Night Head Genesis Vol. #1 (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, January 15, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gifted and cursed with powers of the mind, two brothers find themselves hunted and confused as they escape back to the real world.

What They Say:

Due to their paranormal abilities, two young brothers (Naoto and Naoya) are cast out by their parents and given into the custody of a research center. They escape fifteen years later, and soon learn that they will play a pivotal role in the coming "Upheaval".

The Review:

Audio:
Media Blasters has kept this release to its original language only so we get a standard Japanese stereo mix encoded at 192kbps. Night Head Genesis is something of a quiet moody show with a fair bit of dialogue at times and the occasional outburst of action. It’s a show that doesn’t really require a lot of work when it comes to the mix as it’s very center channel oriented for its forward soundstage mix. There’s some decent placement at times, but the majority of the time it’s a single character on screen talking or talking to someone off screen. There isn’t much in the way of depth or complexity here but the encoding serves the material well and it’s problem free.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With a real world environment, Night Head Genesis is a rather appealing show with its visuals because the colors look so good and there’s a certain flow to the animation that’s nicely captured here. It’s moody and the transfer utilizes that, letting the dark areas come across well. The series has some very deep colors in a few places but it’s the dark areas that tend to hold up rather well overall. Outside of some noticeable source banding in a few scenes and the occasional bit of noise here and there, it looks very well done and the relatively high bitrate works in the shows favor.

Packaging:
Fans of pretty boys will be intrigued by this cover as it features the two brothers next to each other with some damaged building structure behind them, as well as that of the large luminous moon. The shape of the girders to make a cross likely isn’t accidental either, but with this illustration piece, the whole thing really is very appealing as it has the strong male character and the softer male character as well. With the soft green background as well for the sky, the layout is very striking and appealing. The back cover goes for the more violent side with a lot of red hued imagery mixed all over it that pushes a sense of evil. Overlaid on that is the summary which runs through the concept a little bit, we also get four widescreen shots from the show and a very thin font production credits section. The bottom section gives a nod towards the episode count as well as the solid technical grid. No inserts are included in the release nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release uses part of the front cover artwork as it focuses in on Naota with him to the left while the right side brings in the girder structure to give it a bit more of a solid feel. The illustration looks even better here than it does on the cover with its colors and detail which is thankfully not losing much to the minimal navigation strip that’s included. Submenus load quickly and with nothing on the disc but the show itself, getting around is simple and easy. Access times are quick and due to the single language option, player presets were an obvious non-issue.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Created by George Iida, Night Head Genesis was originally a live action TV series from the early nineties. And it shows. The series is only five episodes in with this first volume, but much of what is here does come across in the way that you’d imagine a live action serial would be done where there are threads that continue through the series, but that it may in fact deal with more episodic material overall. It’s easy to imagine how this would be done in a live action setting, even for a really bare bones Japanese drama series. But does that make it a bad show?

It’s admittedly hard to tell at this point depending on what you’re looking for from it. The series introduces us to young boys, Naota the elder and Naoya the younger. The two have had an odd life since they were born as they both have special powers to them. They’ve developed over time and when we see them, they’ve reached a point where their parents can’t handle it anymore and are sending them off to an institution of sorts to live and to be researched. Neither wants to go but their parents are beyond their ability to help anymore, even as it pains them to watch this happen. The facility isn’t given much focus here as we learn the basics about it in that there is a spiritual barrier of sorts protecting it that keeps them from leaving. Flash forward several years later and the barrier has now dropped for the moment and the two have escaped so they can try to reconnect and rebuild their lives.

The on the run aspect of the show is where I have to wonder if that’s how a large chunk of the series will play out. Through these first couple of episodes, we get a feel for what Naota and Naoya are like because of how they interact with others. Both have a sense of justice about them, but for Naota it comes more from wanting to protect his younger brother from harm, and from himself. Naoya’s ability is that when he touches other people, he sees the things that really drive them. Of course, he only seems to come across really bad people which causes him a fair amount of grief and trouble. As a young boy, he came across a girl the same age who was being tortured by her father. This was such a strong impact on him that it nearly put him into a catatonic state himself.

Now, back out among normal people and without the restraints of the facility in which they were kept, everything has the potential to overwhelm Naota. A stop at a local bar when their car breaks down has him getting caught up in the emotions of the place and revealing a woman’s secrets where she’s basically screwing around with everyone. What makes this really problematic is that it’s such a strong set of images for him that he ends up projecting it to everyone in the bar. And with so many of the people there involved with this woman, it starts an avalanche of emotions and anger about what has happened, and a good chunk of that is directed towards Naoya.

While this is an initial way of seeing how Naoya deals with things, it dovetails into a multi-episode story afterwards as he accidentally brushes up against a woman who has been killing women she comes across that she believes are out to kill her. Reiko is a rather disturbed woman, depending on whether you believe what she sees is real, who fears that people are out to kill her and they come wearing purple and are surrounded by all seeing eyes. With what seems to be her younger brother, the two are on the run while trying to stop these assassins. They are, of course, innocent people getting caught up in her obsessive delusions. Naoya finds himself unable to shake the images of the four murders he’s seen, but he’s also glimpsed into the future with the fifth murder and now must find a way to stop it.

Thankfully, Naota is fairly capable and competent in life and is able to play the protective big brother role pretty well. With his general telekinetic powers, he’s the more active of the pair with how he handles situations, though it does drain him considerably depending on the event. Naota works with a background fear of his brother falling victim to the catatonic state from their youth, but also with ending up back in the facility they were in before. Their goal once escaping is to find their parents, but this seems more like a starting point to a journey rather than a place to get answers. And by the end of the first volume, we are definitely given a few answers in the form of flashbacks to their childhood, but the questions about the present are still vague and unclear. Particularly with the couple of mysterious people flitting around the edges of the show with varying levels of purpose.

Night Head Genesis has a pretty good look about it, but a lot of what makes it work and appealing is the character designs by You Higuri. Known for her numerous boys love works, she brings a lot of that style here to the leads but without them coming across as too effeminate. Naoya has his moments to be sure, by design, but the combination of the two brothers in their designs is very appealing. The character designs and the animation in general is very solid and it doesn’t look like corners were really cut in a way to make it look poor. The visuals are strong when required but most of the time it’s kept to a very real world design and that has some real vibrancy, particularly during the Reiko arc as they spend time in the city.

In Summary:
Night Head Genesis doesn’t reveal too much of itself in these first episodes, though I could have done without the narration about what the title means. What we do get is some basic background and the apparent setup for a journeyman kind of show where the leads are off in search of something and stumble into a variety of situations where they’re compelled to help because of their sense of right and justice. Night Head Genesis isn’t a bad show in these first five episodes, but it’s one that hasn’t hit its stride yet and is still laying the foundation. It has some decent if predictable hooks to it, but those aren’t hooks that will captivate the mainstream. This is a slow and fairly deliberate show that has me curious to see where it will go since it has twenty-four episodes total to play with. At the moment, it comes across as a mildly pleasant diversion.

Features:

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening

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: C+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 16+
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 21.99
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (Mixed/Unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Night Head Genesis