Magic Knights Rayearth Memorial Collection 2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: A+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: All Region DVD
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 199.99
  • Running time: 725
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Magic Knight Rayearth

Magic Knights Rayearth Memorial Collection 2

By Chris Beveridge     May 20, 2001
Release Date: May 20, 2001


Magic Knights Rayearth Memorial Collection 2
© Media Blasters


What They Say
Magic Knight Rayearth continues as Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu, having defeated very person they were trying to rescue, Princess Emeraude, were finally able to leave Cephiro. Filled with regret, they returned to their families, and their native Tokyo.

Now, the three girls are summoned back to Cephiro by an unknown force, and have to find a new Pillar before Cephiro disintegrates. To return back to Tokyo once again, they must help rebuild Cephiro by finding a new Pillar, and whoever summoned them back to Cephiro!

To make things worse, the girls must also face the forces from the three neighboring countries of Autozam, Chizeta, and Fahren – who all arrived at Cephiro to take over the throne of the Pillar! As the girls and the people of Cephiro do their best to find a Pillar that will lead Cephiro back to peace, Hikaru must also face Debonair and her mysterious daughter Nova, who claims she was born for Hikaru.

While the three girls meet friend’s old and new, shadows of invaders startlooming above the skies of Cephiro...

The Review!
The first season of Rayearth could be summed up as a monster of the week fantasy RPG show with three young girls trying to save the world. While it wasn't bad, as we fairly well enjoyed the twenty episodes that made it up, it did have a fairly repetitive feel up until the final couple of episodes. Season 2 takes all of that, throws it out the window, and starts putting the girls through the emotional grinder.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The audio track for all the discs sounded very much on par for what one would expect for a TV series. There's a bit of directionality throughout the series, mostly within some of the fighting sequences but also occasionally in some of the dialogue. The majority came through the center channel, and there were no noticeable dropouts or other problems.

Video:
This season made out particularly well in terms of the video side of things, looking much better than the first season. But there's a trade-off with it. While the first season had mediocre character animation and background animation, season two practically drops any pretense of backgrounds (with most being simple dark skies or interior empty halls) and putting the effort into the character animation. For the most part, the character animation looks very nice and flows well. You can see where they took shortcuts on other aspects of the animation (and one episode towards the end, the character animation takes a dive). With the lack of backgrounds and the more fluid character animation, the transfer comes off very well here, if it wasn't for the rainbows. While not prominent throughout, they do make some noticeable appearances to the point of distraction at times. The easiest place to see them constantly is in the episode title screen, with the characters shimmering. This shows up throughout the episodes as well, sometimes only slightly, sometimes more obvious. But this was the only real flaw I found through the set, other than a few grainy areas that seemed more source than transfer. This set just looked very nice on our setup in the end.

Packaging:
Simply said, I love it. The entire package. This is region 2 style goodness in all its glory. The box is done the same as two very popular Japanese releases (Cardcaptor Sakura and Mamotte Shugogetten) where it's made of a thick cardboard, and the front section pulls down, letting you grab the keepcases from within. This lets the box stay essentially closed and dust free. The keepcases themselves are all done up in a nice black background to go along with the outside box, while all the artwork used is just fantastic. The layout is done up nicely on the back with the episode summaries, artwork and other bits. This is probably one of the best looking complete packages in region 1 for anime box sets. This really puts other box sets to shame for their flimsiness.

Menus:
The menus used are identical for all the discs, and their layout and functionality are both simple and effective. The majority of the screen is made up with great looking character artwork from volume to volume, with all the selections across the bottom. The menu selections themselves are listed in a small font, leaving the artwork the primary focus. Access times between the menus is great, and if there was only one real flaw it was in the language selection menu. When you go into this menu, it plays a clip of music from the bumper, and then lets you have control of the menu. Not bad when you start watching the box set, but when you reach disc 7, you just roll your eyes.

Extras:
For all intent and purposes, there looks to be a decent amount of extras scattered throughout the discs. From hearing some complaints by folks who watched this set before I did, they were upset about some extras that give away the ending to the series, back on disc 3. This is why in box sets, we tend to not watch the extras until the end. And usually at the end of series, I don't bother pulling out the discs to check out the extras, hence the N/A grade for what's here. Some that we did check out looked interesting though, and the inclusion of textless openings and endings was a nice piece. One extra that I really enjoyed was the dub director's commentary on the final episode. The gent earned respect right out of the gate by stating that when he got the gig to direct the dub for the series, the first thing he did was to go and buy up all the manga so he could get a feel for the series. It's so rare to hear dub directors even mention the Japanese vocal cast, never mind the manga or anything like that. Too many directors leave a feeling of wanting to make the show their own, instead of providing a translation. We'll definitely be giving the dub of this series a spin after hearing his comments here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As mentioned earlier, season two of Magic Knight Rayearth is very much a change from the first season. While it had focused on the monster of the week variety while the main characters quested for armor, weapons and other things to aid them in their eventual goal, this season takes a surprisingly logical step set up from season one and carries through on it. This works much better than going off in another direction or creating another continuity, as many other series tend to do.

