Speed Grapher Vol. #3 (Viridian Collection) (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, February 25, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, March 11, 2008
What They Say
The icy fingers of the Tokyo underworld reach out beyond the city's limits, searching the shadows for the rebel photographer and his young muse. Inspired by a remnant from the past, the fugitive duo seek out a beautiful woman's humble beginnings to uncover hidden family ties, ending at an abandoned research facility as the hounds close in. But in a bloody confrontation with Suitengu, Saiga finally learns the truth.
Criminals and cops explore both sides of a life and death coin, and when Kagura accepts the help of a dirty detective with her own agenda, the young girl finds herself to be the currency. One transaction complete, Suitengu pursues another, testing the boundaries of twisted love and seeking to consolidate his kingdom at last. Eyes closed, Saiga and Kagura reach across captivity, both trapped and dreaming of freedom.
Contains Episodes 9-12:
Into the Bath
Left Hand Lullaby
The mysteries behind Kagura deepen as new information comes to light while Kagura and Saiga struggle to keep out of Suitengu's reach.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has a solid stereo mix to it with a fair amount of directionality across the forward soundstage throughout the episodes. A good bit of it comes from how the shutter sound is worked and angled during the various uses of it. Dialogue itself is also well placed with some good noticeable movements and locations provided during the course of the show. The English track also sports a 5.1 mix which added a bit more clarity and definition to the vocal lines and strengthened up the music and effects a bit as well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
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. This show is a bit tricky in trying to pin it down because it's using some different styles to effectively tell the show. For example, in the opening episode we have several scenes as viewed through Saiga's camera and it's very grainy and shaky but it's well encoded. When it shifts to the present day time, there's a much clearer picture but it's still rather soft with a somewhat washed out palette. There are a lot of vibrant colors mixed into the show overall and in key scenes, but it has something of an intentional cold and shallow feeling to it in a good number of the scenes. Because of how the tweak out the colors and some of the effects, you can see some banding in scenes and what looks to be some mosquito noise but it's not unexpected with the way they've designed the look of this.
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but bolding up the text with a bright red color instead of the softer gray, this cover isn't quite as demented looking as the second volume but it features a really evil looking illustration of Suitengu. The mixture of the colors and shading works really well here and gives it a much more dramatic look. The back cover has a shot of Kagura from the show and ties it to some of the visuals from within as it strikes a bolder look with white and red being the dominant colors. The lengthwise look of the animation is followed up by having the summary, red on black, also angled while the production and technical information is angled in a completely different direction, making you twist the case around to get all the info. There are a number of shots from the show included but they're so small they might as well not be there. The reverse side cover is quite good though as it's a two panel spread of Kagura in a sexy outfit looking somewhat dazed and confused.
The menu layout for the release is a bit chaotic but it fits in with the overall design of the show as it uses the artwork from the front cover of Suitengu with his power exploding around him. The actual menu selections are only slightly angled and on top of each other so there isn't any additional problems in navigation. The design overall fits the feel of the show but it's a bit surprising at first, though the mellow music in the background does plenty to easy things. The navigation is quick and effects and we had no problem getting around. The disc did not read our players' language selections though and figuring out subtitles on the fly isn't pleasant since they're listed as *** instead of being properly labeled.
This installment has a couple of interesting extras to check out, particularly for dub fans. The usual kind of extras are here in that we get character profiles and an art gallery as well as the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. Another round of actor auditions for the English language version is included here which is rather interesting to hear if you're into how the choices are made. My complaints about this extra are the same as the ones for Basilisk in that there's zero chapter stops and you can't even fast forward through it, leaving it so you either hit menu or stop. It's just very poor authoring.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Speed Grapher hits the halfway mark here and after the first two volumes it feels a bit of a letdown. The first eight episodes brought us into some interesting places and gave the lead character some dangerous powers, powers that he has to be very careful about using, particularly since it is basically his profession. After getting caught up in this world and the adrenaline rush that it created, he's on the run with a beautiful young girl who activates powers within people. There was plenty to learn, lots of chase scenes and quick brutal action.
This volume doesn't easy up on the brutal action and there are a few chase scenes but it moves more into a stage where information is the main player. Saiga and Kagura are trying to figure out the best way to handle what they've learned so far but they aren't quite sure where to go. As it turns out, there's a bit of history to Kagura that they're able to take advantage of and they head off to a hot spring where Kagura's mother, Shinsen, had grown up and fallen in love. A picture of her with a man that means a lot to her is in Kagura's possession and it gives them an idea of where to start. There's some fun scenes before things get too deep as Kagura gets to do a bit of shopping and mild cosplay and this helps to lighten some of the heavy nature.
The trip to the hot springs leads them to a much more interesting place after getting a bit more information about the past and spending some time in the baths. The pair start an investigation into a nearby research facility that Kagura's mother may have been involved in some years ago and may have some clues about how best to proceed forward. This is also where the convergence of storylines starts to occur again as Suitengu and his plans require Kagura. While he's still playing the cripple in the wheelchair for Shinsen, his plans are slowly moving forward and he's intent on acquiring Kagura again. Knowing where she is at the research facility, it would seem to be a simple straightforward attempt to get her back but instead we learn a lot more about Suitengu.
Suitengu's revelation is interesting only in that we finally get to see what his power is really all about. We knew there had to be something more to him than just a cunning person with a big master plan that even Shinsen isn't aware of. His battle with Saiga, who is still trying to come to grips with his newfound powers and hoping that he can get them removed since they come at too much of a price, is all too brief but plays out well and in as realistic a sense as you can imagine considering the men. They're not in it for the continual punching bag sessions that you get in younger oriented shows but rather the kill or be killed decisive moments that comes with experience and age. While I wouldn't want every show to be like this, it's an element that works really well with Speed Grapher.
With the pair now split, the story is slowly moving forward in a number of ways. For Saiga, he's still doing his research and trying to understand the background behind everything before making a move to deal with Kagura. Kagura for her part is now wrapped up in a massive power play going on within Shinsen's realm with Suitengu and others. She's also finding out more things about her surroundings now that she's coherent and aware of more of her family past and this only leads to a greater clarity of the family lineage and what it all means. The Tennozu Group is about to undergo a number of changes. And another character we've not seen too much of, Ginza, has her own investigations going on and seems to have an agenda of her own as she deals not only with Kagura but also puts the screws on Saiga while she can. Ginza's the character that is the real loose cannon and the type that I expect to play a role later on during a key moment that wouldn't be able to occur otherwise. She doesn't seem to be properly tied into things throughout these episodes..
Speed Grapher's appeal hasn't diminished with this volume but it feels a bit more unbalanced than the past ones. The separation of Kagura and Saiga feels like it's coming a bit too early and they haven't really bonded completely in order to make you really root for them. There are some really nice mild twists as we learn more about Shinsen's past and the experiments that have been going on as well as watching how creepy most of the scientists in Shinsen's employ really are. The dark edge to the show is still kept and it's not seeming quite as gratuitous as it may have in earlier episodes. There still looks to be a lot more to learn about what's going on and plenty of sex, violence and carnage to be unleashed before we know it all. I'm a bit more tempered in my expectations based on this volume but I'm still looking forward to seeing how it plays out.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitiles,Art Gallery,
Textless Songs,Character Profiles,English Cast Auditions
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion 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: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2