Figure 17 Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 150
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Figure 17

Figure 17 Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     October 10, 2003
Release Date: September 30, 2003


Figure 17 Vol. #1
© Media Blasters


What They Say
Shy elementary school outcast Tsubasa stumbles upon a downed alien spacecraft in the wake of a shooting star, changing her life dramatically! Invited to join the aliens DD, Ordina, and Hikaru in their mission to save the Earth from the menace of the Magyua, Tsubasa is granted a "clone" named Hikaru, which unites with her to form the Figure 17, a bio-humanoid combat system! When the invading forces of the Magyua arrive, will Tsubasa have the courage and confidence to fight?

The Review!
One of the more interesting shows that aired back in 2001, Figure 17 finally makes its release onto DVD and works its own brand of special magic.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo track here is decent, though the bulk of the show is dialogue based which means the center channel is getting most of the workout. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing on SkyPerfecTV back in 2001 and broadcasting just one episode a month, we get a show that’s essentially OVA quality and done in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The end result is a great look transfer for the bulk of the print that shines through beautifully. Colors are lush and deep in many scenes, lots of vibrant moments during the action and fully fluid movement. Saturation is just right throughout and there wasn’t any noticeable bleeding. The only area that had some problems comes during the opening sequence when it pans over the large fields of multiple colored flowers where that area of the image looked a bit softer and a touch pixellated.

Packaging:
Released in a white keepcase, the coloring accentuates the bright and colorful cover artwork with its own mix of white. With the central image of the two girls set against a great blue sky, the artwork is very eye-catching and easy on the eye. The soft changes in the colors work as well, such as the shift to the greens at the top which carries over nicely to the back cover. The back cover has a few shots from the show itself and a quick summary of the basic elements. Production information is nicely laid out and we get the usual technical grid. Unfortunately, an error is in it that has caused nothing but continual questions and uncertainty with the release; the aspect ratio is listed as 4:3 instead of 16:9, which has caused a number of people to take a wait and see approach or pass it over entirely if they knew it was originally widescreen. The insert does a color negative style reverse shot of the front cover but with blues and lays the chapter listings on top of that. As usual, the reverse side of the insert has boxart advertisements.

Menu:
Working with the shaded blue and soft whites, the main menu is a nice static image that has the two girls to the side and the translated logo along the top left. Selections ring down along the left and some of the nice instrumental/sort of vocal music plays along. Moving to submenus can be problematic if you’re going through all of them in one sitting, since it uses the same transitional animation for each one. Depending on how fast your player can load and access them, this can be tiresome. Our Panasonic loaded it quickly but the Toshiba took a bit longer which got frustrating as we hit each submenu.

Extras:
The only extra included in this release is a textless version of the opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In reading some of the broadcast background for the series, Figure 17 very much comes across as a different kind of project. With its airing only one episode a month and the episodes being about forty-five minutes in length, the thirteen months it ran must have made for an interesting audience. Taking in the first three episodes over the course of three nights, I can’t imagine waiting a month between each episode.

While the series has a strong science fiction bent to it and has some rather solid alien creature action sequences, the heart of the show really is its heart. It’s the story of one character, a young girl named Tsubasa, and how her life changes due to meeting some new people.

The setting for the story is a most pleasant change right from the start and gives some hint to expect things to not be done the usual way here. Taking place in Hokkaido, we’re treated to some stunning looking background visuals with the mountains and the wide plains around them. Living in this area, we’re given introductions to young Tsubasa and her father Hideo Shiina. This family used to live in Tokyo until a little while ago. Due to her mother passing away, some years after her birth obviously but the illness due to giving the birth, Hideo has decided that he wants to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a baker. So with an offer to be taught and given residence in Hokkaido, Tsubasa agrees (reluctantly) and the two of them restart their lives there.

Tsubasa’s a quiet and shy little introvert. She likes her home life, which while she wishes her father was actually home more, the quiet nature of it being just the two of them feeds her need to not interact with new people. She doesn’t have any apparent friends at school where she still gets teased about being a snooty Tokyo “city kid” who doesn’t need anyone. She takes all of this and just looks away, hiding her feelings. She even gets taken advantage of when it comes to doing the chores and other duties by not standing up to the others and telling them they have to do what they’re assigned.

