Madlax Vol. #5 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Release Date: Monday, November 20, 2006



What They Say
From the creative minds behind Noir, a compelling saga of two lives and the dark circumstances surrounding their mysterious connection.

The Elies Script - The Holy Words of Saruon. A language long forgotten has awakened - and anyone who has allowed it to cross either their eyes or lips has felt its eerie repercussions. Just as detective Maclay Morini was closing in on a murder case, the words entranced him into mindless drone. Literary researcher Eric Gillian sought out the language's origin and ultimately committed suicide. Now, Madlax and Margaret Burton are on the verge of discovering the true meaning behind the words' powers.

Enfant - The secretly controlled hub overlooking the transfer of all the world's digital data. Led by the mysterious Friday Monday, the Enfant network is a clandestine conglomerate of the powerful, the loyal and those unaware of the deceptive depths to which they are involved. Enfant sees all. Enfant knows all. Enfant is responsible for the deaths of Piederica and Anne Moray, the disappearance of Chris Krana, and most importantly, Enfant is the force perpetuating the war in Gazth-Sonika. And now, Enfant is after Madlax and Vanessa Rene.

Episodes Comprise
17 - Reunion
18 - Duo
19 - Holy
20 - Wish

The Review!
After four volumes of pussy-footing about, Margaret and Madlax finally meet " or is that, meet again? Meanwhile, Limelda finds out she's been fighting for a lie, Friday Monday finds not all his minions are reliable, and Carrossea may have finally found what he's been looking for...

Audio:
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.

Video:
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. There's some noticeable colour-banding visible on this disc, which can be quite distracting when it occurs, but for the most part the transfer is problem-free.

Packaging:
Quite a crowded piece of artwork for this volume, with Madlax, Margaret, Elenore and Nakhl all gracing the cover - Madlax and Nakhl in action poses, and with Elenore protectively holding Margaret. The rear has the ususal promotional blurb, screenshots and disc information, while the reverse of the cover has two more Staff Talk segements, this time with the Japanese VAs for Elenore and Limelda.

Menu:
"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 6. 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.

Extras:
Quite a selection of extras on this disc, beginning with the usual clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. In addition, there's a slideshow of design sketches from the show, promotional videos for one of the songs from the show ("nowhere" by Yuki Kajiura) in both vocal and karaoke versions, with both tracks set to a series of clips from the show; a clip show of scenes featuring Limelda set to another piece of Yuki Kajiura music ("Fall on You"), some Japanese TV trailers, and another Conversations with SSS segment.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Vanessa's had her first experience of shooting someone, and she's having problems dealing with that - violence just isn't in her nature, but with Enfant and Friday Monday having taken an interest in her and Madlax, you suspect she's going to have to learn to live with it. Under Madlax's tutelage she slowly becomes more confident in her ability to handle firearms and defend herself " an essential skill for someone now wanted by an entire country. Back in Nafrece, Margaret sees a news report about Vanessa's apparent involvement in a royal assassination - news that's soon followed by a visit from an investigator trying to find out what Margaret knows about her. Believing that Vanessa has been framed, Margaret and Elenore head for Gazth-Sonika to try and find her - and to find Madlax.

Meanwhile, going over the data that Vanessa had extracted from Enfant & that Madlax gave to her leaves Limelda a confused woman - everything she believed to be true, and fought for, now appears to have been an illusion created by Enfant, causing her to turn on those who she sees as having led her to live a lie & bringing her into conflict with the military she'd served for so long. Despite being a wanted woman, Vanessa's determined to continue her investigations into Enfant's plans. It's not just the military that's looking for Limelda and Madlax, of course - Elenore & Margaret continue to search for them, as does Vanessa's underling Winston. They don't have much success, but Nakhl does...

There's plenty happening with this volume of Madlax, and very little chance of losing interest while watching it. The first two episodes focus mainly on Madlax and Vanessa as they try to keep one step ahead of the various groups that are now on their tail " the media reports of them being involved in a royal assassination are clearly false & planted by Enfant, but it's enough to make moving around the country very difficult for them, to the point where there are several occasions when the pair are on the verge of being captured, only to be rescued by an unlikely ally.

Limelda has her own problems, after learning that both the military and Carrossea have been using her. Betrayal's never an easy thing to deal with, and Limelda goes all-out for revenge on those she sees as having betrayed her " although despite Madlax having been the one who opened her eyes to the truth, she's still very much on Limelda's hit list. Her rivalry with Madlax now has become an obsession, and nothing is going to come in the way of her plans to eventually kill Madlax " a determination which comes in handy for Madlax and Vanessa.

The final two episodes on the disc finally bring most of the core cast together: Madlax and Margaret, who appear to have a far more common past than either of them realise; Quanzitta and Nakhl, guardians of the Elies language and the only ones besides Friday Monday who fully know what happened last time the three Elies books were brought together; and Carrossea, who like Madlax and Margaret lost his memories when the books were last united, but who seems to at least have an idea about how the changes that event brought about can be reversed " and with all three books now assembled, he's got the chance to see if he's right.

The whole aspect of the mystical power of the Elies language and the three books has always seemed a bit of a stretch to me " it seems a little too reliant on the supernatural for a series that is so well rooted in a modern world " but I can't argue that it's provided the grounding for a truly intriguing series of events as the various parts of the story have danced around each other before now finally coming together. There's still very little in the way of real detail given out about the power of the books, too " the steady drip of information continues, but always at just the right rate to keep you hooked, and always leaving you feeling that you're just short of understanding what's going on. With the disc ending at the point where Margaret and Carrossea are ready to open the door to the "other side", there's a feeling that everything's about to become clear " but with this series, I wouldn't be surprised if there are a few more twists in the tale yet.

In summary:
I've been becoming more and more hooked by Madlax as the series has progressed, and now that the various storyline are all finally converging I'm loving every minute of it. The bringing together of the various characters and stories has been very well done, almost like weaving together a thread, with the pace of events just leaving me wanting more, more, more. It's just a shame there are only two volumes left. This was a thoroughly enjoyable volume, and is highly recommended.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Production Info,Clean Opening and Closing,Design Sketches,"nowhere" Music Video,"nowhere" Karaoke Version,Limelda Character Video Clip,Japanese TV Spots,Conversations with SSS

Review Equipment
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: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Madlax