Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars Vol. #5 (of 5) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, November 21, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2005
What They Say
Pale skin, green eyes, and a piercing gaze – once you meet Kanata Myouken, you’ll never forget him. And now this mysterious new stranger is tracking down Muryou! What’s worse, he is only a harbinger of things to come. Soon after Kanata’s arrival, Hajime awakens to discover two very ominous spaceships hanging low over the town of Tenmo, and both appear ready for a showdown at any moment. One of the ships belongs to the Galactic Federation…but who controls the other? While the situation on Earth is becoming more tense, trouble is beginning to brew in space as well. Four of the deadly Sanadon warships have been spotted on a direct intercept course with Earth. With each passing moment, the destruction of everything Nayuta loves draws closer. Will she be able to make the ultimate sacrifice and push the power of the Shingu farther than ever before? When the body becomes a new vessel, the truth behind the Shingu will finally be revealed...
Events come to a head as the larger history of the Federation is revealed and the real roles some of the people play come to light.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is of an action/adventure type and there are plenty of areas where there is some good directionality across the forward soundstage, generally in the action sequences, as well as a well placed dialogue track that is generally center channel bound but it gets around on occasion as well. It's not a giant stand-out mix but it's one that conveys the actions in the show properly. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being a Madhouse produced show, the animation in here is really quite attractive and smooth throughout though they do go something of a minimalist approach in some of the style and design, but it works well with the kind of story being told and the visuals are generally very clean and straightforward but with enough detail to keep it interesting. The transfer in general is solid here with no problems with aliasing or cross coloration. The opening and closing sequences are done with alternate angles so that one of them has the original Japanese logo and credits while the other has fully translated credits and English language production information.
Packaged in a clear keepcase, the front cover is awash in a couple of shades of light purples that has the standard character art shots of the main trio looking off into the distance with smiles. While the poses are fairly standard, it's an eye-catching cover with the shading and colors used and it looks good. The back cover keeps a similar layout and provides a few shots from the show and a lengthy set of summary paragraphs that cover the basics. The discs features are clearly listed and a well laid out technical grid keeps everything very easy to find for the technical parts. The cover is reversible though the opposite side is identical to the front cover but it uses the original Japanese logo instead (as does the spine) so you don't need to refer to it as Shingu. One area that Right Stuf is continually getting better and better at is the booklets and this one is really good. The final installment has a good and informative Q&A with Sato as well as a look at promotional artwork and Japanese DVD covers. The back of the booklet even has a final strip written about the show.
The menu layout is designed the same as the front cover with the trio while displaying the selections along the right side, all set to some of the music of the show. The layout is simple and easy to use with no navigational quirks and features an easy way to move between episodes in the scene selection area. The menu listed our players' language presets properly but when played they went to a default of English language and sign/song only subtitles instead.
This volume has a couple of extras but nothing too major. There's a section of character bios which I'll avoid since they may have spoilers, an art gallery and an on-disc version of much of the production notes found in the booklet.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shingu comes to a close with the fifth volume as the last five episodes play out the conclusion of the storyline. Unlike many other series, there is something of a definitive end to the show but it's more of the kind that takes what's happened up until now, ties it up and brings closure in the sense of a first book in a much larger series. The desire for more is certainly there at the end of things but at the same time so much is revealed and dealt with that you really don't feel like it's done in a bad way or that you're being denied any of the real answers.
One area where Shingu has excelled at is that it really is an ensemble cast show with at the most Hajime being the witness to it all. At first it seemed like it would center around either him or Muryou but as things were revealed the plot meandered across so many different areas, the larger nature of the cast and the storyline moved things away from it being any kind of singular vision of what's going on. This can make it difficult sometimes in trying to put things in perspective but with such a large and epic scale nature of the story as it gets told in the end this turns to its advantage. The connection with the characters may not be quite as strong since everyone is given as much screen time as possible but the overall feel is much better, particularly since you get the idea that cast members could die at any point.
The introduction of Kanata in the last volume as something of a minor player that is more than he seems becomes a bit more interesting in this volume as he ends up befriending Muryou in a way and they end up catching up lightly on events since their match by talking about the battles in space and who did what. As it turns out, Kanata is the observer sent to Earth from the Cosmos Alliance, the group that balances out the Galactic Federation, and has come at the invitation of someone else in order to provide balance in the talks. While Earth has always figured on joining the Galactic Federation and having dealings with them, the scope of events is much larger than that and other forces want in on the talks. This throws some of the Tenmo folks off a bit as its unexpected by the Sanemori folks are almost expecting this and heartily welcome Kanata to participate since it provides a chance for everyone to be more honest.
The arrival of the Galactic Federation ship over Tenmo is one of those classic science fiction moments as it hovers over the town and causes panic among the newer residents but an eerie calm among those who are in the know. And that's what becomes really neat across these episodes is that we learn who really knows what, such as just how big the group of Protectors really is as they reveal themselves as the crisis reaches a critical point. The arrival of the Cosmos Alliance ship sitting directly across from it provides an even more startling view of things as it lets some of the calmer folks feel a twinge of nervousness. So many events have been working towards this moment and all the little wheeling and dealing of the past comes to a head and the big revelations are made.
It's exhilarating. This is the equivalent of a very well crafted science fiction novel that has taken the time to build up a wide cast of interesting characters and stories that have grown well over time. None of these characters are like they were at the start and this storyline sets them on the path to their futures. We've gotten to know them as they've been protected by the adults around them and as they've learned the hardships of reality but now they're the ones moving into place to ensure that their futures are what they want it to be while still acknowledging the guidance of those who've come before. While not the same, this series reminds me heavily of my favorite science fiction novel series written by Julian May that started off with Surveillance and then moved onto much larger stories in the galactic sense. We get similar here in that much of the beginning is spent dealing with the humans that make up the core story and then as they get close to touching life in the galaxy at large they learn about the real histories, people and powers that make things really happen.
As the director notes in the Q&A, he went and made a series that went against what's popular out there at the time. Shingu is a far more relaxed and laid back piece that has an immense story playing out across it in small parts that assemble into a fantastic whole at the end. The growth of the characters, the various interactions, the future being done more as an extension rather than a re-invention, all of it has a sense about it that separates it from the designed to be gold series that are out there. There are plenty of differences between Japanese fans and English speaking fans about what they want out of a show and it's unfortunate that this show seems to have gone under the radar on all sides. There are precious few original shows out there anymore as the need for hits means going with what's been proven in manga form so for a show like this to even be made is surprising. Sato's never been one of my favorites but with this show he's truly wowed me and made me far more interested in what he's capable of. This original work should not be missed. It's one of the best things I've seen this year.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Special 8-page Booklet,Character Bios,Original Production Notes,English Production Notes
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: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars