing ruin to their ongoing war with the Rosenkreutz. As darkness gathers all around her, can Hibari hope to find the light at the end of the tunnel? Or will the darkness swallow her up, along with mankind’s last chance for survival?



The Review!
The girls go through a bit of down time before things heat up and just like all other young girls, they start to go through some changes.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has a very simple mix to it that's listed as stereo but is more of a full feeling soundtrack than anything else. There's a fair amount of action and sound effects throughout the show but there isn't much in the way of real depth or directionality to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 1998, the transfer for this series is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio. Done in the traditional animation style and avoiding most of the obvious bad digital animation that was cropping up at that time, the transfer here looks good for the most part with a clean set of materials to work with. The main problem that some will see throughout will be the aliasing during some of the action sequences but otherwise it's fairly problem free. Cross coloration is very minimal with only some slight sight of it in a few scenes. Colors look good and maintain a solid feel throughout and you can see a good amount of detail in the animation when it's there.

Packaging:
Though it looks a bit cartoonish and not quite the same as the in-show artwork, the cover gives over to one of the transformed versions of the Pata-pi's here where it shows off the ample cleavage and sleek looking outfit. The style of the artwork mixed with the sleek logo gives it a really current feel and overall looks pretty sharp. Amusingly, this cover features three quotes from different sources on the front which can't be a good sign. The back cover has only a couple of very small animation shots and is instead filled with lots of pastel colors that hold the sizeable summary and the large section of production information. The discs technical features and extras listings are easy to find and are all accurate. No insert was included with this release though there was one in previous volumes.

Menu:
The menu layout continues to use the same design and colors as other parts of the release with a static background of a Pata-pi lined across it several times that changes color as it goes along to the music. On top of that there are the usual selections and a cute image of a Pata-pi being picked up with a claw arm game. While not the most amazing menu, it's nicely in theme and gets the job done without slowing you down in getting to the sections you want. Access times are nice and fast and the disc read our players' language presets without issue.

Extras:
The mix of extras continues to be decent here with this volume. The production sketches are still gone, but we retain the clean opening and closing sequences. Sadly, the "In the Studio" sessions appear to be over as there isn't one here but there s a commentary track for one of the episodes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
To my surprise, after three volumes and fourteen episodes that were pretty hard to get through at times to the point where I want to say I almost had a headache or two, the fourth volume of the series manages to actually be almost enjoyable. A lot of the hyper energy and foolishness of the previous volumes seems like its toned down a bit and though we get a pair of standard filler style episodes, there's actually a bit of interesting time spent with the main plot in the second half.

The opening episodes on this volume were actually kind of fun to watch which surprised me considering I hadn't cared for similar variants of this before, but it was more I think because they avoided doing a transformation fight sequence in them that helped it not feel like it was truly routine piece. The first one goes for the fanservice side of things, since it lets the young kids oogle the first year junior high school girls in their skimpy outfits, including Kamome getting a bikini top that puffs up several times and makes her look like she's in the double D category. They play out most of the usual beach stuff, including an entire rain sequence, but what ended up making me laugh the most that really surprised me was the Pata-pi adventures with the crabs in the tunnel. These guys normally bother me enough when it's just one of them, but a gaggle is a lot worse. They managed to make me laugh a lot as they dealt with their mini war with the crabs though.

The other fillerish episode that wasn't in a sense has to deal with the school going through the yearly exercise of Parent's Day. This is rather nicely done in that with each of the girls we get to see some of them from different periods earlier in their life at moments that helped define them, for better or worse. Such as going back to Hibari eight years earlier where we find that her mother had a miscarriage, or with Suzume and how she is with her father who doesn't have the time to come to anything she does be it Parent's Day or concerts she's performing at. Hers was interesting to see more of her sister and the way her family all deals with how their father is. Each of the girls gets a sequence like this and it is illuminating, though it does balance it out with some comedy moments at the actual event of Parent's Day itself.

This all does lead into a pair of episodes that starts to signal some changes, though they vary in quality. The Anima Mundi episode brings things to a head with those that are manipulating everything. With their Dark Prince at the helm and causing trouble for Hibari by abusing Densuke after he transforms, she finds herself nearly breaking down at the amount of pain and suffering her little Pata-pi is going through. The anguish she suffers starts to cause her to change and grow inside, which leads to her own moment of transforming into something more powerful than what Densuke transforms into. This does not bode well at all for the Dark Prince, of whom we start to learn more about here, as it means his usefulness is now at an end. Combined with the past of his that we get glimpses of, his path suddenly looks rather dark and not at all pleasant.

The way they round this out is interesting in that they go with the three women who work under the Dark Prince, back in normal human form, as they go off on a weekend with hot springs and other enjoyments as they lament the way things have turned out as well as how their relationships with the Dark Prince will never truly be what they want. It's a cute episode at times with how they deal with the way their job may be over but it's also somewhat of a down episode as they're very realistic about the changes that have happened based on the last episode. It's a bit more insightful than I had expected from these characters.

In Summary:
While this volume was certainly more enjoyable than everything that came before it, it certainly doesn't make it all worthwhile and there's still two more volumes that could drive me nuts so I'm still quite leery of the show. It's shown some interesting flashes here with the story and they've managed to hit a level where certain characters and situations don't drive me crazy. With the team not even in the last episode and only Hibari in the key episode, it's not a balanced set of episodes since it keeps things focused on pushing the storyline forward and that helped keep things more controlled I think.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animations, Commentary with Christine Auten; Jessica Boone & Monica Rial

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: C
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
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: Cyberteam in Akihabara