Kurau: Phantom Memory Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, March 29, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2007
What They Say
Her name is Kurau, and in a world of mercenary agents, she's the cream of the elite; a master swordswoman, martial artist and thief so skilled that no secret or objective is beyond her grasp. The greatest secret of all, however, is the one Kurau conceals inside herself: The freak result of a disastrous experiment with a new kind of energy, Kurau's body has been fused with a binary alien life form called the Rynax. Every second Kurau lives is lived twice, one alien sharing her consciousness, the other still waiting to be born... and now none of those lives may last very long! The truth about Kurau has begun to leak out, a worldwide manhunt has been launched and now the ultimate agent is the ultimate target. From the craters of the moon to the most dangerous corners of the Earth, incredible action explodes at every turn in Kurau Phantom Memory!
When research into a new form of energy reveals a new form of life instead, one young girl becomes something far more than any human ever has.
The two audio tracks included on this release are quite solid though the edge definitely goes to the English track. The Japanese track is presented in its original 2.0 mix encoded at 224 kbps. The mix for it is pretty dynamic with lots of nice bass to it and some good directionality to the action effects and dialogue. The English 5.1 mix is done at 448 kbps and really comes across as a much stronger and more focused mix. The subwoofer in particular has a much stronger effect here and radically changes how several of the action sequences play out as well as the opening and closing sequences. In listening to both tracks, we didn't have any troubles with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Like many series from BONES, this one has a very wide range to it in terms of its color palette and overall animation. Going through this release a couple of times I'm hard pressed to really find any issue with it outside of some minor gradient problems in the backgrounds and a small touch of cross coloration in some line work once or twice. Colors look fantastic and nicely saturated, backgrounds maintain a solid feel without any noticeable noise or breakup and the fluid moments of animation are very clean. This is a very clean and solid looking release.
Using artwork that wasn't on the Japanese release, ADV Films continues to experiment with their cover design this year to positive effect. Working from a white background and adding in some silvers and reds that shine just right, the central image is that of Kurau as she deals a blow to one of the Agents she battles in this volume. The stylish artwork of this illustration really shines here and is one of those covers that just doesn't feel like it's a churned out piece. The back cover takes the reds and silvers once more and puts the whole thing at a couple of angles. The summary reads well as it's kept level but the pictures and production information is all given at an angle. The technical grid is as well but at a different angle and still quite readable. The insert is a three panel fold-out that has several text interviews with the creative staff and the original cover art from the Japanese DVD release. The cover for this release is not reversible.
The menu design for the show at the moment doesn't really seem to make much sense as it adapts part of the background from the cover as its basis. Using dark grays and navy blues as the color mix, wisps of energy float around the mechanical designs that are hidden pretty well in the background. The top level has individual episode selection and submenus for languages and extras as well as a preview for the next volume. The layout is quick and easy to navigate and while it doesn't look like anything in particular it does have a sense of style to it. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players' language presets.
The opening volume of the series has a couple of good extras on it. The opening and closing sequences are presented in their clean format and we get a round of production artwork as well. A "key words" section covers various phrases relevant to this new world and there's also a promotional video showcasing how people first saw Kurau.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Long delayed since its acquisition, Kurau: Phantom Memory has finally arrived and it's certainly worth the wait. The twenty-four episode series aired back in 2004 and was acquired just about a week after it first hit the airwaves. A production between BONES and Media Factory, the show in its first few episodes shows much of the promise that many of their shows seem to have and actually looks to carry through on it.
An original story with the series composition by Aya Yoshinaga and directed by Yasuhiro Irie, Kurau: Phantom Memory starts off leaving you entirely unsure of what you're going to get from it. Taking place on the moon in the year 2100, we're introduced to the twelve year old Kurau and her father. She's a spunky girl who lost her mother early on so she's a touch spoiled and stubborn. She dearly loves her father and spending time with him so she's doubly excited to be going to his research lab to watch his latest experiment in pursuit of a new form of energy. The fear of BONES going down the path of young leads sets the stage but the show takes a few twists as well as a nod or two towards convention.
