Law of Ueki Vol. #06 (of 13) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, March 20, 2007
What They Say
Ueki goes into the fourth battle 2-1. If he wins this one, the Dogra Mansion battle will be over. As luck would have it, the roulette wheel lands on Ueki's most dreaded opponent, Sano. While they battle in the jump rope field, Inumaru finds out Sano's shocking motive for willingly joining the Robert's 10, as well as the fact that Ai and Rinko's lives are in danger - all because of him. He decides take action to save the situation, even though this could send him to the Underworld...
The low from the previous volume continues as it trots out any number of standard clichés. What made the show interesting and almost fascinating at times is kept to a relative minimum once more.
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 hasn't gone too far back to the poor ones seen early on and this volume continues that trend. Sano and Inumaru make up this cover while a mild background lets the character artwork stand out. Sano really takes the center piece here with a strong action expression while Inumaru goes more for that subtle look as he's practically tipping his hat. It's a bit hard to say since my copy has that part of the cover torn off during it's apparent insert into the sleeve in the packaging phase. 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 sacred weapons 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)
The further into the show we get with its ups and downs, the more annoyed I become with it. In its first several episodes, Law of Ueki left me completely uninterested with what it looked like it would be about and how it would approach its goal. As it progressed, they tantalized with some nice changes to the formula in how the talents work and their impact. But as the show dips deep into the standard tournament style material, all of the ideas that make it stand out are brushed aside for a formula that everyone and their dog has done.
The Dogra Mansion Battle makes up three episodes of this volume and it's pretty much all easy to ignore. While it may make for amusing viewing on a weekly basis, seeing it in a form such as this in one sitting it just exposes all the weaknesses even more. Be it Ai, Rinko or Ueki, they simply have to face a challenge in a new opponent and overcome it. Standard material to be sure but it is just so overloaded in this series now, particularly with this Dogra Mansion arc, that it all blends together. To make matters worse, each episode does a lengthy enough recap right at the start that you could literally just watch those and not miss anything important. Nothing spells vapid more than that.
The Dogra Mansion arc brings us Ueki fighting against Sano, who himself is set to throw the match in order to save Ai and Rinko. So all the tension goes out of this early on until Sano realizes that Capraccio knows his intent and has figured out a way to insure Sano will fight. What better way to do that than to have something on Inumaru and use him as motivation. In some ways it does bring back a bit of the tension to the fight but so much of it was lost that it's hard to gain back. Even worse, there is a good deal of flashback material brought into the middle of the fight that shows us how Sano and Inumaru are tied to each other. Every villain has his good side and motivations. This works in a show like Fighting Spirit but in a show like this it just comes across poorly.
Law of Ueki does have a chance to redeem itself though as the progression of events leads us back to Robert. With him being the main goal right now for Ueki as he intends to stop him from destroying the world, getting back to the big bad guy is a good thing. Of course, one thing that you have to do to make a bad guy all the better is to expand upon who he is so you can root for him. The trip into Robert's background is one that covers a fair deal of ground but disappoints almost from the start. With him intent on basically killing everyone, finding out that his "origin story" revolves around the idea that other kids picked on him just doesn't cut it. I'm certainly sympathetic for those that have rough childhoods (mine was no picnic to be sure) but it takes something rather serious to get into the mindset of actually attempting to carry out the end of the world.
This origin story is not that.
Every chance the Law of Ueki gets to redeem itself and to show some of its creative spark ends up doing little more than feeding the cliché machine. This set of episodes brings us through more of the main tournament arc that the show has fallen into and then deals with an origin story that just doesn't click at all. Robert, the supposed main villain of the story at least for now, just comes across as whiny after seeing what affected him, regardless of what his powers are actually like. Similar to how I've felt about previous volumes, there is some potentially neat material in here but it continues to suffer under the constraints of being little more than the latest action fighting show. While it could gain an audience in broadcast, it's appeal to the home video market must be quite small, particularly in single-disc form.
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