Melody of Oblivion Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, April 25, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, June 14, 2005



What They Say
"During the 20th century, the world experienced a large-scale war. A war between humans and monsters. Words could never describe the violent bloodshed of the war that the monsters had won. Time has passed and a new century has begun. And the people have forgotten that Melody?

Life continued on as normal except for a mysterious sacrifice here and there. However, Bocca felt that this was wrong and when he heard of the Warriors of Melos, people who still rallied to defeat the monsters, he decided to become on as well. But this isn't an easy path and there was still much to be learned about the Melody of Oblivion."

Series Planning: GAINAX (Evangelion, FLCL, Mahoromatic, Wings of Honnemeise)Director: Hiroshi Nishikiori (Gad Guard, Angelic Layer, Azumanga Daioh)Series Concept: Hiroshi Enokido (Raxephon, FLCL)Character Design: Masaya Hasegawa (Ikki Tousen, Utena)

The Review!
Long after a war in the 20th century that left the Monsters in charge, one young man joins up a secretive fight against them.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Both the English and Japanese track are stereo mixes which are pretty decent but not all that engaging. A few areas make decent use of the entire forward soundstage, usually the key action moments or some of the music, but the bulk of the shows dialogue is through the center channel. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show is done with some very interesting colors and style that sets it apart from a lot of other series, particularly in how the backgrounds look almost incomplete in a sense or like very stylized pieces of coloring with something akin to crayons but with much more detail. The series plays up the mysterious angle a lot so we get some interesting red and white sky backgrounds that helps change the feel of the rest of the color palette. The transfer itself looks really good here with crisp clean colors, very solid and problem free line work and no cross coloration or much in the way of gradient issues. With the style used in the show, the transfer really makes it stand out all the more and it looks great here.

Packaging:
With the artwork for this release, I have really mixed feelings about it. I really like that they kept the original character artwork from the Japanese release and the general layout of the cover with the larger logo and then the volume name and extra text below it about the setting. The logo itself doesn't use the same as the Japanese one but one a bit more stylish. What I don't like is the seeming need to busy up the background instead of using the white of the Japanese release. The characters stand out more and it's more striking I think on a shelf filled with color. It almost reminds of how some dubs fill in quiet times with extra dialogue that just doesn't belong. The back cover shifts to a reddish background with a mixture of bricks and other shades while providing a few pictures and episode numbers and titles along the right side. The left side has a couple of paragraphs worth of summary of the premise that doesn't give too much away as well as the discs very basic features. The bottom section fills out the production information and then mostly just logos. The lack of basic technical information in an easy to find location here continues to really annoy me on what are generally otherwise very good looking covers. Geneon goes the extra mile here with the reversible cover that also uses the Japanese artwork, this time with a striking pose by Sayoko and Bocca.

In addition to the disc only release, a disc + box release was also done. The release doesn't have any extras to it but it's a nicely done chipboard box that's heavy on the burgundy shade. Each of the side panels features a different full color group shot that uses pieces from the Japanese release covers with a neat barbwire border around it. The spine provides a shot of the main lead and his "girl" as well with him using his bow and providing the logo above them. It's a simple but good box that does what it's supposed to do but is pretty free of frills.

Menu:
The main menu uses the layout of the front cover but without the extra text to it and changes that to the navigational strip. The character artwork looks a bit weak in a few places, particularly for Bocca as you can see the jaggies from where the piece was clipped from its original source. A bit of music plays along to it as well as shifts of animation in an motion piece next to them but it's all fairly short. Access times are nice and fast and navigation is easy through the menus. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets.

Extras:
The extras and setup menus are combined once more and it continues to be something I just don't like. The menus are pretty minimal here with only a textless version of the opening sequence available.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If there's one thing that I hate doing and try to avoid it in reviews is to compare a show to another in just about any way. But while watching Melody of Oblivion, one phrase kept coming back to mind as it progressed towards the final episodes on this volume. The series strikes me, at least with these four early episodes, as something like a more self-aware Revolutionary Girl Utena that's done with a male lead and on a road trip. Of course, everyone will have their own aspects of what they think Utena is and bring it into here, but I mean it more in feel of how the animation comes across and the slight disconnect from reality that Melody of Oblivion has.

