Law of Ueki Vol. #02 - 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: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Law of Ueki

Law of Ueki Vol. #02

By Chris Beveridge     September 01, 2006
Release Date: July 18, 2006


Law of Ueki Vol. #02
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Ueki and Ai befriend a hip-hop loving guy named B.J. on the train but it just so happens that they are destined to fight each other. After finding out that B.J. fights dirty, Ueki decides to show him right from wrong for the sake of friendship when an unexpected foe, Robert Haydn, appears... Ueki tries to overcome his inexperience battling against an overwhelming opponent but Mr. K steps into the ring and makes an astonishing power play! Can Ueki regain his sense of justice and self-confidence or will he fall to the wayside?

Contains episodes 5-8.

The Review!
After a less than stellar and rather jumbled first volume, the Law of Ueki starts to find its groove and its offbeat nature starts to actually become appealing.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. With the stereo mix that's used, it's fairly active with both the left and right channels during the fight sequences, particularly when the trees are being used to attack, but outside of the fights the show is like most others in that it's a pretty straightforward mix. There isn't a huge amount of strong directionality with it but it fills the forward soundstage like you'd want it to. Dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The design of the show is one where it's filled with some interesting color choices that when combined with the animation style gives it a feel where it almost seems like some of those early CG shows where backgrounds and character animations don't quite blend all that well. The style of the shows animation just feels like it's off here somehow but the transfer for it is very clean and looks great. There weren't any noticeable issues such as cross coloration or aliasing, colors are strong and vibrant and backgrounds come across very well here.

Packaging:
Fairing a bit better than the first volume but still with a too colorful logo, this cover is a bit more subdued with its darker background and simpler focus on just Ueki and Mr. K while Haydn makes it into the background a bit. The designs are a bit more detailed than the show itself and they look good but the style of the show is still a bit off-putting. The back cover is a bit more basic and easy on the eyes with a top half that has a summary of the shows premise and a decent shot of Ueki while below it is a two layer strip of shots from the show. The bottom half is a fantastic change for Geneon titles that I hope carries onto other new releases as underneath the production information is a full on technical grid with all the information I want to be able to find out quickly, including video codec and whether the disc is a single or dual layer one. The insert replicates the front cover artwork while it opens up to a two page spread that covers the various characters met during these four episodes. The back cover lists the episode numbers and titles for this volume.

Menu:
The menu layout at first is a bit strange looking but it keeps to the shows slightly off kilter feel as the left half has animation playing throughout it from the show and the right side has the image of one of the trees from the show with the navigation selections over it with a bit of music playing along to it. The menus are a bit more animated than a lot of other Geneon menus as there are some brief transitional pieces that shift to the submenus when selected but they don't last long and are pretty smooth. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is easy to use while the disc does also read our players' presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The opening volume kicks off with a simple extra of that being a clean version of the ending sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If there was a series that started up this year that I could quickly point to as one that really underwhelmed me and left me not wanting to start the second volume, Law of Ueki would be that title. The first set of episodes were just too disjointed and plain odd at times that it left me not really liking any of the characters or finding much of an interesting plot to it. Add in the way Ueki approached things and his power, it simply did not appeal.

The second set of episodes and the time between it and the first volume has managed to change that opinion a bit as I actually rather enjoyed it. With less of the setup now being discussed and the frantic nature turned down a notch or two, Ueki is able to come across better and his reason and method for how he approaches life isn't quite so strange. Between Ueki being more forthcoming about why he sticks his neck out for anyone and everyone and the history that we get through some of Kobayashi's journals, Ueki is fleshed out surprisingly well for such an early phase of the story. That said, the show does really maintain that fight of the week format regardless of the character development since it is a straightforward boys fighting show.

The idea of this being a tournament of sorts fought out over real time where power users are representing their candidates for Celestial King is interesting if unoriginal. That they each have special powers that they're able to use against each other isn't original either but that there is something at stake during the fights makes it a fair bit more interesting. The loss or gain of Talents is a very unusual approach and it is original if awkwardly applied here. We've gotten used to the way Ueki is poor at managing his Talents as he's down to eleven of them here and close to vanishing if he uses them against non power users. But when we learn that the average number of talents people have is around a hundred and sixty you realize just how badly off Ueki is.

And it's this realization along with a change in his status with Kobayashi that marks a change in how Ueki approaches these fights. Ueki's sense of righteousness is a key part of his personality and we see how it's been a strong part of his life for a number of years, but it's an area where Kobayashi is able to take it and use it to his advantage. When Ueki essentially learns that most of those fighting in the grand game have an evil intent for the Talent of Blank, he's intent on making sure that nobody else will get it since they couldn't be trusted with it. In a way, Ueki becomes the protector of the Talent of Blank but is in the bad position of having very few Talents left. This changes his attitude about the whole thing and he becomes more serious about the fights themselves.

But Law of Ueki is still filled with a lot of oddball humor and slapstick comedy. The opening opponent in this volume is kid who loves hip hop and apparently that's one of his Talents in being able to dance to it; which is amusing because Ueki has a dancing Talent in general and the two of them just go wild in doing absolutely awful dance moves with it. Ueki later gains a new Talent in being able to dress stylishly which results in him appearing out of the blue at one point with an outfit that is very stylish " but complete with an afro that would make him stylish only in the disco era. A new Celestial is brought in to work with Ueki but he turns out to be the kind of guy who wants nothing to do with anything and he introduces himself with his motto of being "Plain and ordinary." Add in the various kinds of thing the characters powers come up with and you get a really good mixture of action and comedy that I think is finding its way in these early episodes.

In Summary:
Law of Ueki started off with me practically dreading seeing another volume but the second volume really changed my opinion of the show. While I do expect it to be one that is very predictable in being a fight of the week kind of series, the creativity that I found to be introduced so disjointedly early on is shaping up much better as the show finds its legs and its pacing. The show goes through a few changes in these episodes, from Ai becoming serious about ensuring Ueki's victory to the make-up of the Celestials behind the event. Add in some interesting new additions to the rogues gallery and potentially a new friend or two and Law of Ueki really surprised me in how much it changed.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Ending

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via DVI set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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