Strait Jacket (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Christoper Homer
Review Date: Thursday, November 20, 2008
Release Date: Monday, October 27, 2008

A three episode OVA turned into a movie format, a lot of potential goes begging in this interesting, but ultimately unfulfilling show.

What They Say
It is the world where magic and science coexist. Rayotte Steinberg, a lone wolf "tactical sorcerist", fights against monsters. They used to be human beings, but they had overused forbidden power, "magic", to turn into monsters. What he wears is "mold", the straight jacket that keeps him being a human. What he holds on his hand is "staff", a magical wand that explodes everything. If he casts magic, he moves one step to be a monster. If he doesn't, he will be killed. Among the harsh battles, he will face a sin he had committed in the past.

The Review!
Audio:

For this review I went for the 5.1 English Dolby Sound out of the choice of that or either 2.0 English or Japanese. Switching to the other two shows a very clear audio with little choppiness or distortion but it’s the excellent 5.1 Surround that catches your ears. It’s very clear; you can feel the gunshots and one-liners sprout through your screen that gives little you can possibly miss out as everything comes through so well. There was a minor bit of choppiness at one point during one of the battles near the end between Rayotte and Isaac which I noticed, aside from that it was a very good transfer.

Video:

The video of seems to alternate between excellent and choppy, due to some problems encountered during the battle sequences. Whilst mostly it’s very good, combined bright heavy battles with the darkness of Tristan City, I encountered some parts of slowdown between video and subtitles during a number of sequences, and at one point the disc seemed to pause for a moment – I had to check to make sure the disc wasn’t damaged – which after viewing again on another DVD player also had the same problem. I’m hoping this was just because it was a test disc because otherwise it’s a very beautiful video transfer, the presentation is excellent combining colour and dark, and with the demon and battle sequences, it’s shows you true vibration through your screen.

Packaging:

No packaging was supplied with this test disc.

Menu:

The menu is very basic, the title screen has screen shots of all the characters alternating during the looping music and set on a computer like background setting with shots of the OVA being shown on the top left. Four selections of Play/Scenes/Set-Up/Trailers are easily accessible from the screen, but aside from the set-up, there isn’t any artwork or animation in the background, slightly disappointing for a manga release.

Extras:

The only extras are several trailers for anime (Death Note/Bleach/Hellsing Ultimate/Karas), video games (Dead Space/Mirror’s Edge) and live action (Tokyo Zombie).

Content:
The synopsis of the show along with the introduction shows this could definitely be an interesting show, set back a 100 years plus but with the introduction of magic in a time like this brings all sorts of possibilities, adding an element of horror with the mold/demon explanations and there was definitely a lot of potential even in a short 80 minutes OVA. Sadly, whilst there are moments of excellence, it fails to really take advantage of the limitless scenarios there could have been.

We get a brief rundown of the plot – it’s 1899 where magic is discovered in the form of various energies and used in all sorts of work, from doctors to military. However, people controlling magic have the problem of possibly being overpowered by it and being transformed into Demons, hence the mold technology to protect people from this was also developed. However, nothing is perfect and there are cases of Demons attacking, hence the military deploy a group of people called tactical Sorcerists to dispose of these demons which could threaten society. We get a scene in the first OVA where a doctor transforms into a demon and creates havoc in the hospital, as the narrator explaining everything shows herself as a woman named Nerin Simmons, an officer of the Sorcerists who arranges the armies to stop these attacks. However, due to the increase of such attacks, there were no sorcerists immediately available for this latest attack.

Enter rogue Sorcerist, Rayotte Steinburg. Rayotte is an interesting character as he’s definitely of the outlaw variety, has no licence and seems to be a desperate last resort for Nerin. Also with him is a girl named Kapel Tata, a mysterious girl with magic marks on her forehead, and a brief history about her comes later, which is one of the main weak points of the show – nothing seems to happen to start with until they find Ray, and little is explained about the true background of the ability of magic, how it causes Ray to transform into a robotic like knight to fight the demon and his variety of powers, and bar a brief explanation of how Kapel was born and what seems to be her purpose, that seems to be it regarding background. Admittingly it’s a short show, but it doesn’t make you grab out and care for the characters and understand their ways of thinking.

Also introduced is one of the main military sorcerists, Isaac Hammond, who stands for everything that Ray isn’t. He’s heroic, fights for the good of the people, and can’t stand rogue sorcerists who seem to just kill for no purposes. Ray and Isaac constantly butt heads but Ray’s stoic attitude and his own ways of putting a spin of things constantly make Isaac think, which leads to a true battle near the end of the OVA. The problems stem from 2 episodic episodes in a movie format revolving around Nerin getting Ray to help her kill a demon of the day, with little bits of Ray’s past shown involving Kapel, add a corrupt official who seems to be deliberately causing these demon attacks, I almost wondered if it wasn’t for the violence and horror aspects if Strait Jacket wasn’t a magical girl show in disguise…

…the final OVA however does at least give it an interesting conclusion when Isaac’s sister is killed during a demon attack and Isaac realises a connection between a mentor of his and Ray. He goes irate and his heroic image completely shatters as he kills the corruption in the city before confronting Ray in a decent, if short final battle where Isaac falls to the demonic energies himself. Sadly, the aftermath seems rather flat and even comedic considering what happened earlier in the episode – a real shame, considering that at least the final episode had some real dramatic elements.

Strait Jacket has some positive elements – Ray and Isaac are both decent characters, and foils for each other but don’t take the comic route as true opposite clash. The final OVA also is also very violent and Isaac’s mental switch after the surprise twist involving his sister makes him feel his own version of justice. However, the plot elements involve the corruption, Ray’s attempt at redemption, the past of Kapel and Nerin’s attempted ways to get Ray onto her side feel very tacked on, which the result shows a, whilst watchable show with some good elements and a great show to view and listen to, falls way short of it’s possible potential.

Summary:

Strait Jacket becomes one of those ‘what if’ cases. It had the potential despite it’s shortness to be an excellent show, where ideologies clashed in a unique environment set in the past with a future concept. And it does have elements of that in the different characterisations of Ray and Isaac. However, with elements of plot which seems to have been thought out at the last minute, other characters which you just don’t feel any attachment for and a very flat conclusion, it’s a case of a potential classic, but couldn’t follow through to get that far.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Dolby Surround, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
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.



Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: C-
Age Rating: 15 and Up
Region: 2 - Europe/Japan
Released By: Manga UK
MSRP: �£17.99
Running time: 80
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Strait Jacket