Madlax Vol. #7 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Release Date: Monday, March 19, 2007
What They Say
The Essence - When the three books come together, the doorway is opened. It is a doorway that leads to reality. There, Madlax and Margaret Burton can not only discover their collective past, but they can also experience something much more powerful - the essence. It is what Friday Monday has fought so long and hard to reveal. It is more than a simple glimpse into the human psyche - it is the unrestrained embodiment of human nature. It is the will of mankind acting without question. It is what we are. It is the truth.
The Truth - Enfant has manipulated it. Madlax and Margaret Burton have been obsessed with searching for it. Carrossea Doon and Vanessa Rene have died trying to find it. Quanzitta and Nakhl are sworn to protect it. And Friday Monday has big plans for it. The truth is a dangerous thing. It has torn people apart, it has murdered, it has brought war and devastation. Yet, everyone feels compelled to embrace it. Everyone yearns to establish an intimate relationship with the very force that drives them away. Will they find it? Or, will they create it?
24 - Devoted Heart
25 - Sacred Blood
26 - Shards
End of the line for Madlax " both the series, and maybe the girl herself, as the truth behind Margaret's missing past and Madlax's origins is finally revealed, and Friday Monday comes ever closer to his destructive aims...
Two audio tracks are provided - English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0. I listened primarily to the Japanese track for this review. The soundtrack is clean and clear, with good use made of the front soundstage to capture the feel of the action sequences and give a good sense of direction to both effects and dialogue. Madlax also has some great music by Yuki Kajiura that gets used quite extensively throughout the show, and in general this also comes across extremely well, although it does come close to drowning out the rest of the audio at times. There were no apparent problems with the audio encoding.
Madlax is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Being a comparatively recent show from a studio that has always worked hard on the appearance of their shows, it really does look the part, with settings being presented with good levels of detail. There's some noticeable colour-banding visible on this disc, which can be quite distracting when it occurs, but for the most part the transfer is problem-free.
Madlax and Margaret grace the final cover, in ritual gear, eyes closed and guns pointed off to one side & with Laetitia floating behind them. Very nice piece of artwork. The rear cover has the usual promotional blurb, screenshots and disc information, while the reverse of the cover has the final Staff Talk segment, featuring director Koichi Mashimo, and an analysis of episodes 25 & 26.
"Simple" is the best way to describe the menus here. As is usual for ADV releases, each episode is selectable directly from the main menu, while submenus are provided for language setup and extras. A black-and-white clip of the OP sequence plays in a small window to liven things up a bit, while a piece of the show's background music plays throughout. There are no transition animations, so the menus are quick and easy to use.
Another good selection of extras on this release. Along with the usual clean opening & closing animations and "Conversations with SSS" segment, there's an alternate version of the next-episode preview for episode 26, a slideshow of design sketches from the series, a slideshow of the packaging artwork from the Japanese DVD release & associated commercials, and some musical treats: the first, a promotional video for the song "I'm here" by FictionJunction YUUKA, as used in the series " this comes in both vocal and karaoke versions, with the karaoke version coming with convenient Romaji subtitles so you can sing along. There's also a "memorial video" for Elenore, featuring the song "hearts" by Yuki Kajiura, again lifted from the series. All songs are set to a series of relevant clips from the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Madlax and Elenore split up - Elenore to look for Margaret, Madlax to draw the attention of the various military units in the area away from Elenore. With her new-found status as the woman who apparently cannot die, it seems the logical thing to do, and the predictable massacre follows. Elenore, meanwhile, finds herself with a handgun but little idea of how to go about finding Margaret - an unusual position for the girl who's always been in control. While Madlax's diversionary tactics are good, though, they can't distract everyone, and Elenore soon finds herself with some unwelcome company. Friday Monday, meanwhile, continues his efforts to get Margaret to use the power of the Elies books to remake the world in the form he would like to see it in, but he's not going to get things all his own way.
As it gets closer to its finale and to finally explaining what's been going on, Madlax also begins to get ever more surreal, as the boundary between reality and the "other side" that's accessed through the Elies books becomes ever more blurred. Despite that, a very good job is done of explaining the how's and why's of what's been going on, particularly as it relates to Margaret, Madlax, and their connections to each other and to the other side. After seeing so many series over the years that just peter out at the end with loose ends left dangling, reaching the end of Madlax and knowing exactly what's happened and what it has represented earns it a whole stack of brownie points, before I even consider the rest of the disc.
And there isn't a dud moment here. Another point in the series' favour is that, as shown by Vanessa's death on the last volume, it isn't afraid of killing characters off, no matter what role they've played or how popular they may be, and that continues with this disc. Along the way, there are a few set-piece battles " some rather pointless, with Madlax being in invincible mode (at least, to everyone by Margaret, who is notably still capable of wounding her), and others having rather more unfortunate outcomes, but all well-choreographed and thoroughly entertaining.
The outcome of the story eventually comes back to events of 12 years previously, events that were inadvertently set in motion by Friday Monday and which are the key to resolving the connections between Margaret and Madlax in the "real" world, and Laetitia and Poupe√© on the other side. Episodes 25 & 26 are devoted to explaining and resolving all this, with poor Friday Monday almost reduced to the role of bit-player " he still wants to carry out his plans for remaking the world to his own twisted vision, but with Margaret being the key to the changing of the eras, the final outcome is her decision, and finding out the truth about her past gives her her own set of priorities to deal with. Her final decision is pretty much exactly what you would expect from her, and has the advantage of avoiding any "reset button" or convenient happy ending that would have left the experience feeling very unsatisfying. While the surrealness of the whole situation is a little hard to swallow, put that to one side and just go with the flow and the final episodes play out extremely well, with nothing left unexplained at the end of it all (and on the off-chance that some of the in-show explanations pass you by, it's all put down in black-and-white on a liner note included with the release).
I remember watching Madlax's first episode, a long time ago now, and being far from convinced that I was going to enjoy the whole experience. As I've worked through the discs, though, I've grown ever more hooked by the series and its characters " yes, there are some over-the-top and unbelievable moments that will have you rolling your eyes, but the journey is hugely enjoyable to watch and in the end it all makes sense, it all hangs together to provide a story that is complete within itself, and the central characters get what they were looking for from day one: the knowledge of who they really are. Who could ask for more?
The final volume of Madlax ties the story up extremely well, explaining all the mysteries raised along the way before letting the surviving characters carry on with their lives. Between a story that was properly resolved, and very high production values that made the series a joy to watch and listen to, there's really very little to criticise Madlax for, other than a tendency to be a little to surreal for its own good. Thoroughly enjoyable throughout, and easily recommended.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,"I'm here" Music Video & Karaoke Version,Japanese Packaging Gallery,Clean Opening & Closing Animations,Design Sketches,Elenore Memorial Video,Episode 26 Alternate Preview,Japanese DVD Commercials,Conversations with SSS
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: ADV Films UK
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2