Gungrave Vol. #7 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gungrave

Gungrave Vol. #7

By Chris Beveridge     July 14, 2005
Release Date: July 19, 2005


Gungrave Vol. #7
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Grave’s success in dismantling Millennion has come at a steep cost. The constant fighting and the many attacks he suffers have left his wounded body weakened and he may not last long enough to finish the job. Fortunately, he might not have to. The mafia executives finally begin to openly rebel against Harry’s depleted forces that are no longer strong enough to hold the organization together. As Harry flees from the bloody chaos of his imploding organization, he puts himself on a collision course with Grave and their bittersweet past!

The Review!
Bringing everything full circle, it always comes down to two people who have to deal with their issues in the only way they know how.

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, this is the perfect end cover for the series with the remnants of the past mixed with the realities of the present. The faded nature of the photograph with the silver foil really adds to the feel of it. These covers would make gorgeous posters. 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. We lucked out in getting the limited pack-in with this release of the thirteen postcards that are made up of all the artwork from the Japanese release.

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 last volume has a bit more in the extras department. In addition to the conceptual artwork gallery, we get a promo video section that basically has the first TV commercial for the series before it aired as well as numerous commercials for the DVD releases.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the conclusion of the Gungrave series, one of the best series of the last few years has come to an end. Gungrave is the show that stands out among most others for a number of reasons, one of which is that it's a huge exception to the rule that video game based series are horrible. If only more of them had this kind of storytelling attached to them.

In taking in the final volume of the series, what becomes very apparent is that this is a series that definitely requires a full viewing over the course of two days or less. So much of what plays out in these final three episodes, which shift away from what the previous two volumes were all about for the most part, takes us back to the very beginning of the series and the key moments along the way. The series has always been about the rise of Harry and Brandon in Millennion but more specifically it's been about the bond of family between them. During their time in Millennion and Brandon's time as Grave beyond that, the series has explored variations on what family means to people on a personal level and on a professional level. For a lot of this, it's all wrapped up in the Code of Iron that Big Daddy created for the organization as that was his perceptions of family and what that bond requires.

Harry's version of Millennion was strong in terms of Family as well but it certainly had its issues along the way. The time of change within that family has started again and Harry's begun losing his power as his forces have been killed off one by one by Grave. But even with Grave's work, others within the group have started to shift the balance of power and taking control of the secret accounts and the lower ranks of the family. Harry's fascinating to watch at this point since he still believes he has control but slowly learns at each turn that something else has been chipped away from him. Piece by piece, he loses things. When he loses some of the most important things to him, he's raw with emotion. This happens twice in these three episodes and both are simply stunning moments for this character.

What really pleased me with this set of episodes is that almost an entire episode is given over to going back to the past, bringing back the characters that made up the early part of the show and the formative years of Brandon and Harry's relationship. Though it's done as a mixture of remembrance and hallucination, getting the cast back and providing some sort of closure for them as everything that went around has come around again simply works well. The show comes back to its idea that it really is all about the bonds between Harry and Brandon and while we sort of expected at first to have the big confrontation inside the Millennion offices as Brandon returns there, it instead plays out in a much more interesting manner – though it does push things a fair bit in terms of neither of them keeling over when they should – and has two old friends who simply finally clear the air.

I will say though that of all the fights that Brandon has done as Grave, the one with Bunji resonated the best.

In Summary:
Gungrave had some really iffy material in it overall as a series with its video game origins, from the first episode and the two volumes prior to this that had to cover that section of continuity, but what it provided around that, in other words the bulk of the series, was nothing short of fantastic. It worked its way as a standard mafia/yakuza kind of show but did it with such a sense of style and tightly written dialogue and plot that it was fascinating to watch how it all went about being constructed. The shift in skipping several years here and there helped as well as it aged and changed the characters and showed that everyone aged badly except for Sherry. Gungrave will be a series that proves the exception to the rule and will be a show that is always at the top of my list of things to recommend.

Features
Japanese DD 5.1 Language,Japanese DTS 5.1 Language,English DD 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production Art,Promo Reel

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

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