Madlax Vol. #4 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, September 28, 2006
Release Date: Monday, September 18, 2006
What They Say
From the creative minds behind Noir, a compelling saga of two lives and the dark circumstances surrounding their mysterious connection.
Carrossea Doon - Only he understands where his loyalties lie. On the one hand, he is a highly secretive employee for Bookwald, the largest corporation in the world. On the other, he works in a clandestine manner for the mysterious Friday Monday. Carrossea is a chameleon. He weaves in and out and through not only the civil-war-torn Gazth-Sonika, but also some of the most powerful and influential minds on the planet. And he does it all because he is searching - searching for something of his own. But what that something is, only he knows for sure.
Friday Monday - A mastermind, a lunatic, a figment of the imagination. He is the cornerstone behind Enfant, the massive information network connected to the mainframe of everything. He knows where you are. He knows why you're there. And he knows what your next move will be. And of course, he also knows the clouded past - the past holding the keys to Madlax and Margaret and the lives they risk to discover. And that is exactly what Friday Monday plans to use in order to bring upon this world the reality of his wicked dreams.
13 - Cry of Awakening
14 - Forgotten Thoughts
15 - False War
16 - The Timbre of Gunshots
Madlax serves up an overload of connections between the characters, as the mysterious Friday Monday's plans begin to kick into gear...
Two audio tracks are provided - English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0. I listened primarily to the Japanese track for this review. The soundtrack is clean and clear, with good use made of the front soundstage to capture the feel of the action sequences and give a good sense of direction to both effects and dialogue. Madlax also has some great music by Yuki Kajiura that gets used quite extensively throughout the show, and in general this also comes across extremely well, although it does come close to drowning out the rest of the audio at times. There were no apparent problems with the audio encoding.
Madlax is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Being a comparatively recent show from a studio that has always worked hard on the appearance of their shows, it really does look the part, with settings being presented with good levels of detail. The transfer is sharp and problem-free.
The release comes in a clear keepcase with double-sided cover. The front features Madlax in an uncharacteristically dressy outfit, with Friday Monday looking stern in the background. The rear cover has the disc's promotional blurb, a set of screenshots and a technical information panel. The reverse of the cover features two more "Staff Talk" segments, this time featuring the Japanese VAs for Margaret and Vanessa, Houko Kuwashima and Satsuki Yukino.
"Simple" is the best way to describe the menus here. As is usual for ADV releases, each episode is selectable directly from the main menu, while submenus are provided for language setup and extras. There's also an option on the main screen for a preview clip for volume 5. A black-and-white clip of the OP sequence plays in a small window to liven things up a bit, while a piece of the show's background music plays throughout. There are no transition animations, so the menus are quick and easy to use.
A fairly standard set of extras is provided with this release " clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, 2 Japanese TV spots advertising the DVD release, a 2-minute slideshow of colour design artwork, and another 7 minutes of Conversations with SSS, which I have to admit don't tweak my sense of humour as well as they do for others.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Carrossea makes an approach to Margaret, claiming to have been sent by Eric. Since Margaret hasn't heard from Eric in a while, she's got no reason to doubt Carrossea's word, especially as he's quite open about what he knows about her book. Unknown to either of them, though, their exchange is being watched by someone else with an interest in Secondari. He eventually persuades Margaret to let him look through the original book, but is shocked by what he sees there - which isn't entirely what was printed on the pages. Back in Gazth-Sonika, meanwhile, Vanessa's debating going public with what she's learnt of Bookwald's involvement in the civil war - but when she's finally able to decrypt Enfant's files, she and Madlax find that Enfant's enigmatic leader Friday Monday has left an unwelcome surprise there.
I think I'm getting too used to expecting the obvious in anime, so it's always a pleasant surprise when a series catches me out and takes a different route from what I was expecting. The publicity for Madlax makes no secret of the fact that there's some sort of connection between Madlax and Margaret, but even approaching the mid-point of the series very little had been revealed about what that connection might be. This volume begins clearing things up, and while the motivations of the various characters remain uncertain, the connections " some of them surprising - end up being a lot clearer than before.
The story, as usual, is clearly split into two arcs, with Carrossea Doon being the one character with a part to play in both stories. Nakhl, a young girl from the remote village where Eric died, is closely following his interest in Secondari, and you can't help but feel that there are so many different factions pursuing their own aims here that it's either going to end with them all failing dismally, or it's going to lead to an almighty confrontation between them. Seeing Margaret trusting Carrossea so easily is one of those things that has you wondering what she's thinking, but it is completely in-character for her, and Carrossea comes across as so open and almost caring in his dealings with her that you can see where the trust comes from. The way this side of the story unfolds is so well choreographed that it's easy just to get carried away in the plot and the series of small but significant revelations that run through it.
Madlax and Vanessa form the other side of the story, and as with parts of the last volume this is spoiled by what, to me at least, are some very unlikely or unbelievable moments, this time courtesy of the mysterious Elies language. The words "elda taluta" (as muttered by Eric just before he died) on the screen of Vanessa's laptop trigger a flood of memories for Madlax, and when she finally comes round from the experience, she's not quite herself anymore " from cold-hearted professional killer, she's become almost an elegant lady, and as bad fortune would have it it's while she's in this state that she runs into Limelda, who's still determined to take her revenge for being bested by Madlax before. Later, Friday Monday finally steps out of the shadows to confront Madlax directly, but doesn't get the response from her that he was expecting.
This side of things is definitely more surreal than events back in Nafrece " especially when you add in the "dream world" inhabited by Laetitia and Poupe√©, which slots in here " and I'm a bit split as to whether that's a good thing or not, as I get a little distracted when stories go off on that sort of tangent. In the grander scheme of things, though, that's a small criticism, as for the most part these episodes really grab you and don't let go. There's plenty going on, and after three volumes of wondering how everything will eventually slot into place it's good to finally see it beginning to happen. Limelda is still unfortunately less of a threat than her PR would have you believe, while Friday Monday seems to be the real man with a plan here, even though he seems to go more for posturing than actual evil deeds. Somehow, he'd seem more of a threat if he had a proper name.
While there are times when these episodes slip a little too far towards the surreal and unbelievable, overall there's some great stuff here as a myriad of links between the main characters are revealed " some obvious, some less so. There's enough left unexplained that you still want to see more and learn what's really going on, and it's all presented in a package that makes it easy to sit back an become immersed in Madlax's world. Great stuff.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Production Info,Clean Opening and Closing,Design Sketches,Japanese TV Spots,Conversations with SSS
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.
Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2