Firming up the connections between the Guardians and setting them on the right path, Haruka moves easily through this stage of the series.
What They Say
The tale approaches its apex as the trials of the Divine Sovereigns stand before Akane and the Eight Guardians, ready to rest the bonds they share! With all of the Eight Guardians gathered at her side,
Akane now sets out to find the Four Sacred Talismans, a task that will pit them against countless hardships that threaten to throw the Eight Guardians into disarray.
Contains episodes 15-17.
The audio for Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ continues to be a solid release as the technical side of it goes further than most stereo releases do. Encoded at 448kbps, the show has a fairly straightforward stereo mix to it but it has a bit more oomph and impact to it due to the higher quality of the encoding. The bass level feels a bit richer and dialogue has a more distinct and clear feeling across the forward soundstage. Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ isn’t a big outgoing show, more intent on expressing atmosphere, but the show works well in general and the music throughout it benefits from the method use. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2004 and early 2005, Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ has a pretty good looking presentation to it but it’s a show that has a bit of a strange style to it considering when it aired. Done in what could only be called shoujo-vision, there’s a certain softness to it overall that adds to the atmosphere. Thankfully this doesn’t cause much in the way of background noise to filter in due to great source materials and high bitrates. Where this softness comes across as problematic is that many of the character designs have a very unusual feel to them with a too-digital look. The uniforms of the characters for example just don’t feel like they blend too well into the show during quiet scenes. When there’s a lot going on it’s much less noticeable however. Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ in general looks really good when taking into account the style in which it was animated and it stands out strongly against a lot of other similar shows that have been released outside of Japan.
The covers change a little bit with this volume as it utilizes the pairing Inori and Shimon as they stand together with the phoenix burst in flames behind them. The heavy reds actually work rather well as it’s an eye-catching piece and Shimon stands out rather strongly because of it. Using a similar logo design to the manga release that Viz Media is putting out, it’s all well branded in order to attract to the same audience. The back cover uses various red shadings for its background and it uses a standard layout of two strips of pictures with a brief summary in between them. Episode titles and numbers are listed while the bottom third runs through the cast and staff credits along with the technical grid and a few required logos. The foldout booklet included is done in the same red shading and it has some really neat things in it. There are a few character designs, a brief set of interview with the art director and the screenwriter as well as a look at the poetry within the show. The reverse side has two pieces of full color artwork – including the original piece used for the cover, and a summary of each of the episodes in some detail.
The menu design harkens back to some of Bandai Visual USA’s earlier releases in that we get a static background – this time of the capital city – with episode selection along the top which includes a separate chapter menu for each. Subtitle selection is here as well and there’s a submenu selection for the bonus material. The menu is set to a three minute runtime without any music and after that three minutes is up it dumps you out of the disc and into a stop state, a feature that the company uses which I continue to dislike heavily. Access times are nice and fast considering there’s little here and the menu is certainly functional enough to get around outside of the bad way it stops when you go back to it.
The extras included are pretty light as we get more pieces of the “Demon’s Soliloquy” in which there is fifteen seconds of animation accompanied by some cautious dialogue about how events are proceeding. In a way they feel like next episode teasers more than anything else as they’re set for episodes all three episodes here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ is in that somewhat awkward phase for a series like this in that the stories aren’t too terribly compelling but they’re setting things up for where it needs to go. It’s also working through finishing up some of the character connection issues that have come up earlier in the series so that everyone can go into the final arc in a way where they’re all on the same page. Some of the material is good while some of it simply just mundane at best. Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ is still keeping to the basic formula which is unfortunate since if it broke out of it, it could be a lot more interesting.
The three episodes on this volume are fairly fun overall, though they’ll each depend on the level of interest you have in a particular character. The opening episode for example revolves around Shimon and Inori. The two haven’t had the best relationship since they were introduced to each other since Inori views Shimon as a demon and Shimon is simply trying to fit in. He’s easily the weakest of the Guardian’s so far and where he stands on things isn’t exactly clear. At this stage, he’s simply Akane’s friend who got sucked along for the ride. Here though, he gets caught up in a scheme that Sefle has concocted to try and get Akane out into the open only he doesn’t realize that Shimon isn’t really a demon and that exacerbates the situation between the two since Sefle sees him as a potential friend of sorts. The dynamic between the two is interesting to watch as you can see that Sefle could almost be swayed to the other side.
Tenma and Yorihisa have a pairing as well as both of them have a dream that involves Yorihisa’s older brother telling them to go east. The search is on for the four talismans that Akane needs and there’s the possibility that it’s there. This story is actually rather decent as we get more back story for Yorihisa and how things in his past shaped the way he operates in the here and now. Pairing him with Tenma is also nice since it brings some parallels to the past into the present and the two are like Inori and Shimon in that there are certainly differences between them that need to be worked out. The material with the Talisman of the East starts to help shape how the remainder of the series will go until the final confrontation as it shifts the focus from finding more Guardians to finding the Talismans.
The weaker of the episodes on this volume felt like the last one which has the pairing of Takamichi and Tomomasa. With the increasing pressure on some of the Guardian’s to find the talismans, Takimichi is intent on trying to get this accomplished quickly so the main goal will be taken care of. Sadly, he goes to Tomomasa for advice on it and Tomomasa’s laid back nature goes very much against Takamichi’s diligent approach. So much so in fact that Takamichi heads out on his own to find the next talisman based on a clue he’s received, leaving Tomomasa behind. Naturally, there’s a trap involved and he really does walk right into it with the greatest of ease, but the end result is one that has the two of them learning more about each other. Takamichi is a character I like since he’s the bright studious one, but watching Tomomasa in this episode made me like him more than I have in the past since his laid back nature in dealing with the enemy worked perfectly. The way the two of them found a new way of looking at each other helps quite a lot, but the story itself and the very laid back nature of it was something that kept it from being a very solid episode.
The middling-ish episodes of Haruka doesn’t bring us all that much in the way of really good new material. What it does do however is to firm up the relationships between some of the characters and sets the stage a bit more clearly in regards to the talismans that are now the objects of desire. The real downside to all of this, maybe, is that Akane is essentially brushed to the side for the majority of it. She has some nice little moments here and there but is otherwise relegated to the role of a secondary character at best. Since she is arguably the lead of the series, this can go one for an episode or two, but for three episodes is pushing it a bit much. Haruka continues to provide some simple basic shoujo goodness but it’s still missing that extra ingredient it needs to rise above mediocrity.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Demon's Soliloquoy
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.