Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time Vol. #9 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Visual 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: Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time

Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time Vol. #9

By Chris Beveridge     January 26, 2009
Release Date: January 13, 2009


Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time Vol. #9
© Bandai Visual USA

The fight to save the capital reaches its climax as Akram unleashes his group to rain havoc down upon it.

What They Say
“Please lend me your powers just one more time. I... I’m going to summon the Dragon God.”

Akane sets forth into the final battle in hopes of putting an end to the long struggle, the resolve to summon the Dragon God firm in her heart. can her actions restore peace to the capital? And where will her heart lie at the battle’s end?

Contains episodes 24-26.

The Review!
Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
The final installment of the series brings together the pairing of Akane and Akram, with Akram getting the large shot in the background without his mask. The very soft colors, and his heavy blonde hair, certainly make it a very pretty cover with a wonderful illustration feel to 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 deep 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 interview the director and a quick bit with most of the main. They cover the Romance aspect of the release in how that extra works as well as a look at the poetry. The reverse side has two pieces of full color artwork and a summary of each of the episodes in some detail.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
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. A new extra here, one that doesn’t show up until you watch the show through to the end, is the Romance of the Eight Guardians in which you can highlight one of them and get a special ending. This is a rather neat approach but one that could have used some on-screen text to explain it if you weren’t looking at the inserts at all where it is explained.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Haruka comes to a close with these last three episodes and it’s a fight for the soul of the capital. Akram has finally acquired the talisman’s that he needs and he’s intent on taking control of the capital and basically destroying it all for past sins that were committed. Of course, the Guardians and Akane are intent on making sure this doesn’t happen and even though they’ve lost the talismans they’re not going to give up. Force of will alone won’t win the day, but without the will to fight, they won’t get very far to start.

With the three episodes here, events play out in a rather predictable manner. Akram has used Ran to create impurities within the talismans so they can control them and with that they’re able to begin their rain of destruction upon the capital. Each of them takes a different approach to it, but in the end the impurities are causing a lot more to surface throughout the area. The demons within the city are even turning on each other over it because of the impurities and it’s causing a whole lot of trouble for everyone, human and demon alike. With the reports coming in, Akane is becoming more and more concerned about what’s going on and is determined to stop Akram and rescue Ran from his clutches.

So too do the Guardians feel, though there are some differences in how they want to approach it. What becomes interesting about it is that Takamichi has made his discovery about the reality behind the situation and why Akram is intent on destroying it all. The past, the founding of the capital, hasn’t been talked about much but it plays in strongly to what’s going on. The discovery of it is a fair revelation to everyone but it provides a new avenue from which Akane can approach the situation as she gets directly involved with resolving everything. So many of the Guardian’s continue to try and protect her from any kind of involvement that she’s been shuffled to the background. But at the end, she finally makes a stand for herself and gets involved with Akram directly once again to settle things once and for all.

Haruka does come across as a rather straightforward shoujo story here as it plays out. The relationship between Akane and her Guardian’s figures into the story in an obvious way, with some of them having stronger feelings than others, and as the last battle gets closer they all rally around her and support her in their own style. And with this being a story with Akane in another world, there’s also the wonder about whether she’ll really make it back or decide to stay there with them as a group. Of course, you also have to wonder if she’ll make her own feelings known with any of them in particular and really pursue that. Haruka is fairly predictable in this area but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What helps is that while Akane isn’t exactly a deep or intricate character, she’s not a whiny crybaby either and that goes a very long way.

In Summary:
Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ is a very straightforward shoujo fantasy story in which the lead is surrounded by a bounty of pretty boys who all fall for her in different ways and to different degrees. And during this, they have to save the capital from the demons that want to send it to ruin for reasons that aren’t really clear until the end of the series. Overall, it’s not a bad series, but it is one that has a lot of shoujo hallmark moments to it in pacing and design that can be problematic or annoying at times, especially when run over a nine volume release. The series did find its stride as it went on but it ran into a lot of repetitive moments as well which threw things off at times, especially with the episode count per disc. This is the kind of show that really needs a good collection to get it into the hands of those that want it at a good price. Sadly, what it was put out at wasn’t going to be picked up by either the casual shoujo fan or the casual DVD fan. In a lot of ways, I’m really surprised they finished it out. I’m glad they did though as it was enjoyable enough to see, but not something that warranted the price it comes to.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Demon’s Soliloquy, Romance of the Eight Guardians

Review Equipment
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.

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