Ryo finds herself caught up in the cult and practically swallowed by it as she gives in to it all.
What They Say
Driven mad by lust on an exotic island, comely outsider Ryo becomes the helpless prey of a mysterious temptress named Hotaruko. What is Hotaruko's nefarious plot, and what is her connection to Ryo's dead mother and to the sinister island of sin? Contains episode 3, plus an extended recap of episodes 1-2.
Critical Mass has kept the same audio tracks as the Anime 18 release which means we get a pair of stereo tracks encoded at 192kbps. The show has a fairly basic stereo mix that's mostly center channel based for the dialogue and special dialogue while a few ambient effects and the minor bits of music tend to make use of the actual stereo channels. This isn't an overwhelming mix by any stretch but it's clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2003, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The materials for this look solid overall but it's not a problem free release. The bulk of the show looks quite good with lots of solid colors, particularly the numerous black areas, and some really vibrant moments throughout. Cross coloration is non-existent and aliasing is a non-issue as well which leaves most of the transfer looking good. Where the problem lies is in a lot of the red colors, outside of the flowers in general, look to suffer from chroma noise and look like they're interlacing a lot. Beyond this it looks good though and is an otherwise enjoyable print.
If there’s a reason to be happy with this release over the Anime 18 one, it’s the simple fact that it doesn’t have the taglines the other had. The front cover really is appealing as it has the three principle women in states of undress, lots of skin and ripped clothes, looking very sensual and sexual. Add in the roses in the background with the dark sky and it’s ominous as well. The same can be said about the back cover which works with a clean style in having several shots from the show, not tiny shots either, alongside a brief summary paragraph that leaves you wanting to know more of what’s going on. The technical grid is standard for Critical Mass along the bottom as it also brings in some of the basic production credits as well. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reverse side cover.
The main menu has Hotaruko crawling across an obscured background that doesn't seem to be of anything in particular except maybe the doll bodies while music and English erotic dialogue plays along side it. Selections are lined down along the right in a quick to access and easy to use menu. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is simple to navigate but the disc didn't read our player's language presets unfortunately and defaulted to English with no subtitles.
The only included extra is a brief art gallery video piece.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The main downside to how Critical Mass is handling the Anime 18 releases is apparent with this one as we get the third and final episode by itself. Because of how the show was released at the time years ago, Anime 18 didn’t have the final episode until later and put it on a separate disc, along with a newly minted recap episode to bring the viewer up to speed because of the time lag between volumes. We don’t get that lag with the Critical Mass release obviously, but we do have three episodes split across two volumes and it’s less than appealing. Even more so because the final episode is really all about the climax of the storyline, and we get that all by its lonesome.
Ryo’s search for what happened to her mother in the past has reached its limit really as the situation has begun to push her over the edge. The forces that have been at work on her since coming there are stronger than ever and she’s essentially given in to the sensual and sexual pleasure of it all, willingly or not. It’s hard to tell at first whether she’s welcoming it or simply overcome by it all. Why she reaches to long out to Ruka after everything that has gone on, Hotaruko is the overpowering force that she cannot resist, especially when Hotaruko comes to her and brings her to new levels of ecstasy. At the same time, Ruka is holding out as best as she can for Ryo but her situation is just as untenable as she’s given orders to kill Hotaruko while also serving her disturbing master at the time. Both Ryo and Ruka are overwhelmed by the situation they’re in, but Ryo ends up succumbing fully to it and turns into little more than a drooling mound of flesh.
Story wise, there isn’t a whole lot here as the focus is on the domination of the two women by their respective masters. Each scene is intense and there’s some crossover between the two, especially when Master Misuzu enters the picture. The bulk of this episode really does revolve around pure and simple carnal pleasures as both women are used over and over. Hotaruko is particularly disturbing to watch sometimes since she’s got the round of stitches on her stomach, and eventually she takes on another piece of flesh from elsewhere that’s even more disturbing. The sex itself is really quite well done since the animation is sold and the designs equally so. While they do bring in some of the bloody aspects of it, such as Ryo’s apparent deflowering (or was it just that rough of a session), the majority of it is relatively straightforward. Both Ryo and Ruka simply aren’t interested in it at first but become overwhelmed by the situation and then addicted to the pleasures they receive until the end comes.
While I liked the first installment of this series and I liked this one with regards to its scenes, the show overall does come across as a little weak in this segment because of the story. But at the same time, it’s understanding that story wasn’t the main focus here at the end but rather a climactic sexual resolution to bring it to a close. The animation is good, the designs are good and outside of a few creepy moments here and there the actual scenes are good as well. There’s a lot to like, but I feel like it would have made out much better if it had all been on one disc as a single flowing story. Coming into it here with just the finale, even with the recap episode, makes it feel a bit hard to connect with.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Art Gallery
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.