Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. #5 - 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. #5

By Brett Barkley     August 09, 2006
Release Date: June 06, 2006


Hakugei: Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. #5
© ADV Films


What They Say
One man will be reborn by the power of friendship. Another will awaken into an endless nightmare. When Ahab challenges Murato to a one-on-one cage match he soon learns that the 9-foot heavyweight space champion may be a bit out of his league. With his crew captured and his harpoon disabled, he's forced to rely on some old-fashioned boxing skills he honed in space prison. In the battle that ensues, two men will meet their demise and the war for independence will take a frightful new turn. Meanwhile, internal strife in the Federation Government results in a new, aggressive stance against the Civilian Movement, as the brutal 7th Fleet is called in to wreak havoc on Moad. With only two months until the planet is destroyed, Ahab's crew is united with long-lost friends, and a new hope is revived as they prepare for the final showdown with Moby Dick.


The Review!
Two steps forward, and two steps back.

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. 5 disk retains the nice sense of design found in the following volumes. Blending elements that pay homage to the source material, the bulk of the disk cover consists of a sketchy, water colored image of Dew set against the background of Moby Dick's ominous piercing eye. 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 haunting image of the silhouettes of Dew and Sara is found in the upper left of the cover, a large bust of Atre as taken from the series itself is placed in the upper right 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 Atre. Additionally, this disk features an insert with a repeat of the front cover on one side, and some series background as well as the fifth 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 6, Languages options, and Extras listed below in descending order. A clip from the series' opening song is looped throughout. I found the menu to have clear, clean layout, and to be easily navigable.

Extras:
Hakugei-Legend of the Moby Dick Vol. 5 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 Character Art, The Space Whalers' Lexicon, Previews, and Credits. Of these, I found the Pilot Character 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 Character 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.

After the tense conclusion of the last disk, I was excited to see where the series would go in the fifth volume. I was impressed with the way in which the first two episodes were handled (episodes 19 and 20), but slightly disappointed (but not surprised) in how the series employed yet another Deus Ex Machina to actually reverse all the drama and tension that had been building for several episodes. But this concept of two steps forward and another step backward has been one of my major issues with the series from the beginning.

In the first episode (19), the series picks up where it left off in the previous volume, as Ahab and Murato continue their fight. However, the crew of the Lady Whisker intervene just as things begin to look very bleak for the Captain. Meanwhile, Ohara begins to close in on Dew, but is interrupted as the crew from the station summon her to attempt to bring Murato back under control, as he has locked himself and the crew of the Lady Whisker in their holding area. As Atre, Lucky, and Sara wait for the others outside in the snow, the fight with Murato goes poorly for the Captain and the crew. The fight ends with a dramatic teaser for the next episode, as Lucky's voice-over lends a great sense of drama to the episode's finale. While the fight scene, intermingled with Murato's memories of his mother's suicide, often felt like it dragged on and on, this episode's finale expressed drama and tension better than any that had come before it, and made me genuinely interested in the next episode.

