Gungrave Vol. #3 - 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. #3

By Chris Beveridge     November 30, 2004
Release Date: November 09, 2004


Gungrave Vol. #3
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
An army of zombies begins a war against Millennion. Harry struggles to kill the undead while Brandon infiltrates enemy headquarters to put an end to the necrolized humans' attacks. With the zombie war over, Harry resumes his ambitions for power and love, while Brandon has creates his own sweeper team called True Grave and tries to focus forgetting his feelings for Maria. In the middle of turmoil, Big Daddy makes a significant decision?

The Review!
While they've faced hurdles before, the duo of Harry and Brandon come up against something completely different here as the series moves more towards the bigger picture.

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 release, we get the highly stylistic but simple character shots of Brandon and Harry being paired off with the villains for this arc, Blood War and Cannon Vulcan. The style of artwork used for this series with its emphasis on silvers and reds 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 artwork.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Getting close to the halfway mark of the series, I find myself almost yelling at this show with just how much it frustrates me. It's not a bad thing, it's just that I end up enjoying the show so much that it goes by far to fast and is just much too enjoyable. Giving nod to the simple fact that everyone has different tastes of course, I can't figure out how people can find this to be a boring or slow paced show. This volume continues to push the plot and action forward together while still maintaining plenty of the Mafioso material that gives it a much cooler edge.

At first, I wasn't too keen on the way this set of episodes was starting to look. Bringing in a new adversary from the lock-up isn't exactly something that just feels natural in a story setting like this but at the same time you have to realize that with the way Millennion has worked, most of their real opposition within their region has been pretty much crushed or at least oppressed enough that they'll have a hard time doing anything. So it will take someone from outside the system being brought in to provide the shake-up needed. This comes in the form of a rather ugly looking man named Blood War. He's been in prison for eight years (only) for the murder of over three hundred people. It's a corrupt world out there to be sure.

His release brings him back into contact with his beloved gun but also the gun's twin as they get a few more miles down the road. Waiting for him there is a man known as Cannon Vulcan, a higher-up in the Lightning organization that has plans to make some serious waves in the world but he needs the talents of his long time friend and war buddy Blood War. In one very great simple moment of guns clinking together against the sunset, the two reaffirm their pact that we learn much more about later on and set on a path that brings a massive amount of destruction to the Millennion group and its holdings.

Depending on how you look at it, the plan is one of the needed triggers that allows this series to lead up into the actual game. Knowing what's in the game, you realize what needs to come into play relatively soon and that's the enemies that must be faced. As Cannon brings Blood into the small group and shows him what's in store, we learn about the technology that he's been nurturing for nearly seven years that allows him to take a dead body and animate it as well as strengthening it and controlling it. Calling the process necrolyzing, what we get in the end are basically zombies that aren't plodding, understand style because they wear sunglasses and trench coats and known that double guns make them way cooler than weaponless zombies.

On the opposite side of things, now that Harry and Brandon have both been made at long last, they're becoming privy to more things and gaining more influence. Brandon's True Grave group is now becoming as powerful as Walken's own Over Kills and Walken only continues to admire and respect Brandon as their paths becoming tied more strongly as the events swirl around them. The job that Brandon had to take in the previous set of episodes only secured that closeness even more. Brandon also continues to strengthen his bond with Big Daddy though he keeps his distance from Maria all the same. The years have gone by to be sure and he's doing what he feels is right based on the choices he's had to make, no matter how much it hurts all three of them.

When Blood War begins his carnage on the city, simply for the pleasure and joy of violence and killing, a lot of the smaller plots come into play but many simply move to the side to allow for things related to this arc to happen. There are some interesting surprises about loyalty and who stays with who as it goes along and some of the changes within characters from dealing with this pretty much supernatural problem afterwards are off-putting. But within the context of the show and the way they build up to all of this, I think it's worked out great. The action scenes during this arc are a lot of fun and the only part I can really say I didn't care for was the evolution of the Blood War character towards the end. He and Cannon have some great conversations together and Blood War is an interestingly perceptive character, but even knowing the direction they had to take him in I can't say I found it all that enjoyable.

In Summary:
Gungrave is a series that when I watch it, I ensure that there are no distractions to be found around me at all. From the first note of the opening sequence to the final words of the last preview, this show simply has me engaged and attentive and loving every minute of it. Though it's moving out of the mafia style material slightly to start bringing in the game elements and moving towards the material from the first episode of the series, it's still a really fun show to watch that's well paced, plenty violent and mixed with some fun verbal exchanges. Very enjoyable and very recommended.

Features
Japanese DD 5.1 Languagem,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Art 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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