Law of Ueki Vol. #05 (of 13) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, January 22, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2007
What They Say
Seiichiro Sano has joined the Robert's 10! Inumaru comes to Ueki asking for help in getting Sano out of the group. At that point, Ueki and the others receive an invitation from Robert to "Dogra Mansion," the amusement park in the Underworld, where Sano and the new members of the Robert's 10 await to battle them. Upon arrival, Ai finds herself selected as the first player. Her opponent, Kabara, is a professional hunter! Ai goes into her very first battle with no superpowers to rely on!
With every interesting peak in Law of Ueki comes the eventual low that goes even lower.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. With the stereo mix that's used, it's fairly active with both the left and right channels during the fight sequences, particularly when the trees are being used to attack, but outside of the fights the show is like most others in that it's a pretty straightforward mix. There isn't a huge amount of strong directionality with it but it fills the forward soundstage like you'd want it to. Dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The design of the show is one where it's filled with some interesting color choices that when combined with the animation style gives it a feel where it almost seems like some of those early CG shows where backgrounds and character animations don't quite blend all that well. The style of the shows animation just feels like it's off here somehow but the transfer for it is very clean and looks great. There weren't any noticeable issues such as cross coloration or aliasing, colors are strong and vibrant and backgrounds come across very well here.
The cover artwork continues to get better for this series and this volume gives us the three leads in the fight sequences in rather roughed up form. Set against one of the background arena images from the episodes, it's a good looking piece that manages to not look bad with the multi-colored logo. The semi-intense look that everyone has works well for making the show seem at least a bit serious. The back cover is a bit more basic and easy on the eyes with a top half that has a summary of the shows premise and a decent shot of one of the bad guys while below it is a two layer strip of shots from the show. The bottom half has a solid layout of the technical grid that covers all the important information in an easy to read format. Unlike previous inserts, this one doesn't reproduce the front cover artwork and instead provides a listing of the various characters that are key during this volume. The back cover lists the episode numbers and titles for this volume.
The menu layout at first is a bit strange looking but it keeps to the shows slightly off kilter feel as the left half has animation playing throughout it from the show and the right side has the image of one of the trees from the show with the navigation selections over it with a bit of music playing along to it. The menus are a bit more animated than a lot of other Geneon menus as there are some brief transitional pieces that shift to the submenus when selected but they don't last long and are pretty smooth. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is easy to use while the disc does also read our players' presets and played accordingly.
The only extra included in this volume is the Japanese promotional trailer for the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Law of Ueki goes with something of a rather standard approach in how it portrays itself as it settles in fairly well to its tournament-style design. This isn't exactly new as we've seen since the show started, but some of the episodes end up feeling like they're just so... mediocre. There have been some good creative moments throughout it, from the way Ueki's power works to the introduction of their lovable beast, but when it shifts into nothing but fight after fight almost all the charm goes out the window.
And unfortunately, fight after fight is what makes up just about the entirety of this volume. Initially it's little more than finishing out the previous volumes' fight that involved Ueki being kept under lock and key while he speed-recovers from all of his battles. The conclusion to it is fairly quick, at least in this kind of show, and doesn't leave with anything truly worth dealing with. Where the show makes its bad turn is by having Sano kidnapped by the Robert's 10 and taken to Dogra Mansion. This is where the Robert's 10 is waiting for Ueki and the others and it's not like the other arenas the two have faced off in before.
Billed as an "underworld amusement park," Robert has taken it to use in his fight against Ueki by coming up with a competition. Each of the teams randomly get selected to go fight each other in different locales with different rules. One of them has Ai, a girl with no powers, fighting against a winged hunter in a snow covered forest. Difficult enough in itself, but the twist is that they only have so much air to breath and if they don't dance while wearing special hats then they'll black out. Wear the other persons hat and it'll black you out. Another round has Rinko being shrunk down to mouse size and tossed into a room where it's filled with sleeping cats. Not only does she have to avoid her opponents' attacks but also that of the cats who see her as nothing more than a tasty treat.
This kind of near repetitiveness in the show where it's just one fight after another where neither side really seems to move forward is a staple of the genre but one that can really drain the viewer. Having no investment in the show such as being a fan of the manga, these kinds of episodes just make me want to turn it off. Nothing is really changed here, nothing is learned from the fights and only a tiny bit of character growth occurs, such as Ai realizing she has to be as committed to this as Ueki is. In some of the previous battles there was some element brought in that made it feel more connected to the larger picture but this kind of tournament mentality just has the show in autopilot mode.
It also seems to have affected the animation some as well as these episodes just felt a fair bit weaker than an already simple looking show should be. The backgrounds in the snow forest episode for example look good but the character animation for Ai tends to look even simpler than she has in the previous episodes. Colors still look good as the show likes to work with bright and outgoing palettes, but something about it has it feeling even more flat than usual. Part of what doesn't help with this show is that most of the characters that are introduced during it, especially those working for the Robert's 10, tend to look really bad in general. The simplistic designs tend to not translate too well into animation without making it look like it was something done ten years earlier but given a fresh set of colors.
The Law Of Ueki manages to have another set of episodes that proves the show is one of the most uneven ones I've seen in some time. After disliking the first volume a lot but then finding it had some rather quirky charm to it, it's been a rollercoaster ride of enjoyment. There are some really good highs to be found in how creative it can be at times, often with Ueki and how the entire Talents aspect works, but the lows such as the tournament arc left me not wanting to finish the volume. It truly feels like you could skip this entire volume and not miss a bit in the next.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Promotional Video
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via DVI->HDMI 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.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Law of Ueki