Unsurprisingly, things at the experiment go horribly awry. The energy ends up overwhelming the equipment and Kurau gets hit with a concentrated blast. Before her father can truly react, Kurau disintegrates and then reforms as something more than human. Her memories are there but the personality that made Kurau is gone. In her place is something called only Rynax. Kurau now seems to have a touch more maturity to her but also the curiosity of someone who has not experienced this world before. The memories of Kurau pervade her mind and before she realizes much of it she's calling her father with love and adoration but he can't quite make the connection. His only goal at this point is to find a way to free Kurau from what's happened.
Kurau agrees to some initial testing and we see that even for someone on the moon she has amazing abilities. But these tests push her quite a lot and her frustration quickly becomes apparent. Very little is learned about the Rynax but it is revealed that another being is inside her as well, her "Pair" that she can't be without. This being is still completely out of the picture as the event caused it to be drained completely. Kurau starts to take its comic book origins ala Spider-Man and shifts to what a lot of anime series would be, a show about a young girl with fantastic powers and a startling secret. Add in the angst from her father and the entire situation and you can map out the series pretty well.
BONES doesn't play like that though and the show suddenly shifts forward ten years later. Kurau is now living on Earth and is working as an Agent for a Broker. At the physical age of twenty-two and looking like it, Kurau performs odd jobs and missions to acquire money as she continues to wait for her Pair to awaken. The jobs are about as expected as she deals with retrieving stolen artwork, performing as a bodyguard and similar slightly risky delights. Yet with her abilities that she must keep secret, her job is actually quite easy for the most part and it allows her to take jobs that others would likely die on. Through this she's earned quite a reputation among fellow Agents as well as the GPO, the government organization that is now watching her. Her Rynax past appears to have much more going on in this world since the initial experiment.
Kurau seemed like it was going to go something along the lines of a show based on a manga would with a young lead. The shift to an older Kurau and then the introduction of another character for her to protect could have gone so badly. The younger one could have ended up with weird hair, be completely naïve or any other number of bad things. Instead, the show decides to take things in a serious route and to avoid comedy in general. There are light moments of levity but they fit within the show rather than dominate it. Kurau's world changes a lot in the show during these episodes, from how she is when we first meet her to when we see her again on Earth. Even then she begins to go through more changes that affect her personality and mindset.
Even when BONES gets involved in a show that I don't care much for like Clockwork Hunters or Mars Daybreak, I know that in terms of the visuals I'm going to be in for a treat. Kurau is no exception as it plays in a setting that takes a reasonable view of the world in a hundred years. There are changes but nothing drastic, life goes on and the world has problems and continues to try and solve them. The real world setting applied to this gives it a very strong emotional impact as you don't feel that you're in something completely different and that lets you connect with the characters even more. The little nods to advances are there but they don't play a huge role in the show. We get air cars and some minor space travel material but it isn't tied to a sense of wonder to entice the viewer.
The animation for it is also quite nice as it has a solid fluid feel to it as well as a real sense of self. The overall design for the show is one of evolution and gradual change and it's nicely applied both to the backgrounds as well as the characters. The character designs by Tomomi Ozaki is intriguing at times, particularly that of Kurau as we have to take the leap from twelve to twenty two with her. Having only seen Ozaki's work in Le Chevalier d'Eon, coming into this as an earlier work really heightens the appreciation of both shows in that sense. The ending sequence in particular is a real winner here as it's nothing more than a simple slow zoom out from Kurau's eyes. It's slow and subtle but the character illustration is just so striking that it's very engaging.
Kurau: Phantom Memory is a show that I've heard a lot about but managed to avoid really reading anything about. These first four episodes surprised me by taking what looked to be a standard concept and massaging it into something far more engaging. What continues to seem to be true for me is that the shows that are based off of original concepts and material as opposed to adaptations from manga are much more appealing. The design of the show tends to work within the confines of the planning that's done as opposed to seeing how many volumes of manga can be crammed in before they run out of things. Kurau has an odd feel to it but a real sense of self. A sense of purpose and a plan to go forward, to engage the viewer on a weekly basis rather than adapting manga chapters to do the same. Though the first volume hasn't blown me away, it's a show that has me very engaging and intrigued to see more of it.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production artwork,Promotional video,Key words,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
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: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kurau: Phantom Memory