Innocent Venus Vol. #2 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV 14
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Innocent Venus

Innocent Venus Vol. #2 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     October 19, 2007
Release Date: October 16, 2007


Innocent Venus Vol. #2 (also w/box)
© ADV Films


What They Say
The question becomes “Who can you trust?� Our little quartet of fugitives is on the run... for their lives. No matter where they seem to hide, Phantom smokes them out. The rebels must do everything they can to stay alive, but more importantly keep a young girl safe... from everybody. Hopefully with some help from some unlikely allies, they will make it, but at what cost? The walls are closing in fast around them. Around every corner awaits danger, deceit, even betrayal.

The Review!
As Jin and Joe work to protect Sana while moving towards their eventual goal, they continue to meet up with the same unsavory people.

Audio:
The bilingual release for the series is rather well done though it makes out better in the English version than the original. The Japanese track is the original stereo mix which is encoded at 224 kbps and has a good forward soundstage presentation. Dialogue is problem free and there is some good placement of dialogue throughout. The English mix is given a bump up to a 5.1 mix and is encoded at 448 kbps. This gives the show a lot more impact during its action scenes with more bass and more throws to the rear channels. During the quieter scenes there isn't much difference between the two nor is there during most of the dialogue. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series deals with a mix of locales, from ruins to riches, and handles the varied palettes rather nicely. The darker colors hold up well though there isn't too much detail while the more vibrant moments really shine well. The darker areas tend to show more issues with gradients, especially when various lighting effects are used, but the gradients tends to not show much in the way of artifacts. Some of the blue sky scenes show off some background noise which is also in a few other scenes but overall it's a good looking release that conveys the material well.

Packaging:
Similar to the first volume, the overly dark and shadowed nature of the cover art doesn't help to sell it all that well and neither do the fairly angular character designs. This installment has Joe and Jin facing off against each other while a lit up version of Sana is spread out between them. The mix of the bright reds in the background with the darker shadows along the bottom does give it a creepy feeling but it just doesn't feel like it clicks together well. The back cover is simple yet rather busy as the top portion has a lot of shots from the show across it. The background is a straightforward black piece that lets the text do all the talking as the summary covers the basics. The disc doesn't list what extras, if any, are on it but the bottom portion contains the usual credits section and solid technical grid. No insert is included nor is there a reversible side.

In addition to the DVD only release there is a DVD+box option as well. The heavy chipboard box is designed to hold all three volumes of the series and utilizes what appears to be the artwork for all three volumes. The two main panels have the cover art pieces from the first two volumes which actually look better than the keepcases themselves since the paper is a bit glossier. The spine panel has an image of Sana and Gora together which I believe is set for the third volume cover. The series logo is on pretty much every panel including the top and spine while the bottom panel features the technical information for just this volume. I wish ADV Films would shift to leaving that area blank or using artwork and put any information related to this volume as part of either a wraparound obi or a paper insert under the shrinkwrap.

Menu:
The menu design is nicely done for evoking the right mood as bit of eerie music plays over a still of one of the buildings from these episodes at night. There is some very nicely done animation to it with lights flickering all over it which gives it some life alongside the sound of helicopters moving about. The navigation strip is where the problems come in however as the main bar along the bottom is visible during all three of the main submenus. When you're in the extras, the text for the languages and main menu is visible but not selectable. It's like dangling a path in front of you but you can't walk down it at all. Access times are otherwise quick and fast and the layout works when you realize that visible selections aren't always selections. The language presets is nicely done as it read it properly and it has a section next to the selection that indicates what is actually selected.

Extras:
The only extras included for this volume are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The opening volume of Innocent Venus left us feeling like we were in the middle of a big story without a clue as to what's really going on. Usually that happens for an episode or two at the start of some series as a way to hook viewers and get them curious as to what's really going on. Yet by the fourth episode so little had been revealed that you can start to lose patience with it. Amazingly enough, it isn't until episode seven or eight that we really start to get a better understanding of what Jin's up to with Sana.

The main trio, plus Gora, continue on their merry way and now find themselves spending time at Chikura's little ragtag dojo where people are being trained and living very many lives. Suffice to say that Sana stands out like a sore thumb there but Joe and Jin manage to fit in well enough. Chikura is an interesting enough character but both he and Jin make some practically offhand comments about how they know Sana's father that it throws perceptions off rather quickly. Finding out that Chikura is her grandfather on her mothers side and that Jin knew her father before he died is something that unsettles her to the point of weakness, something that happens far too often for this young girl.

Jin's interest in Chikura stems from the fact that he was the one to whom all of Dr. Nobuto's effects were sent to when he died. There is something within his notes and lab equipment that he wants for an unknown reason and is willing to hang out there to find out even though it's readily apparent that they'll be found quickly. During all of this, he spends a good deal of time with Sana in playing the piano as it seems to have some sort of connection to what she's really all about as certain tones drive her into a fevered state. This fascinates Jin since it relates to what he's investigating that we still don't know about but it concerns Joe and Gora heavily, enough so that Joe actually gets involved in what Jin is doing to make the point.

Phantom getting involved where they are is pretty much a given as is having Shiba and his crew from the Ishin coming to save the day. Time spent at any one location can't happen for too long otherwise the series might actually start explaining things and unraveling the mystery. The shift to being back on board the Ishin gives a chance for a sea based chase scene to occur in which we see that the Ishin can maneuver like a toy speed boat and put a good chunk of the National Defense Force's fleet to shame. It does allow for a shift to the new location however as Shiba has them brought to Satsuma where he grew up and has a great deal of friends, many of which are in places of great power.

All of this starts to open up a bit more political interplay between the various sides but it also forces the Phantom group to stop playing simple and really get involved in capturing Sana. Along the way the revelations start to come in a bit better as we see how the chief of the Phantom group is really toying with his soldiers and putting them at extreme risk just to gain data for future programs. That data, and what the power suits of armor that they use really are, is when the series really starts to make sense. Jin has had obviously strong reasons for doing what he's doing and this finally explains at least some of it. Of course, there has to be additional revelations along the way that change your perception of him, from his blood relations to how intimately he knew Dr. Nobuto before his death.

In terms of production values, Innocent Venus is rather solid with these episodes and holds up well in comparison to the first volume of episodes. The character designs are good if somewhat average, the use of uniforms keeps most of them in standard outfits so that the lack of change isn't bad. And the general diversity in the characters themselves keeps it from having a cookie cutter crew running around. The costume designs still bug me a bit though, such as Shiba overplaying the role of a pirate. The most bothersome aspect of the series for me is Gora though. The Santa Claus kid gone faux-punk provides some of the comic relief here but it's mostly unnecessary and he continues to feel very out of place in the grand scheme of things. He's not quite the Jar Jar of the series but there would be no love lost in seeing him offed in a bloody fashion.

In Summary:
All of this comes in the last episode of the volume which does admittedly entice you to watch the next one to see how it all plays out. On a weekly basis I can imagine having given up on this show back in the second or maybe third episode. Through this form, the first volume was enough to push me away in general and a good chunk of the second volume gives a similar feeling. The eighth episode starts to work things in a better manner but it still feels like far too little far too late into it. Innocent Venus had kicked off with an interesting concept and premise for a worldview but that has taken such a background role that it almost feels like it didn't need to be done beyond being an initial hook to draw in unsuspecting folks. I'm admittedly curious as to how it will all end since I've come this far but Innocent Venus is definitely one of the weakest action offerings from ADV Films for this year.


Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 480p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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