Freedom Vol. #2 HD DVD - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: D
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: All Region DVD
  • Released By: Bandai Visual USA, Inc.
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 25
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: VC-1
  • Series: Freedom

Freedom Vol. #2 HD DVD

By Chris Beveridge     August 31, 2007
Release Date: September 25, 2007


Freedom Vol. #2 HD DVD
© Bandai Visual USA, Inc.


What They Say
During routine maintenance on the lunar surface, Takeru finds a strange capsule containing a single photograph. Captivated by the enigmatic girl in the photo, he scours the city in vain for clues to her identity. In desperation, Takeru and friends turn to old man Alan - and are shocked by what he reveals. In search of the truth, Takeru and Kazuma escape Eden, but are soon pursued by mysterious robots. Will they head back to safety - or speed past the point of no return?

The Review!
With nothing but a picture of a hot chick to go on, Takeru searches the massive Eden complex for her only to find something far more surprising.

Audio:
Bandai Visual has given the HD DVD version of this release a bit of an upgrade in comparison to the DVD version. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix while the HD DVD has a Dolby Digital+ 5.1 mix which can top out at 1.5 mbps second. Our player doesn't allow for the bitrate to be seen so it could be anywhere up to that point. The DVD side maxes out at 448 kbps. The Dolby Digital+ mix comes across as more vibrant and dynamic than the included 2.0 LPCM mix but it doesn't provide much activity to the rear channels. The bass makes out well by the 5.1 mix however and overall placement and forward soundstage directionality is good.

Video:
Originally released to video in 2006, the transfer for this OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is encoded at 1080p. The 3D CG animation blends well with the 2D animation and overall looks fantastic here. It's a clean and crystal clear looking production that eliminates some of the flaws that can be seen on the DVD side. Notably, the color gradient issues are greatly reduced in general, particularly at the start of the end sequence as the blues and blacks merge. The DVD side showcase the gradient more as well as blocking lightly along it. The gradient is still visible here but the blocking is gone and it's much smoother. There's still some line noise persistent in panning motions but it's inherent in the source.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is something we don't see very often in the US and for good reason. The keepcase is actually one of the super jewel cases and it has a cardboard sleeve over it. The cardboard sleeve is minimal in its design for the front piece as it features the image of Takeru and Kazuma in excursion suits set against a white background. The series logo and volume number is included but it's small and in the lower corner. There aren't any of the usual logos here such as the DVD one, nor one for Honneamise. The back of the slipcover almost hurts my eyes as it uses a white background with a black striped border. No artwork is here and about seventy-five percent of the cover space is made up of the summary that feels like one run on sentence. With no paragraph breaks and surrounded by the striped border, it's very harsh on the eyes. The bottom quarter of the cover is filled out with a deep technical grid that breaks down what's on each of the discs layers. The discs features are listed along the bottom and broken down by what's on each later. There are also plenty of notices about what each player requires and what will work where.

The super jewel case goes in the opposite direction as it's a black design for the background on the inserts for it with a silver pencil sketch design of what appears to be some construction project. The series logo is through the center in the same font and style as on the slipcover. The back of the case is the only part with full color artwork as it has an detailed visual of one of the sections of the cityscape. The reverse side has the cast and staff breakdown on the left while both of them have technical schematics in silver similar to the front of the jewel case cover. An insert is also included that covers what needs to be in place to utilize the interactive apects of the HD DVD layer and the importance of being up to date on firmware.

The shrinkwrap for this release does contain a couple of stickers worth pointing out; one of them has the HDi logo which indicates that there is an internet interactive aspect to the release. The other is a bright red stick that has a bit of a pr plug for the show and the basic logos and what kind of disc format it is.

Menu:
Freedom features both a top menu and a pop-up menu for its playback functionality. The top menu has the series logo through the center while some static animation is behind it as well as a brief bit of animation. Along the bottom is the navigation strip which also doubles as the popup menu navigation during playback. Freedom defaults to playing the feature and not going to the menu. The menu navigation fits well with the theme of the show and thankfully provides a button to turn off the beeps made when moving the cursor and making selections. Navigating about the menu is slightly slow at times but is likely more related to our first generation player more than anything else. Access times are decent otherwise and moving about is pretty painless and intuitive.

Extras:
Just like the first volume, the HD DVD release of Freedom comes with some rather neat extras but it's the implementation of them that wows. While audio and video improvements in the high definition arena are solid and can change a shows presentation, the wow factor continues to be in how the extras and features related to them are implemented. The staff credits are provided on the fly at any time during the presentation from one of the four feature buttons. When selected, the video in progress is shifted to a smaller sized picture as seen above and the credits video scroll is brought up along side it. The video complete with subtitles and audio as previously selected plays along for the duration.

Freedom contains a storyboard feature that is quite different from previous DVD implementations. Similar to the staff credits presentation, selecting that feature shrinks and moves the video stream to the side and has the storyboards playing along beside it. Picture in Picture is utilized on this release as well in order to showcase the use of the 3D CG animation. Showing the simulation footage alongside the final video stream, you're able to manipulate it in a few ways. You can:

In addition to being able to change the size of it or set it up in a side by side manner, you can also change the transparency level of the second stream during playback to two or three levels lighter than when it starts. Another nice feature is the ability to swap the streams out, making the main video the secondary picture and the 3D simulation footage the main picture. This does bring in some quality issues though as the secondary stream isn't authored to look fantastic as a main stream video. The 3D simulation footage looks solid when it's done at the 3 different sized tiers but when it's full screen on our 70" set you can see plenty of artifacting.

