DNAngel Vol. #7 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, August 23, 2005



What They Say
Daisuke Niwa's life is already rough, but it's about to get even harder. After finally learning the truth about his family's fate and Dark's origins, Daisuke comes to the realization that Dark may not be around forever. That's not good, because as Daisuke's confrontation with the ultimate evil approaches, he's going to need Dark more than ever. Even with their family and friends behind them, will Daisuke and Dark be able to overpower Krad? What about The Black Wings? And will Daisuke ever see his love again? In this last thrilling volume of DNAngel, a foe becomes a friend for the good of all.


The Review!
Bringing the series to a close, DNAngel provides some of the most stunning scenes yet of the series and offers up a great emotional and action filled ending.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for this series is quite good with some very well done moments of directionality both for dialogue and for action effects throughout the show. The English track, which is in 5.1, is a bit louder and makes the directional moments a bit clearer, is also a good strong track. Listening to the Japanese mix in full, it felt more full and warmer to us. During regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or other distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With this being a recent show, it has plenty of digital effects to it but it uses it an interesting style that makes the transfer a bit hard to pin down at times. In a number of scenes, the show has a somewhat soft and almost grainy feel to it, such as when it moves around the lower city and does some of the digital pans of the buildings. Areas such as inside the school and along the train all look very sharp though. The color palette used for the show is a mix as well with some dark earthy colors used for the city buildings and layout, lots of soft oranges and purples as well, while the character animation is very rich and vibrant in a different way. There are a lot of sections of solid colors that look really good here and avoid noticeable blocking or color gradation issues, in addition to no noticeable cross coloration and only a few minor moments of aliasing here and there during some panning sequences.

Packaging:
This is a great looking release from start to finish with the packaging. The front cover for the final cover has a really spot on picture of Daisuke in some casual clothes winking that gives him such a light and relaxed feel compared to some of the darker ones from previous volumes. The back cover provides a small strip of full color shots from the show through the middle. The top half has a pretty good explanatory pair of paragraphs about the show while the bottom half displays all the discs extras, production and technical information in very easy to read and find blocks. The insert has a very cute picture of Riku in her school uniform next to the episode listings and the extra listings while the reverse side has a cute picture of With by himself. The cover for this release is reversible and has the same piece of artwork of Riku with a full background similar to previous volumes. The back cover is the same as the regular back cover.

Menu:
Using the image from the cover but adding more dark feathers falling around him, the static image here looks good and blends well with the layout. With the menu selections and icon using the purple shade from his hair, the layout for this looks really nice and fits well with the character. The only downside is that the music loop is really far too short and ends on such a bad way that it's almost annoying, which is a shame since it's such a good opening. The menus are quick and easy to navigate with no transitional animations and the disc correctly read our players language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The extras continue to be pretty good here with mix of material to please both types of fans. The standards are here in the clean opening and closing sequences. A new commentary track is included for one episode featuring some of the actors relevant for these episodes such as Greg Ayres and Illich Guardiola. For Japanese voice actor fans, there's a segment called "DNAngel Talk 5" with Miyu Irino and Shunichi Miyamoto. They finish up what they started in the previous talks and go over their experiences that help them in their acting and discussing the show. Continuing an extra from the previous volume, there's a new installment where the series director and the 3D director talking about their approach to bringing 3D into the series. Also here is a new Unplugged section which has the 'Caged Bird' piece. This release is just so full of extras that it takes quite a bit of time to go through everything and certainly gives it plenty of replay value.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
DNAngel comes to a close with this volume of the series and the final three episodes are some of the best of the show. The 'Snow and Ice' storyline comes to a close in the first episode and then the last two episodes provide closure for the anime series by bringing the larger storyline to the forefront once more and hitting it hard and fast as a critical event. With little time to really tell it, I think they did an amazing job of pulling it off even if it did feel rushed at times.

