s-Cry-ed Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Monday, January 16, 2006
Release Date: Monday, January 16, 2006



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
18 - Straight Cougar
19 - The 3 Tokonatsu Sisters
20 - Kanami Yuta
21 - HOLY Eye
22 - Martin Zigmarl

The Review!
After an impressive fourth volume, s-CRY-ed comes back down to earth a little with this release as Kazuma and Ryuho seem unable to leave their differences behind them, while Kyoji Mujo's plans begin to come together.

Audio:
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. Fight scenes in particular make good use of the side channels for effects, which helps add some depth to the soundtrack. There were no obvious problems.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Kazuma features on this volume's cover, looking somewhat crazed by the power of his Alter. Kimishima stands in the background, with his back turned. The rear cover has an image of Kanami along with the usual episode summaries, screenshots and disc technical information. The reverse of the cover features character profiles of Tachibana and Urizane.

Menu:
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, while the main menu features a running clip from the show along with a character-art "slideshow" featuring Ryuho & his Alter. Options are provided for Play, Episodes, Audio and Bonus. The Audio menu has a static image of Mujo in triumphant mood, while the Episodes menu uses a piece of background music from the show with a running clip from each episode, each leading to another static screen with chapter select for the episode concerned.

Extras:
A good selection of extras is provided on this volume. To start off with, there are the usual suspects - character profiles (this time for Biff & the Tokonatsu sisters) and creditless opening sequences for episodes 18-22. "Character openings" - 10 more variations on the opening theme, each one focussing on a different character from the series - are also provided. These feel more like music videos than genuine opening sequences, but are interesting enough if you're a fan of particular characters. Watching all 10 of them in one sitting can be a bit much, though, no matter how much you may like s-CRY-ed's opening theme. Original Japanese trailers for the DVD release (one extended trailer and 4 short TV spots) and the Japanese soundtrack CDs (4 TV spots) are also provided.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
As this volume gets underway, Kanami's urge to find Kazuma is beginning to get the better of her, to the point where she's ready to leave Ryuho & Scheris and go searching for him on her own. Faced with a choice of who he'd rather defend, Ryuho eventually decides to go with Kanami, and leave Scheris behind to watch over the village. Back at HOLY headquarters, Mujo's attitude and his use of the mainland's "enhanced" Alter users is beginning to annoy people. His latest orders are for the capture of Mimori, but when Ryuho finds Mimori and Tachibana under attack, his sense of justice isn't about to let him stand back and watch. Cougar, meanwhile, has a few things he'd like to say to Kazuma, and sets out to track him down.

Events eventually bring Kazuma back into contact with Ryuho and the others, and true to form no sooner are they in range of each other than they're back to their old routine of trying to get one over on the other. At one stage Cougar gives Kazuma a lecture which sums up his personality perfectly - "What you lack is Passion! Thought! Idea! Brains! Dignity! Elegance! Diligence! and Speed!" - and I still find it hugely frustrating that while other members of s-CRY-ed's cast have grown and matured as the series has progressed, Kazuma's still as one-dimensional as he's ever been, and it still just looking for someone else to blame for events around him and looking to solve any problems with a good fight. Even when it begins to dawn on him that he works well with Ryuho when necessary & that they both have a common enemy - Mujo - he's still determined to work on his own.

To be fair, Ryuho's not much better at times, at least where Kazuma's concerned, and Mujo has been doing a very good job of manipulating Ryuho and Kazuma into a position where fighting may be the only option. Mujo's enhanced Alter Users are a huge problem to deal with (Biff in particular becomes one of those characters where you begin to wonder just what it'll take to defeat), and by targeting Ryuho's family and Kanami he pushes all the right buttons to work Ryuho and Kazuma into a rage - just the frame of mind he needs them to be in if he's to open the door to the other side.

For anyone worried that the focus on Ryuho and Kazuma could lead to a real testosterone overload, fear not - a number of other characters get their moments in the limelight in these episodes as well. Scheris finally gets a chance to user her Alter powers and prove she's not just there to be a pretty face. Her power is unusual in that it needs to be channelled through another person, which goes some way to explaining why it hasn’t been seen up until now. Cougar almost steals the show, though, starting with his lecture to Kazuma and the revelation that he, too, has been to the other side, has tasted the power that's available to those who have been there, and has paid a price for doing so - a price that Ryuho, Kazuma and Mujo haven’t yet realised they'll have to pay. I also found it quite amusing that Cougar was able to keep Kazuma down without really breaking a sweat. The interesting thing here is that while he's been feeding information to Mimori & encouraging Kazuma to get his act together, the way he almost makes a conscious effort to stay out of the main action makes you wonder whose side he's really on.

Having decided that Mujo needs to be taken care of permanently, Ryuho and Kazuma head towards Mujo's base, with their thoughts on the way making it clear how alike the two adversaries are - but even when they reach their target they still can't bring themselves to work together, and opt to take different routes to Mujo. Kazuma's path brings him face to face with Biff once again, while Ryuho comes face to face with Zigmarl in a confrontation that clears up a number of s-CRY-ed's little mysteries, including the identity of the Alter user who killed Ryuho's mother and finally making it clear just where Zigmarl's allegiances lie. By the end of the episode it's clear that the final clash with Mujo isn't far away, but with Kanami still in his clutches and her own Alter power seeming to be a key part of is plans, it's probably a safe bet that there are a few twists left in the tale yet.

In summary:
There's a lot to like about this volume of s-CRY-ed - a number of long-running mysteries are cleared up, a few unexpected revelations made & the path is cleared for the final confrontation between Mujo and the others. It's a shame that the return of the open hostility between Ryuho and Kazuma spoils parts of the disc with the sort of posturing that's really just frustrating to watch - especially when both men seem to accept that there's no justifiable reason for it. After the good work done with the characters on the last volume, that's a bit of a disappointment, but the rest of what's here does a good job of building the series towards its climax. With just one volume to go, I'm keen to see how events finally play out.

Features
English Language 2.0,Japanese Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Dutch Subtitles,Character Profiles,Textless Opening Credits (Episodes 18-22),Character Openings,Japanese Trailers,Japanese Soundtrack Trailers

Review Equipment
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: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: s-Cry-ed