A feeling of dread was quickly washed away by this surprisingly fun shounen series.
What They Say
Open the door to another world! Ginta Toramizu is an underachieving high school boy who dreams every night of a fantasy world where he finally gets a chance to be a hero. His dreams become reality when one day a mysterious gate appears before him, and he is catapulted into the world of Mär-Heaven! Ginta embarks upon a spectacular adventure, gaining companions along the way including a magical talking weapon called an ÄRM. Ginta and his companions must do battle with the Chess Pieces, a faction led by the mysterious Phantom, which is determined to bring about the ultimate demise of Mär-Heaven!
With this being a 3-Disc series, I watched parts of MAR both in English and Japanese. Both were in the standard 2.0 format so sadly no 5.1 format which is a shame because the sound comes very clear on both languages, though I felt the English side seemed to be the better due to the edited release and various changes made to the openings and endings of the series, however there were no distortions throughout any of the episodes in either language, so the audio quality was fine either way, though the fact the edited and recreated openings and endings were on there spoilt the grade a little for me.
The transfer for MAR is bright and vibrant, with colour showing as far as the eye can see. However, this is one of the cases that too much could be a bad thing – there is a LOT of colour filter through Mar which in a show which shows a lot of vibrant outdoor backgrounds is unfortunately way too noticeable. It’s also one of the few shows of recent reviews that have overlays, which again, hinders the viewing prospect a bit and lowers down the grade. The actual shows animation is very good especially with the action sequences and the CGI, but the transfer sadly is quite lacking.
No packaging was provided with this disc.
Each disc has the same menu – with the Toonami music in the background, we see clips from the show with Babbo’s chains surrounding the screen, a picture of Ginta and Babbo on the left hand side on a chess board, with a small sign allowing you to select between play all, scene selection, set-up and on the first disc, trailers. Each section is easy to select and easy to navigate if a little bit unspectacular.
The only extras sadly are trailers for Buso Renkin, Death Note, Naruto the Movie and Bleach.
Knowing next to nothing about this series, never mind it was a box set, MAR was a trip to the unknown. All I knew was that it was shounen and after watching so many shows of a similar nature over the years I wasn’t sure if I would really get into another shounen battle series considering the Bleach and Naruto popularity.
Turns out I was pleasantly surprised.
We get introduced to a young boy named Ginta, a daydreaming young boy who longs to visit and dream of fantasy worlds, usually with him rescuing the princess, namely his childhood friend (and obvious crush) Koyuki, and arguing with his occult/fairytale writing mother. One day however at school, he hears a mysterious voice and suddenly a dark glow surrounds him and Koyuki calling him out into this world. Ginta goes on his own leaving Koyuki behind and stumbles into what appears to be a dream world, where he finds out his strength and eyesight seem to improve. He quickly meets up with a witch named Dorothy, who whilst initially confused about the boy from another world, takes a shine to him and explains a few things about where he is, namely it’s the world of MAR, and also about magical weapons called ARMS – Dorothy seems to like collecting rare ones and was on the way to get a rare one called Babbo. Ginta, excited, joins her whether she likes it or not, which leads to a battle sequence where Ginta actually finds the ARM Babbo himself…which turns out to be a talking ball and chain with a weird moustache, a perverted nature and calling himself a gentleman every 5 minutes.
And thus the series start.
It’s hard to really be succinct with a 13 episode review however it’s so easy to compare MAR to the Final Fantasy franchise so if you’ve played any of the games you should feel right at home. Ginta and Babbo have to learn how to connect as their personalities clash quite early, but Babbo is a rare ARM and lot of people are trying to steal it, and in some cases, trying to kill Ginta – the main antagonists are established known as the Chess Pieces, one in particular is quite noteworthy named Ian as he’s not a heartless so-and-so like most of the villains seen throughout – the hierarchy of the Chess Pieces are explained as the higher ranks such as king/queen are more powerful than the lower ranks such as the obvious pawns and then rooks (which Ian is) – however Ian is still easily more powerful than Ginta and it becomes a standard RPG-esque plot as Ginta finds comrades to help him in battle as well as to help him in learning the mysterious powers of Babbo. Along with the attractive witch Dorothy, we have a farmer’s son Jack, whose arm is a magic shovel which, after a bit of training allows him to creates tremors and also to create food and other items in speed, Ed/Alan – a survivor of the previous war when another being from Ginta’s world helped win the war and stop the mysterious Phantom – as Ed, he’s a dog who transforms into Alan after he’s fallen asleep three times, Alan is a tall, rough powerhouse fighter but reverted back to Ed after falling asleep just once, the princess of Ed/Alan’s country the beautiful Snow, who has more than a striking resemblance to Ginta’s childhood friend Koyuki (and accidentally on purpose gives Ginta his first kiss) and right at the end of the set we get the last member of the party Nanashi, the leader of the Thieve’s Guild, a charming pretty boy who immediately tries (and fails) to charm Snow and Dorothy.
