Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick

Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. #4

By Brett Barkley     May 05, 2006
Release Date: April 25, 2006


Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. #4
© ADV Films


What They Say
On its last breath, a dying planet cries for independence. In an underground base, hidden deep within a labyrinth of tunnels, Ahab and his crew meet with Lucky's brother Shiro, the leader of the Moad Civilian Movement. When a celebration is held in his honor, Ahab turns a cold shoulder to Shiro's warm reception and finds that he can't see eye-to-eye with his new partner.

Meanwhile, Dew rekindles an old love, uncovers the secrets of his past, and learns the horrifying truth behind his mysterious connection to Moby Dick. As the Moad citizens begin their fight for independence, Ahab marches off alone to settle an age-old score with the menacing android Murato.

Contains episodes 15-18.

The Review!
A vast improvement over the previous two disks, the show starts moving in this volume with the introduction of more back story and a dangerous new character.


Audio:

Hakugei "Legend of the Moby Dick is presented in Dolby 5.1 in English and Dolby 2.0 in Japanese with English subtitles. The English track is very nicely done, utilizing the rear speakers for a strong ambient feel. The music and sound effects really come across much bolder, and the slight echo effect used with the dialogue gives the genuine impression of conversation within the cold metal hull of a space ship. I was very pleased with the strength of the sound on the English language track.

Understandably, the Japanese Dolby 2.0 comes across flatter in comparison. But while it doesn't have the same underlying rumbling bass that has almost become synonymous with ambient noise inside space ships, or convey the subtle echo effect quite as nicely, the Japanese language track has a very moody feel I really enjoyed. Perhaps this had more to do with the voice acting, but I thought the darker, more somber tone on this track suited the series' cold environments very nicely.

I found no genuine issues or distortions on either track and feel both have their strong suits. While I favor the ambient noise and general sound quality of the English track, the dialogue and mood of the original Japanese audio would be difficult to beat.

Video:

Originally airing in Japan through 1997 to 1999, Hakugei-Legend of the Moby Dick is presented in it original standard Full Screen aspect ratio of 4:3. I thought the transfer looked great and no issues of aliasing or blurriness. I also found the colors were reproduced nicely in most cases. However, on the second volume I did note some scenes featured color that was very oversaturated and much darker, but these were relatively few in number. In this series, the depths of space are not presented in flat blacks, but rather a dazzling range of blues. The various surfaces used throughout the series are presented in fuchsias and oranges, all of which are clean and well done. In the episodes throughout this disk, I was very impressed with the range and subtleties of the colors, particularly in lieu of the series' age.


Packaging:

The Hakugei-Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. 4 disk has a very nice sense of design. Blending elements that pay homage to the source material, the bulk of the disk cover consists of a sketchy, water colored image of Murato and Ahab as if in battle. Immediately, I was reminded of older mariner etching work traditionally done on whale bones, which I felt was a very nice touch for the cover art (additionally, this style, to a slightly varying degree, is reflected throughout the series, most notably in the opening and closing animations). This art is placed against a solid white background with the title along the top. Along the right side of the cover, as a design element juxtaposing the more traditional with the futuristic aspect of this series, is a hand-painted rendering of the shadowed Moby Dick gliding effortlessly through the depths of space, the cold metallic tones of a futuristic space station are found just below. All in all, I absolutely loved this cover and felt it will truly draw attention. I do have one concern with these covers, though, as it is VERY difficult to distinguish between the volumes at a glance.

The disk spine features a sample of the art from the cover, again set against a white background. The series title and disk number are bold and very clearly legible along the upper half. The disk reverse is much darker in color, featuring a primarily black background with some subtle blue design work throughout. A beautifully-painted image of a great whale bursting forth from the waves is found in the upper right of the cover, a large bust of Barba as taken from the series itself is placed in the upper left hand side of the reverse cover, with a brief summary of the series, as well as disk extras occupying the space below. Seven screen captures are found to the left of the disk information, below the capture of Barba. Additionally, this disk features an insert with a repeat of the front cover on one side, and some series background as well as the fourth part of the interview with director and series creator Osamu Desaki. Be warned, however, I'd recommend reading the interview after watching the series, as the interview does contain spoilers. I really like the feel of this disk design in general. Not only is it well designed in an aesthetic sense, but it is functional as well.


