Law of Ueki Vol. #08 (of 13) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, July 12, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2007



What They Say
Ueki is determined to become a Nine-Star Celestial by the second round - however, there is a limit on how many stars a Celestial Beast can raise. If Tenko raises Ueki's star-level again, Tenko will die! Nevertheless, he lets Ueki in his Awakening Chamber without telling Ueki about this...! Soon after that, the third round begins, which is conducted as a seven-team league battle. Team Ueki's first opponent is Team Grano, and the battlefield is the Sleeping Fruits Island.

The Review!
The first round of the next phase kicks into gear as the Tournament gets underway in the Celestial world.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Bruised and battered, except for Ai who doesn't get into fights, the cover here is a decent one as the team has come together well through the shared experiences. 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 Team Grano members with their powers and pictures. The back cover lists the episode numbers and titles for this volume.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Finding a rhythm that works in regards to watching the Law of Ueki is a difficult one. Sometimes batches of episodes work better and sometimes doing them one a day is more manageable. The series has shifted a bit since the last episode in that it's being elevated to a real tournament level series wherein Team Ueki now has to compete in order to save Wanako and Mr. K from their fates. Tournament shows can be problematic and Law of Ueki has already had its share of problems.

Changing pace for this volume, we watched the four episodes throughout the day with breaks in between them. That seemed to minimize the pain a bit as did the way the show ended up being fairly fun in how it handled things. Law of Ueki has had some nice twists to it as it progressed but a lot of that was lost along the way as it fell into more traditional modes and the powers that are being used are just too open-ended. In addition it fell into the same trap so many others do in that Ueki continually has to get better and better to face more difficult opponents. This is dealt with in the opening episode as it concerns the Nine Star test that Ueki is preparing to undertake in order to be properly prepared for the tournament. This has some decent but predictable moments as we learn the real cost of the training and it goes through the usual clichés about friendship and bonds. The more I watch this show the more I feel it'd be ideal on Cartoon Network alongside Pokemon.

It doesn't take too long to shift to the tournament aspect itself however and the opening stage of it is one that was fairly fun to see play out. The various teams are all set to compete for the first couple of rounds by going though various competitions. Team Ueki ends up going against Team Grano in which they're all transported to an island where a treasure is hidden. Each team has a map with five sections that are revealed as their opponents are taken out. It doesn't go in order so the first one taken out could reveal where the treasure is. There are some serious consequences to losing overall though as each team has a penalty, such as going bald early. Team Ueki's is unfortunately "you will die" which makes things really problematic. But what an incentive...

Team Grano does bring some fun things to the table though there are plenty of clichés to be had as well. The teams are throw randomly to the wind as they land on the island so you have familiar events such as Ueki and Ai together where she still doesn't have a clue what her power is or how to really help. Rinko and Sano find that they just work against each other more than anything else and have to figure out a better way to deal with it. And all of it often comes in the form of being dealt with in the midst of battle. Team Grano itself has a few people with neat powers, once you get past the awful karaoke thing, with Pecol being able to turn photos into models and Grano being able to turn models into reality. There's some interesting potential there for abuse but it never really goes in the direction you'd want it to go in. Pecol becomes something of the main character of the various fights as he's the weak link on Team Grano and that opens up doors for others.

In Summary:
Law of Ueki moves easily into the major tournament mode with this volume which is little surprise. These episodes have some fun moments to it as they all fight it out while mixing in comedy and absurd powers. In the end though it really doesn't feel all that different from earlier episodes except that Ueki now has more varied powers and the people he's fighting aren't the same. The characters do have a certain charm to them but it's the kind of basic charm that you can find in almost any series done in the same way. The unique and really interesting aspects of the Law of Ueki continue to remain in the background for now, leaving us to just work through however many more tournament episodes there are. Fans of the show will like this latest set of episodes but it's still a very hard sell outside of the genre.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
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: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Law of Ueki