Tweeny Witches Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, August 08, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When it comes down to the end of things, it always seems to revolve around the idea of “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” for some reason…

What They Say
A savior will appear.

Chaos erupts in the Witch Realm as the warlocks invade seeking the True Book of Spells. Lines are drawn, sides are redefined, and prisoners are exchanged with Arusu, Sheila, and Eva caught in the center of it all. The struggle takes place everywhere, and the Human Realm, Witch Realm, and Warlock Realm are all revisited as Arusu searches for information about the magic of light to combat the coming darkness. Meanwhile, Eva begins to lose her abilities as the collapse of the magical realm draws nearer. Will the trio be able to save the world in time, and what will Arusu find in the end?

The Review!
Audio:
Media Blasters has gone beyond the norm for this release by including four language tracks. Both the Japanese and English language tracks are presented in 5.1 and 2.0 mixes at 448kbps and 192kbps respectively. The show is one that doesn’t seem to make out too well by the bump up to the 5.1 mix as there really isn’t much to the sound mix as it’s pretty much just dialogue with some minor music cues. The 5.1 mixes do make out with a bit more of an impact and presence to them in comparison to the 2.0 mixes but it’s not that much of a noticeable upgrade that if you don’t have a 5.1 system you’ll miss much. Dialogue is pretty much a full soundstage affair and there isn’t anything here that really stands out during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2004, Tweeny Witches is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series is an unusual one in its visual design because of the CG use in it which alternates between having some great depth and then a very flat feel. The color palette is very drab and dull for the most part as well which doesn’t help it all that much. The main issue that comes from this presentation however is in the source material because of the rendering done for it. There are a lot of visible gradients throughout and several scenes where the background noise is quite pronounced. Combine this with some of the more awkward CG heavy moments with a lot of aliasing and it’s not a very appealing looking show from this angle.

Packaging:
Tweeny Witches is a two disc release that’s kept in a standard size keepcase without any flippy hinges inside. The covers have been some of the best parts of the series and this one, thought lighter in nature, is no exception. Revolving around Eva as she sits on top of one of the odd fairies while their dragon house floats next to her, it’s a bright and mostly positive cover with her smiling and the general use of colors, especially after the previous volume which was pretty angry looking. The back cover is a dark piece that’s done the same as the previous volume as it’s just a black background with a standard slightly off kilter layout for the text and image placement. A few shots from the show are along the top and the summary covers the basic premise of the series. The remainder of the cover is given over to the production credits, a brief listing of the extras and a good technical grid that lists all the important things. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
While Media Blasters usually has pretty simple static menus, they’ve gone the distance with Tweeny Witches by putting in a nice bit of motion. Designed similar to where the fairies are kept, there’s a string of cages that rock back and forth slightly while there are various pieces of artwork around it of the Magical Realm creatures. The layout is a bit awkward at times to navigate but it’s nothing that’s terribly problematic once you move around a bit. Submenus load nice and quick but I continue to dislike the episode selection layout that Media Blasters employs since it takes multiple pages to get to later episodes. Due to the multiple audio options and the fact that the players pick up the first Japanese track which is the stereo one, we didn’t bother with player presets as Media Blasters always puts the sign/song subtitles as the first English labeled track.

Extras:
The extras for Tweeny Witches are available only on the second disc and are pretty good. The inclusion of a pair of video interviews, both of which run about twelve minutes, are illuminating enough in a basic way as one deals the director and his desire to run with this project all the way through while the other lets the character designer and man behind the overall story composition get a few words in edgewise. Both are fairly standard interview pieces with some interesting moments here and there but nothing that isn’t too unfamiliar if you’ve seen a few of these before.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
 The conclusion to the main series of Tweeny Witches ends with a lot more predictability than I would have expected after the first volume or so. While the show didn’t exactly win me over with what it was doing or how it was doing it, Tweeny Witches did try to be something a bit more unusual and worked with it. These last episodes, which feel like they’re playing more by a standard story script, loses some of that magic as it falls into an after school special mentality.

Where Tweeny Witches feels a bit like it’s breaking down is in that it comes across as though there’s a bit of unnecessary repetition. The going back and forth between who is the cause of the problem and what’s really going on causes it to feel more drawn out than it should be. The series has a real sense of urgency at this point as the Magical Realms begin to fall but so much time is spent with smaller issues that it slows down too much. On the plus side, there is some rather good character material brought into all of it as well.

The core of the storyline at this point continues to revolve around the Warlock’s trying to get a hold of the True Book of Spells so they can truly activate the Dark Magic. Arusu is obviously still against it and does her best to find ways to try and offset what’s going on. This leads into a somewhat less than clear discussion and series of small events revolving around the concept of Light Magic and what it really entails. Sadly, magic is so poorly defined at times here and throughout the series in general that any discussion of the actual operation and rules of it falls flat. Much of what it seems to entail at this point are more philosophical points than anything else as Arusu has flashbacks to the past that may help unlock the real method.

The best material on this volume is the lengthy section that deals with the past, the past that should provide for a more interesting second viewing experience. So much of what’s going on is because of events in the past that it really needs to be explored and thankfully they do spend the time with it. A good deal of this comes in the revelations about who Lennon really is and her relation to Atelia. The past between the two is rather nicely tied to what Arusu has gone through with her own father and that brings everyone much closer together, though their emotions are muddled and difficult to deal with. A lot of it does feel like it’s too filled with coincidences, but if you’re willing to give on the whole magic side of things, you can imagine that unseen forces are manipulating how all these people went far and wide only to come back together at a key time in the Realms.

Tweeny Witches leads up to a big epic conclusion where everything is at risk while various factions fight it out for many different reasons. Some fight because they’re scared, some because they think they can lead during a time of crisis better than those that have while others fight because the see opportunities. In fact, some fight and take control if only because they want to go out on top and enjoy power for even a brief bit of time. Confusion reigns during all of this and that lets things become increasingly chaotic, which is fascinating to watch in some ways as you see all these witches reacting. At the same time, the chaos doesn’t really lead to much and it sort of just peters out towards the end.

Well, after it leads to an Akira moment. That came out of left field in regards to Eva and really left me feeling quite apathetic about the show. There have been a number of good moments throughout the show as the core cast of characters bonded that when you bring out something like this, it can turn you against the show. Tweeny Witches never won me over, but this moment made the final episodes more difficult to watch, especially after they introduced the idea of needing to capture all of the fairies because one hundred different types are required to activate the dark magic.

In Summary:
While there’s still an OVA series left and the TV series ends in a way that leaves it open for much more, Tweeny Witches feels pretty complete here with its ending. At least complete enough that I’m not exactly brimming with excitement to see where the adventures go from here. The series had a fairly uneven feel during the first disc of its release but picked up a bit as it progressed further in. The half length stories and odd structure both worked for and against it at times as we talked about and it all led up to a fairly predictable ending. The best moments tended to come with the secondary characters, especially when the past was covered in this volume. Tweeny Witches gets some good nods for trying things differently in style and approach and I wouldn’t classify it as a failure. It simply didn’t capture me or keep my attention heavily as it progressed.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Interview with Yoshiharu Ashino (Director 12min. 47sec.)
Interview with Daisuke Nakayama (Character and Story Concept 11min. 30sec.)

Review Equipment
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: B-
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 24.99
Running time: 138
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tweeny Witches