Kurau: Phantom Memory Vol. #6 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, March 14, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What They Say
To Split Infinity

The Review!
Much like Ayaka comments on at one point, the series simply finishes out with an anticlimactic feeling.

The two audio tracks included on this release are quite solid though the edge definitely goes to the English track. The Japanese track is presented in its original 2.0 mix encoded at 224 kbps. The mix for it is pretty dynamic with lots of nice bass to it and some good directionality to the action effects and dialogue. The English 5.1 mix is done at 448 kbps and really comes across as a much stronger and more focused mix. The subwoofer in particular has a much stronger effect here and radically changes how several of the action sequences play out as well as the opening and closing sequences. In listening to both tracks, we didn't have any troubles with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Like many series from BONES, this one has a very wide range to it in terms of its color palette and overall animation. Going through this release a couple of times I'm hard pressed to really find any issue with it outside of some minor gradient problems in the backgrounds and a small touch of cross coloration in some line work once or twice. Colors look fantastic and nicely saturated, backgrounds maintain a solid feel without any noticeable noise or breakup and the fluid moments of animation are very clean. This is a very clean and solid looking release.

Maintaining the cover design throughout the run has been quite the plus right through the end. The finale for the series gives us the proper pairing of Kurau and Christmas together with a bit of a whimsical feel to their expressions as they dance about in the air. The background is once more a hodgepodge of different colors and shapes along with what looks to be the interior of a futuristic car. The back cover takes the purples and silvers once more and puts the whole thing at a couple of angles. The summary reads well as its kept level but the pictures and production information is all given at an angle. The technical grid is as well but at a different angle and still quite readable. The insert is a three panel fold-out that has several text interviews with the creative staff as well as shots of the original cover art. The cover for this release is not reversible.

The menu design for the show at the moment doesn't really seem to make much sense as it adapts part of the background from the cover as its basis. Using dark grays and navy blues as the color mix, wisps of energy float around the mechanical designs that are hidden pretty well in the background. The top level has individual episode selection and submenus for languages and extras as well as a preview for the next volume. The layout is quick and easy to navigate and while it doesn't look like anything in particular it does have a sense of style to it. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players' language presets.

This volume of the series has a couple of good extras on it. The opening and closing sequences are presented in their clean format and we get a round of production artwork as well. A "key words" section covers various phrases relevant to this new world and there's also a set of Japanese CD spots.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The conclusion to Kurau was something that really didn't surprise me all that much after experiencing the first five volumes of the series. While the show played with some interesting ideas and concepts throughout it, it never really connected in a way that made me truly feel for the characters and the story. Much of this volume plays out in a fairly predictable manner and I find myself finding some connection to Ayaka's comment that it's simply anticlimactic.

In a way, there's a fair bit of similarity to events throughout the series which culminates here. The introduction in the previous volume of the two brothers Regel and Windt takes some of what we saw with Sebastian and plays it in a different way. While he was more childlike and cruel without thinking about it, these two are simply cruel because they can be as they see the world as their plaything. They don't act with wild abandon but rather with a bit of calculation to their plans that gives it an extra bit of menace. Their belief that they should bring all of the Rynax to this world to play is the strongest thing to them which could very well be something of a species imperative that would have been interesting to play out.

Naturally, Kurau feels responsible for them and for everything that's happened to them and wants to help them get back to their world. That's been her thing since the beginning when she discovered there were others like her out there who haven't grown up with an empathy for humanity and the world. Each of those she's encountered has been different in some way but that core need to bring more always seems to be there. While she does try reason, even again with these two, every instance of hampered by what the GPO tries to do with the forceful measures. Interestingly enough, Ayaka and Doug are pretty much on Kurau's side now and are working with her to try and do things in a somewhat more peaceful manner when the situation allows it.Ayaka certainly isn't afraid to pull out one of the AR weapons though and do her best to at least wound the Ryna Sapiens that come through.

All of it naturally comes to a head when Windt and Regel realize just who it is that was behind their creation and attempted form of control. That discovery comes at a time when Saito has sent his latest group of creations down to where everyone is to forcefully extract the brothers along with Kurau and Christmas. The big conflagration ensues, loyalties are divided and people have to figure out exactly where they stand in this messy situation. Not unlike the Sebastian segment of the series, it gets pretty bad for everyone involved but more so for the GPO folks as the brothers are intent on having their revenge. A revenge that really plays with physics and bends reality even in space as it plays out. When it comes to revenge, like so many characters, the bad guys never seem to know how to do it without causing their own deaths or in a way that really, well, works.

All told, the climax to the storyline comes in episode twenty-three but it's pretty well diluted because it goes right up to the point and then ends the show. With a lot of shows I have talked about in the past I have said how much I enjoy it when they take the time to do a full episode of epilogue material to show us where things go. Kurau does just that with the final episode giving us that epilogue by moving forward ten years in time. It's through there that we get a brief flashback to the climax of the last episode which simply dilutes the impact of it severely. Knowing how everyone turns out for a bit before getting to the flashback takes away from wondering exactly how they got there. Where they do go with the series from this point is decent but not without similar predictability that we had before. Getting to see how everyone deals with the lessening of the Rynax and not being chased does feel realistic in that everyone has sort of gone on with their lives in a normal way. There's a lot hinted at in terms of relationships, but the focus is kept on the primary characters - many of whom don't seem to age much at all considering ten years have passed.

In Summary:
At times I've rather enjoyed what Kurau tried to be but for the most part it was an incredibly difficult series to connect with. The general ideas within it and the way it started was quite good as it had me very interested in seeing where it was going to go. In the end though, it went its own way which certainly isn't a bad thing but it didn't seem to have the kind of storytelling to it that I'd hope for. A lot of things happened that just made me sigh as it couldn't get me to suspend my disbelief enough to make it work. The core problem I kept returning to is that for someone as renowned as Kurau is as an agent, she makes nothing but bad choices along the way that puts her and Christmas in more and more danger. When that happens repeatedly, along with the way they were so awful at hiding out from everyone, everything seems like a bad choice after that and it's just hard to get into. I can still see why there are a lot of strong fans of the show but for me Kurau: Phantom Memory simply didn't work.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Key Words Glossary,Production Artwork Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: C-
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kurau: Phantom Memory