Melody of Oblivion Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, December 27, 2005
What They Say
The Labyrinth...In his search for Kurofune and the Melody of Oblivion, Bocca finds a boy within a labyrinth where space and time are in disarray. The boy is named Solo and he is one of the sacrificial children, who are doomed to endure their own deaths again and again, throughout eternity. In his fury, Bocca faces off against Horu in order to break the horrific cycle. As Bocca and Sayoko continue their journey, they have a reunion, of sorts, with the other warriors of Melos. Unfortunately, a certain sibling brings a sour note to the party?
The current arc continues as Bocca tries to deal with the new Monster's he's come into contact with while learning more about those around him and himself.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Both the English and Japanese track are stereo mixes which are pretty decent but not all that engaging. A few areas make decent use of the entire forward soundstage, usually the key action moments or some of the music, but the bulk of the shows dialogue is through the center channel. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show is done with some very interesting colors and style that sets it apart from a lot of other series, particularly in how the backgrounds look almost incomplete in a sense or like very stylized pieces of coloring with something akin to crayons but with much more detail. The series plays up the mysterious angle a lot so we get some interesting red and white sky backgrounds that helps change the feel of the rest of the color palette. The transfer itself looks really good here with crisp clean colors, very solid and problem free line work and no cross coloration or much in the way of gradient issues. With the style used in the show, the transfer really makes it stand out all the more and it looks great here.
Similar in style to the previous volumes, this release has a group shot of several of the current Monster folks in their finery and looking just perfectly happy with themselves and what they do. The back cover shifts to a reddish background with a mixture of bricks and other shades while providing a few pictures and episode numbers and titles along the right side. The left side has a couple of paragraphs worth of summary of the premise that doesn't give too much away as well as the discs very basic features. The bottom section fills out the production information and then mostly just logos. The lack of basic technical information in an easy to find location here continues to really annoy me on what are generally otherwise very good looking covers. Geneon goes the extra mile here with the reversible cover that also uses the Japanese artwork, this time with Bocca and Sayoko in their school uniforms.
The main menu uses the layout of the front cover but without the extra text to it and changes that to the navigational strip. The character artwork looks decent and fairly well cleaned up compared to the first menu or two where things looked a bit more jagged. A brief clip of music plays along to it as well as shifts of animation in an motion piece next to them but it's all fairly short. Access times are nice and fast and navigation is easy through the menus. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets.
The extras for this round is another set of production gallery images though the cover is deceptive as it lists them as "Production Notes" which gives me a far different idea about what they are.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Firmly in the second half of the series while still working through the current story arc, Melody of Oblivion is a bit less focused on a major Monster as it goes through a couple of tales within the arc that tend to spend more time dealing with the casts pasts and inner turmoil than with the actual Monster's themselves. The pacing and narrative structure of the show continues to be one that's off from most other shows and it has such strange sense about that it's laid back nature is almost like a trap.
The arc that started in the previous volume finishes out in this one during the first two episodes as Bocca continues his journey through the labyrinth that his Horu in an attempt to free Solo, work with Kurofune and defeat the Monster. The labyrinth itself is a very confusing piece of work as it deals with the flow of time and space in a different way so that you have Kurofune and Bocca watching a fight that Kurofune performed in the past as well as Sayoko's rescue by Kurofune. These events can't be changed but they occur in a way that allows Bocca to learn from them but keeps the Monster, Horu, from realizing some of the same things. He can't seem to grasp that Bocca may have seen how Kurofune and he fought in the past and was nearly defeated by him which would allow Bocca a new avenue to pursue in his attempt to defeat him. The entire realm of Horu in this labyrinth gives play to some very interesting scenes, particularly the ore cart chase, but for the most part it feels pretty flat.
The next arc that starts up in this volume is actually more interesting as it's something that's drawing in a number of Melos oriented folks. Initially, we see how one Monster Union agent named Lucky Thoroughbred began capturing children in the city and giving them a chance to earn their freedom in a rigged contest that resulted in their being given over to the Monsters. The number of children that have disappeared has been far too high though to be covered up and it's even made it into the newspapers, something that rarely happens since the Monsters won the war and humans became the cowed race that they are. This is explored a bit more as we find more about how Monsters don't like spending time within the human realm since what they're capable of is so deadly.
Since it's been so public, Tone and Skyblue had already arrived to figure out what was going on but Lucky had managed to capture her after playing a trump card about destroying the entire area remotely and killing everyone. Skyblue managed to escape though and after coming across Bocca and Sayoko, they eventually find more Melos folks have been drawn there such as Hikari and Coco. Skyblue and Hikari are amusing as they face off a bit and then show their horns but the real fun for this is watching Bocca and Coco in the crate and how outrageously hilarious the upped fanservice is since you really don't expect it there at all. Where this story arc has a lot of fun is in how it goes to show more of everyone's pasts and we see Sayoko's origins since there are some surprises about her here but also more about everyone else. Even Bocca has a bit more of his past cleared up which is a surprise.
Melody of Oblivion manages to be like a few other series that I've seen in recent years where it has some beautiful moments of clarity in its storyline which are matched by the animation but a lot of it is just a strangely paced and reveals itself in a non-linear way. It's actually quite appealing in its oddness which is perfectly combined with the style of animation. The red layered backgrounds continue to be really appealing as it gives the entire world a very set-apart feeling to all of it. But there is simply something there about how it all comes together that just keeps it from being the kind of show like Utena that clicks. It's so close but it seems like it misfires each time.
Melody of Oblivion's move into its second half has some very interesting moments to it and several of the characters have their pasts fleshed out that help to make them more accessible but it still has some pacing overall sense of style to it that makes it hard to really latch onto it. It's a fascinating show to watch and one that's very easy to see why it has such a strong cult following but it continues to miss out on being a great title because of it. These episodes provide some solid material that's definitely needed but with its slow nature and hard to pin down overall plot it's a show that's almost too relaxed for its own good.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production Gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, 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: C+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Melody of Oblivion