Disgaea Vol. #3 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, May 11, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What They Say
After a long journey filled with mayhem and misadventures, Laharl overtakes the Overlord's castle. The only problem is that Earth decides to make their move and eradicate the entire Netherworld! What's more, Flonne discovers disturbing evidence that the Netherworld, Earth and Celestia share a secret past that's not so pretty. Betrayal, revenge, and the desire to hurt someone really, really bad all come together to give us a war of epic proportions!

The Review!
Laharl takes on the role of Overlord at long last but his sights are set much higher than just the Netherworld.

Geneon has gone the traditional route with this release as both language tracks are done in a standard stereo mix. We listened to this show in both mixes and neither of them stand out a lot in any real way but they are decent sounding and cover the basic range required. There isn't anything really noticeable in terms of directionality but it has a solid forward soundstage that works well for the material. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in early 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Using a range of vibrant colors and very clean artwork, Disgaea is the kind of show that intends to look bright and silly but still retaining some of the aesthetics that most anime fans expect when it comes to details and backgrounds. The source material for this is in pristine shape which means no actual issues with what we have here but the authoring leaves something to be desired. The opening and closing sequences, presumably done by PCB Productions as they're the dub folks behind this, it's filled with a lot of very noticeable mosquito noise. The more action there is in a scene the worse it looks. Within the show itself this isn't quite as noticeable as the bold colors and carefully orchestrated movements don't result in a lot of busy scenes. There are areas though where it looks just as bad though. When brought down to a 23" monitor it was still pretty noticeable. Colors in general do look quite good though and maintain a mostly solid feel without much in the way of general background noise and there isn't anything to note in regards to cross coloration.

Similar to the second volume in how it doesn't quite capture the right kind of blend of energy and comedy, this volume looks serious with Laharl going up against Seraph Lamington. It retains much of the same coloring and style as the earlier volumes so they fit nicely together in that sense. The back cover uses the same kind of dark motif of the netherworld setting and has a busy but decent layout. The summary covers the basics while a couple of shots from the show are provided below it. The episode numbers and titles are included as is a decent breakdown of the discs features. The production credits are the standard material and a technical grid that's a rarity on Geneon releases makes an appearance. The insert has a fun shot of Laharl taking on the space fleet with a very appropriate wicked grin. The inside of the insert has a group shot of characters from earlier episodes together that's rather cute while the back side plugs earlier volumes and the PlayStation 2 game. The cover for this release is reversible and it has both panels featuring covers from the Japanese release with the original logo, something I wish we saw more of once again.

The menus, designed by 342media, have a small but annoying lead-in piece of animation that eventually lands you in a decent looking animated main menu. It uses the character artwork from the front cover and the overall design idea and adds in some clips form the show and a bit of movement on some of it to give it an active feel, particularly with the choral music tied to it. The lead-in animation isn't the only thing though I can't say I mind that there are transitional animations as it's done with Prinnies and they are just adorable. 342media is one of the companies that has this preference for putting the language selections in with the extras and then making it so you can't do English with full subtitles from the menu, so it forces you to do it on the fly instead. Access times are decent with the transitional animations and everything works without any problem. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets.

The last round of extras is almost a copy of previous ones but this is a good thing. While we don't get clean versions of the opening or closing sequences, we get a promotional video that that was made for the series as well as another pair of the Special Talk segments. These segments are essentially more of the same as we saw on previous installments but they're still fun and interesting to watch.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Disgaea draws to a close with the final four episodes where it essentially carries through with what it's always been about. Laharl's quest for power as the Overlord is reached within the first couple of scenes of the first episode but that's just prelude to the overall storyline that's revealed in these episodes.

Having a show go in this manner isn't a surprise since previous episodes have been mostly standalone pieces with a few shreds of something bigger going on. Those areas could easily be ignored and the show would still be quite a lot of fun. At the end though, it pulls together a few of those earlier areas and gives it a slight bit more cohesion. Not that the series really needed it, it could have ended easily enough with Laharal's rise to power and some sort of face-off with the power structure in the Netherworld.

Instead, Laharl is quickly faced with the arrival of a massive two million plus fleet of ships from Earth. Jennifer and Gordon have more going on than some have realized and Thursday turns out to be some sort of powerful beacon/device that allows humanity to warp through directly to the Netherworld. With a little guidance from "above," the fleet has come to remove what's perceived as the root of all evil from their lives. Laharl won't go quietly of course and there are some fun little revelations about the humans who have populated the Netherworld. Gordon has always been a one-note joke so their introduction of Kurtis, another Defender of the Earth, only doubles that joke as the two duke it out. Jennifer is actually fleshed out a little bit here and her background makes you want to reexamine her presence in earlier episodes.

Not content with dealing with humanity, Laharl also has his eyes set on Celestia. Flonne's influence has certainly been a positive one on him but circumstances haven't changed his overall opinion that he needs to rule all three of the basic dimensions. Once Celestia becomes involved in a more formal way than just Flonne we get to see some of what's really been going on behind the scenes. It's a slight plot and one that fits in with everything that Flonne has been espousing since she first came on stage with the series. It also keeps with the kind of light and simple storytelling that's made up the show so far. While that could be detrimental to some shows I think it actually works here, particularly in its English language adaptation.

While there are dimension-shaking events going on with this volume, some of the best material comes with an episode that focuses entirely on the Prinnies. These creatures have been positively hilarious in general but also are even better in English with their inflection of the word "dude." With one episode on here we get a real look at what the Prinnies are all about and how they evolve for lack of a better word. They've been a strange group of throwaway creatures since the start and have had some really weird moments but in tying it to Laharal's origins and foisting more of that "love freak" stuff on him, it's just a great episode. Even as forced as it gets in terms of the emotions, the comedic side of it just stands out stronger.

For reasons that I can't quite pin down, the English language dub for this series simply stands out to me. I've never been a big fan of Sandy Fox but she just made Flonne all the better with her performance here. The same goes for Michelle Ruff who did a fantastic job as Etna. Both of them brought more to their roles than the Japanese cast did for me. Barbara Goodson was probably the weakest of them for me but since Laharal is such a one-note character with the way he deals with things it's not too much of a surprise. I'm still very disappointed that once again PCB Productions does not provide it's cast list for inclusion in the end credits. I want to know who was in these roles, particularly for the Prinnies as they just did a fantastic job.

In Summary:
Disgaea's adaptation from the game version is one that simply did not click with the fans of the game for the most part. Having never played the game, getting into the series was something that surprised me. More often than not, game adaptations to anime tend to suck. Disgaea stands alone without really relying on the game and forged its own path. In a lot of ways, the series reminds me heavily of the kind of OVA series Pioneer used to put out in the mid nineties. It's bright and fun, not too deep but has enough continuity and charisma to it to carry it off. Disgaea as a whole proved to be a lot of fun and something that's really easy to share and recommend to almost all ages.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Promotional Video,Special Talks

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Disgaea