Madlax Vol. #4 - 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: TV 14
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Madlax

Madlax Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     September 15, 2005
Release Date: September 20, 2005


Madlax Vol. #4
© ADV Films


What They Say
CARROSSEA DOON – Only he understands where his loyalties lie. On the one hand, he is a highly secretive employee for Bookwald, the largest corporation in the world. On the other, he works in a clandestine manner for the mysterious Friday Monday. Carrossea is a chameleon. He weaves in and out and through not only the civil-war-torn Gazth-Sonika, but also some of the most powerful and influential minds on the planet. And he does it all because he is searching – searching for something of his own. But what that something is; only he knows for sure.


The Review!
The threads that connect everyone continue to pull everyone closer together and more of them are starting to realize something larger is going on here.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Though just as active as some of their past series, the show gets a stereo mix here that does a good job of working through the material but you wish it was in a 5.1 format since it would just have that extra oomph to it. The mix is good though and utilizes the forward soundstage well as the bullets fly across and explosions range from one side to the other. Dialogue is also well placed when appropriate though it's not quite as noticeable. Overall, dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for the show is overall very solid and does an excellent job of capturing the numerous dark and murky areas that the show typically runs around in. With a good chunk of it either being night scenes or ones in the darkened jungle areas, it maintains a very solid feel and avoids blocking or bleeding with what colors do shine through there. One or two scenes I want to say there's a very tiny touch of cross coloration but we're talking like a hairs length here or there that has little impact overall. The transfer in general seems to be free of just about all the normal problems that come up and is good looking from start to finish making it very easy to get into the show itself.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, the pairing of characters works nicely once more as it provides a sexy shot of Madlax in the foreground in a sheer dress while in the fires behind her is Friday Monday, a character that earns my vote for one of the worst named characters ever. The back cover provides four strips in a row where it alternates between the descriptions of the lead characters where the writer lost their thesaurus and small shots from the show. The discs features and production information fill out most of the rest of the cover as does the tightly packed by highly informative technical grid. The insert for this release has a good looking piece of artwork of the other pairings that are going on now and opens up to a two panel set of interviews with voice actresses Houka Kuwashima and Satsuki Yukino. Kuwashima's bit is just plain cute.

Menu:
The main menu is set up in what looks like a faux military style piece of metal that's been worn down and seen plenty of wear and tear. The navigation and series title is all done in orange paint while a small window shows clips from the show and a fuzzier version underneath the overall navigation shows other images floating by as it's all set to a brief instrumental clip. I like the design since it fits the theme well and it's fairly dark and doesn't just scream fanservice like it could have. Access times are nice and fast and it's easy to navigate around in. The disc also correctly read our players language presets properly and played accordingly.

Extras:
This volume gets a decent selection of extras that go a bit beyond the basics but are essentially the same as the previous volume. We get the tried and true standards with the clean opening and closing sequences and a session of design sketches done as a video gallery. There are even a handful of promotional spots from its run on Japanese TV. Continuing an extra from the first volume, there's another installment of the "Conversations with SSS" which is basically a bunch of scripted outtakes/alternate dialogue scenes. Your mileage may vary on what you find funny but there's a couple of good ones in there.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The awful first episode to the series and even some of the lagging early episodes are now just a distant memory as the series has moved most of the players to new and interesting places so that things move forward and start coming together. This is a series where the slow paced nature and the building of the mystery – which needs to be stressed again and again that it is not duplicating Noir – is done very well and as the pieces fall into place as they are now it merits plenty of repeat viewings of the earlier episodes to see what little nuggets and throw away lines actually mean something more.

While the two leads continue to be apart from each other, they do find themselves becoming more linked to each other though something that's beyond normal scientific explanation but also through interactions with others. As Margaret and Madlax's orbits start to come closer and closer together, the smaller "bodies" wrapping around both of them are accelerating it while opening new possibilities. Watching these seemingly separate stories converge due to the Secondari book and whatever it means while having other groups beyond the leads watching and waiting for their own moment, the tension in the series rises at just the right pace.

For Madlax, the smaller body orbiting her continues to be Vanessa. Under Madlax's protection, she's brought to her residence so that Vanessa can start working on the data some more to try and figure out how to get past its security. The two women become surprisingly friendly all told during this since both are in dire danger and Madlax has been exposed to more than she originally bargained for with the job. But both of them are able to draw the other out with how comfortable they feel around each other and their pasts, parts of it at least, slowly surface and are revealed to each other and the viewer. This is done in a slow but very methodical manner so that it's not like getting a lump sum of history in one moment of exposition but rather a more relaxed and natural revelation. Madlax's past becomes something that's tied more to Margaret's own past now but we also see just how connected Madlax is to the war.

For Margaret, what brings her closer to things beyond the Secondari itself is Carrossea Doon who has taken an active part in trying to acquire the book from her. His approach is interesting as he manages to gain her confidence and offers to translate parts of the book for her which she is willing to let him do provided he promises not to take it. She has something of a sixth sense about people who want to take the book but still lets him have that bit of trust. It's fascinating watching him read the book since he provides some small details about it before coming across the blood soaked page and reveals that it's his own blood there, a revelation which draws him back into the entire ordeal twelve years earlier and you wonder how he'll fit into things. But his reading of the book does something unexpected to him and he begins to see what he calls the Essence and is almost hypnotized by it, allowing Margaret to retrieve it and question him on it.

Both Margaret and Madlax find themselves with new information from their encounters with Doon and Rene and it seems to strengthen the connection between the two of them as when Madlax undergoes a trauma of the mind, Margaret seems bound to it as well and reacts to what happens. Both of them are also now dealing more directly with the other forces that are watching them as the more mystical side employs a young woman named Nakhl to try and retrieve the book. This is simply amusing to watch since it shows the true bond between the book and Margaret and the strength it provides to her. The other side that we get to see more of is with Enfant as they bring Doon back so they can go forward in trying to retrieve Secondari. This has the comically named Friday Monday enter the picture more fully and taking an active role. He's fine as a character, even with the half metal face, so long as you never, ever utter his name. This is one of those times that the Japanese fascination with English seemingly blows up in their faces and takes the foreign viewer completely out of the program because of it.

There are so many small revelations and odd things that happen throughout here as the various sides try to gain upper hand over things that watching it all come together across the four episodes in one sitting certainly made it easier to take in and far less confusing. The series continues to look fantastic as well and with so much of the Gazth-Sonika material taking place at night we're getting lush visuals with the colors and overall city design. This is also nicely contrasted by the French nature of Nafrece with its softer and less garish colors and its more "civilized" world. The quality of the production hasn't dropped at all here from what I can see and it simply builds upon what's come before rather well.

In Summary:
When I first saw Madlax it was something I wasn't interested in seeing any more of. But as I've gotten further into the show it's becoming more and more engaging and it reminds me more and more of the kind of anime I like. Series that don't have the majority of revelations in the first few episodes but rather something that builds up over time and plays out at its own pace without trying to be the next big thing. This is definitely a show I'm glad I didn't give up on because of the first episode or even the first volume. Every volume now has me on the edge of my seat as it delves more into the truths behind the story.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Design sketches, Original Japanese TV spots,Conversations with SSS,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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