s-Cry-ed Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Release Date: Monday, November 07, 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.
13 - The Lost Ground
14 - Kyoji Mujo
15 - Rogue
16 - Sou Kigetsuki
17 - Ayase Terada
The cataclysmic results of an all-out battle between Kazuma and Ryuho lead to a number of changes in the Lost Ground, with several of the main characters having to take another look at what they believe in...
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.
Mimori takes centre-stage on this volume's front cover, with Cougar keeping a watchful eye from above. This is one of the simpler pieces of character art that have been used on the covers, and doesn't have quite the appeal of the others. The back features Scheris, looking as friendly as ever, along with episode summaries, screenshots, and the disc technical information panel. The reverse of the cover has character profiles and artwork for Zigmarl and Kimishima.
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 & Ryuho getting it on, while the main menu features a running clip from the show along with a character-art "slideshow". Options are provided for Play, Episodes, Audio and Bonus. The Audio menu has a static image of the strange Alter Kazuma met in the Alter Forest, 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 provided for So Kigetsuki, Kyoji Mujo and Ayase Terada, along with textless opening sequences for episodes 13-17. As with volume three, a Sound Drama (this one featuring Ryuho and Cougar discussing Kazuma) is used as the background to a slideshow of character and promotional art from the series, while another two Sound Comics are included. Again, it's a good collection of extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Kazuma takes Kimishima's death badly, and goes on a rampage against those he sees as responsible – namely, anyone in a HOLY uniform. His actions mean HOLY have to stop their round-up of Alter users to deal with him, and it's not long before his quest for vengeance brings him face-to-face with Ryuho. The two aim to settle their differences in the only way they seem to know how – an Alter fight – but the side effects of their battle trigger another cataclysmic event similar to the one which had originally created the Lost Ground.
This first episode on the disc is fighting and not much else, but for once it does serve a purpose other than to let Kazuma and Ryuho yell at each other. Both men disappear in the immediate aftermath of what becomes known as the Great Uprising, and despite the search efforts mounted by Mimori, Tachibana and Cougar it's eight months before there's even a clue as to what happened to them. In the meantime, some less honourable Alter users have been taking advantage of the inhospitable landscape created by the Uprising to create their own little kingdoms in the wasteland, using normal humans as slave labour to build their empires.
It's to one of these villages that first Kaname and then Ryuho find their way. Ryuho's lost his memories of events before his battle with Kazuma, but not his sense of justice, and sets about dealing with the slave village's leaders. This in turn brings him to HOLY's attention once more, but even when Scheris and the others are able to prompt his memories to return, Ryuho finds he can't bring himself to rejoin HOLY.
This is a real “everything changes” part of the show, as the original HOLY -vs- Kazuma dynamic that the series has had up to now breaks down. Ryuho isn't the only HOLY member who's beginning to have their doubts about the organisation's methods, and it's beginning to be painted much more definitely as the Bad Guy of the series – especially after the arrival of Kyoji Mujo, a manipulative politician-type who is given control of HOLY after the mainland loses confidence in his ability to control events in the Lost Ground.
While the first half of the disc focuses on Ryuho's re-appearance, Kazuma takes centre-stage in the second half. His memories are mostly intact, but for some reason he's ended up working an illegal fight club, battling other Alter users for money with his desire to do right for his friends seemingly dead and buried. A visit from Mimori and Tachibana does little to persuade him otherwise, although eventually events at the club (where the owner treats fighters and staff as little more than property) lead to him returning to his normal self. While attempting to travel to the mainland to find out what's being done to the Alter users that are being transported there, he's intercepted by Ayase Terada. Ayase had fought alongside Kazuma earlier in the series before being captured by HOLY – now, after being “enhanced” on the mainland, she's been brought back to the Lost Ground by Kyoji Mujo with orders to kill Kazuma.
By the end of the disc, it's a real case of “all change” in s-CRY-ed's setting – a number of key characters have changed their allegiance, others aren't as keen to do the right thing as they maybe were before, and the political maneuvering has stepped up a gear. Surprisingly, it's all done in ways that are just about believable, so you're not left scratching your head and wondering why people are acting the way they are, and it definitely doesn't feel like some sort of plot “reset switch” has been thrown.
What it does mean, though, is that it's just become that little bit harder to predict where everyone goes from here. Zigmarl's obviously still up to something behind the scenes, but what? How will Mujo's oversight affect his plans? How long can Cougar keep feeding information to Mimori without being detected? Will Kazuma and Ryuho put their differences to one side now that they both seem to be fighting for the same cause? Or will the writers somehow find a way to return the setup to its pre-Uprising state?
This has easily been the best volume of s-CRY-ed to date, and is the first one to really keep my attention as a lot of what happened here was genuinely surprising. I'm now in the unexpected position of looking forward to the next volume & seeing what happens from here. I think this is the first fighting-based show I've seen where the characters have genuinely changed over the course of the series, and that's part of the appeal of these episodes. Hopefully the remaining volumes can keep up the standard.
English Language 2.0,Japanese Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Character Profiles,Textless Opening Credits (Episodes 13-17),Illustration Gallery,Sound Drama #2,Sound Comics #30 & #34
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.
Mania Grade: B+
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
Running time: 130
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2