Freedom Vol. #6 HD DVD - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • 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: 27
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: VC-1
  • Series: Freedom

Freedom Vol. #6 HD DVD

By Chris Beveridge     July 01, 2008
Release Date: June 24, 2008


Freedom Vol. #6 HD DVD
© Bandai Visual USA, Inc.


What They Say
First Japanese animation in HD DVD/DVD twin format to be released simultaneously in Japan and North America, HD DVD includes HDi network function that allows to watch extra features, High-quality animation combining 2D and 3D graphics. Requires HD DVD Firmware 1.5 to view. Contact HD DVD player manufacture for details to update firmware.

Takeru vows to return to the moon. Will he meet with destiny - or disaster? Find out in the final episode of the FREEDOM saga.

With the fate of mankind riding on his shoulders, Takeru vows to return to Eden. And after revealing her childhood memories of a space flight gone horribly - and fatally - wrong, Ao demands to go with him. But can their makeshift rocket, scrapped together from an antiquated Apollo program, make the journey? As the series speeds towards its dramatic climax, it's a voyage sure to end in destiny - or disaster.

The Review!
After all that has happened, Takeru now gets it into his head that he must head back to Eden to let them know Earth is well.

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 an illustration of Ao wearing the space suit standing on the precipice looking upwards to the stars. With the white background, it's really a good looking piece overall as it draws all attention to the character. 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 launch pad from which the rocket will fly. 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 piece of artwork showing the wreckage inside of Scrap City. 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 aspects of the HD DVD layer and the importance of being up to date on firmware.

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 earlier volumes, 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.

Also included 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. Rounding all of it out, there's also the inclusion of the Freedom Vol. #6 Digest extra which has been typically presented as a downloadable piece of content in previous volumes for the previous episode.

Downloadable Content:
Similar to the previous volumes, the downloadable content available here feels rather insignificant.. The first extra is one that really irks in that it's a keyed piece in that the extra is on the disc but I have to download the key in order to unlock it so I can watch it on this player at this time. The extra itself is one that shouldn't be locked in this way as it's a 90 second 1080i/2.0 PCM digest of the fifth volume of the show. It's nice enough to get caught up on what happened before if you have a lot of time between releases, but it's not the kind of content that needs to be locked. The second downloadable extra is the original Japanese commercial for the release of the sixth volume on DVD, which is pretty darn short. Amusingly, in my review of the fourth volume, I lamented what would happen should the format fail and these keyed and downloaded pieces eventually become unusable once support for it dries up. It now feels pretty pointless to even try downloading these things.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With Freedom having originally been a six episode series, looking at this volume as the end of it certainly leaves you feeling somewhat ambivalent about the whole endeavor. The show just doesn't provide the right kind of closure for events in general, but it does bring everything full circle in its own way which is a definite positive. But at the same time, it makes me want to see the seventh episode all the more to see if I get the kind of closure I want in regards to Eden and if there's enough payoff to the series in general. As fun as it's been, the Earth arc has been a serious weak point in comparison to the Eden arc.

With his dream of coming to Earth and finding the woman in the postcard accomplished, it's little surprise that Takeru now finds himself a little bit restless. He and Biz sort of feel like they're men from the future because of the technology and knowledge of things but they're also attracted to the simpler life that is to be found here in the village. But with both of them being young men, they're drawn to more than just an idyllic life. And offhand comment at one point about returning to Eden sets things in motion rather quickly however and before you know it, there's a two and a half year segment that's glossed over a bit as plans are put into motion to send Takeru, Biz and Ao back to the moon.

This period is actually quite a bit of fun, though somewhat awkward depending on familiarity with 60's style flight training and how well you can suspend disbelief over the technology. The idea of throwing together a mission and dubbing it Freedom 7 is certainly all well and good, but the idea that so much of the technology can be salvaged is hard to digest. Having the National Air and Space Museum being called Scrap City and finding a useable Saturn V rocket stretches it even more. Within the context of the show itself though it does work, especially when you consider that they've been flying rockets of all sorts in the years since the apocalypse and even getting at least one of them to the moon.

Ao's past comes to light during this as we see a period from years ago when she was little and her father was involved in a Freedom flight that went horribly wrong, one that ended up killing space travel for people up until now. Her passion is what helps to re-ignite things and a lot of that is fueled by the things Takeru has told her of Eden and of the sights he wants to show her. Of course, the potential for the two of them to simply be thrown in jail upon returning there is pretty high, but like kids of this age and kids that have seen what they've seen in this series, that's not something they think about. They think only of the goals and how to achieve them. In a fairly classic sense, the bulk of the episode that deals with the restoration of the rocket and the training is very strong yet familiar material and it really does appeal to the inner space geek in me. Even with the suspension of disbelief issues.

In Summary:
If this was actually the end of the series, I could imagine being a fair bit more disappointed in it. The lack of a proper closure with regards to Eden would annoy to no end. It is admittedly thematically well done as it has Takeru and Biz working to return to Eden and motivating the villagers to help them out in the grand plan. It's quite the contrast from their escape from Eden which was filled with fast paced action and plenty of danger. Everything here is a willingly accepted challenge by the characters and they're feeling a rush of history behind them as they attempt this. Corny as it gets sometimes, Freedom is appealing in this regard, but it's been weak when it comes to the Earthside arc. All hope resides with the seventh and final episode now in bringing a proper closure to the series which started off strong but has meandered a bit in the second half.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese Dolby Digital+ 5.1 Language,English Subtitles

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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