Fantastic Children Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Fantastic Children

Fantastic Children Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     November 15, 2006
Release Date: October 17, 2006


Fantastic Children Vol. #4
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Helga goes to Clairmont, where the memories of her past lives as Serafine and Christina are reawakened. And going back even further in time, there is the planet Greecia...

Lost in a forest heavy with mist, a young Princess Tina is rescued by a boy whose body is half made of steel. Ten years later, Tina's longtime friend, Sess, introduces her to Soran, his best friend. Tina realizes that Soran is the boy she met in the forest so long ago.

The two young people are instantly drawn to one another and fall in love. However, Tina becomes the unintended victim of a deadly plot orchestrated by her uncle Georca, which leaves her so badly injured she is on the brink of death. Unable to cope with the thought of losing his beloved daughter, King Titus orders the palace scientists to save Tina no matter what it takes.

The Review!
Shifting away from the present for a bit, Fantastic Children removes the veil to many of its mysteries and details the real origins of this fascinating storyline.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show is presented in stereo mixes for both its English and Japanese tracks and both of them come across quite well with some minor directionality throughout it. The show has a good mix of both dialogue and action sequences that use the directionality nicely such as some of the boating sequences while the quieter dialogue scenes are very sharp and still move around well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The series has a very distinct feel to it depending on the characters and setting at the time and they're fairly different. The first couple of episodes spend a lot of time in the past and in the hazy settings of Europe which looks good but has a definite soft feeling to it. When it shifts to the more current settings in the South Seas, the show has a far more lively and colorful feel to it with the seas and jungles. There is a mix of the two at times when the characters come across each other and the source material for the transfer look fantastic with clean lines and plenty of detail. If there is any real problem with the transfer it's the amount of mosquito noise to it with some of the colors when you have close-ups that provide one shade for a large part of the screen. There are a few areas where the blacks don't maintain a completely solid feel but it's very minimal and far between. Otherwise colors look great, aliasing is non-existent and there isn't any visible cross coloration.

Packaging:
The cover art for this installment shows clearly that we're going to get something new here as it features material from the flashback episodes. It's also a design and color scheme that gives the show a bit more warmth than the previous covers which is very appealing. The only downside to me is that I know a lot of people will pass on it simply because of the character designs, which is a real shame. The back cover has a good layout to it with a collage of shots from the show in a nice border while below it is a fairly good summary of what these episodes are about. The episode numbers and titles are provided as is the production information. The technical has the right run time for this volume but it could have used listing things like aspect ratio and what extras were available. No insert is included nor is the cover reversible.

Menu:
The menu layout for the release is rather nicely done as it brings in a lot of the sketches and illustrations of the various locales from the series. It has a lot of nice simple animation to it as the various pieces come together to the final layout alongside the brief music that's included. The menus aren't flashy but they fit the theme of the show just right and set the mood for what's about to start. Access times are nice and fast and the navigation is easy to use. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fantastic Children continues to feel like a secret treasure that only I and a few other people know about. Hardly anyone seems to talk about it, but each of these beautifully priced releases comes into my home and it's devoured and loved like almost no other show. Intricately plotted, teasing in revelations but never so much that you despise it, this fascinating story is told in one of the most engaging manners I've seen. While most shows I watch wouldn't translate well to live action, or would lose much of their charm, Fantastic Children is one that would shift beautifully and would likely find a very large audience in today's market.

This volume is one that is filled with huge amounts of payoff. We've been learning so much about what is going on during the first half of the series with the cast so large and spread out across the world and in different time periods. The previous volume started bringing it all together as the paths began to cross more and the storylines started to find convergence. At the same time, we started to gain a greater understanding of the Zone and what the Orsel is all about. Yet like Helga, we were still left somewhat bewildered with what was to come and what was really going on. What brought it all to this point in time.

Those questions are all answered here. The truths that Helga has now learned about her past has led her to having a greater understanding of her own past. A trip with the Children and Thoma bring them to the home that Christina lived in during her previous life and that unleashes a flood of memories for her, memories that reveal the kinds of troubles she's had before and is experiencing again in this life. This is given about half an episode to be explored and it runs in parallel with an equally engaging flashback story that brings us the origins of Gherta as she's tried to unlock the mysteries of the Fragment. Seeing her motivations from childhood and the way she moved into the position she has now explains much about her. But even here, we also start to get more about the mysterious Prince Dumas and the plan he's operating under for those that were sent away from Greecia.

Helga's past is where the exploration is all really done. While we get some of it in the first episode, the second episode begins the exploration further back and takes us to Greecia where we're introduced to Tina as the princess that she is. Tina's past starts off with her as a child when she meets a young man who is made differently than everyone else and then some ten years later when she meets him again as a teenager. She's never forgotten this kind, if different, stranger since physically he's so unique. In the years since first meeting him though, she's come to rely on her childhood friend Sess. Assigned to protect her, he's come to love her as well but he's realizing that he has little chance with her. To Tina's surprise though, it turns out that the young man from before is working for Sess and she finally has a proper introduction to Soran, now someone fairly important in the military.

Their relationship is explored since there is the potential for drama here. This is covered at the same time that we see the beginnings of the scientific explorations by Hesma and the others regarding the Zone and Orsel. It's all academic for the most part though they have started to experiment on some marmots in order to see if they can bring the dead back to life. The group, now full compared to the Children we've seen disappear in the first few episodes, really expands the cast nicely in that we see some real adult interactions among them and see the bonds that truly do tie them together. Their progress is quite good in the program, but everything goes awry when Tina's uncle plots to take over Greecia and Tina finds that she's become the first human to be tested in this new process.

These extended flashback episodes are wonderful and come at the right point in the series. Rather than keeping the mystery going for another batch of episodes and holding it out till closer to the end, we get to understand the real workings of what's going on. Between the revelations in the previous volume and what we have here, it's been a great exploration of the mysteries of this show while still managing to keep the drama and intensity. The only downside is that with so many episodes taking us to the past, some of the current cast is lost because of it. Thoma for example takes a real back seat here and several of the Children have smaller roles overall. The price is worth paying though as the Greecia flashbacks really do a magnificent job of making everything all really come together just right.

In Summary:
It continues to be a shame that this show is getting as little recognition as it is. Fans clamor for something new and different, something that doesn't come from manga or a video game. Something original. And yet when it arrives and delivers in spades, the collective audience practically turn their noses up at it. Fantastic Children is one of the hidden gems in Bandai's catalog and those who are watching it are likely just as much in love with it as I am. This volume is all about payoff for the mysteries to which we've seen and it makes the show all the more engaging. In fact, there is so much revealed here that you want to watch the previous thirteen episodes again with this new knowledge to see how much of an impact it makes. This is the show that should be garnering a ton of praise across the board.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via DVI set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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