Freedom Vol. #3 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. #3 HD DVD

By Chris Beveridge     December 26, 2007
Release Date: December 11, 2007


Freedom Vol. #3 HD DVD
© Bandai Visual USA, Inc.


What They Say
What do you do when you discover everything you believe is a lie...and your freedom an illusion? Entering forbidden territory, Takeru has uncovered Eden's
most closely guarded secretand finds himself being hunted by the Guidance Council. Shattered and disillusioned, Takeru recklessly attempts to escape to
the only place he can discover the truthand secure his freedom.

The Review!
The first half of the series draws to a close with a great chase sequence and a real turn of events as the momentum carries it forward strongly.

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 showcases 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 Kazuma sitting in his racer 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 the control room from this episode. 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 where the escape ships are located. 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:
Similar to the second volume, the downloadable content available here feels rather insignificant. The first of two extras available upon release of the title is a digest that is basically a two minute or so summary of what's happened in the first two episodes but with a focus on the second episode more than the first. The second downloadable extra is the original Japanese commercial for the release of the third volume on DVD, which is pretty darn short.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In the last ten years that I've been doing this, I've seen a lot of anime DVDs and a lot of regular DVDs. There've been a few spotty issues over time but nothing that really made me angry. Unfortunately, Freedom finally hit that and it's really not so much the fault of the disc itself, though that may be some of it since it's a combo release. In attempting to watch this volume, it took no less than ten repeated attempts at getting the HD DVD player and TV to synch up properly. That meant powering on and off in different combinations to actually get it to work. The frustration level from it was quite high, but quickly dissipated once the show got underway.

Freedom has been an interesting show in its first two volumes once you move past the character animation and general CGI level. At its core there is a good if standard science fiction story that keeps a lot of the science intact. With a group of young boys that find there may be something more to the world than what they've been shown, their curiosity has driven them to find it. The curiosity of one, Takeru, is also driven by hormones as the simple picture of an attractive girt along a beach from a faraway place has him all giddy. The first half of the series is all about their time on Eden, the discovery and how they're going to figure out what's going on. The previous volume did a good job of establishing a bit more of the hidden side of Eden and its opposing hierarchy that try to keep it all in check.

This volume is a bit more action paced than the previous ones as the Council has decided that it's time to shut certain things down. When Takeru and Kazuma made their way outside and came across their discovery, it was the last straw that the Council needed in order to make a move on the Freedom section of Eden. Alan and his gang of misfits and relatively ordinary folk who can't make a living inside of Eden have been on the fringe for awhile, but with Alan giving the boys so much aid, he opened the entire place up to being absorbed back into Eden proper. That pushes the Council to get far more actively involved both in Freedom but also in capturing the boys so they can be properly re-educated. Alan's not going to let that happen though and clues them in on the best way they can move forward with their dreams.

The things that fascinate me in Freedom are all very much apparent here. The science background to it with the properly designed ships, the movements of the craft and the idea of what happened in the past and how humanity has worked to ensure its survival since then are all staples of classic science fiction. Even though we're given the standard protagonists in teenagers that are going through their usual rebellious mode, it all ties together well and has plenty of merit simply because of how people change as they get older. The use of Alan to temper things a bit but also to bring in an older guy who has the knowledge of the past and some gumption to put it into effect plays nicely with the kids.

The best element for all of it continues to be the sense of wonder. The visuals really drive this home, particularly in the last episode when the kids did their excursion onto the lunar surface. That gets a bit of play this time around as well, but even that sense of wonder is apparent when they get into the bowels of the city and we see what kind of measures the Council has to deal with real emergencies. It only gets more intense as the episode progresses, which helps to balance out the straight out action scenes that involve the biker kids going to town with their rebellion against the Council.

In Summary:
Freedom is a difficult release to stomach in terms of its media presentation and pricing, but at its core is a story and visual/audio presentation that is just fantastic. The CGI elements were off putting at first but have grown on me as time has gone on. This episode closes out the first half of the storyline nicely and ties together a few new pieces to give it a bit more coherency. In watching this, I really hope that the entire six episode core storyline gets done in a streamlined movie version some day in addition to having this version available as I think it'll flow far better in that format. That said, this volume has cemented my enjoyment of this series and has me very eagerly looking forward to the next volume based on the next episode trailer. Freedom has totally captured my attention.

Features
DVD: Japanese 5.1 Language,HD DVD: Japanese Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Language,HD DVD: Japanese 2.0 Linear PCM Language,English Subtitles,DVD Extra: Next Episode Trailer,HD DVD Extra: FREEDOM 2 Digest (Internet connection required),HD DVD Extra: FREEDOM 3 TV CF (Internet connection required),HD DVD Extra: 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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