Mania Grade: A
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- 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. #4
By Chris Beveridge
January 19, 2005
Release Date: January 18, 2005
Gungrave Vol. #4
What They Say
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
As Harry's ambitions uncoil, he uses his power to usurp control of more than half of Millennion and to destroy anyone in his path. His sponsorship of Dr. Tokioka develops the “Necrolization Project” to create an unstoppable army. Meanwhile Big Daddy, who tires of being in charge, suspects Harry's treachery but restrains himself from action for fear of unleashing a war within Millennion. When Brandon agrees that Harry might be getting out of control, Harry explodes into a rage that locks in the fate of them all...The Review!
As Brandon and Harry climb ever higher up the ladder, the stakes rise and paranoia begins to set in.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 Harry in the center with an extreme look on his face while the background shadowing is given over to Maria and Big Daddy. The style of artwork used for this series with its emphasis on silver and gray 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)
Watching the climb of Brandon and Harry in the Millennion Organization has been a lot of fun since each of them has progressed in significantly different ways. Brandon's rise through his skills both unarmed and armed has brought him very close within the top level of the Family since he's dealt with problems that do come up. He's proven himself several times over, never mind saving Big Daddy himself at least once from certain death. Harry's rise has been trickier for the executive level in the family because his kind of rise is a threat to their own hopes for climbing the tiny bit further that's left when Big Daddy finally retires. Though he's young he's managed to amass a great deal of power and wealth in the Organization.
So it isn't terribly surprising that he's being investigated by the group though not with full knowledge of the top tier of the executive level. Since his discovery of the Necrolyzation process, he's been funneling a huge amount of unreported funs into it and while he's managed to hide it for awhile it's finally catching up to him and is giving Randy and those on the spy side of things a chance to start really looking into his activities. The traitor in the midst motif kicks off again for a bit but a lot of this is focused more on the Code of Iron within the Organization, in how traitors and those who betray the Family must be dealt with. These kinds of shades of gray within the Family does allow Harry some room to move and he exploits it perfectly, though not without a bit of guilt, as it allows him to eliminate those looking into him but also pushes him further up the ladder.
For Brandon, he's continuing to come to grips with the way his life is leading him and trying his best to ensure that when he does see Harry that he keeps him on the right path. This is displayed wonderfully during a few scenes when the two are simply out for a ride after some serious events and they visit the graves of Kenny and the others and reflect on the past a bit. Harry's outlandish nature comes out in spades but Brandon manages to ground him quickly and without shame by just a look and little words. Revisiting where they began a bit and seeing the potential of themselves in others running around helps to bring things a bit full circle in a sense, which is the intent since the next series of events begins to bring the series all the closer to where it started back in episode one.
Bringing the necrolyzation back into the picture is of course expected, though it's been one of the weaker parts of the series but it has to happen since it's where everything began and it's a big part of the game itself that the show is based on. So with the new tests going live and the catastrophe that occurs with it, the project finds itself in shambles but not without a glimmer of hope as one of the researchers has informed Harry that the original researcher, Dr. Tokioka, was actually making things more difficult than they needed to be in that the process could be used on live people and it didn't require the dead. While this sets that project back in motion but along a slightly different path, Brandon's own long range plans for even when he's long gone go into effect through some interesting back door channels and we see the true origins of Beyond the Grave, which is what I originally thought we saw in the first episode but isn't exactly true. Though it's the part of the series that really goes into the real suspension of disbelief, they continue to do it well enough here that it's still quite enjoyable and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.
But at the same time, I am disappointed that this highly fascinating series of mafia crime and violence as well as loyalty and flamboyance is coming to an end. Brandon's rise has been interesting and this volume shows just how far he's come yet how much he remains the same. He has a scene with Maria in the restaurant but all he's able to do is barely say "yeah" to anything she says. Contrast that to the first couple of episodes in the slums when he barely even said that and it's progress but it's actually a regression from how he's been during his rise as he's gained confidence and status within the Family. Not that the status really means anything as his only goal is to keep his best friend on the right side of things, but it does allow him for some level of comfort by being close to Big Daddy who he's surely felt as a father figure during all of this. The covered ten years or so here has been an engaging and surprising piece of storytelling that has been very well done.In Summary:
This is the volume where it all starts to change and depending on how well it carries through in the next couple of volumes will determine whether the show really falls apart in the second half or whether what's been built will sustain it as it moves into the less realistic realm with the necrolyzed factor and Beyond the Grave becoming much more visible. The first half of the series has been a surprise from the second episode right up to the last one here but the remaining episodes have me nervous that things will fall apart.
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English Subtitles
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.