Moon Phase Vol. #2 (also w/Starter Set) (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Release Date: Monday, August 20, 2007



What They Say
The young vampire Hazuki has found herself a new life - Kouhei's. Enchanted not by any supernatural wiles, but rather by her natural grace and charm, the photographer's family has grown quite protective of their new charge. As the dark forces of the Count Kinkel stretch across nations to draw Hazuki back into their dire embrace, the Mido clan risk life and limb to save the petite fanged.

But mystery leads to enigma and deception flies thick in the night sky. The truth could be one that none dare to face. When the Master is foresworn, so shall be the servant. Some riddles are best left unsolved...

Episodes Comprise
6 " Heart Throbs in Kyoto
7 " Well, I Wanted It...
8 " Mother Came to See Me! Happy!
9 " Save Me from this Dream
10 " You're my Slave and I Won't Forgive You

The Review!
Hazuki's escape from the castle was destined never to be an easy one, and when Elfriede isn't willing or able to bring her back, Vigo and Count Kinkel himself come to Japan to finish the job. Along the way, Hazuki has to deal with the twin terrors of the Mido family, learning when not to use her powers " and helping Kouhei recover from serious wounds that she herself inflicted...

Audio:
Audio for this release comes in 2.0 Japanese and English, and 5.1 English versions. I listened to the Japanese track for this review. As stereo mixes go, it's pretty good, with some good use made of dialogue placement and background effects to add to the atmosphere of the show. There were no obvious problems.

Video:
Video is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect, enhanced for anamorphic playback. Despite a lot of the scenes making heavy use of colours at the darker end of the scale (all in the name of atmosphere, again), there's a fair amount of detail to pick out in the animation, and it all comes across well & the transfer in general looks good. There were no obvious problems.

Packaging:
Gracing the front this time around we have Elfriede, looking a sultry as ever, with a bouncy and innocent-looking Hazuki in the background. The rear has the usual disc technical information, promotional blurb and screenshots. The reverse has another nice piece of Hazuki in her white dress, this time in the manga style (as used in the show's ending sequence), and the coverart for the remaining volumes in the series.

Menu:
Another static screen in the usual style of Revelations' release - a close-up image of Elfriede, set against the castle and full moon, takes up one side of the screen, with options for Play All, Episodes, Setup and Extras running along the bottom. Hazuki again features on the scene selection screen, while atmospheric scenery shots grace the setup and extras screens.

Extras:
Just creditless versions of the opening & closing sequences this time around.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Kouhei, Hazuki and co are in Kyoto for a meeting with the family (with a little work on the side for Kouhei). Kouhei's not too keen on going to the family home as it's a little too orderly for his liking, so he reluctantly takes some time to see the Kyoto sights with Hazuki. What sights he can see at night, anyway. Back at the main house, it seems that Hazuki's cat is no ordinary feline, and may hold the key to helping Kouhei's grandfather track down his missing daughter, Chizuru. Meanwhile, Elfriede has tagged along on the trip and seems to have something she wants to tell Kouhei, while two of the girls from the main house, Kaoru and Hikaru, aren't happy at having a vampire in their midst.

Later, there are further problems for Kouhei and Hazuki to deal with " a visitor who appears to be Hazuki's mother but turns out to be far from friendly, and the arrival in Japan of Count Kinkel and Vigo an a mission to retrieve Hazuki. Fortunately, the gang have a new ally to help them deal with the Count.

A few events of note on this volume, as the more serious side of the series comes to the fore again " always the more interesting aspect of Moon Phase, for my money. First, there are a few new characters on the scene, in the form of twins Kaoru and Hikaru. They've been promised in marriage (despite their young years) to Kouhei and Seiji respectively " not an arrangement that the guys seem to be taking particularly seriously, but the girls seem to be set on the idea, which creates a neat little bit of conflict between them and Hazuki, the interloper who's now living with their promised men. Finding out that she's a vampire only adds to the mistrust, and across the disc there are a few good scenes where the three deal with each other. The twins both have the Mido family's supernatural powers, so they're actually a good match for Hazuki in a fight.

The Kyoto visit is really just a warm-up for the main event, though " the arrival of the Count and Vigo, and the resulting conflict that comes from their efforts to get Hazuki back. If you're as curious as I am about why Hazuki is so valuable to them, don't be expecting any detailed answers yet " instead, we get a very enjoyable series of set-piece confrontations along similar lines to what we got back at the beginning of the series, as Hazuki is captured by the Count. Kouhei, naturally enough, isn't prepared to just sit by and let that happen, and gets some unexpected help in his efforts to release her again. That leads to the most notable event of the series so far: the first appearance of Hazuki's alter-ego Luna, and Hazuki having to deal with the after-effects of her actions " she can see the consequences of what "she" has done, but has no memories of doing it. It's another layer added to Hazuki's character, over and above the cute & cuddly little-sister persona that she usually has, and it's definitely intriguing. It doesn't take much to figure out that it's the Luna personality " a far more cold and violent beast " that the Count is interested in, but beyond seeing her for the first time there's very little given away about her. A mystery for later in the series, and one I hope is fully resolved.

The show's other mysteries " the disappearances of Hazuki's and Kouhei's mothers " don't get ignored, either. There are a number of links drawn between their disappearances and the Count, which along with Luna's emergence begins setting things up nicely for the second half of the series.

In summary:
Assuming it doesn't get horribly sidetracked by comedy stories, then, Moon Phase is shaping up well. The comedy side is fun, as long as it's not overdone (which hasn't been a problem so far), and the main story surrounding Hazuki and the Count is developing in a way that's definitely intriguing. While it's not as heavily 'gothic' as the first few episodes may have originally indicated, it's still an enjoyable series, and this volume's revelations and betrayals have made for some good viewing. Worth checking out.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Textless Songs

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: A-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Revelation Films
MSRP: £15.99
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Moon Phase