While she comes across as meek and shy, she doesn’t elicit the standard “grow a spine!” response that a lot of other shows would generate at this point. There’s something different in her performance, the quiet voice and the eyes. The lack of whining about it, even internally, sets her apart from the standard introverted lead character who must be drawn out into the audience.

Into every introverts life a little adventure shall fall and Tsubasa is no different. Watching something in the night sky fly across and break up before crashing nearby, she wonders what it could be. Before she realizes it, their dog has run off to investigate. Pets are the biggest causes of children investigating UFO’s! So she takes off into the dark forest with a flashlight and tries to find her dog and to see what she can see.

What she ends up with is something akin to a more mature style of alien first contact. Coming across the crashed ship, she finds the sole person inside unconscious under a tree after being thrown about. Speaking only his own language as he wakes up, he takes to immediately protecting Tsubasa against the Magure, the group of creatures he was transporting, from attacking. Due to the crash, the eggs that the Magure were in the form of have spread across the area and have a chance of hatching as it were and causing trouble.

The Magure are a surprisingly interesting race of creatures in their design. Each seems to adapt to the area where it’s born (or there’s just different kinds, we’re not really given an answer this early on). With massive jaws that face skyward with a single bulbous eye that can extend out and search for its prey, they’re both equally creepy and fascinating.

The pilot as we learn is actually the equivelant of a police officer and was transporting the eggs back to a safe location. During the transport, one of them hatched and wrecked havoc on the ship, causing him to crash on a planet they’d otherwise avoid completely due to the differences. With his name translating as DD, he tells Tsubasa some of his tale and lets her know that he’s contacted his people to come to help him deal with the problem. Tsubasa takes all of this in calmly and pretty much accepts it at face value.

To make things even more interesting, DD and his people use something called Ribers to create special protective armor suits around them to let them handle all kinds of situations. These Ribers are actually a living liquid metal that adapts to the persons form and enhances their strength and other skills. Due to an odd set of circumstances during the initial fight, as Tsubasa is trapped underneath the gaze of the Magure, a leaked bottle of Ribers comes into contact with her and she gains the power of the suit, but seeming to be more of a viewer from within who can help direct the action as opposed to being in complete control.

When the armor is deactivated, it typically returns to its casing. But with the Ribers that Tsubasa have not having the casing and having come into contact with Tsubasa in an irregular way, when the armor disengages it takes an identical form to Tsubasa herself – complete with all her knowledge and memories. In the blink of an eye, Tsubasa finds herself with a twin sister who now goes by the name of Hikaru.

Going forward, you can see how it plays out to some degree. DD waits for his people to come to Earth to help but he goes investigating for more Magure in the meantime while adjusting to the Earth customs he’s coming into contact with. Using some mental powers, he sets Hikaru to be Tsubasa’s twin sister who was staying with an aunt that’s come back to live with her father and sister and she ends up enrolled in school and playing a lot with Tsubasa. The two aren’t night and day, but Hikaru is definitely the more outgoing of the two. With her now at school, Tsubasa’s life changes incrementally due to her “sisters” influence.

And that’s where the real story lies for all of this so far. While we do get the entire Magure storyline and some great action sequences and all, we also spend a lot of time with the two girls just trying to figure out life. One episode is spent mostly just on a game called Port Ball at school where we watch as Hikaru tries to draw out Tsubasa’s natural talent as well as some aggressive behavior for the game itself. It’s watching Tsubasa and how she deals with all of this that’s the real story.

And it’s done in a really engaging way. Most of this feels so by the numbers in its basics, but just something about the approach really sets it different and I can’t put my finger on it. Each episode plays out like an hour long TV drama sans commercials and builds on what’s come before. Tsubasa is an interesting character to watch grow and react to all of this and in how she deals with the problems their presence creates. With the series essentially being twenty six episodes but done in longer episodes, there’s a lot more material to come that will change things even more. The core of the story in the beginning is different Tsubasa though and she pulls it off very well. I can’t wait to see more and to try and figure out what it is about it that really has me so keen on the show.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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