Third, The: The Girl With The Blue Eye Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, September 03, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2007



What They Say
One Girl. One Tank. No Problem.

After their last devastating encounter with Blue Breaker, Honoka and the others try to pick up the pieces, but there's not much time to recover. The cold blue enforcer is closing in fast, and this time, there's nothing holding him back. She may be outmatched and outgunned, but Honoka isn't about to give up without a fight!

Meanwhile, something dangerous has begun to stir out in the desert. It's got the Third worried, and when the Third are worried, others should be terrified...

Contains episodes 5-8.

The Review!
Reeling from the impact of the events with Blue Breaker, Honoka looks to center herself once again and figure out which path in life to take.

Audio:
This series is presented with the standard options of the original Japanese stereo mix as well as an English stereo mix. In addition to that it's been given a spruced up English 5.1 mix, at 448 kbps as opposed to the other mixes 192 kbps, which gives it much greater clarity and sense of impact. The 5.1 mix provides something that gives the show a fuller feeling that enhances the overall presentation and once again illustrates the need on the part of the Japanese to stop mucking around in stereo so much. The stereo mixes certainly aren't bad as we listened to this primarily in the Japanese language and it fit with the show well enough. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series marks the first time that Right Stuf has worked with anamorphic materials for the anime side and the results are pretty good overall. With there being less lengthy extras on this volume, the increased space has allowed for some better peak bitrates when needed throughout the show. The average is still relatively the same and the results are still very good looking throughout. The series has some stellar looking backgrounds to it and they're wonderfully realized here in the authoring for the most part. The blocking that was visible on the first volume has eased off considerably though there are still natural gradient issues that crop up from the source material.

Packaging:
Not as bright and cheery as the first volume, the cover art for this installment provides a more vulnerable looking Honoka in her PSP suit along with some mini mecha action in the background. There is a lot of black space here which feels a bit awkward as it doesn't give us a real focus but the artwork is decent and the Honoka design does pull you in enough. The back cover goes for an in-theme style look with some good colors to it as it uses blacks and oranges to good effect. A few shots are included of the darker moments from the series as well as some much smaller shots to flesh it out. The summary covers the basics while the special features are all clearly listed. As usual, there is a good technical grid along the bottom that contains everything in a very easy to read format. The cover is reversible as it has the Japanese artwork which contains a look at Honoka over the years alongside a shot of Walken. Also included is a very heavy stock insert that provides poetry summaries of the episodes, character artwork and comments as well as some illustrations.

Menu:
The menu design for the series is fairly simple but has some nice design and animation elements to it. The main menu uses the front cover artwork in expanded form along with the PSP visuals to tie it all together with the navigation strip. A bit of music plays back during it and there are some nice animation moments to it as it reloads or as it shifts to the show itself. Moving about is quick and easy and the design is intuitive while still flowing well. Access times are fast and the disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
After the overload of extras on the first volume, this one feels positively barren but it's deceptive. The character bios continue to break tradition a bit in a good way. Going into each character there is a bit of artwork and a summary but there's also a commentary. The commentary is done by the Japanese voice actress for Honoka and it showcases a short clip, often a couple of minutes or less, of character design artwork with comments about the perception and design of them.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With its second volume, The Third continues to feel like other series that play in the same sandbox by being a bit more introspective without coming across as pretentious. The first arc is relatively closed out here by having Honoka come to grips with what's happened while not going out in a blaze of glory against Blue Breaker. The approach used, with its laid back pacing combined with poetry and narration, provides a very interesting hook for the series to use instead of just action, action and more action.

The fallout from Zankan's death in the battle with Blue Breaker has Honoka in clean up mode before anything else. The focus is on making sure nobody gets the technology he's worked on nor his daughter. Millie is still essentially out of the picture from the attack and Honoka has set her mind to taking care of her until she can figure out the best way to proceed. There's a real sense of family here in how the four people come together, as Bogie and Iks help with Millie as well. Millie's reaction once she awakens is mostly that of shock and denial as she tries to just get on with something resembling normalcy. It's a state that they all try to accept and work with her on, which leads to some very touching scenes as it all plays out.

While Honoka does seek out some sort of revenge on Blue Breaker for what's gone on, it doesn't really become the focus of things until the storyline brings him back to Honoka. The events playing in the background of the series so far with the Third and Joganki's protection of Honoka is setting the stage for things to come but it's still unclear as to what's happening. The way it plays out as Honoka and Blue Breaker go against each other really feels unusual as there is a range of emotions playing through her that leads to some very poetic and poignant moments. The Third is filled with lots of little touches that illustrate how different the world is, and while some of it is just done a bit too blatantly, the end result is that it does tie things together beautifully. A simply moment with some flowers in one context brings about a really great scene elsewhere later on, no matter how projected it was.

To my surprise, Iks actually departs from the show for awhile as he pursues other goals even after making such strong statements to Bogie about his need to travel with her. The removal of Iks at such an early stage changes the dynamic a bit by putting Honoka back out into the deserts with just Bogie. The pair of stories that deals with this helps to bring about more of the larger storyline through small but intriguing moments but it's the character material that really shines. The series has been unpredictable in several ways from the start but it really is doing a good job on detailing what makes Honoka tick. A pair of stories that delves into her past with her mentor and how she became part of the caravan goes a long way towards explaining her outlook on life.

If there's a weak point to the series, it's in the narration aspect. Sometimes it works decently enough but more often than not it feels just a bit too much. If not for it, some scenes with their quiet moments would be more profound and allow the viewer to infer more of what's going on. Thankfully the narration isn't a constant and there are times when it provides something useful for the scene. What does work wonderfully for the series however is its beautiful background design. The first four episodes had some truly stunning moments in layout and "set" design that gave it a very theatrical feel. So many of these peaceful moments in the desert feel like they belong more in a big budget OVA that it would feel out of place in most TV series. While The Third isn't a huge budget show, they've done a wonderful job with its design throughout and it pays off by having these scenes not feel out of place.

In Summary:
More introspective than one would expect and in some ways more restrained than other shows in this genre, The Third is continuing to be a real surprise. It's a series that feels a bit more old school in its pacing and tendency to provide for introspection without a lot of flash or big action. There are some great big sequences in here, such as the Sand Dragons attack, but its low key approach is far more fascinating in the long run. There is a great mystery to be discovered here and these first eight episodes across the first two volumes have really pulled me into the series. Beautiful visuals, solid character designs, well done CG mixed into it and a plot that's being teased out at the right pace. The Third is serving up just about everything that I could have hoped for with it while avoiding a lot of what makes so many series feel generic.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles, Character Art Galleries, Character Bios with Commentary by Megumi Toyoguchi (Honoka), Special Booklet

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Kadokawa Pictures USA
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Third, The