There is one other member of the party but seems to be more of an outcast – his name is Alviss, who apparently was the one who summoned Ginta to MAR in the first place. Alviss has history with the previous war as well as a link with Alan, and that he knew about the resurrection of the mysterious Phantom, a powerful being who caused mass destruction in the previous war. And as the new war begins, MAR is again in devastation – this leads to Alan using some ARM (in which seems to be a homage to Dragon Ball Z) to transfer Jack, Dorothy, Snow and Ginta to train for 6 months but only occurs in 3 days. Ginta is able to use his imagination to acquire new abilities and moves in combination with Babbo and his rematch with Ian is quite different.
In these 13 episodes, this review has only scratched the tip of the iceberg. The main party (calling themselves Team MAR) are established, though with the exception of Ian none of the Chess Pieces have really been developed enough for us to see if we have some worthy antagonists, plus they are dropping a lot of hints about how Ginta’s appearance has some sort of relationship with the previous Earth based warrior, so there are still a lot of questions to be asked. However, after the weak first disc and Alan/Snow are introduced, the story flows through extremely naturally and all the little things begin to add up (Alviss relationship with Alan, Snow being a princess and even little comic elements like Jack’s crush on Dorothy and Dorothy’s jealous of the Snow/Ginta relationship and even with Koyuki!) – the Time-Space like DBZ training may have been a quick way to get Ginta into fighting shape but the way he is able to quickly take control of his situation and his relationship with the hilarious Babbo is complementary. Also, Ginta is a very likeable protagonist as in that he’s a kid who has always wanted to go to a dream world and battle monsters and save the princess, and whilst he has done it, he’s also seeing the severity of the situation not to mention that he does in fact miss home. There’s a lot of thoughts and emotions inside Ginta’s heart with a lot of unanswered questions. My one little niggle is that the characterisation of some of the other characters are a lot weaker than others. Jack is introduced as the third member of the party and also gets in the training, but you hardly see him and if you do he’s mostly comic relief compared to the later introduced Snow, Alan/Ed and even Nanashi. Also, whilst other villains have made their way onto the scene, only Ian stands out as a character with any sort of development and you know why he’s doing what he is doing. There are a lot of unanswered questions, even from the start about Ginta’s improved strength and eyesight – hopefully considering the length of this series these and other questions will be answered.
Lastly, big props to a very good dub – growing up on my first anime watching on the dubs of Evangelion, Nadesico and BGC2040, it was great to hear Spike Spencer as Ginta and he delivers a masterful performance. There are some other notible performances as well, namely Michael McConnohie as the hilarious Babbo and Michelle Ruff as Koyuki/Snow.
MAR is a very interested addition to the shounen genre – whilst Ginta seems to be a typical shounen protagonist at first you get to see his situation as someone who (literally) has had his dreams come true, but now see the reality that is in front of him. His ‘sidekick’ Babbo is unique even in shounen circles and whilst there are obvious homages to DBZ and Final Fantasy, the characters are unique enough to establish it as something different. There is also a good background plot and hints of what is yet to be revealed, and with so much mystery about some of the other characters (especially Alviss and the Chess Piece), the show leaves on a battle-ridden cliffhanger which actually makes you wonder what Ginta is ready to pull out of his pocket. It’s certainly not a show with deep meaning, but it’s great for good-natured escapism and fun. It’s officially a guilty pleasure and I don’t mind admitting that I enjoyed it and do recommend it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV – Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers – Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.