Witchblade Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Monday, March 10, 2008
Release Date: Monday, April 07, 2008



What They Say
The deadliest cut - a Cloneblade!

Twisted reflections of Masane's alter ego, the Cloneblades stand at the very pinnacle of bioengineering and shattered corporate alliances. A breed of frightful warriors, confrontation is inevitable when so many share the same desire: the Witchblade. As the past creeps into the present to haunt them all, relationships between unsteady foes lie revealed; old scars explained but never forgotten.

Episodes Comprise
5 - Search
6 - Change
7 - Passage
8 - Reciprocity


The Review!
Masane comes face to face with the Cloneblades, and for the first time realised that her powers aren't infinite - and the fate of her first attacker tells her there are things her new bosses aren't telling her, either. Yusuke, meanwhile, draws the connection between the creature he saw and the detention centre and Masane, and now he's looking for answers...

Audio:
Audio is provided in Japanese 2.0 and English 5.1 versions - I listened to the Japanese track for this review. Sound is clan and clear, with some good use of direction and a decent amount of oomph in the action scenes. There were no apparent problems.

Video:
Video is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen format, and as you'd expect from most things GONZO a lot of effort seems to have been spent on making it look good - from character designs to backgrounds, the look & feel of the show is just right. Fortunately, the transfer does justice to that effort, with very little in the way of visible encoding problems.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
This volume's main screen comes with a Cloneblade draped across it, with options below her for Play All, Episode Select, Setup and Extras. The opening theme plays throughout, while a series of clips plays behind the graphics - not the greatest idea as they're so obscured you can't really make out what's going on. There are no transition animations, so it's all quick & easy to use.

Extras:
There's another decent selection of extras on this disc, starting with a 15-minute feature on how to make comics the Top Cow way, which should be of interest to anyone with an artistic bent. There's also a 10-minute interview with Riko's and Yusuke's Japanese VAs, Akemi Kanda and Masaya Matsukaze, and creditless versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Cloneblades: the result of past co-operation between Douji Group and NSWF, and an attempt to create an artificial Witchblade. The Cloneblades are all part of NSWF's Neo-Gene Group, a band of individuals who are particularly genetically suited to using the Cloneblade technology - and the Child Welfare Department is just a cover for NSWF's efforts to find more suitable hosts. So much for welfare. Away from the fighting, Masane and Riko are settling into their new apartment block, and getting to know the other residents, unaware that NSWF are watching their every move. Yuusuke, meanwhile, is still investigating the events back at the detention centre, and believes Masane knows more about the "monster" he saw there than she's letting on...

Can you say, "Plot exposition"? It's something you'll become very familiar with while watching this volume - not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're expecting to find heavy doses of action, you may be slightly disappointed. This disc opens with an episode that covers Masane and Riko settling in to their new life - perfectly normal on the surface, as Riko is still unaware of her mother's alter ego. I really enjoy the scenes set in the apartment block - the characters there provide a healthy dose of "normality" (despite all suffering from their own flaws and neuroses) that keeps the series grounded and stops it from becoming too violent. It's also where you get to see the "real" Masane in her element, showing that despite all that she's been through she's just a normal woman who wants to have fun and enjoy her life as much as anyone else - but the arrival of Shiori on the scene soon reminds us that there are two sides to her story.

The battles on this disc aren't particularly long or gruesome, as they seem to be more intended to introduce the side-effects of using a Blade (be it Cloneblade or Witchblade) that to really impress, and Shiori's story gives a worrying indication of what may lie in Masane's future if she continues to fight without restraint. Episode 7 - which is nearly all talk - pulls together all the hints dropped so far to fill in the background to the past relationship between Douji Group and NSWF (both work and personal), how the Great Quake was triggered, and some other little tidbits that could prove important later on. It's all part of giving the series a coherent storyline, and while there's still the possibility of the show getting stuck in a "monster of the week"-style rut, these episodes give me hope that Witchblade will be more than just about the action scenes.

The downside of all that exposition is that it's not always the most exciting thing to watch - not something you want to do if you're tired or your attention is waning (I speak from experience), but still essential to see if you want to get the most out of what follows.

Putting the Cloneblades to one side, it's Yusuke who is almost Masane's biggest problem at the moment - having seen her "true" form and realised there's money to be made from her story, he's all ready to go to the press and expose her - which would bring a quick end to her hopes of a normal life with Riko. There's a shaky understanding reached between the two here that puts the problem on the back burner for the moment, but Yusuke has the potential to be both a real help and a real hindrance to Masane - it'll be interesting to see how their relationship plays out over the remainder of the series.

In summary:
All told, there's a lot of ground covered across these four episodes, with a lot of the backstory now filled in (with a few questions still left unanswered, just to keep you interested). It does get a little slow in places as things are explained, but for the most part this volume continues the good work started in volume one. While I can't say it's head and shoulders over any other show that's being released at the moment, it's certainly enjoyable and well worth a look for any fan of comic-book action.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,How to Make a Comic Book the Top Cow Way: Part 1 Concept & Writing,Japanese Cast Interviews: Rihoko Amaha & Yusuke Tozawa,Textless Songs

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: A
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
MSRP: 15.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Witchblade