Gungrave Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: C+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gungrave

Gungrave Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     September 23, 2004
Release Date: September 28, 2004


Gungrave Vol. #2
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Harry's continuing thirst for power intensifies upon the arrival of Bob and Lee, the two newest members of Millennion. Brandon continues on as a sweeper for the organization until the mystery of Maria's whereabouts soon lead him to Big Daddy's villa.

5 years have passed, and the Millennion is stronger than ever. Harry's ambitions continue to seethe while Brandon continues as his loyal confidant. A grand garden party reveals conspiracies among Millennion's members while old friends, Bear and Geralde, face off to bring the murderer of one of their own to justice.

The Review!
Harry and Brandon enter the world of Millennion and everything changes.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Our listening experience was greatly enhanced as all the language tracks available here are in 5.1 format. Even better for me, there's the inclusion of a Japanese DTS 5.1 track which doesn't seem to have gotten any sort of release in Japan and is a real rarity when it comes to a TV series. While there doesn't seem to be too much difference between the DD and DTS tracks, the 5.1 mix in general is pretty solid. This isn't the most enveloping 5.1 mix out there but the growing number of them is a plus and hopefully as it becomes more the norm we'll see more actively mixed releases from the start.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, Gungrave is presented here in its original widescreen aspect ratio and enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show itself is a dark and murky piece and that is beautifully presented here. With a heavy accent on shadows and the dark nature of it, there's no visible breakup or issues with solidity levels. It just looks fantastic, especially when they start doing the various flashbacks and we get the style used for it with the grain. When we do get the few moments of vibrancy with the colors, they're sharp and spot on. The opening episode is probably one of the more fluid areas of this particular volume since it's the hook episode and it does stand out quite well. All told, this is a very enjoyable transfer and a beautiful presentation that helps the mood.

Packaging:
Using the artwork from the Japanese second volume's release, we get the highly stylistic but simple character shots of Brandon and Harry taking action while the background has other influences that become strong over this volume. The style of artwork used for this series with its emphasis on silvers and bronzes works really well with the foil nature that Geneon adds to it here. The back cover provides a couple of small strips of shots from the show with the episode numbers and titles listed between them while above there are two brief summary paragraphs that give away a little that isn't actually stated in the show yet. The discs features and clearly listed and we get the usual array of production and technical information. The insert is a simple piece with the shows logo on the front. It opens up two a two-panel spread that has the front cover artwork a little bit brighter and clearer while the back side has just the episode numbers and titles.

Menu:
Another striking and immersive design from Nightjar sets the mood for this show with various clips playing obscured through the center of the menu while it's surrounded by the kind of dark and near-realistic artwork that Nightjar is consistent with in their menu design, such as chains and scratches and the like. All of this is set to some of the instrumental music from the show in 5.1 with a decent length loop time to it. Access times are nice and fast and moving back and forth to the submenus is quick. On the downside, our player presets were not kept when playing the show.

Extras:
The extras included are pretty much par for the course and likely all we'll see for most of the volumes of this series with a few pages worth of conceptual.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first volume that really got us hooked onto the show and very interested in seeing where it's going to go, the second volume picks up pretty much exactly where we left off and moves forward at a great pace, providing some real foundation style episodes while then shifting ahead several years in time to ensure we're not stuck in a rut or spending too much time on just one piece of the larger story.

Putting their lives behind themselves in a way, Brandon and Harry end up working under Bear Walken in the Millennion organization for their own reasons now that they've said their goodbyes to their fallen friends. Harry is obviously looking to really rise through the ranks of the organization and achieve some real power so he can have control of the city but Brandon is a bit narrower in his goals within it. Knowing that Maria has been taken inside it somewhere, he's intent on finding her – but not to bring her back to himself in any way, but just to ensure that she's all right and so he can see her one last time. It's a small but good twist on things since it keeps him from having some sort of nasty agenda that will have him trying to take down everything from the inside due to a woman.

With the two of them having vastly different sets of skills, they find themselves sent different ways. Harry ends up being off-screen for a lot of it where he's a bit more upscale and working for one of Bear's subordinate bosses doing laundering and other mental and mathematical tasks. Brandon ends up in a dingy building in one of the seedier sides of the city where he works as muscle for one of the loan sharking collection groups that Millennion operates. He continues to be his mostly quiet self and the time is spent with him learning some of the basics about being muscle for things like this, particularly since his dislike of using guns. With the other two guys he works with, it's an interesting little group that they become and the way they all act around each other as well as the things that make them so human.

Harry's continued climb up the ranks has him dipping into the pool where Brandon is though and he tries to manipulate things to help him climb the ladder as well. One of the things he does is reveal to Brandon where Maria is and what her situation is truly like. As she's so completely high on the ladder due to the protection she's receiving, any attempt of his to visit her will likely result in either some serious pain or an outright execution, but he still goes and visits her anyway. It's hard in a way to really peg what it is about the two of them that makes them the way they are. As she says at one point, she's always thought of him as a little brother but over the years he ends up surpassing her in a way and she feels like the little child. That gives a strange feel to the relationship since it's almost like she discounted him in a way and never felt more than a sibling style love for him. Watching their growth through the circles they play in during this volume is very interesting though as both Harry and Brandon make their climb around her.

There are two things that I just adored with this volume. The first is the way the interactions went between Brandon and Big Daddy when he had Brandon brought to him. Instead of the heavy handed way of things, the honey method with the implicit understanding of extreme violence should he not be listened to ends up bringing the pairing to an interesting relationship, especially when Maria becomes involved. Much like a lot of life, it's timing and simply being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people and Brandon really hit paydirt with this and Big Daddy. The simple nature of Brandon ends up really playing well for him in this respect. The other part that I like is the shift forward in time. The first couple of episodes cover a few months worth of time which is decent enough since it has them both learning their trades but it’s the five year leap ahead that I really liked since it brought us fully to the next stage of things without playing around. And the leap didn't really go and do anything that made you wonder how they got from A to B, but rather did it all logically.

With this volume, Gungrave became an edge of my seat kind of show for a lot of it. There's so much going on with these characters and their situations become so tense so quickly that I literally kept finding myself leaning forward and shifting to the edge of the seat so I could get just that much closer to it. Talking about the show with my wife, we're both unsure of exactly why we're so drawn to it. I'll fully admit that other than the SF aspects of the first episode, everything else here is purely a straightforward mafia style story with a couple of hard-luck boys trying to get Made and move up. It's just done so well and without pulling any punches or flinching that it's highly engaging to watch. Harry is a character that you'd normally find a bit too slick or too sure of himself to like, but it's played so smoothly that you can't help but like him, especially with his design. And Brandon's quiet nature would usually work against a character since it doesn't let you get to know him well enough but his action speak so loudly here and the way his style changes from early on to the five year section simply tells so much as well and looks so good that you're almost really rooting for him in a strange way.

In Summary:
The opening volume to this series started off a bit confusing as intended and then shifted into something that really surprised us and was engaging to watch as it laid out the way of the world for a couple of street punks trying to live right. This set of episodes takes all of that and builds heavily on the foundations and simply steamrolls forward. The series is simply very engaging and a real bit of pleasure to watch. It's filled with style and substance that works so well together and is just told with a straightforward method without hitting you over the head with it. While we liked what we saw in the first four episodes, we fell in love with the show with this volume.

Features
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Conceptual Artwork Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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