Law of Ueki Vol. #09 (of 13) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, August 27, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2007
What They Say
Team Ueki faces Team Marilyn in the second game. But just when the match starts, Rinko gets knocked unconscious and a point is taken right off the bat! Ueki decides to let the others escape and stays behind to fight the heartless soldier Marilyn alone. Unfortunately, she notices his plot and splits the team to chase the other members of Team Ueki down. Will Sano be able to fight them while protecting Ai and Hideyoshi, who are inadequate for offensive battles?
The next round of the Tournament is underway and Team Ueki has to deal with a hardcore group of soldiers.
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.
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.
The tough guys of Team Ueki take the cover this time around as Wanko and Ueki show off their mean faces with a background of one of the buildings from the main battle. It's a good looking cover overall and is certainly better than some of the early garish covers that were just over the top in gaudiness. 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 Marilyn members with their powers and pictures. The back cover lists the episode numbers and titles for this volume.
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.
A clean version of the new opening sequence is included with this volume.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The completely uneven nature of this series hits once again and we actually get four episodes that are fairly entertaining in a standard shonen kind of way. The first episode revolves around a bit of power growth for Ueki and then shifts straight into three episodes of non-stop battle with the next team in the Tournament. The new assortment of wacky villains brings in the usual short backgrounds and oddball quirks they possess but it manages to surprise by actually entertaining. Or maybe it's just the summer heat getting to me.
One of the main rivalries of the series gets a bit more attention with these episodes as Li Ho pulls Ueki to the side after everyone starts on their recovery from the first round match. Li Ho has always viewed Ueki as his main opponent but realizes that unless Ueki moves past the block that he has about how to use his skills and powers, he'll never find the challenge he's looking for. While it's a simple enough approach and one that does work for the character, the execution just had me rolling my eyes at it. Law of Ueki has never shied away from being an obvious shonen series but it goes straight into Dragon Ball Z territory here as both Li Ho and Ueki essentially go "super saiyan" on each other. In the context of the series I admit that it makes sense but the visuals for it and the use of it just comes across as either a direct comparison or an homage to it.
The majority of this volume revolves around the battle with Team Marilyn however which isn't even complete after the three episodes. After the battle with Team Grano, which had far too much silly material for my tastes at times, Team Marilyn is an interesting change of pace as the group is made up of very different personalities. The five member team all came from the same country where they grew up knowing nothing but war. Raised from an early age to perform in battle, they're an exceptional team in how they work together. The real problem of course is that while as battle hardened as they are and as much as they operate as a team, they aren't exactly friends nor can they truly depend on each other.
This is the area where Law of Ueki, and many shonen action series in general, really fail to entertain. So much of it isn't even telegraphed but rather plainly spoken by the characters. Motivations are "revealed" at the drop of a hat, powers are explained at length in the midst of battle and solutions for dealing with opponents are handled much the same. When Ueki faces off against Baron while Marilyn and the rest head after the others in Ueki's team, we get a potentially interesting fight as Baron's power isn't cleanly explained at first. But before you know it we've got his entire history, his loyalty rating to Marilyn and a full explanation of his power. And you know it won't be too long until we get to hear about how his Level 2 version of it works.
Similar occurs during the battle in which the rest of the teams face off against each other as well. The trio that has to handle the Team Ueki members works well in a coordinated fashion and there's still enough uncertainty on the Ueki teams side that they can fall for the tricks easily, especially with Ueki out of the picture for a bit. While the Team Marilyn members are confident and cocky to the point where they too reveal everything about themselves too easily, Wanko and the others actually do a good job of going on the offense and keeping their intentions quiet. Perhaps it's just me, but I rather enjoy seeing the characters acting and reacting to situations without a ton of dialogue while trying to see how they're outwitting their opponents. This battle does just that for the most part, since some gloating is inevitable, and that makes the overall experience more fun than I had expected.
Law of Ueki is still by no means a great show. Or even a good one for the most part. It's a walking cliché that lost most of its uniqueness early on. There are still glimmers of it here and there at times but some of what made the show engaging at times has been mostly swept under the rug. The series progresses much like numerous other shonen action series and you can see where it's all going quite easily. The characters have their moments, such as Ueki's getting lost and dealing with various Celestial creatures, but beyond that you know exactly what to expect. It's just the length of the battles that's left up in the air. This set of episodes has a good bit of fun to it and some enjoyable action sequences but it really is just as uneven as everything that has come before.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening
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: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Law of Ueki