s-Cry-ed Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Friday, July 01, 2005
Release Date: Monday, June 06, 2005



What They Say
20 years ago, a cataclysmic earthquake destroyed the prefecture of Kanagawa and detached it from the rest of Japan. The region was known as the 'Lost Ground'. It was later realized that part of the population born in this region had the ability to change and create matter. They are known as the Alter Users. To control this potential threat, Japan set up a police force, HOLD and within it, a special unit, HOLY made up of Alter Users whose aim is to combat the renegades.

Episodes Comprise
1 - Kazuma
2 - Ryuho
3 - HOLY
4 - Big Magnum

The Review!
For some reason, hearing about s-CRY-ed being compared to Dragonball Z doesn't exactly fill me with confidence...

Audio:
Audio is available in both Japanese and English, with both tracks being presented as 2.0 stereo mixes. I listened primarily to the Japanese track. s-CRY-ed makes good use of the available channels to provide a decent amount of depth to the audio, particularly during battle scenes. The sound is clear and dialogue is easy to make out against the background effects, and there are no obvious problems. I spot-checked the English audio in several places, and it appears to be similarly free of problems.

Video:
Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame format. While there's some line noise visible on detailed areas, it's not so noticeable that it becomes a distraction. Otherwise, this is a fairly good-looking transfer. s-CRY-ed makes extensive use of bright colours in just about every scene, and these come across with very little problems. Subtitles use Beez' usual white-on-black font - while it's a bit on the small size, it's perfectly readable, and the subtitles are free of any formatting or spelling problems

Packaging:
The front cover features a colourful image of Kazuma and Ryuho, both looking angry and capturing the fighting aspect of the series quite well. The back carries a set of episode descriptions and screenshots, along with another image of Kazuma and the usual technical information panel. The reverse of the cover has character profiles of Kazuma and Ryuho (using the same text as the on-disc extras) and another picture of Kazuma in action.

Menu:
After choosing the menu language (English, French or Dutch options are available), a short animation of Kazuma summoning his Alter runs before the main menu screen appears. This has a slideshow of the various stages of Kazuma's Alter on one side and a series of clips from the show on the other, with the menu options (Play, Episodes, Setup and Bonus) listed down the middle. The opening theme plays throughout. The episode select screen runs a series of clip shows for the various episodes, while the other screens feature static images of the other characters. With no transition animations between screens, it's all very quick & easy to use.

Extras:
Quite a small selection of extras with this release - in addition to the usual textless opening & closing animations, there are character profiles for four of the main characters and a set of 'Translation Notes' which would be better described as a glossary as they explain some of the English-language terms used in the show, rather than dealing with any real translation issues.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Welcome to the Lost Ground - formerly Japan's Kanagawa prefecture, it was detached from the mainland during a cataclysmic earthquake some years earlier, when the whole area was laid waste. Following the disaster, a small portion of children born there began to exhibit a strange power - the ability to manipulate matter, with the exact nature of their ability being different from person to person, depending on their personality. They became known as Alter users, and they were quickly seen as a threat to the stability of the mainland.

To counter this threat, the private police force HOLD was formed, along with a special unit of Alter users known as HOLY. As well as keeping the peace within the newly-developed city built at the edge of the Lost Ground, it became their responsibility to round up any Alter users found in the lawless area outside the city walls. Those arrested were given a choice - join HOLY, or face a lifetime of captivity.

Star of the show Kazuma is an Alter user - not the rebellious type, just an average sort of guy who uses his ability as a means of earning enough money to support himself and Kanami, the young girl he looks after. His latest job was the rescue of a public official who was foolish enough to venture outside the city, but while you would think that would earn him some thanks, all it does is bring him to the attention of HOLY and their lead Alter user Ryuho. While he has the Alter power, Ryuho seems to have developed a deep hatred of other Alter users after his mother was killed by an Alter user some years earlier, so he now ruthlessly pursues any he's able to track down. While he's able to capture Kazuma with comparative ease, what he doesn't allow for is Kazuma's determination not to be anyone's captive, and his demand for some sort or recognition from his captor. It proves to be the start of a long and violent rivalry.

Meanwhile, young woman Mimori Kiryu has returned to the Lost Ground after a seven-year absence. The daughter of HOLD's main sponsor, she's been assigned to HOLY to research the abilities of Alter users. Mimori had been a friend of Ryuho's when they were children - before his mother was killed - and is shocked when she finds out what a cold and emotionless person he's become. Seeing how he treats Kazuma during interrogation, she's drawn to Kazuma and helps him to escape from HOLY's holding cells. Following his escape, Kazuma is drawn into conflict the HOLY again when they round up a group of civilians living in an area marked for redevelopment, and use them an unpaid labour for their building works.

Away from the fighting scenes, there are definitely some good aspects to s-CRY-ed. While HOLD and HOLY are obviously being set up as the Bad Guys, the people within those organizations display enough shades of gray that I did find myself interested in them and how their characters were going to develop - they're not all as inherently 'bad' as you're initially led to believe. Ryuho has reasons for the cold exterior he presents to the world and is working towards resolving them; Mimori genuinely wants to help through her research, while the likes of Cougar provide some good comic relief moments. Kanami provides something of a family life for Kazuma, while HOLD cutie Scheris provides the fanservice - there seems to have been a concerted effort to provide something for everyone.

So far so good, so let's move on to the fight scenes. Even here there's some good points - most of the various Alters show a reasonable level of imagination by the designers and allow for some variety in the battles, while those fight scenes that don't involve large static objects are quite well choreographed. On the downside, there's Kazuma's own Alter - a rather underwhelming super punch - and the posturing, yelling and angst that tends to go along with this sort of scene. I've always had a limited amount of patience for that, and had to resist the urge to skip forward through the battles to get to the more interesting stuff.

That's my own personal preference, though. Many people will appreciate the battles, including fans of the aforementioned Dragonball Z, and for them there are enough plus points about s-CRY-ed that it should be well worth their while giving the series a try. For the rest of us, the good unfortunately doesn't quite cancel out the bad.

In Summary:
I have to admit to being no fan of fighting shows, and what I'd heard of s-CRY-ed before being handed this volume to review hadn't done anything to persuade me to give it a chance. I can't admit to being wholly converted after watching it, either, but there are at least some positive aspects to it that make the show more than a total loss. If you do enjoy fighting anime, then there's going to be a lot more here that'll be of some appeal, in which case s-CRY-ed is probably well worth checking out, but otherwise you'll want to try before you buy.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
,French Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Character Profiles,Translation Notes,Textless Opening & Closing Animations

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.



Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: s-Cry-ed