Glass Fleet Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, February 12, 2008



What They Say
The burgeoning revolution grinds to a sickening halt as Vetti Sforza proves the more skillful master of intrigue. His influence looms ominously over the smoldering galaxy; one hero left in captivity and another to suffer harsh humiliation at Vetti's own hand. The rapid toll of losses is felt twice as hard by those that cherish their ideals most.

Cleo, a fugitive from his jailers, hides in the glow of a trusted ally deep within a prison complex: an old man in confined exile, he and his books relics from a time long banished. Forgotten pages and an ally's recollections will weave a legend of courage, devotion and sacrifice of royal blood.

Elsewhere, Sylua has infiltrated Vetti's fortress, but getting Michel out and away may prove harder still. The rebellion may have grown cold, but a hot wind is soon to blow...

Contains episodes 15-18:
Like Majesty
Like an Epoch
Like an Embrace
Like Flights

The Review!
Glass Fleet spends the majority of its time dealing with Cleo which helps to flesh out a great deal of background and manages to make the show enjoyable.

Audio:
FUNimation has gone with a pretty standard setup for the audio presentation with this release by including three tracks. The original Japanese track, done at 256 kbps, is what we listened to primarily and the stereo mix is pretty solid. The big action sequences have some nice directionality to them but there isn't much of a sense of depth. Dialogue is well placed when necessary and in general the mix serves the material well. The English stereo track is essentially a copy of that and gets the job done. Also included, but set as the third language track instead of the primary for some reason, is a 5.1 English mix done at 448 kbps. This adds a bit more punch to things and some greater clarity and bass to enhance the bigger scenes. We spot checked the English tracks and with the Japanese track we had no problems with dropouts or distortion during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The visual presentation of Glass Fleet had me really intrigued during segments of it as FUNimation suitably bumped up the bit rate during numerous scenes. These heightened areas tend to come across as more solid and problem free. They're still the minority however as enough of the scenes with noise in the background with some low level blocking continues to show through. A good chunk of the show is still done at a bit rate of five or less which with as many episodes and languages are here still feels too low. The biggest surprise was that the majority of the space sequences with the green backgrounds tended to look good. They didn't shine but they didn't look as bad as I thought they might.

Packaging:
Glass Fleet once again has a really interesting piece of artwork for its cover but it's one that's a hard sell for the younger set out there these days. The dark design that revolves around B.B. in her finery looks great, especially with the non-anime feel it has, but it's so dark and murky with drab colors that it just won't stand out well enough in a sea of brightly colored shows. The logo looks good with its angled look and glass features but overall there's a certain darkness to it that makes it a hard draw for a casual buyer. The back cover, done sideways, features a good shot of Cleo and Michel along one side and more of the cast on the other. In between is a summary of the shows premise and a breakdown of the episodes with their titles. The bottom portion is filled out with the usual production information and a technical grid, all of which is done as white on black and is fairly readable. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu layout utilizes the cover artwork of the cast of characters for the right half of it while the left half contains the logo and navigation. The black background is kept from the cover as well which when combined with the music gives it a fairly good look and feel. There is a certain kind of simplicity to what's presented here to set the mood for the show. Access times are solid with the standard FUNimation navigation design and we had no problems moving about. With the use of multiple angles and with mislabeled subtitle, we went for a direct setup and didn't rely on player presets.

Extras:
The extras again bring in some of the original Japanese DVD pieces as well as the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. The new Japanese extra for this installment is an eight minute Live Drama Theater feature in which we see the voice actors reading their lines for a crowd, much like they do when they're in the studio. A small section of the animation plays along the bottom of it so you can see the scene in question. It's interesting to see it done in this way instead of the usual in studio readings that we normally see.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The further we get into Glass Fleet the further my opinion of the show changes. The series really left me wanting in the first volume for the most part and it’s been working since in trying to become something more. For every step forward it seems to take a few back, which was very apparent in the previous volume. This set of episodes toys with Michel briefly but otherwise keeps its focus almost entirely on Cleo and his story. And that works very much in favor of the show.

Michel’s story is minimal here as he’s still under the watchful gaze of Vetti and his machinations. It’s still difficult to make the shift to saying “she” with Michel, even when she’s shown pretty much naked and trying to deal with the aftereffects of believing that Vetti had sex with her. Her desire to end her life is strong but there’s something that keeps her from going that far. Beyond some very simple moments in that area, Michel’s only other scenes involve her dealing with the traitors within the People’s Army that try to ingratiate themselves with her. Vetti has little use for such people for the most part and once the reality settles in for those that made their play to end things in a way that could have little bloodshed but sacrificed their principles.

Where the majority of these episodes focus is on Cleo and his time in the prison complex. Michel’s story has been expanded, albeit awkwardly at times, during most of the first half of the series but Cleo has continued to be mostly a mystery with some possibly interesting hints. His time in prison has revealed a little bit about his body and how it is reacting and having small seizures of sorts. That gets expanded upon as the doctor discovers that his body has something called Soleil in it and that it’s quite important and rare. A similar revelation that Vetti is the same way points even more towards a big conflict between the two in the future which is amusing as it seems to say that Michel’s role in all of it will only be minimized.

Like any good prison story, there’s plenty of explanations of why it’s impossible to escape from there and why so many of the prisoners have accepted that fate. As that story is expanded and revealed it makes things a bit clearer but like much of the series it feels haphazard and awkward. And just like any good prison story there’s a couple of escape attempts that are done with it that don’t exactly work out. Cleo’s obviously not going to spend his life here and has his own ideas on how to get past the defenses that are in place. Nothing works well the first time but the attempt leads him to something that will change his life fairly significantly.

The discovery of an old man down one of the many shafts of the prison opens up a door to his past that he’s been unaware of. The old man, referred to only as the Admiral, is actually the man who served in Cleo’s father’s military and knew him extensively from the old days. While he’s given up on his life to some extent, the arrival of Cleo reinvigorates him and gives him the motivation to help everyone escape from there and to get the story back underway. What makes this little sidetrack so engaging though is that they actually spend an entire episode filling in the back story of Cleo’s parents.

The loss of them and his growing up with Eckardo has been something that Cleo hasn’t been able to come to grips with over his life. The old Admiral is able to shed light on that by talking about how his father and Eckardo were such good friends when his father was the king, a time when his father was quite revered and something of a rarity among the nobility in that the people loved him as well. Cleo’s less interested in the romantic story that the Admiral is telling about Eckardo but it has a lot of importance as the woman that becomes Cleo’s mother is introduced. The fall of the family, the tight bonds between the men and the way Cleo ended up being spirited away proved to be very engaging and interesting to watch. With it not being intercut with material from other parts of the show and exposing some of the ties to the characters that are in the present, it really brought a lot of things together in a strong way.

In Summary:
Glass Fleet continues to feel like a very uneven show and this volume is no exception in the grand scheme of the series. The four episodes here are actually some of the strongest ones of the show so far, mostly because it keeps focused on a particular part of the storyline and works at it instead of telling multiple stories in small chunks. The expansion and back story on Cleo finally humanizes him more and creates a better connection to him. The lack of the drama around Michel also helped a fair bit as did not having many of the regular secondary characters milling about with their basic archetypes causing problems. Glass Fleet still hasn’t hit its stride but it is becoming more interesting than it was while still dealing with its uneven nature.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Live Drama Theater

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: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: TV PG
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Glass Fleet