The search for the talismans is underway but not before some silly and out of place standalone episodes are dealt with.
What They Say
The tale surges toward climax, as Akram’s scheme is set into action, while the Eight Guardians continue their quest for the Four Sacred Talismans!
Contains episodes 18-20, including a bonus episode that showcases an entirely unexpected side of the Eight Guardians as they attempt a mission to rescue Maiden Akane!
The audio for Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ continues to be a solid release as the technical side of it goes further than most stereo releases do. Encoded at 448kbps, the show has a fairly straightforward stereo mix to it but it has a bit more oomph and impact to it due to the higher quality of the encoding. The bass level feels a bit richer and dialogue has a more distinct and clear feeling across the forward soundstage. Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ isn’t a big outgoing show, more intent on expressing atmosphere, but the show works well in general and the music throughout it benefits from the method use. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2004 and early 2005, Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ has a pretty good looking presentation to it but it’s a show that has a bit of a strange style to it considering when it aired. Done in what could only be called shoujo-vision, there’s a certain softness to it overall that adds to the atmosphere. Thankfully this doesn’t cause much in the way of background noise to filter in due to great source materials and high bitrates. Where this softness comes across as problematic is that many of the character designs have a very unusual feel to them with a too-digital look. The uniforms of the characters for example just don’t feel like they blend too well into the show during quiet scenes. When there’s a lot going on it’s much less noticeable however. Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ in general looks really good when taking into account the style in which it was animated and it stands out strongly against a lot of other similar shows that have been released outside of Japan.
As busy and almost garish as it is in some ways, this is probably my favorite cover so far because of the bold and vibrant colors. With Tomomasa as the central figure while Takamichi supports him from behind, they addition of the angry white together and the flowing greens throughout gives it a very cool yet engaging feeling. There’s a lot of detail here and the cover is very eye catching in general. Using a similar logo design to the manga release that Viz Media is putting out, it’s all well branded in order to attract to the same audience. The back cover uses various green shadings for its background and it uses a standard layout of two strips of pictures with a brief summary in between them. Episode titles and numbers are listed while the bottom third runs through the cast and staff credits along with the technical grid and a few required logos. The foldout booklet included is done in the same green shading and it has some really neat things in it. There are a few character designs, a brief interview with one of the episode directors as well as a look at the poetry within the show. The reverse side has two pieces of full color artwork – including the original piece used for the cover, and a summary of each of the episodes in some detail.
The menu design harkens back to some of Bandai Visual USA’s earlier releases in that we get a static background – this time of the capital city – with episode selection along the top which includes a separate chapter menu for each. Subtitle selection is here as well and there’s a submenu selection for the bonus material. The menu is set to a three minute runtime without any music and after that three minutes is up it dumps you out of the disc and into a stop state, a feature that the company uses which I continue to dislike heavily. Access times are nice and fast considering there’s little here and the menu is certainly functional enough to get around outside of the bad way it stops when you go back to it.
The extras included are pretty light as we get more pieces of the “Demon’s Soliloquy” in which there is fifteen seconds of animation accompanied by some cautious dialogue about how events are proceeding. In a way they feel like next episode teasers more than anything else as they’re set for episodes all three episodes here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the last volume of the series, Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ felt like it was setting itself on a decent if predictable course by having the Guardians search out for the talismans and undergo the trials that are required. The initial one we had in that volume was basic enough and there was an interesting hint at another attempt in the third episode that didn’t pan out, something that was admittedly surprising. Hoping for more of the same with this volume, we mostly do get that but not without a bit of fluff first.
And fluff that’s pretty uninteresting in general at that which makes it all the worse. When Akane runs across a girl who looks exactly like her, just with a different color hair, she’s quite taken with her and eager to help her out with her problem. Her problem is that she’s not exactly someone of proper birth and social rank to be interested in the young nobleman that is most definitely interested in her. So what’s Akane to do? Utilize her influence as the Priestess? No, she decides to have the Guardians stage a kidnapping of her and set things up so that the two can live happily ever after. It’s such an inane episode outside of the simple premise that it’s intending to have all the Guardians work together at long last. That in itself is a decent enough idea but the way it’s done left me rather uninterested in seeing how it plays out.
Once past that, the show starts back down a more familiar path. The use of other characters to help illustrate the various situations works rather nicely, though it does push the idea of “character episodes” which I generally dislike. For this volume, Eisen gets some screen time once again as he’s working though his feelings about Akane while trying to help her out as much as he can. His feelings for Akane are only getting stronger but he’s working to try and temper them so that he can help with what she’s trying to do in the search for the talismans. Eisen has been one of the weaker characters in the show, which is saying a lot when someone like Shimon stands out better than him, and this episode doesn’t really help to establish him any better.
The only episode that really stands out as good here is the last one which again involves the pairing of Tomomasa and Takamichi. Takamichi is still very intent on doing things right by the country and the princess but also his long lost (step)mother. His past is put on display as he talks in detail with Akane about how he was raised and the kinds of trials he went through as a child. This does bring her closer to him, but it also enlightens the eavesdropping Tomomasa as to what’s really motivating the earnest young scholar. Naturally, that past comes into play when Shirin decides to try and use him to her advantage in finding the next talisman so things are pretty easily foretold here. What makes it fun is that both Takamichi and Tomomasa are opposites so watching them play against each other in this situation made me smile a lot. Tomomasa is still the only male character in this show that makes me smile since he comes across as if he’s too good to even be in this show.
At this stage of the series, I actually expected a bit more from the plot than what we got here. I didn’t expect the lighter episodes we ended up getting, episodes that really didn’t do all that much to forward the show at all. There are some decent things done here overall, such as getting the Guardians to work together more and firming up those pairing connections with each other, but the method through which they were done simply weren’t engaging. There are scenes and moments to like here, especially if there are characters you like, but the bulk of these episodes felt like empty moments with no real meat to them to help forward the series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, 8-page Booklet, Next episode trailers
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.