One of the hazards of war, that all combatants have to deal with, is the prospect of losing friends and colleagues in battle. All the more difficult to deal with when your commanders don't seem to care, don't you think..?
What They Say
The war has claimed the lives of far too many, and each death leaves a vicious unseen wound upon the surviving. Unit 5121 discover that nobody is immune to the syndrome. Their next mission leaves them outgunned, outnumbered and one member short. Can this team stand fast or will combat fatigue wear them down?
5 - Withered Leaf - Thursday's Child
6 - After You Left - I Guess Everything Reminds You of Something
7 - A Long Night - In the Forest of Nights
8 - In April, She Will... - With Your Musket, Fife and Drum
Audio for this release comes in Japanese and English stereo versions – as usual, I listened to the Japanese track for this review. Best use is made of the soundstage during action scenes, unsurprisingly, with good use made of placement to add some depth to the battles. Most of the show is dialogue –based, though, and this doesn't quit give the same opportunities for impressing, although everything is clear enough to easily make out.
Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect. With the Japan of the series being a war-torn country, it's presented in a bleak palette of greys and pastels, but there's plenty of detail in the backgrounds that help bring the world to life in its own slightly depressing way. There were no apparent encoding problems.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
The background of the menus appears to be a bullet-pocked grey wall, with the main screen featuring Mibuya posing to the left while a montage of clips from the series plays in a window next to her. Options are provided for Play All, Setup, Episodes and Extras, while the show's closing theme plays over the top. There are no transition animations between screens, making the menus quick and easy to use
Another volume with not much in the way of extras – this time out, all you get is a 51-piece production artwork gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Despite their military role, just like any school the 5121st's unit has an annual Cultural Festival. It's that time of year again, and the kids are putting on a puppet show of Hansel & Gretel. They're having problems with their roles, however - Hayami in particular just doesn't seem cut out to be an actor. It doesn't help that he's been paired up with Mai for the role of the Wicked Witch (a team-building exercise, according to their tutors). The day for the performance comes - but just as they're about to begin, Unit 5121 are called out on a mission - and it's one that doesn't have a happy ending, as one of the unit's members becomes a casualty of war.
Later, the lessons of their previous mission don't appear to have been learnt, as the 5121st's commanders opt to leave Mai and Hayame behind when they're trapped deep inside genjyu territory – a decision that may well lead to their deaths…
In many way's there's something for everyone with this disc - the usual slice-of-life stories mixed with a large dose HWT combat action, used to show that war pretty much guarantees unhappy endings - and that even when you've lost a member of your team there may not be much time for mourning. Much as I hated to see someone die, I thought that episode 5 – where the unhappy event takes place - was veryy well handled. There was very little of the usual anime hysterics that accompanies such events, no long-winded speeches, just the members of the unit watching tragedy unfolding before them and realizing that there was very little they could do. Moving, suitably dramatic, and not overplayed, all of which earns the story two thumbs-up from me.
It's notable that the people at the deathbed are the pilots and crew – the unit's commanders do't get to experience the emotions of the event, and so it's perhaps not surprising that, during the unit's next mission, they're somewhat lacking in empathy when Mai and Hayame find themselves trapped behind enemy lines and simply give the order to leave them there to their own fate. This two-part story splits naturally into two storylines – the efforts of the kids of the 5121st to get permission to go back and look for the missing pair, and the experiences that Hayame and Mai share while trying to figure out a way to get out of the mess they've found themselves in. It shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone that there seems to be a connection forming between the two, but it's good to see the way that Mai's coming to appreciate and respect Hayame's better nature (although I still think he's far too much of a walkover), while Hayame's way of avoiding the genjyu that surround them is surprising and a hint, perhaps, that mankind in the GunParade universe are in some ways the architects of their own demise. Put it all together, and these two episodes are easily the highlight of the series so far.
Some much-needed comic relief is provided by the final episode. Poor Hayame really doesn't understand why new love-interest Yumi has latched on to him, and the interaction between the two as he tries to figure out how to get out of the situation is great fun - and the resolution is one of the series' few laugh-out-loud moments.
Overall, them, I'm still impressed by this show, and this volume manages to balance two different story styles really well. Impressive stuff, on several levels, and well worth checking out.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles Production Art Gallery
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.