Mars Daybreak Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, February 14, 2006



What They Say
The Crew of the Aurora continues its never-ending quest for Mars’ ancient treasure. Enraged over the supposed death of their comrade However the Earth defense forces, now angry over the supposed death of their comrade Vess continue to distress the crew during every turn of their journey. But the crew will quickly learn that enemies also come from within.

The Review!
The path that the crew must take starts to form while Vestemona finds herself at a fork in the road.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included stereo mix is a pretty standard one with a fair bit of directionality across the forward soundstage for things such as ships moving across through the water as well as various weapons. Dialogue gets a bit of directionality as well but it's otherwise a fairly standard solid mix with no real issues. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions on either language track during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Across a lot of their series, BONES has a certain look and feel to their works and it continues here with Mars Daybreak. While the level of CG interaction continues to go up in terms of meshing with the animation, the series in general has a very smooth and colorful look that's not overly vibrant but has a real life to it. Colors look great throughout and avoid blocking but there is a fair bit of gradient issues that come up with some of the CG sequences, particularly the ships. Aliasing and cross coloration are non-existent and the artwork in general has a very clean and smooth polished look to it that's well maintained. This is a good solid looking transfer overall.

Packaging:
The cover art for this release is an amusing mix where it has the dark nature of Mermaid RB as well as Kuberness that's set next to Enora in her outfit but with a shiny red helmet on. If it wasn't for that it'd probably look better, particularly with the pinkish purple background that's used for it. Something about that red helmet just makes me laugh at it. The back cover is tightly laid out with a lot of open space around it as the bulk of the text and images are kept to a central piece where there are several paragraphs of summary and four images showcasing the characters. The discs features are clearly listed and the bottom is rounded out by production information and very little useful technical information. No insert was included with this release.

Menu:
The menus here are more animated than usual for Bandai as it moves around an underwater setting that has video panels down below and showcases clips from the show as explosions and other vehicles move by, all set to some of the choral style music that's from the show. Navigation is nicely done along the bottom and in submenus and is quick to access and load. The disc unfortunately did not read our players' language presets and played to a default of English language with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Moving firmly into the second half of the series, the show picks up its pace a bit over what the previous volume had done by getting more to the core of things while providing some good character moments as well. Like a lot of series, the further you get into it and the characters gel together in their relationships, the more enjoyable it can become even if it's a mediocre series, something that Mars Daybreak continually feels like. So much of it continues to feel very predictable.

Some of the best material of the series manages to show up on this volume and in the very first episode. A lot has changed since the last battle and Gram in particular finds himself in a serious position of trouble in that not only is he feeling like a failure for not being able to save Vestemona but he's also now so out of sorts that his RB isn't responding to him. This leaves him more as a deadweight for the most part but he's at least got a ton of repairs to do on his RB first so he's focused there. On the flip side, Vestemona's story as she finds herself within Kuberness' ship is pretty well done and gives the character the start of a new arc. She's always had the basic idea of wanting to get Gram and work from there but now that she's been listed as killed in action by the military, she's finding that those she had worked with and under for so long aren't the ones that will help her achieve her goal.

Vestemona's been a hard character to deal with up through now for me since she's been single minded but with little real personality at the same time, never mind that awful hair style. She certainly didn't befriend anyone she worked with. With her shift to Kuberness here, not only has she let her hair down, she's actually seeming more like a dimensional character with all the right curves. The new environment she finds herself in is opening up parts of her personality that wasn't there before, particularly when she finds that she has to trust Kuberness during one of the fight or flight moments and he seemingly goes towards an escape route that won't really work in their favor. All in all, at the end of the first episode here, she becomes a far more interesting character.

A good part of the volume is focused around not just the trip to the Citadel so they can figure out where they need to go to find the treasure but also the start of that particular journey. So there are some good pits stops taken along the way to expand the interaction of the characters but also some fun on-board adventures. One of them, a pure filler piece, actually turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected. Yagami and several of the others stage a mutiny on board the ship and manage to get everyone under their control with the exception of Ester and Enora who were working with the "Grandpa" BALL to figure out where they need to go next. It's more a focus on Ester as the two of them try to avoid being captured and rescue the captain and she's a character that definitely needs it. Enora provides the right balance since she's either clueless about things or a good foil for others.

It's not unexpected but the material that still works the best here isn't the journey itself but the moments that help clear up the pasts and motivations of those on board the Ship of Aurora. Ester obviously gets some good time here and Vestemona, while focused on the present, provides a great shift in her character that builds upon what we do know of her. The captain even gets some good moments during this volume as she meets up with an old fellow pirate whose become a city-ship administrator over the years. It's an amusing episode in that it feels like an homage of sorts to the Empire Strikes Back with Cloud City but how many times do you get to see a cat do a come hither piece with a couple of soldiers?

In Summary:
Mars Daybreak slowly feels like it's getting better the further it's progressing from the end of the storyline where they gained the Box of Guidance. Some of the elements that were poorly introduced early on are making better return appearances here as they have more to do and don't feel like they're just tagged on or obligatory mysterious characters. At its core though, the show continues to be a straightforward travel show that unfortunately doesn't utilize its great locations as well as it could. There are some really good moments throughout this volume that helps it rise up a bit more than the previous volumes.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and 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: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mars Daybreak