MAR begins to now delve into a format that is becoming too familiar, interplayed with few surprises but just enough characterisation to keep the series interesting.
What They Say
Ginta and his friends have been transported to the Desert Field for the Fifth Battle. The first match is between Snow and Emokis, a top Bishop. Will Snow be able to withstand the insults and attacks of this ugly little girl? In the battle between Ginta and Ash, Ash uses the �"rm: Psycho Space, which causes Ginta to lose half of his magical power! The striking battle between Nanashi and Galian forces Nanasi's to face a forgotten past. Galian, a former comrade in arms reveals the truth about why he saved Nanashi an left the Thieves Guild to join up with the Chess Pieces. Alan sends everyone into the training gate again, this time in pairs. However he is soon attacked by a darkness �"RM, leaving his three training gates in the control of a powerful group of Chess Pieces known as the Zonnens.
I decided to go with the English dub for the full 3 discs after being very impressed with the dub in the previous volume. Both languages are in the standard 2.0 format so sadly no 5.1 format. The edited release and various changes made to the openings and endings of the series do make it seem different, but there were no distortions throughout any of the episodes in, so the audio quality was still of a high quality, with one exception on the 4th disc where they was a time lag between both the English audio and the Japanese audio in episode 10 of the 13 episode series. Otherwise, fine.
The transfer for MAR is bright and vibrant, with colour showing as far as the eye can see. It also seems to be a lot better in this set despite the overlays due to the different nature of the battles and the use of colour scheme. The filters are still noticeable (and as earlier, a bit of lag along with some basic spelling errors on the 3rd disc) but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was previously. Also, this is one of the few series I’ve seen recently where the use of CGI is converted really well onto the set so MAR definitely scores points for that.
No packaging was provided with this disc.
Each disc has the same menu – with the Toonami music in the background, we see clips from the show with Babbo’s chains surrounding the screen, a picture of Ginta and Babbo on the left hand side on a chess board, with a small sign allowing you to select between play all, scene selection, set-up and on the first disc, trailers. Each section is easy to select and easy to navigate if a little bit unspectacular, but unfortunately as before they use the same scenes in the opening menu as the first set as well as the same pictures during the menu selection, despite the new powers and characters that have debuted, so quite disappointed in that regard.
To continue the trailers as the only extras, we have trailers for Bleach, Death Note, Naruto and Naruto: The Movie.
The 4th box set of MAR seems to be now set in a typical shounen format, which both has it’s good and bad points about. We get a lot of exciting battles and some fun interactions with the characters, but on the flip side, we get a lot of repetitiveness and predictability.
Onto the next round of the WAR games, Team MAR leaves behind Dorothy and Alan to see if the others with their new ARMS can handle the most powerful Bishops and several Knights of the Chess Pieces. Most of the characters are forgettable, but at least two including the character of Ash who we saw briefly last set seems to be long-term characters.
We start off with the hideously ugly Emokis taking on Snow…because Emokis called Snow ugly. A lot of a comic moment before realising Emokis is quite powerful and one of the closest Bishops to Knight level. She uses powers in combination of fairy tales of Snow White and Hansel & Gretel, using her gingerbread house to increase her size, making it a tough fight for Snow, however Snow debuts her new ARM, a summon ARM called Undine (I resisted the urge to do an Aria joke), an Aqua Guardian which leads to an insulting match and Enokis’ sword admitting that Snow is far more attractive, causing Enokis to destroy the sword but get trapped in a bubble attack causing her to suffocate. She refused to give up but Undine makes her pass out before she dies, allowing Snow to win.
The second match, adding more to the fairy tale references of MAR is Alviss taking on the other Bishop Hamelin, a bit odd considering Alviss is considered aside from Ginta the strongest on the current Team MAR. Hamelin’s abilities as you could probably guess involve his flute, causing him to replicate whilst Alviss uses Darkness ARM called Sealing Skull to freeze Alviss, but Darkness ARMs also effect the user, making the battle a seaming stalemate. The purpose of Alviss’ battle is to see if he can beat the Bishop without resorting to using his new ARM, and using some intelligence when Hamelin summons a Guardian ARM is able to do this.
The third battle involves Jack taking on Candice, a sadistic woman who loves pain but is also a slight comic relief as she has a very weird crush on Phantom. She fights using rocks and boulders through the sand, as Jack using his Earth Beans to repeatedly strike her. But using her Scales technique, the more she gets hunt, she’s able to summon a Gorgon, and begins to turn Jack to stone. Jack is forced to use his new ARM, a Guardian ARM Mephitos, which is basically a giant Venus Fly Trap, able to smash Candine and her ARM but also he’s drained out, making this fight a draw.
