Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars Vol. #3 (of 5) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, July 26, 2005



What They Say
A desperate battle to save the earth that could cost all of their lives...

Danger is fast approaching and there's little time left before the next wave of invaders reach the Earth. In a desperate attempt to stop them, the Chosen have been forced into making a dangerous decision - they must attempt to use the secret technique of Astral Deviation to launch Nayuta's spirit and the Shingu into the cold depths of space. Once there, Nayuta will have to conquer the disorienting and terrifying emptiness and learn how to fight in it... and she'll have to do it before the enemy manages to reach her.

As they undertake this perilous mission, one thought looms large in all of the hearts and minds of those involved: there's a reason this secret technique was supposed to have been sealed away forever – the last time it had to be used, many of the Chosen died...

Meanwhile, lacking special training or powers to help, Hajime is left to watch as his friends fight and suffer to save the world. While he may believe that there's nothing he can do, Hajime's role in this battle may prove to be the most important one of all.

Contains episodes 11-16.

The Review!
As Earth stands at the cusp of moving into the larger picture of the galaxy, threats abound and the balance of power begins to shift.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is of an action/adventure type and there are plenty of areas where there is some good directionality across the forward soundstage, generally in the action sequences, as well as a well placed dialogue track that is generally center channel bound but it gets around on occasion as well. It's not a giant stand-out mix but it's one that conveys the actions in the show properly. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being a Madhouse produced show, the animation in here is really quite attractive and smooth throughout though they do go something of a minimalist approach in some of the style and design, but it works well with the kind of story being told and the visuals are generally very clean and straightforward but with enough detail to keep it interesting. The transfer in general is solid here with no problems with aliasing or cross coloration. When played with the player set for upconversion, some of the large black sequences comes across as fairly blocky but this disappears quite a bit when set back down to 480p that the show was authored for but it's still visible, with a lot of blacks having a gray feel to them. The opening and closing sequences are done with alternate angles so that one of them has the original Japanese logo and credits while the other has fully translated credits and English language production information.

Packaging:
Packaged in a clear keepcase, the front cover is awash in a couple of shades of green and goes with the standard character art shots of Setsuna, Muryou and Nayuta all with varying smiles. While the poses are fairly standard, it's an eye-catching cover with the shading and colors used and it looks good. The back cover keeps a similar layout and provides a few shots from the show and a lengthy set of summary paragraphs that cover the basics. The discs features are clearly listed and a well laid out technical grid keeps everything very easy to find for the technical parts. The cover is reversible though the opposite side is identical to the front cover but it uses the original Japanese logo instead (as does the spine) so you don't need to refer to it as Shingu. One area that Right Stuf is continually getting better and better at is the booklets and this one is really good. It covers a range of terms from the show and talks about the fashions and differences in the world of 2070 before going into some sketches of Tenmo and talking about that as well. The back of the booklet even has a couple of panels from a strip written about the show.

Menu:
The menu layout is designed the same as the front cover but it shifts Hajime out of the picture and keeps just Setsuna and Futaba there while displaying the selections along the right side, all set to some of the music of the show. The layout is simple and easy to use with no navigational quirks and features an easy way to move between episodes in the scene selection area. The menu listed our players' language presets properly but when played they went to a default of English language and sign/song only subtitles instead.

Extras:
This volume has a couple of extras but nothing too major. There's a section of character bios which I'll avoid since they may have spoilers, an art gallery and an on-disc version of much of the production notes found in the booklet.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this installment of Shingu, the stakes are upped with a sixth episode included on the disc that gets us significantly into the next arc of the show. Shingu continues to be a highly frustrating show in some ways because how it plays out doesn't lend itself to being easily talked about. Other than a bit of real action in the first episode, the subsequent five episodes are almost all slice of life stuff mixed in with slow ripple revelations about the reality of the world that it's like blowing on a row of dominos. Say too much and you reveal too much.

The opening episode deals with the follow-up to the arrival and attack of one of the alien forces and has Nayuta sending her heart out into space as Shingu to deal with it. This is her first time doing anything in space so there's some fun with how confusing it is, but more focus is given that's interesting to Hajime as he's brought there by Harumi to bring focus to Nayuta. There are some really neat surprises moments in here, the biggest of which is seeing Muryou use his abilities with the mad dash rush and just how far he can go with it. It's all interesting to see how this round of aliens is working over the Earth, but it's relatively quickly resolved.

And that leaves the next five episodes which is similar to how things were before this quick instance of attack. The shift is back on the kids going about their lives, though with some changes such as Nayuta trying to deal with being dependent on others for her ability to attack as well as the entire disorientation in space problem, or other amusing changes such as Kyoichi realizing he's interested in Harumi and ends up going on some dates with her. Harumi becomes far more interesting as well as her role is expanded in a few scenes and we learn more about her family past and their participation in Tenmo. One of the most interesting characters continues to be Setsuna though as she gets more involved in the lives of the kids and does things like teaching Shun how to travel fast and Nayuta about love. When she gets serious though, such as with Jiltosh about the robots attacking her home, you can tell easily not to mess with her.

One thing this series does beautifully is to sneakily introduce new elements. One that comes into this volume is the return of Hajime's father, a businessman who's typically away for a long time. He comes back just when things are at their strangest in Tenmo as Earth governments are revealing that they're creating diplomacy functions with aliens which catch everyone in Tenmo off guard since they believed they were the leading experts. With revelations of spaceport being built in Tanegashima, which is the equivalent of Cape Canaveral, it only fuels that fire more. Though it's kept from most of the people who come into contact with Hajime's father, we see easily that he's a huge part of the organization there that's dealing with this and through his appearances we see some fascinating events take place.

In a way, this is what's the most fascinating about the show. It's taking a large series of events that are going to change the world and introducing them just as they happen in real life. A small bit here, a few more there; it continues until it becomes a wave of events that everyone is swept up in but prepared for by the background noise on it. And like a lot of these events, we do see it from some key people's point of view but even they're cut off from the real movers and shakers. We see and hear more from the kids who are either fascinated or couldn't care less about what's going on as well as those directly affected. The pacing and style of this show just wins me over with each episode as a lot goes on but it's so well wrapped up that it's hard to tell just what happened.

In Summary:
Shingu continues to be a fascinating and frustrating show. I love how it plays out, the way it doles out little bits of information and plays it across a number of cliques who deal with it differently, but at the same time I hate the way that it all happens because it makes it almost impossible to talk about with someone because some revelations spoil so much of what's going on. The characters reactions to events and situations are where it's at here and as we get deeper into the show, it's paying off in spades. A lot of shows you can be easily distracted by things going on but with Shingu you need to pay attention to each and every frame. Excellent stuff and a real gem of a show so far.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles, Character Bios, Line Art Gallery, Special 12-page Booklet, Original Production Notes, English Production Notes

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: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
MSRP: 29.95
Running time: 150
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars