Pumpkin Scissors Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, March 17, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 04, 2008
What They Say
HOW WILL SHE BREAK FREE? THE BATTLE AGAINST CORRUPTION WAGES ON!
Three years after a devastating war with the Republic of Frost, the members of the Imperial Army Intelligence, Section Three, find out that some of the wounds of war just won't heal. Corruption in the highest ranks threatens to bring the entire structure crumbling down. Amidst the chaos, a lonesome lover discovers that she's waiting in vain for her fiance to return home. In an attempt to expose the Army's top secret "Invisible Nine" super soldier project, Alice gets kidnapped by the underground movement. How will she break free of her bonds? And some bad press threatens to cause trouble for Section Three, yet the Pumpkin Scissors team slices through the thick skin of corruption in the third exciting volume of Pumpkin Scissors!
The difficulties of the past and present continue to affect Section 3 as we see the larger story play out as well as some expanded character histories.
This series features a solid bilingual presentation that does a good job of using the atmosphere of the series both in the creepy quiet moments as well as the big action scenes. The original Japanese stereo mix is encoded at 224 kbps and has a good design across the forward soundstage. Depth is well placed, directionality is fairly regular across it and it has a fair bit of overall impact when needed. The English 5.1 mix is bumped up to 448 kbps and adds a bit more in terms of bass and impact as well as some enhanced directionality. In listening to both language tracks, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006 and 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Having seen so many Gonzo series in the last couple of years I really wasn't sure what to expect anymore in terms of visual presentation. Pumpkin Scissors is fairly traditional for them in that there isn't any special processing going on or visual tricks to heighten the look of the series. It's not plainly or poorly animated but it doesn't have some of their usual signature standout aspects. Colors look solid and rich when needed while also having a murky and dank look when appropriate. Cross coloration is very minimal with only a few brief instances alongside some aliasing. There's very little visible in terms of noise in the background or within the characters themselves which results in a very smooth and pleasing presentation.
Consistency is usually key with most series these days and this one is no exception as Pumpkin Scissors brings in some basic character artwork against a familiar background. The combination of the colors is still a bit offputting when you look at Alice's outfit but the characters used here are spot on as you get the feeling of Alice just running roughshod over everyone. The background works in the black and orange shades while including a rather small logo along the upper left corner. The bottom strip contains the volume number and title as well as the Gonzo and ADV Films logos. The back cover, a sideways piece, featuring several shots from the show at a different angle while below is more orange in which the summary and production information is contained. The very bottom has a decent long technical grid that covers everything you need to find on the fly. No insert is included with this release nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu is done in theme rather nicely if in a simple way as it features a file folder from which various items have spilled out from. The single piece of artwork is that of the character artwork from the cover done as a photo. The piece of paper clipped on top of the folder has the navigation strip while a few other odds and ends are strewn about the screen. The music used is perfect for the setup here as it builds up nicely before it starts to cycle over again. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players' language presets.
The extras are minimal in that all that is here are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Pumpkin Scissors hits the halfway mark of its run with this volume and the show hasn't really deviated from what's worked for it so far. Surprisingly enough, the series is rather mellow and laid back in its approach as it deals with rather serious subjects in a straightforward manner. While there is an overreaching storyline that's working through the background of it all, the main focus has really been showing the smaller situations that Section 3 works through on a daily basis.
Where the show continues to succeed is in presenting some interesting stories in a way that feels realistic and honest. The downside is that they may not exactly capture your complete attention as there often aren't all that much in the way of surprises. This installment, which takes us through episodes nine through twelve, brings in a pair of background stories on a couple of the characters, the origin of the name of the group and then it delves into a bit more intrigue that goes back to the Invisible 9 storyline. What is very consistent throughout these tales is the idea of how the war has affected everyone and the different manner through which people try to cope. There are plenty of tales to tell both from the commoners point of view as well as the military, especially as both sides are corrupt in their own way, and that gives the show plenty of material to mine.
When it comes to the background stories, both of the ones we get here are pretty good. The opening tale has one revolving around Oreldo and his penchant for beautiful women. He spends a lot of time hanging out at an escort place where he's familiar with a lot of the women and the owner. What draws him deeper into it is a particular woman he thinks initially is trying to kill herself but is instead simply dying inside as she awaits the return of her boyfriend from the war. A war that ended three years prior and one where she already received notice of his death from the military. Oreldo gets some nice growth through this as we start to understand his mindset more and why he's so drawn to these people and tries to help them. The healing process is central to a lot of things in this show and this episode has him trying to get the distraught shell of a woman to realize that she has to live now for her boyfriend rather that wait and wither away.
Another good background story revolves around the origins of Section 3 as Stecchin tells Oland about how everyone came together one by one after it was formed. The focus is heavily on that of Martis however as we see how he was originally in a different group and was running up against corrupt senior officers who were gaming the system for their own benefit. A chance meeting with Oreldo brings him into Section 3 which comes just before the time when Alice transferred into it. Her arrival was what really solidifies the group as she has such a sense of na´ve justice and intent to bring relief from the war to everyone. She started off with such a sense of strong willed innocence that's pretty amusing to watch here but it's also easy to see why it inspired those who were already there and helped to give the group some real cohesion.
Pumpkin Scissors hasn't stayed away from multi episode arcs in the first two volumes and this volume is no exception as we get a two part story that starts to expand the Invisible 9 storyline. The discovery of such a thing isn't exactly new we learn as a reporter had found out about it in the past and had written a damning manuscript about it. The problem is that the military, or those in cahoots about this particular venture, became aware of it and killed him over it but not before a copy of the manuscript made it out to his sister. She's since come to work with a few gentlemen who are looking to use this to gain an edge in their lives and they decide their best bet is to kidnap Alice so they can use her to force the material into the public domain.
It's an ill conceived plan from the start and it comes at a time when Section 3 is getting some positive press for what they actually do accomplish. This brings in a reporter who finds out about Alice's kidnapping and starts his own investigation into it and what this Invisible 9 manuscript is all about. The two part storyline plays with two different aspects that help to solidify the way the series works. The first is the larger storyline in the background about the Invisible 9 and how far those who have orchestrated and protected it will go to make sure it remains a secret. Unsurprisingly, they've got people in the right positions to deal with it should it start to become known to the world at large.
The other part that it deals with is the more personal aspect of the storyline in that we know that Oland is involved in things to some extent since he's one of the Anti Tank Troopers that shouldn't really exist. Oland doesn't really play heavily into this just yet but rather the personal part comes from Alice starting to find out the reality behind everything and having to come to grips with how involved it all is. She's been so intent on exposing things and trying to right the wrongs that when faced with something this big, even she has to realize that it cannot come out too early otherwise it'll throw the entire nation into chaos. It's these kind of small quiet realizations, which she actually has to voice and convince herself of, that helps to push the series forward in interesting ways.
As Pumpkin Scissors continues to play out, I find myself enjoying it but realizing that it is relatively forgettable. It deals with a set of storylines that are interesting and not the norm for the anime world but it hasn't actually become compelling yet. The standalone stories are straightforward and the characters help make it enjoyable while the meta story that continues to creep in hints at some potentially solid material when it all comes to light. But as a whole, this is the kind of show where if you're in the right mood for it, it'll work great while you watch it. But within a short period of time it'll fall from your memory. On the plus side, as soon as you pop in the next volume, it all floods right back and it's easy to get into again. I like Pumpkin Scissors but it's not a show that I'll remember long after its over based on the first half of the series.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing
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: 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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Pumpkin Scissors