Galaxy Railways Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, September 08, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, September 13, 2005



What They Say
All dreams can come true - if the courage is there to pursue them.

SDF cadet Manabu Yuuki has gone against all odds, ardently pursuing galactic criminals and snuffing out evil. But when a malicious bomber lashes out, ripping apart a train of innocent people, Manabu is forced to go head to head with his past.

Only a young girl, the sole survivor of the train bombing, is kept alive through life support. As he watches her take her last breath, Manabu begs Yuki not to give up on her. Witnessing the deranged cadet, Captain Bulge places Manabu under suspension until further notice.

Facing a permanent discharge, it is up to Manabu to choose what path he’s going to take. He must decide if he’s fit to serve in the SDF. Is he strong enough to be apart of his father’s platoon? Or will Manabu allow death to steal away his dream?

The Review!
Terrorists, bad memories and escaped prisoners bring us across the galaxy on its railways as we see more and more of how this is all tied together.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included stereo mix does a nice job with the forward soundstage by providing some good directionality there, mostly noticeable with the train going across the screen but also with some good dialogue moments here and there. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Like a number of other recent Matsumoto series, his works seem to look even better in the digital age and this series is no exception. The bold color palette comes across well here with the character designs and is free of a digital gradient problem. Some of the colors, such as some of the grays and light browns, tend to show a bit more blocking going on, but when the show is in full motion it's pretty hard to detect. Aliasing and cross coloration are non-existent and the majority of the blacks from the space scenes look solid and very easy on the eyes.

Packaging:
Though a fairly standard setup, the front cover gives us some sexaroid goodness in the form of Yuki in her tight white nurses battle uniform and angled in just the right way to show off all her curves while behind her one of the trains is shown zooming across the blackness of space. The back cover continues the dark nature of artwork with a background shot of two of the trains along the top half while the bottom half mixes the summary with a few shots from the show. The discs features, episode and technical information is all generally well placed and easy to find though I do continue to hope that the technical grid will be expanded a bit like other companies. While no insert is included in this release, the cover has artwork on the reverse side of a full length image of the 620 train and the great picture of Louis in a tight space uniform.

Menu:
Keeping to a lot of stars in the background and other nebula, the foreground is given over to a variety of secondary characters for these episodes as well as Manabu so that it ties it all together. It's set to a brief music loop of instrumental work and is overall a decent looking menu but not one that really jumps out at you. The menu layout for languages is nicely done since it avoids the old way of doing things that used to confuse people. Access times are nice and fast but unfortunately the disc did not read our players' language presets properly.

Extras:
The extras are a bit lighter this time around but a bit more balanced as well. The standards are here with the textless songs for the opening and ending sequences and a new round of character profiles. The new extra for this release is an ADR and voice actor commentary for the first episode where they hit on some of the usual things for the first of such commentaries for the series, such as getting to know the characters, the Matsumoto style and so forth. They do win kudos for actually introducing themselves at the start, which is sad that I have to note things like this and praise it instead of it being a standard thing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Galaxy Railways settles down into a nice bit of pacing with this set of episodes that brings us up all the way to episode ten in just two volumes. Now that we're past all the rough and tumble early stages of losing family members left and right and dealing with getting into and surviving the entry of the SDF, we're able to get some interesting general stories while still letting Manabu grow and become more of the man he needs to be in order to really become a leader in this organization.

One of the main themes of the series is finding ones place in life and when dealing with the main lead characters such as Manabu and Louis being as young as they are, often that's just dealing with growing up and doing a job when it needs to be done regardless of how you feel. The first part of this volume has a rather interesting two part storyline that deals with an unknown terrorist or terrorists who are planting special bombs on board the various train routes which cause it to basically leak a substance out of it and into the train which will them almost implode in some form and cause lots of destruction. Railways are taken out of service before anyone realizes what's going on and several are taken out pretty quickly.

You really have to wonder who would even take these trains with the number of accidents that seem to happen. Manabu's experience in coming across one of the wrecks when they're trying to determine what happened as well as finding any potential survivors is just horrible and he's unable to continue as he can't even breathe right. His inability to handle dealing with the dead has him being chastised by his captain and he puts him on indefinite suspension until he can figure out for himself whether he can do the job and come back. Everything is laid on his shoulders about it so he ends up trying to figure out what to do and finds himself, through the help of granny, spending time with a vending machine maintenance guy who provides some insights into how to look at life.

The terrorism that goes on here is pretty expansive as a lot of routes are under attack and the devastation hits even one of the big space junction ports and destroys it completely. All of it is actually a feint for another target and it brings the mysterious Destiny character a bit closer to the forefront. She provides some useful clues now and then about what she's really seeking since she's behind manipulating things so that Manabu ended up on the crew of the Big One. Her remarks are often cryptic but she puts enough into them such as how she wants Manabu to keep his pure soul but to move forward with understanding the realities of the galaxy. This two part tale is rather nicely done and it expands the galaxy as we've seen it greatly but I really wonder who'd ride the rails for awhile after all of these incidents.

The follow-up episodes are all standalone pieces and each of them offers something interesting to again expand the view of things while helping Manabu and the others grow and know more about each other. Manabu in particular continues to have to prove himself to his comrades which isn't surprising considering how much he's screwed up already, never mind his cocksure attitude and carrying around that empty weapon. One of them has Manabu focused on re-learning all the basics of train maintenance and he ends up under the thumb of "Old Man" Whitman and his over exacting ways and the kind of romantic things he attributes to the trains. This ties into a story from long ago with regards to the planet Rosamund where a lot of lives were lost during a magnetic storm. Naturally, something similar occurs now in the present and the two end up being involved in it but it's actually rather nicely crafted even if clichéd at times. The resurfacing of an engine that hasn't seen use in many years provides a nice contrast to the mostly sleek looking lines that existing currently.

Another episode deals with some of the strange things you can find on the various planets throughout the galaxy as the crew has some downtime on a planet while some storms keep them from moving on to their next assignment. Taking advantage of this they head to a local inn and take some time for mild partying and enjoyment. The planet has a bit of lore about a being called Salye that steals peoples memories and some people come specifically to have that happen so they can forget about some awful events. Just such a thing happens to the usually ill tempered Bruce as through this experience we learn of his past with partners and how he'd been known as someone who loses them rather easily. The discussion goes across to other characters as well as Louis talks about memories she'd want to get rid of while Manabu realizes that they're all valuable and make up the person he is. While the wrapping for this episode is essentially Star Trek cheesy, it does a great job of providing some background on the characters and seeing some usually glum people in a whole other light.

In Summary:
Galaxy Railways really hits its stride with this volume with the lack of setup that needed to be covered and working the familiarity of things to its advantage. The two part storyline has some interesting elements to it, though anything related to terrorism mentioned in this day and age always seems to pale against what real terrorism would be like, but it does provide some interesting challenges for the cast and for Manabu himself. Matsumoto's style and characters, setting and just about all of it is very appealing to me and while the pacing of the series continues to be slightly off from the norm it's very enjoyable and unlike most other series out there right now.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,ADR Commentary,Character profiles,Textless opening,Textless ending

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 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: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Galaxy Railways