Solty Rei Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, May 11, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2007



What They Say
You win some and you lose some... and some never stood a chance. Roy Revant has never given up on finding his missing daughter. Now it seems she has come home. Family ties, be they blood or circumstance, are stretched to the breaking point. Brethren gather together in times of trial, pushing out as one at the injustice of real life...

Building walls around your heart can protect you for so long, but eventually they just leave a man alone. Violence begets violence, and Roy has been pushed to the breaking point. How much misery can one man endure?

The Review!
Working through a storyline that changes some of the fundamentals of the series, Solty Rei becomes interesting for several episodes.

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. 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. Roy simply has too much dark around him while Solty's insane color choices are just, well, insane. The back cover has a full length shot of Roy with the same kind of background as the front cover and he's essentially by himself 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)
Solty Rei hasn't been the easiest series to get into though I've found that the story elements dealing with Rose have proven to be the most enjoyable. With the series hitting up through the midway point with this volume, it focuses rather heavily on Rose for part of it but it ties into a larger storyline that runs through all four episodes that was surprisingly enjoyable.

While there is plenty of angst in how some of the characters deal with each other, particularly between Rose and Roy, much of that is pushed to the side early on here as Roy's life just gets increasingly worse. While people are talking and reflecting over recent events, an old enemy of Roy's has escaped from prison and is extracting his revenge. Hou Chu was one of the people Roy was merciless with years ago and had shot repeatedly, something like twelve shots in the arm which completely destroyed it. Hou Chu has spent his time in prison since he was a criminal but he's been given a new arm with plenty of tricks to it and is intent on putting Roy in his place for what he's suffered.

Taking a page out of the Die Hard movies, Hou Chu has placed a number of bombs throughout the city that he can detonate at any time. In order to truly mess with Roy, it starts off small with a toy one inside the bar where he's chatting with Larry but then they get more intense as time goes on. Roy's given plenty of chances to get close to where the bombs are but never quite enough to stop them. From the larger one in the bar to another at the hunter office and some out on the street, Hou Chu is taking down just about anyone and everyone that means something to Roy. And not just there but associated folks as well which means practically no one is safe. Even civilians walking down the street are getting caught up in it and Roy is in a panic about making sure he stays alive but also Solty and the others.

These episodes give everyone a fair chance at running around and being involved but the fact that it ties into so many secondary characters helps to sort of bring some extra cohesion to the series. Where the show takes a really interesting turn is that we see more of Roy from the past when he became a truly hard boiled cop and just did whatever he felt was right regardless of how brutal it was. Though displayed through Hou Chu's perceptions, it brings Rose into the picture in a stronger manner and begins to reveal just how close her ties are to Roy. This changes how the series is perceived as well as some of the relationships in general.

While this change isn't out of left field, it's taken in a surprising manner for such a show. A new storyline involving a rogue RUC scientist that's performing experiments that aren't sanctioned hints at the potential of a new Blast Fall kicks off. That premise is more than enough to shake up Roy from the head games he's putting himself through and to try and deal with that. The way it plays out, and the subsequent episode that really puts the cast through the wringer, simply changes how the series feels. While it's had its mildly dark moments early on and you've got old man angst with Roy, this takes it to an area that few series do these days. While it doesn't drastically alter my view of the show in general, it does make me far more interested in seeing the second half to find out what's really going on.

In Summary:
Solty Rei hasn't gone from a must avoid to a must watch but it has climbed out of the lower levels of mediocrity by taking some chances. With only four episodes on here it didn't feel like it was too much to see at once as well as minimizing the role that Solty is playing. Solty has had some fun moments throughout but the mildly innocent artificial girl has been such a staple for so long that she brings nothing new to the table here. Thankfully it's the other characters that are bringing in some good material now and giving the show a bit more life and meat to make it interesting.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 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: B-
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