Solty Rei Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, March 15, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, March 06, 2007



What They Say
Roy Revant is living the hard life of a bounty hunter in a broken city; a city where thousands have died in a mysterious event called the Blast Fall. As dark fades to light and light becomes pitch black in an instant, all a man can do is put his head down and trudge forward.

Unexpected allies are brought together, losing sight of the fine line between right and wrong as intentions are judged with sore hearts. After so much destruction and loss, Solty glows with the fresh life that Roy's been seeking and there may be a chance for happiness in the dark. As strangers pass in the graveyard, bitter loss binds them all.

Contains episodes 7-10:
A Little Blue Demon Comes to Visit
Revenge
Girls' Day Off
Treasure and Rescue

The Review!
Solty continues to experience life as she lives with Roy but also the influences of Rose which leads her down some less than pleasant paths.

Audio:
With three audio tracks, FUNimation has their bases pretty covered here. Providing both a 5.1 and 2.0 English mix as well as the original 2.0 Japanese mix, Solty Rei covers the bases well with both the action and dialogue. We listened to the show primarily in Japanese and it was solid but without much real flair to it. Dialogue was well placed and the action sequences have enough sense of directionality about them but it's a fairly typical mix for a show of this nature. We did listen to the English 2.0 mix as well and had essentially the same kind of sense about it. On both language tracks we didn't notice any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Easing off of the six episodes in the previous volume, the show drops down to just four and it helps a bit in overall quality. In general, the show has a decent enough look with a clean color palette that doesn't stand out heavily or look to vibrant but also avoids looking murky. There is detail visible in some of the darker areas and the show is free of cross coloration which is a plus. Where the problems lay, and they're visible in just about all the episodes, is that a lot of the colors don't maintain a solid look. Solty's hair, particularly during close range shots, showcase a fair amount of blocking. Mid range shots are a mixed bag as background characters, which are often stationary, tend to look really fuzzy and have a fair bit of noise to them. This is also true of the CG vehicles that whisk about as they lack a really solid feel to them. There's also a scene in the sixth episode, where we're looking into an oncoming vehicle with the leads driving and if you watch the wiper blades it looks like they're practically ghosting with a fuzzy speckled look. There are areas within the opening credits which look bad as there is some visible rolling in the animation and the close-ups showcase some very obvious jaggies. The overall feel is less than the first volume with its six episodes but it is still present right from the first couple of frames of the first episode.

Packaging:
Continuing the trend of slipcover releases, this installment provides another one with a glossy look to it. The slipcover artwork for this volume doesn't have the same kind of humor value as the first one and looks quite good. Rose's bright colors sets her apart nicely against the darker ones which when combined with the soft white glow from the background has it stand out just a bit more. The back cover has a full length shot of Rose with the same kind of background as the front cover and she's essentially by herself along the top half. The bottom half provides the summary in small text and a slew of very small shots from the show. The extras and episode titles along with numbers are listed as well. The bottom is given over to the usual very small technical grid and production information. There is simply a lot of empty space here and a lot of stuff kept to a small area.

The keepcase is where something a bit decent was done, though maybe it's just a packaging error. Most times when you take off the slipcase you get the same thing on the cover, which is a bit anticlimactic. This time the reverse side cover is facing out and the slipcover design is on the reverse side, so you get new artwork when you take the slipcover off. It's a small thing, but it made me take another closer look at it when I first got it all out.

Menu:
The menu design uses the artwork from the front slipcover, though with a brighter background. The logo is shifted to the lower left and the navigation strip is done in the same style as the episode titles, all of which is set to an upbeat piece of instrumental music. Access times are solid and navigation quick and easy but my usual complaints are here once again. I continue to dislike not having an angle option within the setup area. I mean the "audio" area even though we do subtitle setup in there as well. We didn't even bother checking our player presets due to the continued non-labeling of subtitle tracks.

Extras:
The opening and closing sequences are presented in their textless song format which are the only extras available here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Suffice to say that Solty Rei in its first six episodes didn't do much to entice me. With distracting video issues and a simplistic plot that is more interested right now in short standalone tales for the most part, there wasn't any real big hook into it. At most, I liked the pair of the older male and the innocent young girl instead of an all-female cast like in Daphne in the Brilliant Blue or a young male to play off of Solty. But even Roy has a hard time selling the show.

With the drop from six to four episodes, the show doesn't feel like it's too much too soon. The other thing that helped was that for a good chunk of these episodes, both Roy and Solty aren't quite the lead characters. While both are around, this feels far more like the Rose Show than anything else. With the way incidents in the previous volume played out, master thief Rose is now crashing with Roy and Solty. Roy's obviously not keen on it but Solty is easily manipulated and she likes having a plucky energetic woman nearby to learn from. While I like Roy because of the way he plays his life, Rose is the character with a real sense of personality to her. Of course, it's a personality designed around getting herself whatever she wants to make her happy.

The closer examination of Rose brings her a bit more into focus and she's a fairly fun character. Through the episodes here she gets a couple of decent story arcs that help to flesh her out a bit more but not too deeply. Her nature does have her taking advantage of Solty though which is something that Solty doesn't quite realize. Getting her to show off her resemble skills in a way that helps her pull off a heist fits with her character perfectly but it doesn't say much for Solty. She ends up coming across as even more naïve and innocent than she has in the past. Rose hasn't rubbed off on her the right way. It was hilarious though seeing Rose get Roy's place into shape with lots of clothes and furniture.

Where Rose's story does get to be fun to watch, particularly after we get to learn more of her past, is when she ends up on a date with the RUC division chief. He's been picking his moments just right to get closer to her and seems genuinely interested in her. That only makes her more wary but she's certainly going to take advantage of what he offers when they head out on the town during the day. Their time together is a bit awkward but fun to watch. It picks up on the comedy side nicely when Kasha and Sylvia see them and team up without realizing who each other is and try to figure out what the others are up to. It spirals a bit more out of control when Integra gets involved, but the "Girls Day Off" episode is a good standalone piece that humanizes the cast a bit more.

Rose and Solty do have another good episode together when they both fall into an underground part of the city that's in surprisingly good shape considering it's abandoned. They spend their time trying to find their way out and just interacting with each others very different personalities while the "special services" work to find a way in. The spotlight is a bit on them as they have resemble technology altering their bodies in ways that helps their job but they come across more as a gimmick than anything else. The heavy focus, to me at least, on Rose once again just makes the whole volume seem far more interested in dealing with her than anyone else. Rose isn't a bad character and the first volume was obviously a bit more heavy on Solty but essentially four episodes in a row about Rose is too much. The pacing of the series, which now ten episodes in, doesn't say much for what's left. At this point I'm not expecting much in an overall plot but I'm guessing that if the focus shifts away from Rose that the less interesting Roy and Solty will make the show even more of an effort to watch.

In Summary:
Simple and generally free of any real plot for much of it, Solty Rei is basic escapist fun. The trappings of the world tend to not serve too much of a purpose other than as a gimmick. The fanservice is kept to a nice level as we have several shower scenes and plenty of tight clothes. Solty Rei isn't a show to look for a point in but rather one that you can just sit down and zone out on. It's enjoyable when watching it at the time, but not long thereafter it won't leave any kind of real impact.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

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: C
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Solty Rei