Michel Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, July 17, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What They Say
"The Tree of Life grew again and sprouted new leaves. However, our journey will continue until the Tree of Life grows to its full height. Our adventure to recover the fairies will continue to protect this beautiful nature and preserve it for all to enjoy." From deep forests to desolate tundra, Kim and Michel pursue the Black Hammer Gang and recover the fairies one by one. The Tree of Life, though, has a long way to grow. Its champions must call upon untapped inner strength inside themselves as well as the fairies that they've rescued. In order to restore nature's precious balance, they will have to face overwhelming odds, obstacles, and opponents, from a frosty snow queen to a fiery phoenix! Hitch a ride with Kim in Honeybee and take off into a world of high adventure, hazards, and hilarity that's pure fun for both kids and kids at heart! All this awaits the intrepid viewer in Michel!

The Review!
Continuing their journey to search for the stolen fairies, Kim and Michel make their way to numerous areas and make lots of new friends.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English language adaptation. Originally released in a stereo mix in Korean, the show in both tracks is solid but doesn't have too much exceptional to it. The show has some good moments of minor directionality to it across the forward soundstage but this is for the most part a pretty basic show that's using the center channel with a full sounding mix. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback on either language track.

The transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this transfer are quite a mix and really surprised me since I hadn't seen anything like this in some time. The opening and ending sequences depending on your display look like a couple generations removed VHS transfer. On our main display, the opening and endings had a lot of noise to them, heavy aliasing and jaggies and a soft look not complimented well by the cross coloration that is in it. On our smaller 23" display it wasn't quite as pronounced but still very visible. When it comes to the main show itself, the colors look great, very solid and vibrant while free of just about all of the problems listed above.

Similar to the first cover, this is a good looking cover for its intended audience which means it has lots of bold clean colors and a bit of detail to it but it keeps the lead characters in the foreground and easy to spot. The only part that makes me cringe is how it's labeled as "eco-friendly" in terms of being an adventure tale. It probably works but it feels like it's tag that's aiming at the lowest common denominator, parents that will see that and figure it's good for their kids on that alone. The back cover is a bit more traditional and a touch darker as it uses deep blue skies and clouds while providing for a shot of the Phoenix and some other creatures from the show. The summary uses some of the dialogue from the show and covers the basics along as the episode numbers and titles, production info and basic technical information. No insert is included with this release.

The menu layout is typical of the "ADV Kids" line-up where it's just a string of episode numbers through the middle for navigation and a language subsection while the background is a piece of the background which has the various fairies popping into the screen with a bit of music. While in some ways it may not feel much different than some of their other basic releases, there's just something about how it's done with the Kids releases that makes it feel even more basic. Access times are nice and fast though and the disc defaulted to English language with sign/song subtitles which isn't a surprise due to there not being any Japanese as our player is set to pick up.

The only extras included with this release, which didn't make it onto the first volume but thankfully do here, is the clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The more I see of the Michel series the more I start feeling that it's doing a minor but well done riff on aspects of the Nadia series. The bad guys alone create this feeling but when combined with the way the show moves around in episodic fashion from village to village, it takes on some more of that overall feel. This volume brings another round of five episodes out to play and it expands a bit upon what we know but for the most part just marches on in a very familiar way.

Most of the episodes play out in a typical fashion where we either follow Kim and Michel to a new setting where they're looking for more of the stolen fairies or we see a new plot that's being hatched by Salome and the Black Hammer gang and then the good guys gets caught up in it. There are a lot of things that the Black Hammer gang get involved in where they're trying to find new treasures or steal from others using the fairies they have on hand as well as the technology that stole from Professor White so they have a pretty predictable nature to them. Kim and Michel on the other hand are also fairly predictable since they want to bring everyone back and help set nature right.

Therein lies where most of the episodes tend to play, in that the fairy that's going to be used in that episode is directly responsible for events happening in that area. It's trite but expected in a kids show and admittedly it works with kids since it's a brand new form of storytelling for them. For example, there's an episode where one of the fairies responsible for the growth of roses is important as Kim and Michel have to go on a hunt for a mysterious Brown Rose that a wealthy heavyset man named Delicious wants so that he can feel like he's come full circle with his life. Another episode has the pair near a group of islands and beachfront and part of what's important is that the treasure that Salome's gang is after is something that's hard to find now that there are no waves. And of course, there's a fairy that's responsible for that.

While a lot of this plays out in a straightforward manner, there is a rather enjoyable episode that focuses on Kim and her father. After being tricked by an illusion fairy into seeing the ruins of her fathers laboratory, Kim agrees to tell Michel about her father and their time together. Through the extended flashback sequence we learn of how he had made numerous technological devices that worked towards providing for clean and efficient cars and planes as well as other things. They were all devices that he was proud of and worked hard on and she loved seeing him work on it. But something changed when he discovered his inventions being used for bad purposes by evil people so he decided to destroy everything, much to Kim's chagrin. She managed to convince him to at least place things in storage and work on other kinds of devices instead.

This worked for only so long before Salome, posing as a news reporter, arrived at his place and did an interview tour of his facility and his inventions. The one she was the most interested in of course is the space probe ship that can survive in any kind of weather and keep its balance while providing plenty of space to live and loot to store. Through her simple trickery and the White's own naiveté, she's able to abscond with the ship and that sets the stage for how we got introduced to Kim at the beginning of the series as she took her father's prize ship, the Honeybee, and started pursuit of Salome and the gang. It's all very simple and basic but it's nicely written and tightly executed.

In Summary:
While Michel isn't something that I can really get into, it's a show that definitely appeals to its actual intended core audience. Watching several kids watch this show this weekend at my house, I was amused to see them all get into it and actually enjoy it over the course of all five episodes. In one sitting! The show does have some appeal to those that are watching the Pokemon style shows since you wonder which fairy will be used in that episode and what their powers will be, but I think they do a better job here creatively with the fairies in their designs and powers. Then again, there are far less of them as well. Add in the Nadia like elements and it's just a good bit of fun for the kids.

Korean 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

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: C
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 14.98
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Michel