Elemental Gelade Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, November 17, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What They Say
In an intense battle for their pride and some quick cash, Cou's recent training with Ren is put to the test. They are soon fighting for their lives when unexpected enemies interrupt the battle and try to bring the arena down around them. Fortunately, Cisqua's request for backup from Arc Aile saves the day, but all is not well when suspicious behavior from trusted allies starts to reveal themselves on their way back to headquarters...

The Review!
Focusing on a storyline from the previous volume for most of this one, the show hits up the action front a bit more and finally starts to reveal a more nefarious nature to the overarching storyline.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. This series has a fairly active mix to it as there's a lot of action effects throughout it as well as some very nicely placed dialogue along the forward soundstage in various conversations and other events. The mix is pretty straightforward overall where a lot of it is through the center channel but it has a good wide feel to it as it plays out. We spot checked the English track and didn't notice any issues there either. During regular playback, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The print for this show looks to be in very good shape with very clean and clear colors that are relatively free from posterisation or blocking. The show keeps to strong colors for the most part with large areas for them and not a lot of detail so the look of the transfer here is quite good and essentially problem free which means very little in terms of noticeable cross coloration or aliasing. While the transfer doesn't exactly stand out heads above other shows, it's a good solid entry that will look excellent for most setups.

Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but using a bit of the foil element to give the background a bit more life to it, Rowen and Kuea get a cover of their own and it has a decent feel to it as the two are close, but the designs are a bit simple and plain. With the foil and silver elements in the cover artwork, as well as the rather vibrant looking red of his jacket, it's a cover that stands out a bit above other covers and is certainly noticeable. The back cover brings in a bit more of the Japanese artwork with a shot of the other trio and a few other shots from the show. The summary covers the very basics of the show and the discs episode titles and numbers as well as extras are clearly listed. In a continuing slow change for Geneon, this series has a good technical grid along the bottom that covers all the basics of what's involved with the disc making it very easy to find things such as the running time and available languages and aspect ratio. The single page insert has a decent looking shot of some new characters on one side while the reverse side has a summary of what to expect in the third volume and target months for the remaining three volumes of the series.

Set at an angle with both the video and the actual selections, it's a fairly simple design but it has a good bit of flash to it that doesn't detract from its usability. In the very center is a single section of clear clips playing from the show while a tinted version plays larger in the background but obscured by some other design elements, so it has a really good active feel to it without any real slowdown. The selections are quick and easy to navigate along the bottom with instant episode access and fast load times. The layout and design fit well for the theme of the show but the disc unfortunately did not pick up our players' language presets and defaulted to English with no subtitles. Surprisingly, there is no sign/song subtitle track for the opening and closing sequences.

A couple of interesting trailers are included as extras for this release, one of them being from the 2005 Tokyo Anime Fair which runs about three minutes and the second from Comiket 67 that runs just over a minute. Each is presented in a different manner and push different aspects of it that are interesting to see.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This third installment of the series brings us to the halfway mark in the show and loses what little steam it managed to gain in the second volume for much of it. Running through three of the four episodes, it deals with a storyline that does show a bit more of how the world works and lets Cou and Ren bond better, but it's not until the fourth episode that we start to get some decent payoff.

The first three episodes deal more with the characters that we met in this new town the group has arrived in. While Cisqua, Rowen and Kuea find their own path in searching for an underground fighting tournament that uses Edel Raid's in a bad way, Cou and Ren find themselves spending time with Rasati and Lillia after helping Lillia out from a group of thugs that wanted her. The relationship between the four has been a bit adversarial, mostly since Rasati doesn't trust anyone at all, but there's a wary and almost begrudging friendship going on. This friendship helps out at first and gives Cou and Ren a chance to start earning money on their own so they can help towards the long trek to Arc Aile.

Naturally, story progression pushes the show towards a point where Cou and Ren have to realize that their skills together aren't what they should be. The training Cou has been getting from Kuea has shown over and over that while he does have some talent in him, he's having a hard time brining it out. Even Ren realizes this and she agrees to his idea of getting in on the tournament and really getting a workout. While there is the goal of getting money so that they can provide something to the trip with Cisqua and the others, their larger goal is to further their skills together and really become a team as opposed to two parts. This works rather well for them as they manage to get through a few fights and quickly gain something of a reputation.

What's amusing is that during all of this, Cisqua and the others have infiltrated the event in order to bust it but Cisqua finds herself winning a ton of money by betting on the unlikely Cou. Of course, Cou can't just have a winning streak without any real challenge so where would this show go but to bring in Rasati to fight him. Even worse, she's even more primed to win since the prize money from this match would free her and Lillia from the situation that they're in. Neither will go easy on each other but like most of this show so far, it's entirely far too predictable in how it will play out. While it has some nice moments here and there, often when it comes to some of Cisqua's humor or some of the bonded moments between Ren and Cou, much of the show simply feels like we've seen it a million times before. Even worse, when Ren goes into her bonded mode with Cou, she becomes the most bland personality ever. And it's even worse in English.

The only area of real interest on this volume is the last episode that brings us back to Arc Aile and separates up the group in three ways. While Ren heads to the Edel Garden and we see her being very manipulated by those higher up in the Arc Aile organization, Cou is basically kicked out as quickly as possible. Cisqua and Rowen find themselves being verbally attacked for taking so long and a generally poor performance, even with their mission complete, and are demoted and assigned to a new mission quickly in order to be rid of them. All of them feel that something more sinister is going on but none are sure how to act on it. It's through here with some new faces that we start to see more of what I suppose is the bigger picture. It's not an unexpected twist but a welcome one that will hopefully add a little more depth to the series..

In Summary:
Elemental Gelade is still essentially leaving me feeling underwhelmed with the entire premise. The awkwardness of the opening episodes still remains at times and a less than realized world is at play here. With its fairly basic and uninspired look and designs, it doesn't manage to hook you with a shiny aspect either. The previous volume managed to make things a bit more interesting but it lost a lot of that momentum in this one with a quasi-tournament. There are some sparks of hope towards the end here but the show has a lot to overcome to really even be called average.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Tokyo Anime Fair Trailer,Comiket (Comic Market) 67 Trailer

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Elemental Gelade