The opening episode hits some climactic notes as the race to save Daisuke from the Second Hand of Time becomes all the more critical as Krad works to stop Dark from acquiring the sword he needs to be able to access the world properly. While the world inside the painting with Freedert begins to fall apart and Daisuke and Freedert go on a journey inside to understand a new structure that's appeared, Dark and Krad fight fiercely against each other while the twins watch and try to offer help along the way so that Dark can win. There's a great sense of tension about all of this as it unravels but what really struck me with this episode is the one truly beautiful explosive scene towards the end as Freedert and Elliot embrace at long last in their own way. It's one of those moments where the visual almost overwhelms you and provides you with something that you won't easily forget.

In a way, the end of that episode is a bit strange as it has a new ending that plays out like the end of the series as everyone sort of looks off into the distance as it pans across the cast. And in a way, it could easily be that since it does wrap up a lot of the plotlines and exchanges that have been going on while leaving enough open as most shows typically do. But the next two episodes play out in standard mode and the final pieces of the series are revealed. While the 'Snow and Ice' painting has been a big part of the puzzle as it reveals that some of the paintings by the Hikari's survived unsealed, what follows is the revelation of just what kind of aims that family had in the past as they've wanted to create a living art that would transcend everything else.

This piece, entitled Black Wings, is a truly spooky piece that Hiwataris' father has had all this time and is now ready to unveil and bring to life even if it costs him his own sons life. The attempt to do this, which seems to have been attempted in the past as certain things start to occur now that give some of the older characters pause, sets the Niwa family on high alert as this is something that they've been hoping would never happen again. The start of the process of giving true life to the Black Wings caused much of the water in the city to disappear before and it's happening again. A massive earthquake hit then as well and the rumblings of a new one is starting once again.

This time, after what he's gone through, Daisuke has decided to tackle this head on and do what he can since it's affecting so many of his loved ones. With and Towa find themselves reverting to their small and fluffy form and being turned to stone while Daisuke's father reveals that his attempts to help Daisuke through the pain of being Dark involved him taking on the pain as opposed to the amulet he wore. This last revelation pushes Daisuke to start shouldering a lot of the responsibility himself now and works hand in hand with dark to deal at long last with Krad and to do what he's been fated to do, try and seal once and for all the Black Wings art piece.

So much of these two episodes plays out in a rather fast manner as there is a lot of information and action to convey in such a small amount of time but they still manage to include a good amount of lingering looks and thoughts between the characters. Riku and Risa's relationship finally reaches a balance as both of them understand what Daisuke and Dark really is and just how Riku has really won in the end in getting Daisuke. The culmination of this relationship is just perfect throughout here and is one of the better romances across the series in whole. Especially for a series that started with Daisuke being interested in Rika first and having no interest in Risa to eventually turning his gaze elsewhere without realizing it.

As a whole, DNAngel is very good series that takes the manga and adjusts things just right to allow it to work as an anime series. The first half of the series is a bit awkward in its own way as it has a fairly interesting setting and background to provide across the standalone tales but when it hits the second half it really shines. In looking back at the first half though after seeing the finale, a lot of what's done there makes much more sense which isn't surprising. The relationship that Hiwatari and Daisuke build up becomes much more important as does the small bits that included Mio and Hiwatari's father. Though he's a bit of a mystery still for the most part, his larger role in the finale isn't surprising and it makes sense based on what he's manipulated all along.

In Summary:
DNAngel is a series that started off with a shiny and interesting appeal to it and ran with it for a bit before a second half that just didn't slow down or give pause as it hit some great character and action material in every episode. While I wish that they had focused a bit more on some of the more whimsical and slower moments from the manga series in regards to the twins, what we get here is a solid series throughout that provides a great mix of action, romance and mild comedy. Both the manga and the series started off shakily for me in some regards but it proved itself out not long after that and the final has provided some very memorable moments with great animation and some very tight scripting. This is a series that I heartily recommend the singles for due to the sheer amount of extras that really accentuate the show but even without that, it's a series that surprises through and through. Don't miss this one.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Commentary track with voice actors Greg Ayres (Satoshi) and Illich Guardiola (Krad), DNAngel Talk 5,3D Scene Production special, DNAngel Unplugged: Caged Bird,Clean opening animation, Clean closing animation

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: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: DNAngel