Tide-Line Blue Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, September 04, 2007



What They Say
In order to reunite with Gould and his Ulysses crew, who are taking refuge in the seas of France; Keel, Josie and Teen manage to stow away on a floating dock that departs from Tibet. As he is about to face
execution, Keel must gamble for his life with the dock's captain; the same captain who once caught him cheating. This time he must prevail without the aid of this trick dice.

The captain has agreed to take them to France as well as assist with the repairs to the Ulysses. During the journey, Teen bares to Keel, a startling revelation once shared by Aoi. Their father is still
very much alive on the space station, Freedom, and continues to update the top-secret map he created! Meanwhile, just as the Ulysses' repairs are completed, the New UN force closes in and the
battle commences once again.

The Review!
The larger picture starts to get clearer as all the characters slowly move towards each other while a bit more background is presented.

Audio:
This series includes a pair of stereo mixes but is the kind of show you want to go back and smack the Japanese producers for not doing a proper 5.1 audio mix on. Encoded at 224 kbps, the stereo mixes do a good job of presenting the series but at times it feels like it really lacks any serious impact to it. Directionality is generally minimal as characters tend to be center stage when talking and subtle sounds, such as when people are inside submarines, are generally non-existent. The mix is decent enough for what it is but it could have been a lot more. In listening to both tracks, we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Filled with lots of rich colors along the way, particularly in the blues for obvious reasons, the transfer for this series is pretty solid in general. Colors look vibrant with plenty of fluid animation throughout and it avoids cross coloration and noise in the backgrounds. The couple of problems that do crop up along the way are fairly separate but still tied to issues beyond encoding itself. The first is that in a number of the blue sequences, there is a noticeable gradient throughout. It's not as pronounced as some early digital shows, but they're perceptible. This is simply how it was animated as well as the resolution itself. A potential high definition transfer could either smooth them out more as more color depth is available or it could make it worse. The other problem is that there is a lot of noise in the colors, particularly when it comes to the backgrounds. This is exacerbated by the gradient/banding issues and causes a lot of it to look alive at times. Most of these scenes seem to have an average bitrate in the fours so it's not too surprising. With only three episodes on the disc, I expected something of better quality.

Packaging:
The third volume of the series uses the Japanese artwork again and it's another busy piece as it has four fairly large character shots mixed in with the submarine and a good deal of background. The blues and greens are definite draws but the character artwork simply dominates this in general. Getting the Japanese artwork is always a plus even if it is weak at times. A reversible cover would have been ideal however. The back cover features a very simple layout as the artwork used is mostly just black space while along the bottom corner it has part of the burning city. The summary covers the basics of how the world is now while providing an idea of the plot. Episode numbers and titles are included as is a listing of the discs extras. The bottom portion is rounded out with the usual production information and the minimal technical notes. This release does at least note that it's an anamorphic widescreen series which is a nice change of pace. No insert is included with the release.

Menu:
The menu design for the show is quite nice overall as it features a background piece of animation where the space station Freedom is off to one side looking down as the Earth rotates below. Overlaid on this is a submenu on the left which swaps out character artwork as the light flashes from the space station. On the right is the navigation strip which has the usual basics we get from Bandai releases and the logo is just below that. There is music attached to the menu but it's painfully low to the point where it's barely audible for the most part. Access times are nice and fast but the disc did not read our players' language presets and instead defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The extras for this installment are pretty decent but admittedly fairly geeky in origin. The clean opening sequence for "Blue Treasure" makes an appearance but it's the "special video report" that really is interesting to a select few. It's a live action piece that has a demonstration of a 1/100 scale model of the Ulysses in action both above and underwater. Done with the mechanical designer, model builder and the original manga creator at the event, it's a very simple piece where we watch model boats run around an indoor pool. At the same time, I can't help but to admit a certain fascination to watching the mechanics of it all and being impressed by the design and ability of the Ulysses in action in this form.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
They still haven't killed the ostrich.

With three more episodes, Tide-Line Blue is ever so slowly moving along towards the climax of the storyline the series is dealing with. While the show feels like it could be as detailed and lengthy as something like Zipang or Silent Service, what we have ended up with is a show that scratches the surface of what it could be about while moving along at a fast clip. The scope of the storyline has the potential for an epic nature and a wide ranging cast, but it comes across more as filled with lucky coincidences and odd behavior on the part of most involved.

The storyline for these episodes focuses more on the setup for the finale in the next volume more than any sort of actual depth or growth. While Gould is stuck in Paris performing repairs and keeping low while the New UN hunts him, everyone else is trying to figure out where he is for their own reasons. Aoi and the New UN have isolated where he is fairly easily now that she's hauling out the Big Secret Map when needed, going so far as to show it to Satoyama at long last. Pointing out that they know where the Dhola Vira actually leads to while also illustrating just how dangerous the map is, it's a double edged sword that isn't getting the kind of scrutiny that it should.

Amidst the two main sides angling towards confrontation while Gui's submarine is stalking them both, the show spends most of its time focusing around the characters of Teen, Keel and Josie. Keel is in a fit trying to get back to where Isla is so he can be with her, even though the truth about the baby's birth is still causing him grief and agony. Having lost Josie in Tibet, he's finding himself in all manner of trouble until he runs into Aoi and Teen whereupon Josie decides to make a move. The coincidence has the two brothers and Josie finally making a run for it and trying to find a way to get to where Gould is. Josie knows exactly where he is, which keeps Keel close to her. In a rather nice twist, it's good to see Josie taking some risks as they acquire a ship to head to Paris and letting Keel try his method before her own. She does keep some insurance of course but it all comes about with a rather fun situation that has Keel ready to be hung out to dry.

As everything comes together for the big showdown with Gould, the character drama is kept in play as well. Much of this focuses on Teen for now as we get more glimpses of his childhood aboard the Freedom with his family. His more introspective nature is obviously quite different from his brothers outgoing personality but it's shown in the family context quite well here. Seeing how Keel and his father interacted obviously caused issues for Teen as did the entire event of leaving his father there on the station when they took the shuttle down to Earth. There are some deep seated issues going on with Teen which are far too easily glossed over here but the issues are at the least touched upon. This little bit of added depth helps to show how the two brothers very much went their separate ways at some point and have found very different goals.

In Summary:
As noted in the second volume review, Tide-Line Blue has plenty of concepts that I like but it's really faltering in execution. There is the potential for a much bigger storyline here but it's mired with characters that seem to be doing foolish things without much thought of their impact. The layout of the world and the way various nations are working together and against each other could make for some great stories but with the show working more on Keel's obsessive need to get with Isla and the baby and some of the bad choices made by Josie and Teen, you can't help but lose interest along the way. Tide-Line Blue is simply one of those series with so much potential that it hurts more because you see it being wasted so easily.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Special Video Report: Trial Run of 1/100 scale-model submarine "Ulysses" featuring Satoru Ozawa and Kimitoshi Yamane,Clean Opening

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: 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: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tide-Line Blue