Madlax Vol. #5 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 14 & Up
  • 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. #5

By Chris Beveridge     December 22, 2005
Release Date: December 13, 2005


Madlax Vol. #5
© ADV Films


What They Say
A language long forgotten has awakened – and anyone who has allowed it to cross either their eyes or lips has felt its eerie repercussions. Just as detective Maclay Morini was closing in on a murder case, the words entranced him into mindless drone. Literary researcher Eric Gillian sought out the language’s origin and ultimately committed suicide. Now, Madlax and Margaret Burton are on the verge of discovering the true meaning behind the words’ powers. Then we have Enfant, the secretly controlled hub overlooking the transfer of all the world’s digital data. Led by the mysterious Friday Monday, the Enfant network is a clandestine conglomerate of the powerful, the loyal and those unaware of the deceptive depths to which they are involved. Enfant sees all. Enfant knows all. Enfant is responsible for the deaths of Piederica and Anne Moray, the disappearance of Chris Krana, and most importantly, Enfant is the force perpetuating the war in Gazth-Sonika. And now, Enfant is after Madlax and Vanessa Rene.


The Review!
It's close to the end of the series and several characters finally start meeting for the first time which begins to open the doors to real answers.

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, this installment moves beyond just the pairing idea to bring a few more characters into play. The main pairing through is that of Madlax and Nakhl which make an interesting combination when going against each other while the secondary pair is that of Elenore and Margaret holding onto each other as they're kept to the side. The artwork is good looking in general and reflective of the animation but it's not terribly detailed. 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 cute piece of Elenore in her standard maid outfit with a broom while the backdrop is that of Margaret sleeping in her bed. It opens up to a two panel set of interviews with voice actresses Ai Uchikawa and Aya Hisakawa as well as Tomoko Kaneda. The latter two are done in a very… uh, interesting style.

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. Another continuing and interesting extra is the new installment of the "Conversations with SSS" which is basically a bunch of scripted outtakes/alternate dialogue scenes. The new pieces for this volume include two versions of the music video for "nowhere". We get the regular version fully subtitled as well as a karaoke version. There is also a new character video clip section, this time for Limelda.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Madlax gets just two short volumes away from its conclusion with this volume and the episodes that we get here are key to going into what the final revelations and encounters will be all about. So much of the show has been really just a mystery for so long yet what we get here is the start of the answers. No real answers really, but the doorway to theme is now opening and those that need to know and understand what is going on are able to go through.

In past reviews I've made mention of the way that this show feels like it's flowing and it's very strong again with this set of episodes as it's easy to think of all of these characters as being in orbit around the central idea of the show. From close to the beginning of the series, their orbits have been getting closer and closer together with some hitting each other early and often. Watching as the various characters move about, the main orbits of Madlax and Margaret have been the widest but they finally reach together in this volume and the dynamic suddenly feels very different. The ones that acted in between them, such as Carrossea and Vanessa, have pulled each of them closer together. Things each of them have done has affected the other, such as the bibliodetective, and the names have been on each others lips without realizing the full impact of what it all means. All of this has been moving faster and faster up through now.

With each new encounter, the characters are changing as well and learning what's really going on. Of course, some of this could be sped up if the characters actually talked with each other or made simple leaps of logic, but that would be, well, good writing and not good TV. When the characters do actually manage to impart new things to each other, the changes are fun to watch. One prime example is early on here, as Madlax and Vanessa are being chased throughout the country, they run into Limelda and go through a brief fight. Madlax is able to convince her to look at the data which they know must be real now. The uneasy respect the two women have for each other gives Limelda enough pause and when she understands what she's seeing, she knows that everything that she's ever lived for has been a lie. Her decision from there is interesting as she pursues its truth to make sure that it is indeed true, which then sets her on a path that isn't quite easy to understand but makes a twisted sort of sense. The kind of sense that someone who's grown up in a country torn apart by civil war and bloodshed might be able to come up with.

What was interesting to see is just how desperate Enfant is becoming in wanting to acquire the books now as they've gone to push to the news about Madlax and Vanessa in order to have everyone in the country looking for them. This has the effect of being broadcast outside of the country since Vanessa is part of an international company so it gains recognition there so it draws the attention of Margaret. What really surprises her and eventually Elenore is that Madlax is named and that's something that both of them know very well. Well, at least Margaret does as Elenore has to take some time remembering the single word that Margaret was able to say from when she first returned without her memory. It's surprising in a way that she had to think so hard to remember it since it's a unique word and something that was apparently so very important to Margaret. But like several other things, it simply doesn't make good TV to have such things given over to simply being obvious.

This gives Margaret the determination to head to Gazth-Sonika, Elenore in tow, in order to find Vanessa but more importantly to find Madlax to see if she is part of the reason she lost all of her memories. This decision starts a ripple effect of decisions and plans in Gazth-Sonika as the events of twelve years prior have been waiting for such a day to come. The mysterious group led by Quanizitta and ably served by Nakhl have been waiting to bring all three books together in order to open the door for whoever has the Gift and there are several people who apparently qualify for that and strangely enough some who have the scent of the Gift that can cause issues. There is still a great deal of mystery here but the mystery is being exposed more and more as the layers from different areas are pulled away.

In Summary:
While there continue to be plenty of the trademarked Bee Train slow motion panning sequences filled with lush music, there are also a lot of really good action sequences throughout here that help propel the story forward. Very few characters are left unchanged throughout these episodes as the setup for the finale set of episodes is put into place. The revelations aren't major but there are some intriguing ones along the way that will have more impact as it progresses. The series has been a slow build for awhile and while it does start speeding up a bit here, the style is still very much in effect but the substance continues to grow. This kind of show certainly isn't for everyone but I'm enjoying it quite a lot as it unfolds.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Design schetches,“nowhere” music video,Karaoke version of the “nowhere” video,Limelda character video clip,Original Japanese TV spots, and another “Conversations with SSS” segment,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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