Moon Phase Vol. #1 (also w/box) (of 6) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What They Say

While a photographer is investigating a mysterious castle, he discovers a captivating young vampire girl who's been trapped there for years. Unknowingly, he frees her - and ensnares them both in a struggle for love, power, and authority among the undead and other dark forces that combat them. The girl's peaking vampire powers, alluring beauty and uncontrollable personality have no been unleashed upon the world.

Contains episodes 1-5:
Big Brother, Be My Slave
Call Me Mistress
Big Brother, Let's Live Together
Big Brother, I Feel Like Kissing
It's a Full, Full Moon

The Review!
When a rather curious vampire girl is freed from captivity, she seeks only to find her mother but has to deal with a somewhat hard to control slave.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included stereo mix is pretty good and very useful throughout as there is a lot of well placed dialogue in quiet scenes that add to the overall eerie ambience that the show promotes. The more active scenes have a fuller feel to them though it's really just the end sequence that has a strong overall feeling with its music. The show isn't terribly heavy on action so it mixes in some dramatic musical cues to the dialogue and it works well. We sampled parts of the English mixes, presented in 2.0 and 5.1 tracks, and among all three of them we didn't notice any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Overall this looks to be a rather good show and the quality pretty strong but similar to other recent releases from FUNimation like Speed Grapher, there's a feeling of softness and fuzziness to the end result. This may be intentional in some areas due to the nature of the show, but there are scenes where the colors are so strong against each other, such as the greens and blacks, that they tend to shift a bit too much. This seems to hit mid-range shots more but is noticeable in some close-ups as well. The other part that is hard to pin down is that some of the blacks don't seem to be all that dark and tend to have more of a dark gray look to them. There are a lot of good looking deep black areas but there is more emphasis on a lighter and softer look. Thankfully, the transfer is free of problems such as cross coloration and aliasing. The shows greens in particular look very rich throughout this as do some of the purples.

The cover art for the first volume is definitely enticing and gives a certain feeling about the kind of show it is, though it may be hard to tell at first from the high level cute factor. The shot of Hazuki in her little white outfit and cat ears combined with her design and smile may be a bit off-putting for some folks but then as you see the deep purples behind it and the moon combined with the Victorian style building design, you can see that it's hinting at a lot more supernatural ideas and trying to draw you into it. At first glance it may be easy to pass over it but on a second look the darker nature of the show becomes more apparent. I absolutely love the logo design, particularly for the "Phase" part, as they use the foil effect to great result. The back cover works a very simple but strong approach as it keeps to a black background with the elegant writing here and there. While the technical information continues to be too small and out of the way, the rest of the cover is very well laid out with a look at the summary, the episode numbers and titles, and several good looking shots. It's very nicely done with a bit of restraint I think. The included booklet, though short, is packed of great material, from some basic introductions to the premise to interviews with the two lead voice actors and the series director. Add in some gorgeous artwork and a good paper stock and it's a good read. Also included with the first volume is a handful of postcards featuring gorgeous illustrations of Hazuki in outfits and positions that may have you questioning yourself.

The first volume also received a disc + box release and it's quite the winner. The solid chipboard box is heavy on the dark look with lots of blacks for the panels an interior. It isn't a full wraparound image but rather distinct pieces. One side panel has a gorgeous purple hued shot of Hazuki sitting on the edge of a roof against the moon while the other brings Elfriede and the yellowish green angle out heavily. The spine panel has a beautiful illustration of a sleeping Hazuki in pink while the top has a trio of other characters. It's a very well done box overall. Inside the box is a great postcard binder to hold the postcards that come with this and future volumes. It's very solid and has the heavy black feel with a couple pieces of very choice artwork. While I won't keep the box in the long run this mini binder is an absolute keeper.

The menu layout is simple but nicely effective with a close-up shot of Hazuki along the right side while behind her is a large moon glowing brightly. Combined with the really nice logo and design for the Phase portion of it, the navigation strip looks really good and keeps to the overall theme of the show. Add in a really nice bit of haunting instrumental music and you wish that the loop was smoother so that you could leave it on for awhile without realizing it. Access times are nice and fast and the disc had no problems in reading our audio playback preset; due to the subtitle tracks not being properly labeled, they did not play and needed to be turned on manually.

