Human Crossing Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, July 21, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, June 28, 2005



What They Say
Families, husbands and wives, lovers and people.
Dramas that emerge from life's human crossroads...
Ordinary people muddle through life and intersect with one another in random ways. Like people walking along road crossings in different directions with no apparent destination in sight. Human Crossing is a realistic portrayal of everyday people in modern Japan with all its beauty and ugliness. In this volume, Human Crossing examines the lives of a female prisoner who longs for a reunion with her family in "Message in White", a business man who receives a surprise visit by his father's mistress in "The Smile" and a painter who rediscovers his passion in Paris in "City". Human Crossing is a collection of short vignettes about hope, a reminder of the small victories one can achieve amid the vicissitudes of life.Families, husbands and wives, lovers and people.

The Review!
Continuing with the individual tales, more of the "human story" is covered here with a look at very different lives.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. Being a series that's based on the lives of Japanese people, it only makes sense to listen to it in its original language to me. The series is a pretty standard stereo mix that's not terribly overactive since it's heavily dialogue driven and there aren't really all that many scenes that you could term action scenes. The opening and closing segments have probably one of the fullest sounding areas of the show and comes across well. During regular playback, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The material in the show is done with a real world style but without going for the somewhat traditional dull and pale look that a lot of shows in this vein tend to go for. Instead it's well animated with some good vibrant colors throughout and a certain lushness in a lot of scenes. The color palette is pretty lively with a rich choice in a lot of the background and character design colors. The transfer is pretty much free from most problems such as aliasing and cross coloration and it was also good in that there weren't any noticeable color gradation issues. There's a slight bit of macroblocking going on in a few scenes with solid colors but when the player was reset to 480p they disappeared.

Packaging:
The Japanese artwork wasn't used with this release though the logo is kept in an opaque form under the English "translation" of it. Designed in the same manner as the first volume of the series, the top half provides shots from a couple of episodes and the bottom half rounds them out while the logo is through the center both in Japanese and English. It's not the best way to do things but it gets the idea across, especially with the tagline to it. The back cover provides a good summary of the premise of the show and lists each of the four episodes and their title while putting shots from the front cover to each of them. The bottom section contains the mixture of production and technical information. The technical information for a number of new Geneon releases is getting harder and harder to discern as the text for it is getting much to small and placed out of the way in making it easy to find, such as the running time on this volume. The insert is a bland piece that has little real artwork to it and lists the chapter stops for each of the four episodes while the reverse side lists the tentative release months for future volumes.

Menu:
This is probably one of the most understated Nightjar menus I've seen them do yet as it doesn't even have any sound. Using a mixture of images from the show's live action opening and ending sequences and doing it in a creative collage style, there's a neat indistinct nature to much of how this looks with some areas brighter than others while some are overly dark. Going through the center at an angle is the series name with the Japanese logo and below it the English translation and the navigation list. It's a very simple menu and easy to navigate with fast access times. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets which is another plus.

Extras:
The extras are the same as the first volume. There's a clean version of the opening sequence but there are also translated versions of the opening and ending sequences. The ending translation is done once and covers all the credits for the four volumes which are mostly differences in voice actors where leads are only credited and the script writers as well as some of the directors. Since the show retains the original Japanese opening and endings the information had to be included somewhere (though I had hoped for it to follow each set of credits with a full list for that episode) this is better than nothing but not by too much.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Human Crossing continues with another set of three episodes and much like the first two volumes, it's another series of standalone tales. The easiest thing to say up front is, if you liked what you've seen so far you'll enjoy this. If not, well, you're likely not even bothering to read this. For me, this series provides some nice little simple stories that I get to enjoy without having to deal with massive continuity or extended runs and complications. Good short stories that provide some entertainment.

The three tales are pretty different just as each volume hasn't really had similar material. The opening episode in fact brings us to something that I don't rightly recall being done in any anime series to some extent, or at least not in this vein. We're introduced to a woman who has just began her tenure as a prison guard. She's ended up having trouble with one woman in particular who has messed with her by lying about her past and just giving her grief in general. The guard is being watched closely by her superiors as she's not exactly the best guard out there and a bit too trusting, and she still has a lot to learn about what it means to be a guard in a women's prison. The entire thing is a fairly simple romance story that's undergone problems, but the setting is new and while it's probably not the most realistic, it's one of the first attempts at a "real-life" setting version of it. The ending though is something that can only happen in film and anime, as much as it does tug on the old heart strings.

Another episode does a bit of a shift in things by starting out taking place in Paris where we meet a young couple who are living up their lives in that time and place, surrounded by art, culture and a sense of change swirling about, only to see how it all changes when he returns to Tokyo to deal with the death of an uncle and ends up doing some artwork for a friends business. His work ends up becoming a major attraction and wins numerous prizes, but more importantly it sets him on the path to commercial design and artwork and away from the creative energies and pieces he was doing before. For his wife, this causes her to feel pain over what's happened and as the years go on, the two drift apart. The focus shifts from how it all started to where they are now eighteen years later and the way the relationship has become hollow. It's interesting since she goes on about how he lost what he was while he tries to get her to understand that even though he has, he's found something else that he enjoys and loves doing. It's an interesting angle since most pieces would have him just talking about the money itself (which he does) but leaving out that aspect. The show is surprisingly critical of Japanese culture and art which is a nice change of pace since it tries to show where things have gone wrong in a number of areas.

It was also interesting to see in the other episode a look at the way relationships and families have always been different in some ways, or at least for some people. The episode focuses around a relatively new family whose finally built the home of their dreams only to surprisingly have an old woman move in with them one day. As it unravels, we learn of her relationship to the husband of the family and his own parents through flashbacks and dialogue. The concept of a mistress certainly isn't new (either here or in Japan) but it was interesting to see how they played it out against family feelings, from the death of the father with whom she had the relationship to how she's felt about her life and what she missed but wouldn't give up. This episode is the kind of piece that's reflective of the continuing changing look of families across the "modern" world in general which made me happy to see since it shows both the problems and the pluses of such things instead of just vilifying it.

In Summary:
While I doubt it's burning up the sales charts or changing anyone's perspective of anime, Human Crossing is a series that I find highly appealing and reminiscent of the kinds of things that got me into anime many years ago, just done in short form. The three episodes here take a view of things not covered in very many other series and while it has the problems of being done in short form, it does a good job with the material and simply provided an entertaining viewing.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and 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: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Human Crossing