Fantastic Children Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Release Date: Monday, March 26, 2007
What They Say
Tina's body had been turned into a terrible weapon. The only possible way to save her was to transfer her soul to faraway Earth. Before she was sent away, Tina and Soran vowed to meet each other once again on Earth. Now that all her memories have returned, Helga takes on the appearance of a person from Greecia; her hair turns white and her eye color changes to blue. To Aghi and the others, whose ultimate goal has always been to return their souls to Greecia, Helga reveals the decision she has made about her future. But immediately after telling them, Dumas arrives and carries Helga away. Dumas's long-awaited meeting with his beloved older sister at last becomes a reality!
19 " The Vow
20 " Revolving Lives
21 " Dumas
22 " Incoming
After dealing with the memories of her predecessors, Helga decides that her first priority is to honour a promise Tina made during her last moments on Greecia: to find & meet Soran on Earth. Meanwhile, GED Group's preparations for the first use of their transference device continue, and at least one of the Children of Befort decides that it's time to start working with Dumas, instead of against him...
Audio is provided in Japanese, English and French 2.0 stereo " I went with the Japanese track for this review. While the audio is clear and easy to make out, there's very little use made of direction here " although to be fair, the way the story is presented doesn't give very much opportunity for that sort of creativity. There are some scenes which provide a little bit of action, and reasonable use is made of the soundstage there, but for the most part Fantastic Children is heavy on the dialogue, and that's kept to the centre channel. There were no obvious problems with the encoding, though.
Presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame format, video suffers from a pastel, washed-out feel that removes some of the impact of the scenes, and leaves the show looking less than its best. There were no obvious problems with the encoding, or with the subtitles.
The front cover of this release features Dumas, standing and looking threatening. The rear has a few screenshots along with the disc technical info and a promotional paragraph, while there's a nice piece of scenery artwork on the reverse.
Menus are available in either English or French - I went with English and was greeted with a static screen of a carved face & archway over a river, nestled in the jungle. An instrumental version of the opening theme plays throughout. Options are provided for Episodes, Bonus & Audio " there's a rather long transition animation when you select an option (a common gripe of mine with Beez releases), but once they're out of the way the menus are easy enough to use. Sadly, there's no option for Play All " you have to use the Episodes menu to start off each episode separately.
Just creditless versions of the opening and closing sequences on this disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Heavily wounded, Seth wanders back through the rubble created by Tina's attack. Her Orsel emmissions have stopped - thanks to Soran's intervention - but to prevent a recurrence the scientists need to act quickly. The plan is to remove the device that had been implanted in her, but when they go looking for it they find that it's disappeared. Meanwhile, Gueroca's forces are taking advantage of the chaos to launch their own attack, attempting to seize control of Greecia from Tina's father. With time running short, and facing the possibility that Tina's weapon side could reactivate, the scientists reach a decision: to send Tina's soul to Earth. Back to the present-day, and after learning so much about "her" past, Helga (or is that Tina, now?) has questions for the other Children, beginning with: what happened to Soran? Despite hearing that he was killed, she's determined to remain on Earth until she finds him again. Thoma, meanwhile, doesn't take Helga's new identity well, while Dumas attempts to make Helga see things his way....
As with the last volume of Fantastic Children, there's a lot going on here, both in finding out about the past and also a few little twists and turns along the way, as Dumas and Gherta are revealed to have closer connections to Helga and the other Children than had even been hinted at before now. Episode 19 is the final episode based on Greecia, for now at least, and covers the decision to send Tina's soul to Earth along with the heartbreak she had to go through immediately before the transference took place. One thing I hadn't expected when I started watching Fantastic Children was for it to take on a love-story aspect, but that's what we get with the connection between Tina and Soran, and their final words on Greecia play a large part in decisions Helga takes later on Earth. For Thoma, learning that Helga's developed an interest in someone she's never met it hard to handle " he's clearly developed feelings for her himself, and jealousy is kicking in " but given the visual similarities between Soran and Thoma, I can't help but think things will turn out alright for them both. The final volume will tell.
There's also an interesting exploration of identity. After seeing her past lives, Helga develops the Greecian white hair that Tina and the Children all have, and as far as the Children are concerned, from that point she is Tina " but Helga has a different view that sets the cat amongst the pigeons a little. "This soul no longer belongs to Tina alone" " it has shared experiences with the people who have "hosted" it, for want of a better word, including Helga. For the other Children, who have each passed through a number of hosts over the years, this creates a bit of a dilemma, and it's fascinating watching some of them trying to deal with the implications of that. That also plays into revelations about Dumas and Gherta that will affect how the Children deal with them " for Dumas, in particular, there's a slight softening of the character once you get a better glimpse at his motivations and see the pressure he's under from his father. It's not enough to turn him into one of the good guys, but it certainly leaves his less of a demon and paints him more in shades of grey.
Inspector Cooks and his sidekick make a welcome reappearance, although without an explanation of what happened after they were caught on the GED Group's ship a few volumes back. That sort of gap in the story is very unusual for Fantastic Children, and disappointed me a bit. Cooks also doesn't seem to have learnt anything from the experience and simply goes back to his investigation of the Children, apparently even more determined than ever. I had originally liked the Inspector and his arc of the story, but it's the one aspect of the series that hasn't been handled well " pushed into the background for long periods, aspects of the arc left unresolved, and no real development for Cooks himself. In part that's because there's so much going on elsewhere, but it's still a great shame.
Despite one or two little flaws, Fantastic Children continues to be a hugely impressive story, with plenty going on and enough twists and turns in the storyline to keep you on your toes. Some story arcs aren't dealt with as well as they could be, but the way the show drags you in and doesn't let you go compensates for this. It's a huge shame that this series doesn't have a higher profile " it really should be essential viewing. Highly recommended.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,French Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Textless Opening & Closing Sequences
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Pioneer DV-626D DVD player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Beez
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Fantastic Children