Building off of the previous episode's dramatic finale, episode 20 opens with Shinto having a vision of a great sadness that will overshadow the crew of the Lady Whisker. Atre, Sara and Lucky continue to entertain themselves while they await their crew's return, blissfully unaware of the desperate situation inside the enemy installation, things turn from bad to worse for the crew of the Lady Whisker. Matched for size, Barba and Murato engage in an all-out, no-holds-barred battle, and Barba falls. The crew, coming to the aid of their injured crewmate, try to take on Murato by themselves, but the giant android makes quick work of them. Captain Ahab, getting his sixth or seventh wind, makes another attempt to battle Murato, but he too is again defeated. When Ohara gives Murato the order to execute all the men of the Lady Whisker, including Captain Ahab, Murato inexplicably hesitates (apparently content to just beat them to a pulp and let them die slowly, rather then get it over with quickly.) Realizing, as all the other have fallen before him, and that only he has any hope of defeating the killer android and saving Ahab's life, Barba again rises to do battle with Murato. In an final attempt to bring the giant android down, Barba makes one final, all-out attack, actually managing to internally damage Murato. However, before Murato falls, he fires a deadly laser from a hidden weapon in his mouth that kills Barba instantly. Sara's voice-over song in this scene is really well done, giving it a great deal of poignancy. However, this is short-lived, as a fiery Murato, in flames from the damage he sustained in Barba's final attack, manages to breach a secured door which (in another example of the series' near-constant reliance on the Deus Ex Machina), when the seal is broken, will cause the entire Federation installation to self-destruct. It is instances like this one (a security door that will destroy the entire complex when breached) that really damage the series, as the plot is often advanced by the most ridiculous (and unnecessary) plot devices and contrivances. In any case, the heart of the installation (looking much like a small Death Star) actually detaches from the rest of the installation (the exploding part, in this case), so Ohara and what's left of Murato manage to escape to fight another day. As the battered crew flees the enemy installation with Barba's body in tote, they are greeted by Atre, Sara and Lucky. This is a great scene, as Atre refuses to accept his giant friend is dead, revealing the youthful naiveté he tries so hard to hide. The episode concludes as Ohara uses her influence with the President to call in more soldiers to Moad and have Murato rebuilt, as the Moby Dick contacts Dew who has been hiding beneath the waves in the Lady Whisker, and Barba is laid to rest. A lot happens in this episode, and most of it is dramatic and somewhat well-done. From Barba's desperate final battle, to Speed King's refusal to believe the giant is actually dead, the drama is high and does a great job of engaging the viewer. It's a shame, however, most of it will be completely undone in the next episode.

Episode 21 opens with Barba's burial in the caverns deep below the resistance's mining colony. While the crew struggles to come to terms with the loss of one of their own, Ahab struggles to recall something Barba had told him when he first signed on with the Lady Whisker. Meanwhile, as Dew wanders the wastes of Moad, he comes across Marie from Cape God, who has gotten a job as a wartime journalist covering the two sides of the Moad Civilian movement. Additionally, Ohara has called in a specialist force to rebuild the once powerful Murato, who has been totally destroyed, only his brain unit remaining. The Expeditionary Force of the Seventh Fleet also arrive on Moad. Feared across the galaxy for their violent resolution to any and all resistance, the group represents a very final end to the Moad Civilian Movement. When Ahab finally recalls what Barba had told him so long ago, it completely reverses all the drama of the character's death in the last episode. Through the process of a silly three-step ritual, Barba is returned to life. The episode ends with a teaser of Murato's impending return.

Why the creators chose to reverse the well-done drama of the last episodes I can't be certain. However, in so doing, they not only provided yet another Deus ex machine moment, but made the last few episodes feel like little more than a waste. It becomes difficult to watch and appreciate an anime when entire segments of the series are later revealed to be little more than filler,

Episode 22, the last on the disk, opens with Dew and Marie running out of fuel in the snowy Moad wasteland. Dew exhausts a great deal of his energy in boosting their craft's communications array with that of his own life force. While Murato is rebuilt, larger than ever, Ohara learns she is brought up on charges akin to a court martial for having not captured Dew earlier. In fact, obviously Ohara's failure to capture Dew has far greater ramifications, as even the President is resigning. After a quick and humorous reunion with Marie, Dew's admission that he is in fact the bomb that will destroy Moad is overheard by Sara and a number of the resistance fighters. The episode concludes with Murato's violent rebirth, as he and the disgraced Ohara flee in to the Moad wastelands. And among the resistance, word has quickly spread of Dew's larger role in Moad's destruction, and he and Sara flee the angry mob of the resistance.

Aside from the loss of Ohara's power and authority, this episode does nearly as much to reverse everything established in the last several plotlines, as the prior episode. At this episode's conclusion, Dew and Sara are fleeing the angry resistance, again threatening to head off in the the snowy wastelands of Moad. Murato's return is just more of the same, undoing all that was established in the life-and-death battle between he and the crew of the Lady Whisker.


In Summary:

I was disappointed in the turn the series took with the episodes on this disk. Largely a mixed bag, the first two episodes follow through with the drama and tension established in the previous disk, only to have all that undone in the latter two. I resented feeling as so much of the time spent on the battle between Murato and the captain and his crew (which covered a number of episodes) was nothing more than filler, easily undone in two episodes. I will never understand why the creators would choose to build such drama and sacrifice in to the series, only to undo it, but it greatly damages my ability to care about the characters, as even death appears to be transitory.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 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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