Elemental Gelade Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Release Date: Monday, January 07, 2008



What They Say
As a last resort, Cou reacts with Viro, but this new bond creates mixed emotions for Ren. While the group contiues to wonders about Viro's intentions, they must also find answers to Chaos Choir's intentions in order to survive. When the group arrives Viro's childhood village, they find a lot more than they bargained for as newer and more powerful enemies lie in wait.

Episodes Comprise
18 – Fictitious Reaction
19 – Unspoken Thoughts
20 – Viro
21 – The Truth Unfolds


The Review!
The journey to Edel Gardens continues, and so do the problems for our heroes – between Viro wreaking her own brand of mayhem along the way and the surprises about to be sprung on the gang, they're going to be wondering if the effort was really worthwhile…

Audio:
Audio is provided in Japanese and English 2.0 stereo – just for a change, I listened to the English track for this review. The soundtrack does a perfectly good job, with dialog and effects places appropriately on the soundstage to give a good feel to things. There were no obvious problems. The dub itself is actually quite pleasant to listen to, with voices matching their characters well and doing a good job of conveying emotion and feeling where it’s present.

Video:
Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect. There are plenty of bright colours on display and isn’t overly heavy on detail, giving a quite simple appearance to the animation that has transferred very well. Again, there were no obvious problems.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
The menu is another static affair, typical of recent MVM releases, with a Play All option, direct access to each episode, and submenus provided for Language and Extras. An image of Cisqua, with weapons bristling, sits off to one side, and the show’s very catchy opening theme plays alongside. Simple, effective, and easy to use.

Extras:
A 5-minute "Promise" music video and a 45-image line art gallery are your treats for this volume.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Almost without realising it, Cou finds that he's Reacted with Viro - he hadn't even realised she was an Edel Raid, and now he's in combat with her. Together, they're able to quickly deal with Varl and peace is restored - but Cou's new bond with Viro soon causes friction. There's also the little mystery surrounding Viro's status - all Edel Raids should show up on Cisqua's radar, but for some reason Viro doesn't. I wonder why that might be..?

Whatever the reason, the gang have spent far too long on the road, as so take a break from their journey and set camp by a lake they find along their way. Ren's been becoming ever more distant - having learnt the meaning of 'jealousy' from Cou, and having to watch as he seemingly gets ever closer to Viro, she's beginning to feel the pain of lost love. Cou's noticed this, but not being the sharpest tool on the box, his efforts to spend some time with her don't come to much. Viro, meanwhile, is still trying to keep her true mission secret, while struggling with her own growing feelings for Cou. Is this developing little love triangle going to be the wonder boy's undoing..? Meanwhile, Viro's masters take steps to ensure that she completes her mission as planned...

I knew Viro was too good to be true, and so (no surprise) she turns out to have her own mission and motivations. I'd mentioned in my last review that the greatest thing Viro had going for her was that she had a definite personality – and one that was fun to watch, too. Most of this volume continues to focus on Cou's greatest fan (allegedly), and on how her presence is disrupting the relationship between Cou and Ren – which is, of course, her plan. This being Elemental Gelade, Viro's story plays out in ways that are well telegraphed and almost completely unsurprising, but the character is portrayed in such a sympathetic way that you can't help but feel for her and the inner conflict she's having to deal with, and almost single-handedly she makes these episodes the best arc of the series so far. It's too good to last, of course – if you've been watching anime for a while, you'll know what it means when an episode is named after an existing character, and that's Viro's fate here. But it was good while it lasted, and shows that the writers of this series can produce stories that are worth watching when they put their minds to it.

The final episode on the disc also does exactly what it says on the tin. Up until here, the basic story has been fairly black-and-white – as far as Edel Raids are concerned, we've been given the clear indication that Edel Gardens good, Arc Aile bad. With the revelations about Eve's true identity and the role the Chaos Choir are playing behind the scenes, suddenly we have shades of grey to deal with, and Ren's future seems a lot less certain that it used to. The volume ends on a cliffhanger and it'll be the next disc before we see how Cou and his friends handle the new reality they've been left with (and there would seem to be a few more surprises still to come, at that), but just for once Elemental Gelade did something I wasn't expecting. Given how this series has been almost completely by-the-numbers since it started, that’s real progress, and combined with the Viro story arc made this disc the first in the series that felt like a worthwhile use of my time. It's just a shame that is was left so late in the day.

In summary:
This volume of Elemental Gelade surprises by actually being good - all four episodes are entertaining, for a variety of reasons, and as the gang get closer to their goal of Edel Gardens, the show finally breaks out of its predictable rut and throws a few spanners into their plans. It's good to see that finally happening – and hugely frustrating that it took to volume 5 to get to that stage. Still, for once I can say that we have a volume that was fun to watch, and have hope that the final volume will close out the story in entertaining fashion. Fingers crossed…

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,"Promise" Music Video,Line Art Gallery

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: N/A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Elemental Gelade