s-Cry-ed Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Release Date: Monday, September 26, 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
9 - Shell Bullet
10 - Super Pinch
11 - The Alters
12 - Kunihiko Kimishima

The Review!
After a half-decent second volume, s-CRY-ed slips back into the fighting stereotypes for its third outing.

Audio is provided in 2.0 stereo in both Japanese and English. I listened primarily to the Japanese track, which is very clear and makes good use of the available channels. Battle scenes in particular have a lot of effects coming from the sides, which helps add some depth to the soundtrack. There were no obvious problems.

Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 format, and is generally very good looking - s-CRY-ed makes heavy use of bright colours and detailed backgrounds that definitely add to the feel of the show. Subtitles use a white-on-black font which is easy to read, if a little on the small side. There are no obvious encoding or subtitling errors.

The front cover has Mimori, Scheris and Ryuho looking pensive, set against a stormy background. The back cover has another shot of Ryuho, looking more his usual angry self, along with episode summaries, screenshots and the disc tech info panel. The inside cover features character profiles for Cougar and Scheris. The cover artwork Beez have used so far with this series has impressed me, and this volume continues that trend.

The disc menus are available in 3 languages - English, French & Dutch - from which I chose the English version. The main screen appears following a clip of Kazuma powering up his Alter. The main menu features a running clip from the show along with a character-art "slideshow" featuring Kazuma, Emergy & the Super Pinch Chrusher, while options are provided for Play, Episodes, Audio and Bonus. The Audio menu has a static image of Tachibana & his Eternity Eight, while the Episodes menu uses a piece of BGM from the show with a running clip from each episode, each leading to another static screen with chapter select for the episode concerned.

Character profiles are included for Urizane, Unkei and Emergy Maxfell. The "Translation notes" are a bit optimistically-named - this is just a single page explaining what the Alter Forest referred to in the show is, and isn't really a "translation" issue. Clean opening sequences for episodes 9-12 are provided, as each is slightly different. Sound Drama #1 is an audio clip that plays over the top of the Illustration Gallery - the gallery includes a series of character pieces, DVD covers and artwork done for magazine articles, while the Sound Drama is a re-working of an early scene in the series where Kazuma and Ryuho just can't seem to remember each others' names. Finally, the Sound Comics take a series of pages from the manga and provide a voice-over - these work really well & a definitely worth watching.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
There comes a time in every fighting-based show where the protagonist begins to feel a burning need to power-up, and Kazuma's reached that stage. The Alter Forest is a part of the Lost Ground where even the animals have Alter abilities, and given that no-one who's ever gone in has come out alive, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there are some powerful Alters in there. Just the sort you need to defeat if you want to be better than anyone else, in fact, and so Kazuma heads into the forest to begin his quest for stronger powers.

I have to admit that this sort of episode really does nothing for me. It just takes all the good parts of s-CRY-ed and puts them to one side while Kazuma does what every anime tough guy eventually needs to do - and it's simply because it's done in every fighting series I can remember watching that I was almost tempted to just skip over the episode. As you would expect, Kazuma comes out of the forest at the end of the episode having faced down almost certain defeat and gained some new abilities, although it seems they may come with a cost that will have repercussions further down the line.

HOLY's Commander Zigmarl, meanwhile, still has an interest in Kazuma. Whatever it is he's planning, he believes that having Kazuma on his side would make success almost certain, so he sends another HOLY Alter user, Emergy Maxfell, to "persuade" him. Emergy's Alter will really catch the attention of anyone who enjoys old-style giant robot shows - it's the Super Pinch Crusher, a giant mecha in the old-school style that emerges whenever Emergy is facing certain defeat. I really enjoyed this episode almost for that reason alone - but also because it took some time to deal with what's going on in the background, as Mimori does some digging to see what HOLY's been doing with the Alter users they've captured and sent to the mainland. What she finds disturbs her enough that she confronts Zigmarl about it. It's interesting to see Zigmarl talk about "the humans" as if he isn't one himself, while still treating Alter users as tools to be exploited for his own aims - it's obvious he's on no-one's side but his own, and I'm keen to find out just what he's up to.

Mimori's curiosity has two side effects - on the down side, it lands her in the cells after she threatens to go to the media with what she knows, and Zigmarl's not about to allow that. On the plus side, Cougar comes to her rescue - but rather than take his advice to return to the mainland where she'll be safe, Mimori opts to remain on the Lost Ground, eventually hooking up with Tachibana, who has been wandering aimlessly since leaving HOLY.

Ryuho doesn't really figure in these episodes, surprisingly. He and Scheris spend most of their time roaming the Lost Ground in their armoured vehicle and doing nothing significant - the scenes they're in have the feel that they're really just there to remind you that they're still on the scene, but that's about it.

The final episode brings what could be the most saddening scenes of the show so far, as one of the main characters ends up fatally wounded in a HOLY attack. It's obviously going to serve as a spur for Kazuma to become an even angrier young man, especially after HOLY go to such great lengths to portray him as a criminal in news broadcasts, but the parts of the episode dealing with his demise were done in a way that meant you felt the impact of what was happening without feeling like your emotions were being deliberately manipulated.

It's worth pointing out that episode 11 is mostly a recap episode, although it's done in a way that most people won't mind watching. As Mimori sits in the cells, she takes the time to gather her thoughts and go over what has happened over the previous months. This sequence also explains the background to the creation of the Lost Ground and why Alter users are as feared by the mainland as they are, some additional information which makes it worth watching.

In Summary:
The episodes on this disc are a real mixed bag - there are some definite good points and some movement in the behind-the-scenes scheming that are well worth keeping an eye on, but unfortunately you need to sit though Kazuma's bouts of angst and anger to get to them. Whether that's a good trade off or not will depend on your point of view, but for me this volume was sadly more bad than good.

English Language 2.0,Japanese Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Character Profiles,Translation Notes,Textless Opening Credits (episodes 9-12),Illustration Gallery,Sound Drama #1,Sound Comics #9 & 40

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: A
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