The extras are pretty basic as we get a brief series of character profiles as well as the textless songs section for the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally broadcast as " Tsukuyomi - Moon Phase "" in Japan, the twenty-five episode series is an unsurprising mix of the dark and the darkly cute. But where it does surprise is that it seems more intent on being serious rather than a comedic effort. The combination of the dark setting and a light character usually results in the light character almost feeling completely out of place in the story. But in Moon Phase, the light character is so deeply connected to the dark that she is fairly morose and somber at times, keeping her character fairly well grounded to the reality that they all dwell in.

The show revolves around a young man " no school boy here thank goodness " named Kouhei. He wants to be a photographer and a good one at that but the only job he seems to keep is one as a photographer of the spiritual. While he is unable to see the spirits themselves, due to his being so dense according to his grandfather, Kouhei is able to take stunning photographs that show them. This has made him a rather hot commodity at the magazine he works for and keeps him in a rather unusual set of co-workers. They're fairly minor in these early episodes but they hint at stronger relationships with them as Kouhei is able to make use of their knowledge after his life changes.

That change comes after a trip to a German castle in the countryside that has a spiritual history to it. He's already intrigued as he's seen the form of a young girl there all in white and is drawn by her presence. It turns out that she's been waiting for someone like him and needs his ability to be unaffected by ghosts in order to free her from the binding that she's placed in. Introducing herself as Hazuki, she uses Kouhei to get what she needs in a very innocent and near childlike way before she claims him for her own as a vampire, sinking her teeth into his neck. But Kouhei isn't a normal guy as we've learned and he appears to be impervious to her hypnosis. Even worse for Hazuki, when she does make her blood pact with Kouhei he's not all that affected by it. Instead of being a willing thrall to her demands, he basically continues on with no change in his personality.

With the obvious freeing of Hazuki from the castle and return to Japan, she finds now that she's able to seek out her real goal, her mother that left her in the castle some years before. This mirrors something of Kouhei's past so he finds himself sympathizing with her on it though he wasn't quite expecting her to move in with him and his grandfather. The family lineage looks to be interesting as his grandfather is something of a spiritualist in certain methods and is quite aware of Hazuki's real nature. He's more interesting in seeing how the two kids end up becoming involved since there is much more than meets the eye here. With the idea of finding her mother, the two end up starting down a road of discovery that leads to some very slow revelations about Hazuki's past that may very well tie to Kouhei's past.

With the first five episodes of the series, Moon Phase is very intriguing in how it is so relaxed and laid back in its approach once the first two episodes get taken care of. It shifts to a bit of a domestic comedy/drama but not as its major focus but rather as some small side moments to lighten the mood. And even these moments don't go anywhere near over the top and change the dynamic of the show. Hazuki has her childlike and childish moments but she isn't a child and doesn't come across that way. If they only gave her a few more knowing looks you'd imagine the good side was all a complete act. This relaxed feeling from the characters and the slow but engaging storyline is accented all the more by some very strong looking designs in the animation.

Even more so, color design plays a huge role here. Moon Phase is a show where it's definitely enjoyable because of the show itself, but in watching these episodes both on a 23" monitor and a 50" monitor, it has such a more impressive and captivating feeling on the larger palette that in some ways it feels like a very different show. Particularly in watching it in complete darkness in the middle of the night, it's very haunting. Well, except for the opening sequence with the incredibly addictive and all too bright song. It's a far too cute sequence that belies the shows real nature but provides that kind of lightheartedness you need to balance it all out.

In Summary:
With what little artwork I had seen prior to the shows release, I had figured on seeing a show much more comedy oriented and more spastic than what I got. This is a very dark show with a real sense of mystery and intrigue that balances itself out with some very careful and well done lighthearted moments. The cast is still very small which adds to its appeal and the larger storyline and mystery is only starting to come about as the apparent "villainess" has only truly made her full appearance by the last episode here. The combination of Lolita-like looks with vampires and the supernatural is certainly not new by any stretch of the imagination, but what we have here is the start of a very intriguing and engaging show. Moon Phase wasn't on my radar all that much but it's now a title that I'm eagerly awaiting more of.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Textless Songs

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 29.98/39.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Moon Phase