Gungrave Vol. #5 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, March 14, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, March 15, 2005
What They Say
Harry grows Millennion into a powerful government-dominating organization that rules a world of violence through its demonic soldiers, the orgmen, who lurk within every shadow. Mika, the daughter of Maria and Big Daddy, escapes from the organization’s henchmen, to find "Brandon Heat," the man her mother told her about. Brandon, revived as "Beyond the Grave," defeats the orgmen to protect Mika. However, when Harry discovers that the mysterious warrior who defeated his orgmen was Brandon, Harry sends out the Superiors to destroy him - Grave now begins the fight against his old comrades to get to Harry.
Coming full circle with the first episode of the series at long last, the series shifts slightly to bring the Overmen more into the picture as Harry climbs ever higher.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Our listening experience was greatly enhanced as all the language tracks available here are in 5.1 format. Even better for me, there's the inclusion of a Japanese DTS 5.1 track which doesn't seem to have gotten any sort of release in Japan and is a real rarity when it comes to a TV series. While there doesn't seem to be too much difference between the DD and DTS tracks, the 5.1 mix in general is pretty solid. This isn't the most enveloping 5.1 mix out there but the growing number of them is a plus and hopefully as it becomes more the norm we'll see more actively mixed releases from the start.
Originally airing in 2003, Gungrave is presented here in its original widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show itself is a dark and murky piece and that is beautifully presented here. With a heavy accent on shadows and the dark nature of it, there's no visible breakup or issues with solidity levels. It just looks fantastic, especially when they start doing the various flashbacks and we get the style used for it with the grain. When we do get the few moments of vibrancy with the colors, they're sharp and spot on. The opening episode is probably one of the more fluid areas of this particular volume since it's the hook episode and it does stand out quite well. All told, this is a very enjoyable transfer and a beautiful presentation that helps the mood.
Using the artwork from the Japanese release, this cover is just gorgeous with a shot of Mika half turned while hauling the Gungrave box with Grave behind her with his back turned set against a straight silver backdrop while snow falls around them. It's one of the brighter covers of the series so far but it's just so striking and the silver foil works so well here, especially with all the detail to the outfits. The back cover provides a couple of small strips of shots from the show with the episode numbers and titles listed between them while above there are two brief summary paragraphs that give away a little that isn't actually stated in the show yet. The discs features and clearly listed and we get the usual array of production and technical information. The insert is a simple piece with the shows logo on the front. It opens up two a two-panel spread that has the front cover artwork a little bit brighter and clearer while the back side has just the episode numbers and titles.
Another striking and immersive design from Nightjar sets the mood for this show with various clips playing obscured through the center of the menu while it's surrounded by the kind of dark and near-realistic artwork that Nightjar is consistent with in their menu design, such as chains and scratches and the like. All of this is set to some of the instrumental music from the show in 5.1 with a decent length loop time to it. Access times are nice and fast and moving back and forth to the submenus is quick. On the downside, our player presets were not kept when playing the show.
The extras included are pretty much par for the course and likely all we'll see for most of the volumes of this series with a few pages worth of conceptual artwork.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the events of the previous volume, we got to see the real origins of Brandon becoming Grave, the power behind his new body but also the downsides to it. Things played out so that Harry ends up winning in a sense since he's able to continue on with his ascent towards higher power as those around him slipped into the darkness or seemingly died. His consolidation of Brandon's closest friends and comrades seemed to ensure his safety though and it's allowed him to continue on for another thirteen years.
But even the passage of time can change things. With it being as far as it is now from the events that caused him to completely distrust Brandon to the point where he killed him, he's still got some nugget of fear about what's out there. His power has reached new heights and he's able to easily order the deaths of people up to at least the state governor level if not higher, which allows him to control how the laws of the land work in the end. His influence is reaching outside of his country as well as they're now sending their Orgmen out of the country to places where they can fight and bring in more wealth and influence, such as the middle east and elsewhere.
Even at this height of power, Harry can still make a miscalculation. Through an event that causes him to remember the past, he's decided that it's time to eliminate Maria at long last and sends off some of his low level thugs to do just that. Maria's spent the last thirteen years with Tokioka in relative seclusion in the countryside where she's raised her daughter Mika, a striking young woman with Maria's look but her fathers silver hair with the flair of youth attached to it. It's a day that starts like any other but when at home in the evening, Mika discovers a picture of her father with Brandon and her mother quietly tells her a little about him but not much. It's only when they realize that Harry's men have come that Maria tells her daughter to get to Brandon at all possible and he'll be the one to protect her. Maria's kept Mika from knowing anything about the Mafioso or her own past for the entire life of her child so everything comes as a huge shock to Mika, especially as people start dying hard around her.
Of course, we know that Mika makes it to Brandon in his current form of Grave as that's the bulk of the first episode, which is played out again here with much of the animation reused but with some new angles given to it and other scenes filling in around it. The episode gets fleshed out nicely in the end now that we know the real origins of things and how it's all come to this point. It's also from here that we start to see the rest of the characters and how they've aged over time and are now different, though some don't look all that different. Harry is the most noticeable with his short cropped gray hair not giving him a good look, as he's almost the spitting image of a few nutjobs I recall from some adult anime series. Sherry doesn't seem to have aged too well either though she has some elements of her beauty to her and is still married to Harry, and that's a relationship that's weighed heavy on fathers conscience since everything he does is for her happiness instead of what he really needs to do. The rest look the same, such as Lee and Bunji, but they're a bit more world weary and almost tired looking after all of this.
Once the show gets past what we've seen before in the first episode, it starts moving things forward by bringing in the realities we've learned from the past and combining it with Mika and now Grave's perceptions of things. It's not surprising that the show goes kind of heavy into the Grave vs. the Overmen kind of mode as these things are the heavy parts of Harry's defense and Grave is certainly looking to bring resolution to things, especially with Mika under his protection. A lot of the quieter segments push each of the characters on Harry's "side" into dealing with their feelings about what's been going on and the decisions they've made over the years, but being Mafioso, it's a much quieter approach and more in the looks and the simple sighs they make while doing their duty.
It's interesting watching how differently Brandon has survived the process and the way Tokioka must have done little tweaks over the years but is still not understanding exactly what he created. What we saw in the very first episode of the series thankfully isn't indicative of how this will all play out and as we did see afterwards the "normal" part of the series was certainly fueled with plenty of violence and death to it, so all that's changed really is the positioning of the characters and the addition of the less than believable Overman and Superiors that are now being brought into it. If it wasn't for the Necrolyzing process itself, this would still be a fairly straightforward gangster series, but there's that whole video game it's based off of that they need to complement so I'm trying to give it as much of a wide berth as possible because of that and because the first half of the series was just so amazing. I do like how it's going now but it hasn't hit quite the same level of intensity to it that the Brandon episodes had just yet.
While it's been expected for the show to change gears slightly to come full circle, now that it's here and we've got a few episodes of pure Grave under our belt, I'm still not sure how I feel about it. The addition of thirteen years time difference has also made it so that you can't be quite as in touch with the rest of the cast as you once were either considering the kinds of things that could go on in-between, but most of them are still the same as we know them. The lines are drawn pretty bluntly for how the last ten episodes of the series are going to play out now that Brandon's got himself something new to fight for and more than enough reasons to do what he's always said he'd do in keeping Harry in line. This is still good stuff, but it just feels a bit off from before and not quite as good.
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production Art
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: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2