Menu:

Borrowing a design sense from the front cover, the menu features a cropped version of that art, with the bar along the right side serving to hold the menu options. The menu clearly displays the disk's four episodes by number, with a Preview of Volume 5, Languages options, and Extras listed below in descending order. A clip from the series' opening song is looped throughout. I was pleased with the menu's clarity and ease of use.

Extras:

Hakugei-Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. 4 offers some of the more common extras, but there are also some stand-outs. The disk features Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, Character Sketches, Pilot Concept Art, The Space Whalers' Lexicon, Previews, and Credits. Of these, I found the Pilot Concept Artwork and Character Sketches to be the most interesting. The included character sketches are nice, but I would have liked to have been able to scroll through them at my own pace, though this is only a slight complaint and some may prefer the disk's pacing. The Space Whaler's Lexicon could be useful to those new to the series. I found the Pilot Concept Art to be very interesting, giving an inside look at just how much the series has progressed in design from the earliest stages. It was definitely interesting to note the changes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Originally airing on Japanese television from April 1997 to May 1999, Hakugei "Legend of the Moby Dick is based very loosely on Herman Melville's famous novel. While taking huge liberties with the source material, Hakugei does retain some of the original's essence beyond the shared titular and character names, namely a giant white whale. Except, it's not really a whale.

I've found the previous two volumes of this show to be very prone to dragging along, feeling like so much filler. However, that changes with the first volume in this disk, as the series begins to pick up the pace with the introduction of a deadly new villainess, Ohara, The Special Assitant to the Department of Interplanetary Development. Introduced with little formality, this beautiful but sadistic villainess quickly assumes control of the Moad situation and, as Murato now reports directly to her, has commanded the giant android put all resources at his disposal in locating and capturing Dew. Dew, having been discovered and tended to by Sara the songstress android, has begun to recover some of his memories from before he was converted to an android. He comes to know his former name and the circumstances that led to his being sentenced to eternal punishment as an android. And as the Captain and Lucky's brother struggle to get along long enough to begin a large scale resistance movement, Murato's troops prepare to close in on Sara and Dew.

I enjoyed this episode greatly, as it gives the viewer some much-needed insight in to Dew's past, and his connection to Sara. It also downplayed a lot of the cutesy-wackiness that really bogged the series throughout the last two disks. But while I enjoyed many aspects of this episode, particularly the attention given to finally exploring Dew, a number of issues still stood out as problems. Ahab's strange and often rude behavior to Lucky's brother goes unexplained, flying in the face of his insane obsession with destroying the Moby Dick. Additionally, more of the ham-fisted plot devices appear yet again, this time as Sara reveals she is apparently the only android in the universe whose sole fuel source is the Poizy, the beautiful but poisonous plant found only on Moad, thus suggesting it is impossible for her to ever leave the planet. There's an intriguing and often engaging story to be found here, but plot devices like this tend to really hurt the story.

The second episode on the disk, episode sixteen opens with Dew's internment, as Special Assistant Ohara reveals her sinister plans for Dew and his role in the future of Moad. It seems Dew's final mission is to serve as the detonator that will destroy all of Moad. Unable to kill himself, or otherwise avoid his fate, Ohara plans to move Dew to another planet, a place where he will be safe until the appointed time of detonation. Why such an unnecessarily elaborate scheme is necessary to destroy Moad, I am not really certain, but it stays true to what appears to be the creators' ham-fisted style of introducing plot devices.

