Madlax Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: ¬£19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Madlax

Madlax Vol. #2

By Bryan Morton     June 29, 2006
Release Date: May 15, 2006


Madlax Vol. #2
© ADV Films UK


What They Say
The Gazth-Sonika Civil War - As the death toll mounts, so do questions about both the conflict's purpose and its highly secretive facilitators. Even the ruling power's Army Commander hired mercenary Madlax to carry out his own assassination in the hopes of putting an end to the madness. Meanwhile, the quest for answers continues. Before being murdered by his bizarrely entranced daughter, resistance operative Piederica Morey sent a young boy named Chris deep into Gazth-Sonika in order to find the truth - and turn the tide of the war.

The Red Book - A gift from her father. Margaret Burton cherishes the blood stained manuscript, not only as a family heirloom, but also as the only link to her shrouded past. Within its pages rest an ancient language long forgotten - Elies, The Holy Words of Saruon. But one page from the book is missing. With the help of personal caretaker Elenore Baker and biblio-detective Eric Gillain, Margaret commissions a search. They are to find another copy of the book as well as learn more about its contents. What they discover instead, is trouble.

Episodes Comprise
5 - Nonpresence
6 - Dying Wish
7 - Picture Book
8 - Soul Words

The Review!
While Madlax and Margaret continue their separate lives, there are the first signs of their stories beginning to come together here, as Margaret's unusual attachment to an old red book leads to Madlax becoming involved in the search for its origins.

Audio:
Two audio tracks are provided - English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0. I listened primarily to the Japanese track for this review. The soundtrack is clean and clear, with good use made of the front soundstage to capture the feel of the action sequences and give a good sense of direction to both effects and dialogue. Madlax also has some great music by Yuki Kajiura that gets used quite extensively throughout the show, and in general this also comes across extremely well, although it does come close to drowning out the rest of the audio at times. There were no apparent problems with the audio encoding.

Video:
Madlax is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Being a comparatively recent show from a studio that has always worked hard on the appearance of their shows, it really does look the part, with both jungle scenes and more austere city settings being presented with good levels of detail. The transfer is sharp and problem-free.

Packaging:
The release comes in a clear keepcase with double-sided cover. The front features Madlax in the foreground, lovingly cradling her sniper rifle, with Limelda in the background. The rear cover has the disc's promotional blurb, a set of screenshots and a technical information panel. The reverse of the cover features two more "Staff Talk" segments, this time featuring character designers Satoshi Osawa, Minako Shiba and Satoko Miyachi. Rather than the interview style used last volume, these are a few pieces of humourusly-annotated artwork.

Menu:
"Simple" is the best way to describe the menus here. As is usual for ADV releases, each episode is selectable directly from the main menu, while submenus are provided for language setup and extras. There's also an option on the main screen for a preview clip for volume 2. A black-and-white clip of the OP sequence plays in a small window to liven things up a bit, while a piece of the show's background music plays throughout. There are no transition animations, so the menus are quick and easy to use.

Extras:
A fairly standard set of extras is provided with this release " clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, 3 Japanese TV spots advertising the DVD release, a 2-minute slideshow of colour design artwork, and another 15 minutes of Conversations with SSS, which I have to admit don't tweak my sense of humour as well as they do for others.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Enfant has taken an interest in the supply of materials to Galza, the rebel army in Gazth-Sonika, and Madlax has been hired to retrieve the goods that they've blocked from reaching their destination - which would be a much easier job if anyone could tell her what she's actually looking for. Fortunately, Madlax has her own contacts and is able to trace the missing shipment to a small shipping firm, where she finds Chris Krana, an individual who may be able to help her but who has also attracted the attention of Limelda's superiors. She's been assigned to capture Chris - an assignment she's only too pleased to take on when she learns Madlax is involved.

This episode played out in a way I wasn't expecting, although the involvement of Enfant, with their apparent knack for being able to manipulate identity, should have given me a clue that the events going on behind the scenes here wouldn't be as simple as the story on screen suggested. Enfant's interest in Chris flows from an incident some 12 years previously, and that's a figure that's going to make another appearance later on the disc, as the two storylines begin to come together. It's beginning to become clear that Enfant is controlling a lot of what's going on both in Gazth-Sonika and Nafrece " a cynic could draw a connection to Les Soldats in a certain other Bee Train series, but we'll not go there. Their manoeuvrings do add a certain level of mystery to the story, though, and I'm certainly intrigued by them and am curious about just what they're up to.

After a brief detour where Margaret deals with Maurice Lopez, a potential suitor who may well be more interested in her money than in her (Elenore to the rescue " and after seeing her deal with Maurice in very effective fashion, I've decided we need to see more of her), the story moves on to the main focus of this disc: Margaret's red book, which is far from being the simple picture book it's first presented as and which draws the attention of several groups, including Enfant, as soon as news of its existence slips out.

Margaret hires Eric Gillaim, a "bibliodetective"- an expert in tracking down rare books " to find her another copy of her book, after discovering that several pages have been torn out of it. Eric gets his first clue that the book is going to cause him problems when he notices that it's stained with blood, but he's a sucker for a good mystery, and with very little information to go on he's quite please to take on a job he can get his teeth into. That, and Margaret's paying him very well. Through an old contact who has studied linguistics, he learns that the book appears to be written in Elies, an ancient language from Gazth-Sonika that has stories of a curse attached to it, as "strange incidents" have tended to happen to people studying the language. Undeterred, Eric heads to Gazth-Sonika, where he hires Madlax as a guide and bodyguard while he tries to learn more about the book's origins.

It's starting to become clearer where the story is going now, with Enfant's sudden determination to retrieve Margaret's book, and explanations of when they lost track of it (12 years ago) tie in with revelations about Margaret and her previous disappearance. The book obviously means a lot to them, and the Elies language seems to have a power of its own that's explored at several points here, so you begin to wonder just what they're planning to do with it if they can retrieve it.

On the plus side, then, it's good to finally see some movement in the story as events are beginning to obviously interlink, to the point where it's possible to make a few good guesses as to where things might be going. The pacing is still leisurely, at best, but the impatience I had during volume one for things to just get a move on wasn't there this time around, as it was easier to get into the story and just go with the flow. It certainly helps that the fringe characters like Chris and Eric have been quickly given a decent amount of background after they've been introduced, especially as their role in events does seem to have some significance.

On the downside, it's becoming harder to separate who's working for whom. The connections between Enfant, Galza, the Gazth-Sonika military and other groups are beginning to look very much like a spider's web of conflicting desires and priorities, and it's not easy to disentangle it all " hopefully that will be something that's cleared up as the series progresses.

In Summary:
This volume definitely grabs the attention better than the first volume managed to, as the steady stream of information that's given out here begins to tie everything together and let you get a feel for where the story may be going. Margaret in particular gets some good character work here as pieces of her past are filled in. There's no doubt still a lot to be revealed, but the ride is definitely becoming more enjoyable.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Production Info,Clean Opening and Closing Animations,Design Sketches,Japanese TV Spots,Conversations with SSS

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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