The big match is of course with Ginta as he faces off against Ash, the surprisingly likeable skeleton like Knight who has a way with kids. His abilities allow him to separate parts of his body and manipulate his shadow to defend and attack Ginta and Babbo. Unlike the others, Ash seems to be a part of the plot rather than a throw away Chess Piece as he gets some backstory at how he joined the Chess Pieces, believing them to be able to protect the children of the world. Ginta says that’s impossible, knowing how Phantom acts, but Ash puts his belief in himself. He and Ginta are sent through a Dimension ARM called Psycho Space, and Ash uses a bomb, which grows each time that one of them is head whilst hovering over the opponent’s head. They summon their Guardian Arm (Death vs. Gargoyle) and it appears Ginta is defeated, but he’s used his Cushion Jelly technique to absorb the bomb and after Psycho Space is dissolved, Ash voluntarily forfeits. I hope we see more of Ash in the future as he’s very different to the other Chess Pieces and shows another part of the story.
Lastly, we have Nanashi facing off an old friend Galleon, who after his memory is jigged, is revealed to not only be the man who saved Nanashi’s life, but the former leader of Luberia and also the man who gave Nanashi his name. This fight lasts a couple of episodes as we get some interesting flashbacks of Galleon and Nanashi and how Galleon saw even without an arm that Nanashi was a capable fighter and leader, and how Galleon became what he was, and indeed that in fact, everything he did for Luberia was a set up, and the attacks that became on his people were in fact his doing. Galleon’s abilities allow him to absorb Nanashi’s lightning attacks, but to his surprise, Nanashi uses a Guardian Arm, Gymoto, whose power is enough to smash through Galleon’s sword and defeat him.
The problem here is that the victory seems predictable despite 3 Knights and after it, we get a combination of a bit of episode filler involving Alviss & Bell which doesn’t really tell us much of their history, a little fun part where Team MAR have a costume party (and Babbo/Ed think Dorothy and Snow are actually arguing about which one is suitable for Ginta), an episode where Jack, Ginta and Dorothy go to an ARM market to try and find the ARM that Dorothy’s sister stole in Caldia, and a small arc on the final disc where once again, Team MAR get sent to the training gate, however some rogue members of the world of MAR who are considering too deplorable even for Phantom intend to destroy Team MAR from inside the Gates. They manage to stop Alan and then sent their members (all named after planets of the Solar System) to kill Ginta/Jack, Dorothy/Snow and Alviss/Nanashi. Each battle is basically how the teams work together (Alviss and Nanashi for example being polar opposites makes it more interesting) and at least there is some interesting character dialogue, for example when Jack is being mocked for being the weakest member of MAR by Mars and Mercury, Ginta defends him and shows their friendship, whilst the initially hostile Dorothy/Snow relationship has now become quite affectionate, like an older sister/young sister role, and shows how strong Snow has become. Again though, the main problem was the battles were very predictable and altogether compared to the previous battles, not very interesting as the Zonnans are pretty uninteresting villains.
In between these eps though, there is one significant plot twist which has to be touched upon. Whilst Team MAR are resting, the Chess Pieces regroup. Phantom isn’t too upset about Candice and Ash’ defeat, but he is upset with Rapunzel who killed her fellow Chess Pieces after she was defeated. Just prior to this, the welcome return of the other Chess Piece apart from Ash who has genuine interest for me, Ian, says to Ginta he will defeat Team MAR. He then appears to fight Rapunzel, and Phantom says if Rapunzel defeats Ian, all will be forgiven. Rapunzel, in her crazed narcissistic way, thinks the Rook is no match for her, fights him but Ian is a hell of a lot stronger now and easily defeats (and kills) Rapunzel. He then proclaims to the Chess Pieces someone stole something of him, and he won’t hesistate to kill whoever it was, even Phantom. Ian’s promotion to Knight and his relationship with Pawn and girlfriend Gido adds a subtle twist to the otherwise repetitive story and mostly likely a genuine challenge with Ginta once the next round of the WAR games begin.
The main weakness of MAR now all the characters have been established is that the WAR Games is simply the same thing over, just with different characters on the Chess Pieces side. Mostly the characters are forgettable, but with Ash and the returning Ian (and possibly Candice) at least a few more are established as more than canon fodder, and some of the relationships on Team MAR are becoming more settled, in particular Dorothy and Snow. The battles are still gorgeous to look at and whilst other shows may have similar themes and battles, for some reason I enjoy them more in MAR. Whilst predictable and repetitive, and the stand alone stories haven’t been too interesting, MAR’s still got enough charm to keep it going and a definite show for the shounen fan.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Toshiba 37C3030 - 37" Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV – Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers – Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.