Fantastic Children Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, August 08, 2006



What They Say
While searching for the missing Helga, Thoma meets the Children of Befort, who are also looking for her. At the same time, Helga and Chitto, who had set out to sea in a rowboat, are rescued by a research ship belonging to the Ged Group, who are trying to capture the fugitive Kirchner by using his sister as bait.

When Kirchner does finally appear on the research ship, he starts indiscriminately firing off powerful Orsel blasts. Thoma and Aghi take off after him together but all they can do is stand by helplessly as they witness Kirchner being surrounded by the Enma.

The Review!
Many of the stories begin to converge as the cast comes together and a much clearer understanding of what's going on emerges.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show is presented in stereo mixes for both its English and Japanese tracks and both of them come across quite well with some minor directionality throughout it. The show has a good mix of both dialogue and action sequences that use the directionality nicely such as some of the boating sequences while the quieter dialogue scenes are very sharp and still move around well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series has a very distinct feel to it depending on the characters and setting at the time and they're fairly different. The first couple of episodes spend a lot of time in the past and in the hazy settings of Europe which looks good but has a definite soft feeling to it. When it shifts to the more current settings in the south seas, the show has a far more lively and colorful feel to it with the seas and jungles. There is a mix of the two at times when the characters come across each other and the source material for the transfer look fantastic with clean lines and plenty of detail. If there is any real problem with the transfer it's the amount of mosquito noise to it with some of the colors when you have close-ups that provide one shade for a large part of the screen. There are a few areas where the blacks don't maintain a completely solid feel but it's very minimal and far between. Otherwise colors look great, aliasing is non-existent and there isn't any visible cross coloration.

Packaging:
The third installment of the series goes in for a simple look once again with a combined image that has the Children lined up along the foreground while behind them is a bit of the past as seen through the countryside. It's a very dark cover, so much so that at first you may not even notice the background and just see the characters. The character artwork holds up a bit better this time around with a solid looking feel but it's not the kind of designs or layout that will really help to sell the show or attract people to it. The back cover has a good layout to it with a collage of shots from the show in a nice border while below it is a fairly good summary of what these episodes are about. The episode numbers and titles are provided as is the production information. The technical has the right run time for this volume but it could have used listing things like aspect ratio and what extras were available. No insert is included nor is the cover reversible.

Menu:
The menu layout for the release is rather nicely done as it brings in a lot of the sketches and illustrations of the various locales from the series. It has a lot of nice simple animation to it as the various pieces come together to the final layout alongside the brief music that's included. The menus aren't flashy but they fit the theme of the show just right and set the mood for what's about to start. Access times are nice and fast and the navigation is easy to use. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first two volumes of Fantastic Children were fascinating pieces of work as it went through a number of storylines taking place in different locations and often different times that were slowly coming together as some of the characters started getting closer together and we could see where things were starting to overlap. With the third volume though, it moves forward considerably and begins to reveal itself much more.

Even trying to figure out where to begin is tough here since so much is connected. With Kirchner being the main subject of focus early on, Gherta and those of GED have taken his sister Cybele and placed her inside a secure room inside a military ship that's making its way towards the Eastern Mainland. Their goal is to draw Kirchner in to them and seal him inside the room with magnetic shielding so they can take him back to the labs and try to restore him to normal health. It sounds noble enough though you know they intend to learn things along the way, but such things rarely play out that way. While waiting for Kirchner to arrive though, convergence hits in a simple way as Helga and Chitto are stranded in their own boat in the path of the military ship. Their attempts to save Thoma and his family from the trouble they expect only places them directly in more danger, if only Gherta and the others knew who she really was.

Thoma's panic over Helga and Chitto's sneaking off is very evident, so much so that his parents understand that he has to go and search for her with the belief that it may be some time before he returns. His search doesn't get too far though before the Children of Befort arrive on the island having gotten closer to finding Helga themselves. Though Thoma and the Children have tussled before, this brings them firmly together as they do realize eventually that they need to work together in the short term for Helga's safety. Thoma's natural skills and the equipment that the Children have allow them to track her down fairly easily, almost too easily, but it's all for the sake of that convergence of the storylines.

Having Kirchner arrive on the military ship just after Helga and Chitto do and then having Thoma and the others arrive just moments afterwards, so many of the key storylines come together and it's not pretty as it plays out. Kirchner's the key to the revelations that we get here as he's manipulating the energy that he's found bound within him. Though Gherta believes that she can restore him, it's Aghi that breaks the real news to her about what's going on as he insists that the GED destroy what caused this. Kirchner's problem is that he's gone to what's been called the Zone and come back, in other words, he's gone to the world of the dead and came back when he shouldn't have. His soul, which is made of Orsel according to the Children, is unstable and that instability can cause massive amounts of destruction in the universe. The Children suffer from this to some extent which is why the Enma hunt them. But Kirchner is such a more explosive case that their attacks on the ship are brutal as they seek to eliminate the soul entirely in order to save things.

Where all of this leads is to even more revelations as the Children are able at long last able to take their story to Helga and to try and jar her memories of the past which have been lost or sleeping for so long because of her reincarnations which are different than those of the Children. It takes a little bit to get rolling, but there's almost an entire episode where we get a number of revelations about their pasts through flashback sequences. What we get in these revelations isn't exactly a change in what we've thought the show was about, or at least some of the motivations, but it does expand upon it so much that now that we have a greater picture it asks so many more questions. And there are so many challenges to the science that the Children seem to live by that you'd think with all the lifetimes they've lived that they would have more answers by now.

In Summary:
The only downside to this release is that the last episode on the disc is a recap but it's quite handy at this point to take a moment of retrospect in order to get a refresher to see how it all does come together. Removing some of that mystery could damage the storyline for some since trying to figure out exactly what's going on was half the fun but there's still so much going on here. This show is the kind that draws you in and fascinates you with every frame of animation in both its style and the storyline that's coming together beautifully. With the first half of the series over, I'm anxiously awaiting to see what the next half will bring now that we know so much more. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via DVI 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: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 19.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fantastic Children