Madlax Vol. #6 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, January 26, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, February 07, 2006



What They Say
The Gift – Only those with the gift are able to read the Holy Words of Saruon. They are the pathway to the door of truth – the only means by which the reality of the event twelve years ago can be revealed. But, without the gift the Holy Words can cause grave danger and teeter the delicate balance of creation and circumstance. The gift is freedom, but only for a chosen few. It will allow Margaret and Madlax to finally discover who they are and where they belong. Only, Madlax does not possess the gift. She is something different.



Different – Madlax can sense it. Madlax can feel the essence and touch the realm beyond reality. But, not completely. It is this confusing and frustrating state which has driven Madlax to discover her true existence. She has learned of her powerful yet cloudy connection to Margaret Burton. Drawn together, they have both searched along separate paths to arrive not only at the same destination but also at the same moment in time. It is a moment twelve years ago. It is a moment that will bring them closer together – and tear them further apart.



The Review!
Nearing the finale, the series takes one huge metaphysical step into the unknown.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Though just as active as some of their past series, the show gets a stereo mix here that does a good job of working through the material but you wish it was in a 5.1 format since it would just have that extra oomph to it. The mix is good though and utilizes the forward soundstage well as the bullets fly across and explosions range from one side to the other. Dialogue is also well placed when appropriate though it's not quite as noticeable. Overall, dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for the show is overall very solid and does an excellent job of capturing the numerous dark and murky areas that the show typically runs around in. With a good chunk of it either being night scenes or ones in the darkened jungle areas, it maintains a very solid feel and avoids blocking or bleeding with what colors do shine through there. One or two scenes I want to say there's a very tiny touch of cross coloration but we're talking like a hairs length here or there that has little impact overall. The transfer in general seems to be free of just about all the normal problems that come up and is good looking from start to finish making it very easy to get into the show itself.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, it expands once again on the pairing concept by bringing in the four main women of the series together in one shot while giving a nod to the younger girl from the past in the background as she holds onto her doll. Unlike previous covers there's less white space here which gives it a different look as it doesn't feel as stark as some of the early material. The back cover provides four strips in a row where it alternates between the descriptions of the lead characters where the writer lost their thesaurus and small shots from the show. The discs features and production information fill out most of the rest of the cover as does the tightly packed by highly informative technical grid. The insert continues to use other artwork from the Japanese release, this time of the young kids, while opening up to a few more staff interviews. .

Menu:
The main menu is set up in what looks like a faux military style piece of metal that's been worn down and seen plenty of wear and tear. The navigation and series title is all done in orange paint while a small window shows clips from the show and a fuzzier version underneath the overall navigation shows other images floating by as it's all set to a brief instrumental clip. I like the design since it fits the theme well and it's fairly dark and doesn't just scream fanservice like it could have. Access times are nice and fast and it's easy to navigate around in. The disc also correctly read our players language presets properly and played accordingly.

Extras:
This volume gets a decent selection of extras that go a bit beyond the basics but are essentially the same as the previous volume. We get the tried and true standards with the clean opening and closing sequences and a session of design sketches done as a video gallery. Another continuing and interesting extra is the new installment of the "Conversations with SSS" which is basically a bunch of scripted outtakes/alternate dialogue scenes. The new pieces for this volume include two versions of the music video for "Shards of My Eyes". We get the regular version fully subtitled as well as a karaoke version. The video clip for this session is for Vanessa and we also get a round of TV spots from the Japanese run.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The three episodes on this volume of Madlax firmly move the show into a new realm where the metaphysical elements of the past are now the strong point. The show moves seamlessly between the unreal world and the real world which leads to an array of visuals and moments where you watch in shock at the turn of events only to find that one characters reality is another characters dream. While the violence continues all around and the skills of those involved are still prominent, it simply moves in a much more fluid and unreal way now.

So much of this volume is based around discovering the pasts of the characters that to say much about it gives away far too many key elements. The show moves quickly into dealing with this as it left us watching Margaret about to open the three books and to have Doon work as her guide into this realm. Doon's entire existence in this series comes into play as he's been one of the most enigmatic characters of the show and his entire reason for doing things, the false life he talks about here, becomes apparent. Trying to understand his motivations throughout the show has been difficult since we've gotten the least from him but his turn ends up working in a rather strange and unsettling way. Conceptually, it's easy to understand, and it's designed to work within this world that the show exists, but it's such a surreal change that it's hard to really bring it into the show itself.

Then again, we've had a show about books that essentially hypnotize people so there's something to be said about that. While Margaret and Doon go through their discovery phase and move back to that time twelve years ago where so much change, its effects ripple out to those who have guarded the books but also to Madlax who is still recovering from her wounds. The resonance with the books and what Margaret is doing is strong enough that she's able to really understand much of what's gone on through her mild connection with the Gift and just like Doon in a sense she takes on a new role. Her level of violence has always had a level of grace and elegance to it and it reaches new highs here as she makes her way towards where Friday Monday is as he's the final goal of all of this with the strings that he's pulling.

The revelations throughout the volume provide a good deal of clarity into the past and it answers a lot of the basic questions about what happened back in Gazth-Sonika all those years ago. It does get explained in a very convoluted manner where portions are presented out of order in places and from different perspectives but it's done very slickly through the visuals that Bee Train has really mastered with this show. It is self aware of its self importance as shown through the numerous panning sequences, the long gazes and the music that's intent on tugging at the heart strings but that's what this medium is all about at times in that it's trying to evoke emotion from you. There are some really beautiful scenes, such as Margaret and Doon laying outside together, that go a long way in making you really feel sympathetic for the characters.

Worth mentioning for this volume is that just like Noir, there is a great little piece of omake fitted into one of the episodes. The return of the sock puppet theater is very welcome as that was one of the best creative extras that anyone's done in a long time. Bringing the new cast in via sock form worked very well here, complete with fanservice, sex and some tongue I could have done without. It's good to see everyone have some fun with this and just play it for laughs. You have to wonder if someday on a Japanese release you'll see these kind of "extras" appear there subtitled and wonder what the fans will think of them…

In Summary:
Madlax continues to be a rather enjoyable show now that the previously mentioned orbits of the characters have all come so close to each other that it's causing some of them to fall off completely. Friday Monday's plans are reaching fruition and much is revealed throughout here that answers a lot of questions but leaves more asked at the same time. It does take some leaps into strange new territory about what's real and what isn't real but there's always been an element of that here, it's just much more prominent now. With the shift in tone it's difficult to really tell how it will finish out in the next volume but I'm still curious to see what more will be revealed and how it all gets resolved.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Design sketches,Original Japanese TV spot,Extended preview for episode 22,Shards of My Eyes Music Video,Karaoke version of the same,Vanessa Memorial Video,Conversations with SSS!,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
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: B
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Madlax