Law of Ueki Vol. #04 - 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. #04

By Chris Beveridge     November 10, 2006
Release Date: November 21, 2006


Law of Ueki Vol. #04
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
During a battle with Alessio, a giant creature known as a Celestial Beast appears before Ueki and claims that Ueki is not human but, instead, a Celestial! Thanks to the guidance from the beast named Tenko, Ueki becomes aware of his true abilities as a Celestial. They go back to the Robert's 10's hideout, where Tenko is surprised to find out that Robert is also a Celestial. Not only that, compared to Ueki, who is a two star Celestial, it turns out that Robert is in a league of his own " he's a ten star Celestial! To become stronger, Ueki begins his training inside Tenko's Awakening Chamber. However, once inside, Ueki is put in a dangerous situation with a time limit ticking away...

The Review!
Hip deep in dealing with the Robert's 10, Ueki finds himself up against a Celestial Beast that adds a new twist to the tale.

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:
The Celestial Beast takes dominance with this cover and its bright yellow fur but we do get a nice breakdown of other characters involved in the background which adds a lot of color. That's the one thing that can be said about just all of the covers so far is that they are very bright and colorful. Though the Beast may look a bit childish in its design, it definitely catches the eye on the shelf. 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 one of the bad guys while below it is a two layer strip of shots from the show. The bottom half has a solid layout of the technical grid that covers all the important information in an easy to read format. 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 only extra included in this volume is the clean version of the new ending sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Try as I might to resist, this series is continually growing on me with each new volume. Law of Ueki started out incredibly weak and disjointed but as it has shifted into its standard shonen fighting formula, it's managed to work in some creativity, decent action and a generally fun show. It has all the hallmarks of a title that belongs to an adaptation from a manga originally in Weekly Shonen Sunday but instead of turning me off from it like a lot of other ones do these days, it manages to actually be fun and engaging.

With it being essentially a fighting show, it's little surprise that just about every bit of the four episodes here are comprised of just that. There has been some down time before but this one has is right smack in the middle of Ueki's fight against the Robert's 10 and it puts him in a very busy position. Initially up against Aleissio, his fight with him takes a strange turn with the arrival of a giant yellow fuzzy creature that is intent on eating Ueki and enjoying his Celestial goodness. It turns out that this creature is actually a Celestial Beast but one that for reasons unknown to him is giant sized. Back in the Celestial World, the Beasts are used for measuring the Star power that Celestial warriors have, but he had plenty of problems because of his size. Add in that he was used against his will for things and it's a very angry beast.

But Ueki's charm and straight talk manages to turn the Beast, amusingly named Tenko, into being a support of Ueki and helping him in his quest to defeat the Robert's 10. Tenko is far more useful than just an extra bit of muscle with small wings in this fight, he actually helps Ueki understand more of what he really is. We've had the knowledge about Ueki being a Celestial himself, but what it really means hasn't been all that clear. What Tenko brings is the eight silver balls on his face that glow when close to Celestials who have the Star power. There are over eight levels to it but his body just registers the main eight and Ueki doesn't have anything. But in his battle with Tenko and their effort to understand each other, the abilities are slowly unlocked.

And this is where the show takes its usual creative turn. When you have a series based around a character who turns trash into trees, expanding on that with a series of Celestial powers will be just as wacky. The first level he reaches for example gives him the ability to turn his trees or any tree apparently into a giant cannon. Other things as he gets strong and grows in star-rank are even weirder and more colorful. It's hard to really roll your eyes at it or take it seriously since the show has been playing up so many weird abilities. One of the Robert's 10 turns their whistle into laser beams! What makes the show work is the way Ueki is so forthright throughout all of this, so single minded in his goal, and just the way it all seems to be playing over the top but not going so far as to be completely nonsensical. Everything that's going on here seems to work within the dynamic and rules of the world that's been created.

The four episodes here do a good job of moving the action forward as Ueki works his way through the Robert's 10 and finds himself some new allies along the way. Some of those that Robert has surrounded himself with seem surprisingly week or just not all that impressive but he does have some good folks in his gang. Each of them are pretty unique within the show and avoid crossing over into having other characters powers and motivations, never mind character designs. The introduction of Tenko was what had me the most concerned in whether it would play it right, but Tenko has just the right attitude about things and he's able to turn into a small mascot form as well which only makes him all the more endearing.

In Summary:
After the first installment of Ueki I had expected to pass on this series completely, especially since it ran for fifty-one episodes. But with each new volume it manages to draw me in a little bit more for a number of reasons. Though it isn't trying to be anything more than the kind of show that fits within the "boys fighting" series genre, it has a very intriguing world design to it and it's playing up the tournament aspect really nicely since there is so much at stake with each fight and outside of the fights. Ueki isn't a groundbreaking show but it's one that really knows its audience well and has managed to right itself after a poor introduction and execution.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending 2

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via DVI->HDMI 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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