With the three main girls, Hikaru, Fuu and Umi, all back on Earth after the end of the first season, something is still unsettling them, if only subtlety. Only Hikaru is having any real major issues, by having nightmares of an evil looking woman and a pink haired spry girl whispering evil thoughts. As would have it, the three girls all reunite at the Tokyo Tower to keep in touch. Hikaru hides these nightmares from the others, and they suddenly find themselves once again transported back to the land of Cephiro.

Or something that was once Cephiro. Since the death of the Pillar, aka Princess Emaraude, the country has literally begun to crumble. Instead of the lush forests, open fields and general village feel of the land, all that is left is the barren wasteland of rock. The skies are completely blackened and gray, with many lightning strikes throughout the background. The land of Cephiro feels positively ill. And this is quite a shock to the girls who had only fond remembrances of the land through which they traveled.

When the girls meet up with Clef, they learn that since the Pillar's death, the stability of the land has ended. Monsters roam what's left of the countryside, and the very edges of the country have begun to crumble away. Almost all of the citizenry have evacuated to the sole remaining building, a crystal castle that Clef has created to keep everyone in one place. With the way of Cephiro being built upon the hearts and wills of the people, keeping them together, and hopefully calm, will help. It also helps in regards to what must be done; a new pillar must be found.

To make this situation even more dangerous, three other "countries" are traveling across "space" to invade Cephiro. We have the technologically oriented country of Autozam (with characters amusingly named as cars), the Chinese oriented country of Fahren and the middle eastern styled country of Chizeta. Each has come for the Pillar system for a variety of reasons, but mostly to enhance their own countries standings or conditions. The unfortunate side effect of all this is that they really just don't understand what the Pillar system is, in how it can overwhelm and focus the person solely on the welfare of Cephiro.

As such, we move into a series of encounters between the various Rune Gods controlled by the Magic Knights and the invaders. The Autozam group have some interesting mecha that they use, the Fahren use illusion magic to create massive dragons (and puffed up little boys) to fight for them while Chizeta uses some rather interesting Djinni. In essence, each Magic Knight has a particular enemy that they try to fight and win over, while bringing each countries plight into view and their own culture.

To add more to this, we have the introduction of Lantis, the younger brother and master swordsman of High Priest Zagato, whose love of the former Pillar has been instrumental in causing all of this destruction. Lantis had spent a great deal of time in the recent past residing in Autozam, so he finds himself ingratiated to the invasion of them more than the other two. And as Hikaru finds herself confronting Autozam more and more herself, she finds an attraction to both Lantis and the leader of the Autozam invasion.

But these loves and attractions, while an important part of the series, aren't the overriding in your face style of some other shows. Keeping in mind that the characters are around 14 years of age, they don't even engage in such simple things as a kiss, so when such moments do come up, they're quite key to the events. There's a definite sense of innocence and innocence lost during this series.

This season runs a bit longer than the first, with a total of twenty nine episodes. There's quite a bit going on during all of these episodes, but there are definite areas when things slow down and you wish they had been more judicious in their plotting. But even after taking in the entire series, I find myself unsure of what would need to be cut to keep things balanced, outside of removing one of the invading countries and refocusing the Knight's attentions. The pacing in the end works towards bringing the emotional elements of the show at the right time. It can be a bit of an effort to get through some of the episodes where nothing seems to advance, but things do progress in some more subtle ways.

But I must speak of the ending, which will have its text in white so you must highlight it to read it: During the final couple of episodes, I really began to wonder how things would wrap up. Some thing in particular became obvious, such as how Hikaru and Nova would end their relationship and the eventual defeat of Lady Debonair. I found myself to be very pleased during the last episode, knowing that things would be fairly brief for the post-fighting sequence to show where everyone ends up. At the sequence where the girls are angling down over Cephiro, and their arms outstretched to their respective loves, I was expecting to get the payoff.

Instead it turned to an incredibly lame ending. They talk of their love for their men, and then willingly return to Tokyo to go on with their lives. And while we see them briefly in Tokyo, they talk briefly of their love of Cephiro and their desire to return. This ending just left such a bad taste in my mouth. After all that the girls had endured, and all that the citizens of Cephiro had gone through, and the sacrifices made by others, to have them whisked back to Tokyo just literally moments after the Pillar had done what needed to be done, gives the ending a very hollow feel. I definitely recommend stopping the disc just as they begin to angle down over everyone coming out of the castle. End of spoilers.

Outside of my problems with the ending, this season went over much better with us than the first. The storytelling changed from a simple RPG monster of the week to something more emotional, something where the characters had a stake in what was happening. The varied enemies were interesting and helped balance some of the weaker aspects (such as the apparently small population of Cephiro). The male characters of Eagle and Lantis provided some nice strong male characters who had an interesting relationship and background to them, which balanced such annoying characters as Alcyon, who simply needed to be slapped around during the final couple of episodes.

If you found yourself enjoying the first season of the series, this one offers up a new look instead of a rehashing of the first. There's more characterization and better character animation, but at a trade off for backgrounds and the rest of the animation. This is a story where there story itself is the focus, and the emotional side of it is strong. Pretending the last couple of minutes of the final episode never occurred, I'd give this a very good recommendation.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Various Extras

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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