This Ugly Yet Beautiful World Vol. #3 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, October 19, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, November 07, 2006
What They Say
Now that Hikari has seen death, her true nature begins to exert a stronger force. Her shadowy self within has a growing resentment towards her new friends and her true love, Takeru. But other creatures are coming forward to prevent the young girl from fulfilling her dark destiny, putting Takeru and her sister Akari in the very dangerous middle. How cruel will she become? To what evil depths will she descend? Isn't a little sexy, frivolous "fanime" action enough to make Hikari embrace the wonders of this world, instead of destroying it? Find out in the exciting thrilling conclusion of this year's biggest fan favorite!
Dealing with fully understanding her role and duty to be performed, Hikari engages not only the planet but Takeru as well.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a rather good sounding stereo mix that makes good use of the left and right channels for directionality both in dialogue and in sound effects, but the bulk of it is a full sounding center channel based piece. A lot of the show focuses on dialogue and quiet moments of nature and these sound great with clarity and distinction. The English track, also done in stereo, comes across quite well and mirrors much of what we heard on the Japanese side. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout on both tracks and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.
Originally airing in 2004, this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The source material for this show is unsurprisingly in gorgeous shape with lots of bold striking colors and a mix of more muted pieces to help accent the real world the characters inhabit. Similar to other recent Gainax shows, the character designs are a bit more simple and rounded which allows for the colors to blend well and without much noticeable banding. Some of it may feel a bit flat at times but overall the print looks great here with only a few areas of noticeable mosquito noise. The episodes themselves looked fantastic throughout and the opening sequences had a touch of aliasing going on with some of the character designs but it was pretty minimal. Overall this is a real pleasing looking transfer but the jaggies in the opening brought things down a bit overall.
A little more subdued for the ending, the final cover in the series provides a good looking pairing of Jennifer and Hikari together against a rather interesting shot of the Earth with a mixture of the red butterflies swarming about it. The designs and detail as well as the colors look really nice and this is probably the best cover of the series. The back cover brings more of that subdued pink hue as it has the large background image of the moon there with shadowed butterflies flitting about, but it does make for reading the text a bit hard as the two tend to blend a bit at times. The left side has a nice strip down it where it showcases some shots from the show and the bottom portion is made up of the usual material such as listing the extras and some of the creative staff's vintage. The technical grid is solid through and through in what it covers along with a small block of production info. The insert with the release is a very well put together piece with text interviews with not only the voice actors but also the director. One panel is dedicated to some brief comments by most of the actors at the closing of the series.
The menu layout takes some of what was done with the cover and runs with that as it takes the visual of the Earth and places it in the center while having a drop of water hit it from above, creating the visual of a water ripple over the entire screen, including the menu selections themselves. The layout looks good but the artwork of the Earth suffers from some aliasing and jaggies. The episode selections are along the left while the right has the setup and extras all while a bit of instrumental music plays along. Access times are nice and fast as we've gotten used to with ADV releases as well as the way their discs consistently play according to our players' language presets.
The extras are pretty standard but still good; we get the always welcome clean opening and closing sequences as well as a new round of translator notes for some of the quirks of the show. New to this volume we get a video interview piece with the series director. It's got a fair bit of fluff to it and clips from the show but it does let him talk about things. The piece runs about twenty three minutes in length and there are unfortunately no chapter marks in here at all, making it difficult to skip to specific areas easily. Also included is an advertisement that was shown in theaters for the DVD release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This Ugly Yet Beautiful World draws to a close with this volume and the final four episodes deal directly with the changes that Takeru must face but also the Earth itself in the form of trying to avoid an event that will cause everything to be destroyed, forcing evolution to kick in once again and try something new. Humanity has made some serious strides compared to past epochs but the fate of everything rests in how Hikari and Akari deal with their interpersonal relationships and understand humanity.
With Hikari now understanding fully her role in the universe and what she's doing on Earth, the world starts to take on a somewhat different view to her. While through her we've mostly seen the beautiful side of things, she starts to see more of the ugliness. But even this has its taint of beauty to it depending on how it's looked at. This understanding for her comes at a bad time because it's also when Takeru is seemingly being more attentive to other people and his own interests. As we see through his Uncle, Takeru is now at the awkward stage of having to deal with his past in a new way. He's grown up with the facts of his mother leaving and it's left him in the mindset that he's filled with self hate, even if others cannot see it. But now he has to take that and put it aside, realize that he doesn't really hate himself and find what he does like about himself. He simply needs to grow up and become a man.
His fascination is coming in on rebuilding a motorcycle and the attention to detail and hands on nature of it all. At the same time, he's seemingly getting closer to Mari who is by all means not stepping back from her desire to keep Takeru to herself. She's made enough noise and comments in the past that Hikari is fully aware of it but she and Takeru are starting to end up in situations where they're getting closer. Hikari isn't quite so nervous about this since she doesn't have the same sort of jealousies but it's an area that is helping drive her from feeling entirely human and a part of things. What she's learned and adapted during her time there is at the same time reminding her that she's not really one of them. The more her heart grows and understands, the more it sets her apart from what she wants to be a part of.
There are some parallels that are attempted in a very light fashion to be drawn about humanity and evolution on Earth as well, in that they have to start looking forward. As we learn that Hikari and Akari have been here many times in the past and done the forced evolution method, humanity is now at the same point but we've evolved differently in that our hearts give us something more. Hikari has to come to understand this as not a weakness but a strength that has to be discovered through her relationship with Takeru. This is done in a somewhat drawn out way as she explains to him about the innate power that isn't really a power within Takeru and Ryou as they were the ones that found Hikari and Akari, not the other way. The show tries very hard to walk a delicate line of giving too much mysticism and mystique to what makes humanity what it is while trying to keep to the logical and scientific side. The end result is unfortunately one that feels like it is very halting in what it's trying to do.
This series has been something of a chore to watch and the ending doesn't manage to elevate it up at all. I've been a long time fan of Gainax but a lot of that enjoyment comes more from their Evangelion era and prior rather than their resurfacing at the turn of the century with an array of new shows and franchise. A lot of what made those newer shows hard to watch is essentially in this one as well. The characters are very hard to connect with, their motivations are expressed but they feel hollow and shallow as we've seen them countless times and done better. Even the animation doesn't have any of the real spark or imagination to them to set it apart from the glut of shows that aired around it. In going through some of the extras on this volume, I was amused that they could include the word action with it. While there were action scenes in relation to the creatures not seen all that often, this is a very laid back and dialogue oriented show. That's not a bad thing but when the cast is so uninteresting and you're more drawn in by the backgrounds and the life around the characters, making that connection is all the harder to do.
Created in celebration of Gainax's twentieth anniversary, This Ugly Yet Beautiful World serves to me as a reminder of the kinds of lows a company can have. From a studio that gave me such treasured items as Gunbuster, Wings of Honneamise and Evangelion, this show didn't even feel like it was being phoned in but rather just a couple of scribbles on some notes that a much lesser team worked on. But knowing the actual talent behind it, that makes it all the worse. I try not to be the kind of fan that only enjoys the early works of a studio and then holds that as the barometer for everything else, but even the weak series of Mahoromatic stands far above this one. Gainax has disappointed me in the past but in looking back at this one as a whole, they've never disappointed me like this.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Video interview with Shouji Saeki (Director), Video spot for the Japanese DVD, Translator notes,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
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: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: This Ugly Yet Beautiful World