Not content to blindly fulfill Ohara's role for him, however, Dew manages to escape in a fiery explosion that destroys the craft on which he was imprisoned. As a result of his explosive escape, Special Assistant Ohara is severely. Meanwhile, the resistance plans a great meeting in order to unite the scattered groups of Moad in one great uprising, as Sara searches for the Captain and his crew.

In episode seventeen, as Shiro leads the meeting for the uprising, he broadcasts his message across the universe (which, of course, makes one wonder why he didn't bother to do this from the onset, rather than just sending his sister to find a group of whale hunters out somewhere out there), and Sara finds Captain Ahab and his crew. She finally reveals to them that Dew is indeed safe, as well as who she believes has captured him (not knowing, of course, he has already escaped). It is also revealed the explosion of from last episode resulting in the horrible scarring of Ohara's face. Now, her face appearing more like an android, she orders Shiro's meeting to be disrupted by carpet bombing the surrounding area (though again, with the instructions to avoid harming any of those in attendance). The Captain, believing he can rescue Dew, takes Sara and goes to bring the android home. Of course, the crew catches wind of this, and quickly follows. At the same time, Special Assistant Ohara changes Murato's Absolute Circuitry to allow him to override his primary functions to never kill a human being. Murato is revealed to have been a homicidal killer responsible for over forty gruesome deaths prior to his conversion to android form. This will once again unleash his murderous urges, this time on the people of Moad.

This episode, while slightly slower than the previous two, is used largely to build for the next several episodes, and the coming battle. I liked the exploration of both Ohara and Murato, and the insight in to her plans, as well as her obsession, which fits more with the source material. Finally revealing and exploring Dew's connection to the Moby Dick (as seen way back in episode one) was nice, though I am still curious why all of it was necessary (capturing Dew and turning him in to a walking Detonator that may or may not have ever found its way to Moad in the first place).

The final episode on this disk, episode eighteen, quickly leads to the inevitable confrontation between Ahab, on his way to rescue Dew, and Murato, now fully capable of overcoming his android programming and kill human beings. Upon encountering one another in the Federation headquarters. Ahab makes a startling revelation. In yet another all-too-coincidental plot twist, it seems Ahab knows Murato from prison. An undefeated heavyweight champion known for his savagery in the ring, the android known as Murato was once the man known as J.R. Jacobs. After an incident in which he killed a gang of forty men on the street, he was sentenced to prison, where Ahab had once come to his rescue. The connection these two once had, and the position in which they each now find themselves, make Ahab's taunting of the once-psychotic android all the more confusing. When Murato asks for Ahab's help, providing what could be a terrific opportunity for the resistance, the Captain instead decides to turn his back on the android, which results in Murato's flying in to a psychotic rage and slaughtering three other escaping prisoners.

I had mixed feelings about this episode. While it explores Murato's back story, giving us a better idea of just how formidable he is, it was handled in a way that was again just heavy-handed. Once again, Ahab's actions seem less like those of a man obsessed, and more like those of a fool, which makes me wonder just how Ahab is to be portrayed. Again, while there are some issues with the plot devices and how Ahab reacts to his circumstances, this episode does a great job of intriguing the viewer to see the outcome of the inevitable battle between Murato and the whale hunters.


In Summary:

A vast improvement over the previous two disks, Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. 4 is filled with a number of major revelations and manages to develop the story of the former crew of the Lady Whisker and the Moad Resistance movement. However, while these major revelations definitely add interest to the series, they are often handled in a way that renders them as little more than overt plot devices. While this can be frustrating at times, if the viewer is willing to overlook these and mere coincidence, there are a lot of interesting developments to be found.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Sketches,Space Whalers Lexicon,Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

Review Equipment
34" Sony FD Trinitron Wega HDTV KD-34XBR910 and Sony Dav-FR9 progressive scan Home Theatre System with 114 watts per channel to each speaker and 115 watts to each of the subwoofer's two woofers.

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