Overman King Gainer Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What They Say
Gainer's experience has taught him the difference between real battle and mere games. But Gainer's online rival Cynthia Lane challenges him to a lethal duel. Meanwhile Gain confronts the half-crazed Asuham Boone, who is playing a sinister game of his own. What dark secret lies hidden inside the Crystal of Agate, and what will become of these warriors when their paths converge at the crystal's core? Nominated Best TV Series at the Tokyo Anime Fest.

The Review!
The past intrudes on the present again while tensions abound on board those on board the Yapan Exodus.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The series stereo mix is very well done with a lot of directionality throughout it for both dialogue and action effects that go both across the soundstage as well as some good depth areas as things come from the background to the foreground. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and while listening to both language tracks we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for this series is presented in its original widescreen aspect ration of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series has such a mix of colors and a lot of focus on whites that it's a pretty vibrant visual experience that comes across very good here. The print maintains a very solid feel with all of these wide swathes of colors as well as avoiding any real gradient issues as well. Some of the areas are intentionally soft and look good without becoming pixellated and overall this is a really good looking transfer that's free of problems. Being produced by Sunrise, the opening and closing segments are fully translated instead of retaining the original Japanese text.

Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, the cover isn't as much fun as the previous one as it's a bit darker and focuses on Gain and his new Overman in the foreground while the background is the icy landscape and one ship standing out on it against a sunset sky. The back cover continues the brown tones but looks a bit better with more shots from the show here that add color plus all the additional text for the summary and production information. The discs technical specs and features are scattered in a couple of different areas and not all of it is quick and easy to find but it's there. With this release, Bandai does something new that I hope they do more of and that's using the reverse side for all of their insert information. The left panel has some headshots of characters as well as the original staff credits and a Japanese cast credit list while the right panel provides a summary breakdown for each episode plus shots from the show lined next to it. Even nicer is that it's all in full color and not black and white. While this does remove reversible covers, it's something that I like how it's done.

The menu layout is nicely in-theme for the show with a design looking out from inside the King Gainer cockpit. The control panel has the discs navigation selections while the viewscreen has action clips from the show playing throughout it while some of the action oriented instrumental music plays along. The layout is nicely done and has the added bonus of loading quick and being easy to navigate, though I miss having instant episode access at the top level. Language selection continues to be prickly though as once you make the selections there isn't anything that indicates what the show is set at. Access times are nice and fast and the disc did read our players' language presets correctly.

This volume has another interesting set of extras included in it. While no clean opening and closing sequences are here, we do get a new line art gallery. What really makes the extras interesting here is that we get three new promo pieces that showcase its release onto DVD and the amusing way it gets marketed. I love these kinds of things since we rarely really see them.. The new inclusion this time around is three promotional clips used to push the show prior to its release. While there are similarities among them, it's always interesting to see how the various companies try to promote their shows.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Overman King Gainer gets closer to its final volume and the Exodus doesn't seem any closer to being accomplished but the ride is one hell of a trip and this set of episodes is no exception. As with previous releases, there are a lot of things going on here and the character focus continues to shift as Adette sadly falls to the side for now while Gain takes a bit more prominence. There's a lot of shifting going on and some surprising new changes as the trip continues on.

The past resurfaces nicely when a new arrival to the Exodus arrives. It turns out that the man named Ariel is actually an old friend of Gain's who had come in search of him as he has new parts that Gain had been in search of in order to properly build/upgrade his Overman. Ariel's one of the closest things to an old friend that Gain's given hint of up until now and the two of them are extremely chummy as both had worked on an Exodus together previously. There are hints that one of Ariel's previous Exodus was a failed one but they try to keep that out of the discussion even though it's like an elephant in the room. In a world like this it's not surprising that Ariel actually has a second mission there and has been given an assignment by Kashmir to pass along some information. Kashmiri and his new Overman are close to arriving at a cross point with the Exodus and he's ensured that that city will be in chaos when he arrives as Ariel tells the mayor to start inciting a riot and to take control of the section that the Ganglarians have been forced into. The mixture of politics and the way these new additions to the Exodus are being treated is covered in several scenes and shows the increasing tensions on board the various sections.

Another neat area to this volume is that while stopping over at one of the cities along the way, Gainer and Sara end up coming across Cynthia though they haven't made the connection as to who she really is yet. Gainer rand Sara end up being recognized as part of the Yapan Exodus so she offers to help them out in getting out since she still wants to have a grand old fight with Gainer since he is the king after all. Their escape is nicely done since they bring in people who know Cynthia but she manages to keep herself somewhat hidden and gets the added bonus of beating up on some of her guys. Cynthia also gets to learn a bit about how little the people in general really like the Siberian Railway as the open call for their capture comes out but people still aid them.

While the show doesn't get too much closer to the end of the Exodus, they do bring Kid Muntz more formally into play as he takes a hands on approach to the continual screw-ups of everyone he seems to send out there to deal with this particular problem. What it ends up leading into is a strange bizarre piece where this massive crystal agate seems to hold the key to what's going on as things from the past start to surface from it after it captures Cynthia. Gainer is set to go and free her and what we see inside is the potential for the most dangerous of Overman of all but also from past hints we see that Cynthia's mother, one of the most gifted Overman pilots there have been, is encased in ice inside of it and seems to be either afraid of something or relieved after sealing it.

This new battle has a strange feel to it that I can't quite put my finger on but it's very engaging to watch as it continues to explore Cynthia's character and just how important she may really be to things. When she was first introduced you never expected much from her and then when she was revealed to be a "villain" you weren't sure what they'd do because of the relationship between Gainer and Sara. As it continues to play out and Cynthia is exposed to more and more of the real world, she's definitely fun to watch as she comes to grasp with it and tries to really understand her place in it and whether she's been wrong or not. There's only so many years of indoctrination that you can overcome so fast.

In Summary:
While this volume didn't quite have me as thrilled and excited as the previous volume did, I'm glad to see more expansion on Cynthia's character and a bit more closeness between Gainer and Sara. Adding in more information from the past and some explanations that help reveal more of a few characters like Gain after his visit from Ariel are most welcome and only felt mildly forced. Things are getting tense from here on out and I'm really looking forward to seeing how Tomino intends to wrap all of this up in just one more volume.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Lineart Gallery,Promo Reels (3)

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: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Overman King Gainer