Last but not least is a feature that's definitely fun for anime fans but also very useful for someone like me who has to review things, and that's the bookmark feature. This feature lets you take snapshots of any scene that you want within the show and access it quickly through the popup navigation menu whenever you want. These bookmarks are stored on your player in its persistent memory so when you come back a year later and put the disc in, you can quickly access your favorite scenes.

Downloadable Content:
After some interesting content on the first volume through the interactive online features, the second volume feels rather insignificant. Even worse, the single piece of downloadable content here is just a key to access what's already on the disc. The key unlocks the eight second introduction trailer that's here. On the plus side, they can add content later since it's just reading from a remote server (and hopefully they'll fix it so it doesn't say "Freedom 1" when it's disc 2). That said, this kind of keyed content concept with something that's on the disc like this just doesn't fly with me. I can see uses for keyed content when it comes to some features in the future, but right now it's just a gimmick and one that will likely turn people away from checking it out for awhile.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Freedom OVA series moves right along with its second episode and it continues to intrigue even if there isn't much payoff here yet. During my more formative years, I spent a lot of time reading numerous science fiction novels from the likes of Ben Bova, Stephen Baxter and Kim Stanley Robinson about how mankind can and should move out into the stars. This series is very much in that tradition but with some of the expected anime clichés and plenty of Otomo influences. The slow build-up here is moving things along and there are some stunning scenes to be found, but I keep wondering if maybe Nissin Cup Noodle should have funded a movie version of this instead.

With Takeru now in possession of a picture that shows him a beautiful girl, he's driven to find her through his hormones. Perhaps the lunar gravity affects that on young men. Takeru isn't the brightest of Eden's bulbs as he goes about in the most amusing manner in trying to find her. Taking her picture and just driving about in hopes of finding her. With Eden being a city of something like three million diverse citizens, it's the proverbial needle in a haystack. He has some close calls though with people who look like her but isn't. He does have a small excursion with Taira as he comes across him while he's working on his speed trials. The relationship between the two as competitors is fun to watch as they definitely want to win but they're also simply good human beings and will do what needs to be done in a crisis.

Takeru's friends do try to help him figure it out and some of them have brains to them as they suggest using the city's computers. Curiously, when they try to access much of anything on Earth it just causes problems and raises a few flags among the Council members. Interest in Earth has naturally dwindled in the hundred years or so since the cataclysm there so few people are looking in that direction these days. With Earth out of view all the time as well, it fades into the collective background. There is an angle to be used however, and that's Alan, the old man who seems to know quite a lot about Earth and has a lot of memorabilia. It's through him where the next round of discoveries " and danger " comes from.

Not unlike the first episode, Freedom tries to play up several aspects. The racing angle gets used again, though far more briefly than before, as Taira does his speed tests in a small circular track. The racing material is just great fun to watch as it's incredibly smooth and is the main area where the audio mix gets to flex itself a bit. The mystery of Earth is another area that's touched on again as we get a better clue about the picture that Takeru has and what it really means. The use of Alan and all the things he has adds some more to that picture but Alan himself gets a bit more exposure as we start to see just how connected he really is, something that may show that he has far more secrets to tell.

With the release being only one episode, it is over fairly quickly but I have to admit it felt even faster this time than a regular episode of any other series. What draws me to this series more than anything else at the moment is the sheer beauty of it all. While the character animation is still bad in some ways, it's an area that I suspect will become far more normal in a few years. Similar to when CG aspects were used in the late nineties, I can only imagine what they'll do in another five years. The real draw though is the highly detailed and beautiful backgrounds. When Takeru and Kazuma head out onto the lunar surface, the visual beauty is just staggering in some ways. The sky is so perfectly black and deep that it really stands out. The bouncing movements and the way it works in general really is served well by the CG animation for the characters. When the kids are out on the surface, it simply invigorates a sense of wonder about it all. The payoff for me is in these beautiful scenes.

In Summary:
The second episode of Freedom is much like the first in that it provides little more than a huge tease. That tease is gorgeous looking through this HD DVD release as it has a real theatrical quality to it. The storyline is moving forward and a few more things are exposed here but with only twenty four minutes to work with, including the opening and closing, there is only so much time. What they do work through here is admittedly simple but very effective for me as this kind of material is a major draw. The HD DVD release overall is a solid package in terms of presentation. The down side is that on the creative end, they didn't do more with the sound mix and they should have made these at least thirty minutes long. Give me some more of those beautiful lunar sequences! Freedom is still very much a hard sell and not a title I can recommend for most folks, but those that fell in love with the first volume will find more of that in this one. This is a title that you will want to show off constantly to folks as an example of what "next gen" really means.

Features
DVD Layer: Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Language,DVD Layer: English Subtitles,DVD Layer: Next Episode Trailer,HD DVD Layer: Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Language,HD DVD Layer: Japanese 2.0 PCM Language,HD DVD Layer: English Subtitles,HD DVD Layer: FREEDOM 1 Digest (Internet connection required),HD DVD Layer: FREEDOM 2 TV CF (Internet Connection required),HD DVD Layer: Next Episode Trailer

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 HD DVD player via HDMI set to 1080i, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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