The series introduces us to a young man named Bocca who is having something of a difficult time at school as he's not making it through a certain test that he needs in order to move on. At the school, we see him in the archery class where the instructor talks about the need to be able to shoot the area through the concrete wall that the targets are on. He provides an example himself before sending Bocca there to do the same, but Bocca can only nail the target itself and not pass through it. Even though he's still unable to do it, Bocca is likely to pass as he learns that his parents are paying off the same instructor since it would be shameful to not pass, both for the parents and for the instructor. This near guarantee encourages a female student friend of his to finish her advances towards him by promising a really good time after he takes the test in order to celebrate.

While he's out and about going through all of this in his mind, he gets approached by a young woman who insists that he treat her to a good meal. For some reason he finds himself doing it and listening to her ramble on about things. Finding her name to be Sayoko, he learns that she's seeking a man that he's come across recently named Kurofune. Kurofune's been working with Tanagi, an old man who tinkers with high tech toys but looks homeless in some ways. It turns out that Tanagi's been building something called an Aibar for Kurofune, a very high-powered and special motorcycle for a special man. Tanagi reveals that Kurofune is actually a Warrior of Melos, one of those who has fought against the monsters.

While most of the people try to forget and not think about it, humanity faced a massive war in the 20th century against the monsters. It was violent beyond word and many died on both sides but in the end the monsters won. In the years since, humanity has seemingly rebuilt itself but it's tried to forget what happened. Only those in power know fully what happens as they organize things as the monsters request, which is often just sacrifices for the various monsters that come calling for them. With these sacrifices, the towns are kept safe and calm from attack and tragedy. But there are some who continue to fight against the monsters as they search out for the Melody of Oblivion, someone or something that can help sway the balance of power.

When one of the Monsters arrives on the scene to challenge Kurofune, Bocca finds himself quickly involved in it as the creatures powers don't affect him like it does others. Though it's far too convenient, Bocca learns the tricks of the trade from Kurofune before the two are separated and he finds himself on the road with Sayoko traveling to other places where he can look for the Melody and help those who may need help from the monsters. This part is the weak link at the start of the series since he's able to shed his past life so easily, which isn't all that unbelievable as he's stated that he doesn't feel like he's connected to this version of reality, but it's the way he gets into the formula mode of dealing with things so quickly that's unsettling. Once you get past this part, the show flows rather nicely as a mystery and road trip kind of piece.

One of the main attractions for me with this show in the first four episodes is the atmosphere of it. It's pretty strong right from the start, particularly with the background designs and the way it's all done in reds for the sky with the white edges. As we get into the various layers of how the world works since the monsters won, learning about their union and those that have pledged allegiance to them, it becomes increasingly interesting since it has that creepy layer just underneath everything else that you see. Bocca and Sayoko slowly grow on you, Sayoko more than Bocca since he's still a bit of a cipher as we go through these episodes and the way we get them on the road works fairly well. Bocca's design is a bit odd which makes it hard to get adjusted to him since half the time he looks like a she and the usual penchant for overly young characters in such strong lead roles.

In Summary:
From these four episodes, the series has certainly intrigued us with the world they're trying to present. There's a few quirky pieces that haven't worked right but the atmosphere and design of the world is fascinating and has us interested in seeing where it's going to go. A few awkward places in the first couple of episodes are balanced out better once the duo gets on the road and we see them dealing with new situations from scratch. There's so much to learn here and characters that need to be introduced to move the opening plot forward that it's a bit jerky at times and some of the leaps aren't quite as good as they should be, but it's certainly piqued my curiosity to see whether it can smooth out as it goes along or whether it buckles under its own weight.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening

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: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98/39.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Melody of Oblivion