Kiddy Grade Vol. #7 (of 8) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Release Date: Monday, March 07, 2005
What They Say
Sinister business is afoot at GOTT Headquarters. After making their desperate move, the two masked strangers' identities are revealed to be none other than Eclipse and Lumiere! But how is that possible? And how is it that Eclipse is alive? But there isn't much time to answer these questions as a rogue Noble makes his bold bid for power. If he is successful, even darker days are ahead for the galaxy.
As Kiddy Grade enters its home stretch, some questions are answered while many more are raised.
I listened to the Japanese track for my main reviewing, and continued to enjoy the performances of the Japanese actors. The emotions of Éclair and Lumiere come across really well, and the conflicts within the other characters are also portrayed well. The stereo mix is nice, with the music sounding particularly good. I noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
I also listened to the whole of the disc in English. I really like the performances in the dub a lot too, with Colleen Clinkenbeard as Éclair and Monica Rial as Lumiere being particularly good. Also putting in a great showing though are Laura Bailey as Alv and Rebecca Paige as Dvergr. This disc really gives a lot of the cast that we haven't seen so much a chance in the spotlight. The 5.1 mix is pretty nice, adding a bit of directionality, though it didn't seem that great a difference over the stereo track to me. I noticed no dropouts or distortions on this track during regular playback.
As this is a FUNimation production, we also get dubbed openings and endings, and in the case of Kiddy Grade, they're very good. It's quite a feat with the opening song, too, since the original is quite nonsensical in its use of English. Dub songs really do add big brownie points in my book, especially since they're not cringe-worthy like some older dubbed themes.
With only three episodes on this disc, and coming from GONZO, you would expect Kiddy Grade to look great, and this transfer doesn't disappoint. The video continues to look crisp and clean, and colours are extremely vibrant. This is one of GONZO's typical digital looking "shiny" shows, and it looks great. There was also no artifacting that I noticed, and aliasing is pretty non-existent.
We also get alternate angles for the openings and endings. This means that you can either watch the translated, English credits in the opening, or the original Japanese opening with kanji, and the same for the ending, depending on which language you select from the menu.
Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, as opposed to the white font used on the US discs, and I didn't notice any major grammatical or spelling errors.
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.
The menus are simple but functional, with a brief introduction sequence continuing to the static opening menu, this time featuring Cesario and Viola in centre stage, to the right of the screen with the logo above them. There are the four choices as static buttons, with some background music looping over the top, and the volume number and title at the top of the screen. Sub-menus are similarly static with much the same use of text and buttons, and the same image on the right of the screen (except the Episodes selection). The sub-menus have no music playing, however, and like many recent shows, there's no chapter select menu.
As per the rest of the series, we don't get many extras on the disc. There's a brief image gallery, essentially a series of screenshots set to some of the show's music. I do find screenshot galleries pointless, because I'd much rather there was some production art instead, so this one wins no points for me. We get the textless ending (though unfortunately it only contains the Japanese language track), since the opening and ending have now changed to feature the new appearances of Lumiere and Éclair. Rounding things out are some more textual character profiles, which are decent but not great.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the series now entering its final stretch, things are starting to wrap up, but rather strangely the writers decided to explain pretty much everything that's happened recently with the GOTT and the takeover by Alv and Dvergr, before going off in an entirely different direction for the last episode on this disc, and presumably the three episodes that will come on the last. While the first two episodes continue to be really enjoyable both in terms of story and character, the direction the story goes in the last episode left me a little unconvinced.
But back to the first episode on this disc, and right from the get go it all kicks off as the real Lumiere and Éclair make it crystal clear that Alv and Dvergr have taken over their bodies, and they're not too happy about it. An all out fight ensues, with the puppets of Lumiere and Éclair fighting alongside their originators, but just when Alv and Dvergr are running out of power, Alv uses her absorb ability to suck it out of one of the Éclair puppets, gaining even more power. Armbrust is forced to intervene as they all try to escape, but when time runs out for Alv and Dvergr, Alv reveals the reason for her actions; to take revenge on the Nouvlesse, who've been causing everyone such hardship and using the GOTT as their tool.
This episode was a lot of fun in many ways, with the proverbial unmasking of Alv and Dvergr (even though we all knew it anyway) and the ensuring pursuit. Lumiere and Éclair managed to show plenty of character, and it felt like they were back to their old selves, with their wit and style coming through as they faced off against the other two ES members. What was also interesting was Alv's explanation of why she and Dvergr acted this way; apparently she wants revenge against the Nouvlesse and all that were involved with them. Amusingly, Lumiere and Éclair point out that she's just using that as an excuse for wanting power, since if they didn't agree with what they were doing at GOTT they could've become fugitives, like they did. But what was most interesting for me was that her reasons involved the Nouvlesse at all. To be honest, while there have been glimpses of the machinations of the higher ups at the GOTT, and a lot of hints at the Nouvlesse involvement, it's not something I've paid a great deal of special attention to, so it felt like it came a bit out of the blue, though Alv's feelings were obviously strong. Of course, it was also nice to see some of the ES members make their return.
