Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B-
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B-
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 2 - Europe
- Released By: Beez
- MSRP: Â£19.99
- 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 Bryan Morton
July 11, 2007
Release Date: March 19, 2007
Fantastic Children Vol. #4
What They Say
Helga goes to Clairmont, where the memories of her past lives as Serafine and Christina are reawakened. Lost in a forest heavy with mist, a young Princess Tina is rescued by a boy whose body is half made of stell. Ten years later, Tina's longtime friend, Seth, introduces her to Soran, his best friend. Tina realises that Soran is the boy she met in the forest so long ago and are drawn together, falling in love. However, thier love is just not meant to be...
15 - Recollections
16 - Return into the Mist
17 - Tina
18 - TragedyThe Review!
The latest volume of Fantastic Children takes a trip into the past, as Helga comes to terms with the memories of her past incarnations and we get to see what happened back on Greecia that led to the Children of Befort beginning their search. The moral of their story: some technologies are simply not meant to be messed with...Audio:
Audio is provided in Japanese, English and French 2.0 stereo " I went with the Japanese track for this review. While the audio is clear and easy to make out, there's very little use made of direction here " although to be fair, the way the story is presented doesn't give very much opportunity for that sort of creativity. There are some scenes which provide a little bit of action, and reasonable use is made of the soundstage there, but for the most part Fantastic Children is heavy on the dialogue, and that's kept to the centre channel. There were no obvious problems with the encoding, though.Video:
Presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame format, video suffers from a pastel, washed-out feel that removes some of the impact of the scenes, and leaves the show looking less than its best. There were no obvious problems with the encoding, or with the subtitles. Packaging:
The front cover of this release features young Tina, Seth and Soran, in the royal palace in happier times.. The rear has a few screenshots along with the disc technical info and a promotional paragraph, while there's a nice piece of scenery artwork on the reverse.Menu:
Menus are available in either English or French - I went with English and was greeted with a static screen of a carved face & archway over a river, nestled in the jungle. An instrumental version of the opening theme plays throughout. Options are provided for Episodes, Bonus & Audio " there's a rather long transition animation when you select an option (a common gripe of mine with Beez releases), but once they're out of the way the menus are easy enough to use. Sadly, there's no option for Play All " you have to use the Episodes menu to start off each episode separately.Extras:
Just creditless versions of the opening and closing sequences on this disc.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
When she was a child, a school trip to the lab of a famous scientist, now preserved as a museum, became a moment of inspiration for a young Gherta. That one visit has spurred on her life's work - but now she's beginning to wonder if she's been doing the right thing, or if she's been led up the garden path by Dumas - especially after she realises he's the same person she had met 25 years previously, and that he apparently hasn't aged a bit since then. Should she heed the Childrens' warning to stop her development work, or should she continue? Meanwhile, Helga and the others arrive at the ruins of Clairmont Sanatorium, and on seeing Serafine's painting and the place where she lived & died, the memories of her past lives come flooding back to Helga.
After having seen Serafine's memories, Helga also sees the memories of Tina's first reincarnation, Christina, and of Tina herself. As a child, Tina met a boy whose body was half made of metal - a boy who bears a striking resemblance to Thoma. It wasn't until Tina was almost sixteen that the two met again, and an unlikely romance began to blossom. Unfortunately for them, it was around this time that Tina's uncle Gueroca began to make his pitch to take power from her father, and that Greecia's scientists experiments with the Zone of Death first began to reveal the awesome power that the Zone contained...
The first half of Fantastic Children was certainly interesting and entertaining, but if there was one thing you could criticise it was that there didn't appear to be any rush to explain how the Children and Helga ended up in their seemingly endless loop of reincarnations. When Helga arrives at the Sanatorium and the memories of her past selves are revealed, that all changes " the vast majority of this disc is spent in the past, mostly in the time of Princess Tina herself, and covers the events leading up to the decision to send Tina through the Zone to our world (although that actual event will have to wait for next volume). The change in setting also brings something of a change in tone with it " events in Greecia are a good bit more action-based than the series has been up until now " and a new group of characters are also introduced.
Tina herself seems to have very little in common with Helga " she's a self-confident and determined young woman with one hell of a temper on her, when pressed. Seth is her closest friend and the boy she's destined to marry, thanks to an arrangement between her father and Seth's " he's seen as the ideal match, and in royal circles that's more important than love, although they do at least like each other. Once Soran arrives on the scene, though, that changes as Tina falls very much in love " and Seth, ever the loyal friend willing to put his own desires aside if it will bring happiness to Tina, declares himself willing to step aside and allow true love to run its course. All that goes to one side, though, when Gueroca makes his move to depose Tina's father, the king of Greecia " he's a cookie-cutter villain with an over-hyped image of his own abilties, and it's his belief that he would be able to control the power of the Zone that leads to almost unimaginable destruction being unleashed on Greecia.
So much for the history lesson. After waiting for so long to find out what happened to create the situation the Children and Helga now find themselves in, it was hugely enjoyable to see it play out on screen. For a series that has been quite underplayed until now, the way the action scenes are presented here also gives you quite a buzz while watching " by the time that comes to the fore in episodes 17 & 18, the characters of Tina, Seth and Soran have been quite well developed, and with a lot of the battle centred on them and their own efforts, there's a personal feel & a focus to the fighting, along with the general maelstrom that's engulfing the world around them. It's all very well done.
All this backstory does mean that other plot threads are put on the backburner for now " Professor Gherta and Inspector Crooks are touched upon briefly near the beginning of the disc and then promptly forgotten about, which is a shame, especially as they were such central characters at one point. I expect they'll come back to the fore once the history lesson has been completed, though.In summary:
This volume sees Fantastic Children begin to fill in the blanks in the histories of some of the main characters, in a way that packs a good bit of punch both on the action and emotional levels. Leaving the backstory to so far into the series had seemed a bit strange to me at first, but as it played out it all fell into place neatly and made for an engrossing viewing session. This series really doesn't have the profile it deserves " it's slipped under most peoples' radars " but if you give it a try, I promise you won't be disappointed.
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,French Language 2.0,English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Textless Opening & Closing Sequences
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.