Aquarian Age Vol. #3 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Monday, May 08, 2006
Release Date: Monday, November 21, 2005



What They Say
Never underestimate the power of song.

It seems everyone is out to convert Kyouta, or to kill him. As Yoriko tests the seemingly limitless boundaries of her power, Kyouta slips into an ever-deeper morass of depression. Losing his musical muse seems to have destroyed him in ways a mystical archer just can't duplicate.

But after the latest attempt on his life, he finally gets the answers to his questions and learns the secrets of the ancient mystical war for domination. Determined to save Yoriko, he confronts her worst nightmares in a climatic battle where Darklore, Arayashiki, E.G.O. and Mindbreakers fight as one against Sarasvati and Benzaiten in an attempt to save a love and a world!

Episodes Comprise
10 - Yellow-Green Suffering World
11 - Indigo-Green Vortex
12 - Faded-Red Conflict
13 - Pure-White Embrace

The Review!
Kyouta finds a number of allies in his fight to free Yoriko from Abuto's influence, but is even that enough to deal with Sarasvati's awesome power?

Audio:
English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 soundtracks are provided. I listened to Japanese track for most of the disc, which makes good use of the available channels for both effects and music. There doesn't seem to be as much use of background music this volume, which is a bit of a shame as what there is is very good. Dialogue is always clear and easy to make out. Spot-checking the English track reveals that the 5.1 mix makes good use of the rear channels to add a little extra depth to the sound. There were no obvious problems with either track.

Video:
In common with the US release, this disc is presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed format, and for the most part looks great, with clear, bright colours and no obvious problems. Unfortunately, using the zoom function to remove the borders on a 16:9 TV isn't an option if you're using subtitles, as part of the subtitles appear within the lower black border - a pet hate of mine as it negates the advantage of having a widescreen set. Two subtitle tracks are provided - a full English track, and a signs & songs option for those using the dub audio. Subtitles use ADV's usual yellow-on-black font, and are large and easy to read.

Packaging:
The front cover is another group shot featuring a number of girls from the show, with Rumiko taking centre-stage in her Arayashiki dress. The back cover has the usual promotional paragraph, some screenshots and the disc's technical information. The reverse of the cover gives two more pieces of character art to choose from, taken from the original Japanese release and featuring a number of different characters from the show, while an 8-page booklet includes comments from the staff and cast & a relationship diagram showing the connections between the various characters.

Menu:
The menus are very simple, with just a shimmering aurora-effect image & some music from the series. In the usual simple-to-use ADV style, each episode is selectable directly from the main menu, with sub-menus for language setup, chapter selection and extras. There are brief animated transitions when switching to the Extras menu or starting episodes which makes these options a little slow to access, but the other options all appear very quickly.

Extras:
Extras on this release follow a similar patter to the previous discs. Along with clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and a production artwork slideshow, there's another of ADV's "Behind the Anime" shorts, this time featuring project lead Sarah Lindholm. There's also a 5-minute promotional video for an expansion set for the original card game, and one of the original Japanese TV trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Having his song rejected by Yoriko knocks the wind right out of Kyouta's sails, to the point where he almost loses interest in his music. His friends in the band have figured out that his depression is something to do with Yoriko, but without being aware of the full story they're left just waiting for him to get over whatever's bothering him - and with their debut fast approaching, there's not much time left for Kyouta to get his act together. At least his music's having a positive effect on one person - Kirika, who's having her first photo shoot. At first she's too nervous and stiff to come across well for the camera, but one listen to an MD she has of Kyouta and the band and she loosens up and begins to show her talent - and Abuto's not at all happy about the source of her inspiration.

This volume starts off showing the extent of Yoriko's powers as Sarasvati, and highlighting the hard time Kyouta's going to have to turn things around " and that's assuming his doesn't just let his depression sweep over him. The one thing that looks to be able to save him is Abuto's lack of control over his "talent" " for all that he's a Mindbreaker, complete control over Yoriko proves elusive, while Kirika's reaction to his singing shows that Kyouta's got what it takes when he puts his mind to it. The interest here is in how he deals with his problems, and while the initial signs aren't good, the realisation he gets after speaking to Kirika puts him back on the right track.

Yoriko herself is also beginning to suffer the effects of her split personality " while the Sarasvati persona clearly has the upper ground, her original Benzaiten persona isn't going to go away without a fight, and as well as constantly appearing to goad Sarasvati has been able to reach out to Kyouta and ask for his help " in itself another ray of hope for him to grasp. The problem is, once he realises there are ways for him to help Yoriko, he goes from having no enthusiasm to the other extreme, and if anything ends up trying too hard, to the point where it wreck his performance.

While Yoriko, Kyouta and their respective minders take centre-stage, the minor characters get their fair share of the action here. Asumi & Kanae both make their own attempts to deal with Yoriko, one under manipulation from another faction, one out of jealousy at no longer being the centre of attention " but the end results for both are the same, as Sarasvati is simply too powerful for any one other opponent to handle.

The story proper actually ties itself up in episode 12, with a suitably epic battle involving all the various factions in the never-ending power struggle. For all that, the final scenes come down to something far more mundane but, given the focus of the series, more appropriate for the setting.

The final episode is almost is two parts " the first one looking at the immediate aftermath of the final battle against Sarasvati, which brings some nice closure to the Yoriko / Kyouta story, while the second part flashes forward a few years for a "where are they now" sequence. I have to admit to a little bit of disappointment at how this turned out, as I would have liked to have seen more made of the links between the various characters that developed over the series " without wanting to spoil too much, it felt that there were definite missed opportunities to show how people had moved on and grown over the intervening years, but instead nothing had really changed.

In summary:
When I started on Aquarian Age, I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I've been pleasantly surprised by how the story has unfolded over the course of the series. This volume brings the main conflict to a head and resolves it in a way that feels right, given the personalities of the people involved, and while the events aren't exactly Earth-shattering in scale (from what I've read, you'll need the movie for that) there's no shortage of happenings. The final episode is a little bit of a let-down, but not seriously enough to spoil what has been a thoroughly enjoyable series.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean open and closing animation,Production sketches,Original Japanese trailer & DVD spots,Behind the Anime feature,8-page production booklet

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.



Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen Letterbox
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Aquarian Age