The second episode on the disc focuses on the rebuilt GOTT, with Éclair initially thinking about her past self which will now become integrated within her. With her and Lumiere back in their original posts in the GOTT office, the pair go out for lunch with Bonita and Ricki. But after they've joked about and on the way back inside, Lumiere collapses. It turns out that she's not used to her new body, and she's also suffering from information overload, and the only thing that can save Lumiere is Lumiere herself. Tweedledee and Tweedledum come to visit, but there's little they can do. But Éclair realises that there is someone watching over Lumiere who may be able to help - Wirbelwind.
While it's enjoyable for the glimpses we get at other past forms of Lumiere and Éclair, including what appears to be the first meeting of the two, when Éclair saves Lumiere who seems to be on the street, it certainly feels like the calm before the storm. It's interesting to find out a little more about Eclipse's powers, and what she may have done to save Lumiere and Éclair after Alv and Dvergr's takeover of the GOTT, but the problem here is everything is fragmented, almost to the point of annoyance. While seeing clips of the past in small portions intercut with the present can be a good narrative tool, sometimes it's good to see things in a bit of a more linear fashion, and at this stage of the story it feels like Kiddy Grade is overdoing the whole concept of a mysterious story just a little bit. But that's not to take away from an episode that is enjoyable, if only for more of the character development it gives to Éclair, as she tries to do everything she can to help Lumiere and again shows how much the little one means to her. Quite where the story is set to go by the end of the episode is unclear though, despite a rather startling revelation.
As the story goes in a different direction in the final episode, Eclipse sends Tweedledee and Tweedledum to check out a new Nouvlesse ship called the Deucalion; an ark that can do all sorts of things include terraform planets. Meanwhile the finance minister of the Global Union and the head of the GOTT, Chevalier d'Autrich, is dismissed from his post, and Eclipse has again enlisted Armbrust's help, to look into all the underhanded things that d'Autrich began while he was in charge. Alv and Dvergr, now sporting masks to hide injuries to their faces, visit d'Autrich's office to try to get back a key from him, but he is only there as a hologram. Back at GOTT, Lumiere and Éclair are concerned by the sudden reappearance of Mercredi in a new body, though she seems to be involved with Armbrust in some way. They visit Eclipse, but it's then that they find out the truth about what GOTT have been doing...
There's a lot of interesting political machinations in this outing, as we find out a bit more about the dodgy stuff we know GOTT has been getting up to, and exactly who is responsible for a lot of it (of course, it's this sort of thing that forced Éclair and Lumiere to become fugitives way back when). The focus does switch quite jarringly in a way though, as there's a lot of focus on Chevalier d'Autrich and his role in everything, but in the typical Kiddy Grade fashion we don't get too many answers thrown in with the revelations. It's interesting to see his actions at the end of the episode though, as it's kind of unclear as to exactly what it all means. The Deucalion's significance is a little understated, but from what I could gather it's supposed to be what will guide the Nouvlesse, who are actually true pureblood Earthlings, to their real home (though that may just be me over-inferring).
The reintroduction of Mercredi had me very intrigued, mainly because of the reaction she got from Lumiere, and having seen her listening to Eclipse and Armbrust, and at the beginning of the last episode having seen her and Armbrust together as what seemed to be lovers. Lumiere was quite alarmed, although she and Éclair were quickly distracted once they got back to Eclipse's office. While this episode had a lot of interesting aspects to it, including seeing how Lumiere is adapting to things without her powers, I'm not sure the direction the plot is going is going to provide a particularly gripping finale, especially given how it's such a sudden change of pace that's quite different from everything that has come before.
My only other major gripe at this stage is how everyone has come back from the dead. I realise that it's partly the nature of the story and the whole reincarnation aspect, but nevertheless it does serve to take away from impact of potential danger and death given that, in quite a contrived way as it turns out, everyone seems to reappear in a different body anyway. It's just something I found a little bit frustrating as it got a bit silly in the first episode on this disc, as people just kept reappearing.
While I enjoyed the episodes on this penultimate disc of Kiddy Grade, I'm not quite convinced by the direction the plot has gone in for the home stretch. The pace really slows down significantly after the first episode on this disc, which might put some people off straight away. By the end of the disc, it just seems like the writers may just be stretching the story a bit too far. Still, it's quite possible my apprehension will be alleviated by the final three episodes, and I certainly hope that is the case. I still have reservations about the lack of episodes per disc for a longer series, but that's something beyond MVM's control, despite my reservations with this volume I'd still say Kiddy Grade is worth a look.
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1 & 2.0),English Subtitles,Textless Ending,Image Gallery,Character Profiles
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kiddy Grade