Mar Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: D

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C
  • Packaging Rating: C+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: MAR: Marchen Awakens Romance

Mar Vol. #01

By Chris Beveridge     June 20, 2007
Release Date: June 12, 2007


Mar Vol. #01
© Viz Media


What They Say
Ginta has often dreamed of traveling to a fairy-tale land, but when a gate to the World of MAR appears before him, he realizes it's the start of a spectacular adventure!

Contains episodes 1-4:
Open! Door To Another World!
Babbo: The Legendary Arm!
Jack's Battle Shovel In Action!
Lost And Found Babbo!

The Review!
Pure male fantasy escapism combines with traditional manga storytelling that results in predictability galore.

Audio:
Viz Media has included two audio tracks for this release that are both stereo mixes encoded at 192 kbps. The show doesn't have much in the way of any real directionality to it or a sense of depth as it prefers to simply throw it all right at the viewer. The English language tracks' dialogue is recorded higher than the Japanese so that sounds a bit fuller but also a bit more overwhelming. The music within the show itself is as it was in the original as far as I can tell but the opening sequence has been replaced with the audio from the Toonami version. In listening to both language tracks, we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. MAR is a brightly colored and overly vibrant show that stands out strongly in this area but it also exposes the flaws in the animation. The biggest visible flaw depending on your sensitivity is the sheer amount of color banding that's going on. Backgrounds, particularly blue ones, are filled with it but it's also visible in rolling gradients in the characters. There were even a few scenes where the gradient feel spread across multiple colors and pieces of artwork. If this wasn't bad enough there is also a good deal of line noise during the numerous panning sequences. It's heavier in the first episode due to the overlays that are used to swap out some on screen text. Yes, overlays once again in 2007. Every time Viz Media seems to go forward with their releases they seem to take a few steps back. Outside of these issues the show looks good but it's not a transfer that will wow most people.

Packaging:
The cover for the first volume is a busy piece with a lot of vibrancy to it as it uses the silver foil effect in places to highlight it on the shelf. Using the standard shonen action pose, Ginta runs forward with Babbo in hand while set against the background of the dimensional ARM. The color mix works well but Mar is a series that just looks too cartoonish in some way that makes the cover unappealing. It doesn't help that under the shrinkwrap there are stickers for the Toonami Jetstream run and for the inclusion of a poster inside. The back cover continues the silvery gray background which works well and provides for screenshots associated with each episode. Each of the episodes is broken down with its episode title and summary of the premise which is a bit overkill. There's also the obvious plug for the manga. The bottom portion of the cover is filled with lots of text about the production staff and a minimal technical grid that doesn't mention things like aspect ratio, running time or languages. Its not so much a technical grid but rather a collection of useless logos. The reverse side of the cover features a breakdown of the chapters on the left side while the right side is a number of text advertisements for Toonami Jetstream. The overall design of this side looks good with its black and white artwork however. The insert is a four panel foldout poster of Ginta and Babbo while the reverse side is a black and white map of the main world that we'll see in the series.

Menu:
The menu design for the release is pretty nice with some minor digital animation lading into the main menu. Utilizing the cover design, it has the shot of Ginta and Babbo together but set against a dark night with the moon out. There's some good animation coming off of the logo and with the colors in the sky that when tied with the upbeat instrumental music it brings it all together. Navigation is straightforward and moving around is quick and pretty easy. The disc did not read our players' language presets and instead defaulted to English language with no subtitles.

Extras:
A couple of minor extras are included here as there is a brief run of production artwork and an ARM dictionary that goes over some of the basic terminology for the ARMs we see in this volume.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A truly guilty pleasure, I've admitted my adoration for the fatally flawed series Flame of Recca by author Nobuyuki Anzai. The anime version of it is incomplete but at least it's pretty much in tune with the original manga. Having enjoyed that, I was looking forward to MAR: Marchen Awakens Romance when the manga first came out. That volume of manga is one of the few if not the only volume of a series that I couldn't read more than a few chapters before giving up.

The anime version is less painful if only because I don't feel like I'm inflicting more pain on myself by turning the pages of my own volition. Here there is just a continuous show that goes on and on and on...

MAR is pure male oriented fantasy escapism. The series revolves around a middle school student named Ginta who has always been a little off. He has consistent regular dreams about a fantasy world that seem to be inspired by the fact that his mother is a fantasy writer. Unlike her however, he believes in such worlds and that it's where he really belongs. Everyone just chuckles with how he is though his teachers get frustrated by how easily he falls asleep in class. His life starts to look up a bit when a girl named Koyuki shows an interest in him and his belief in such worlds but the timing is poor. It comes just as a mysterious dimension doorway opens up in his classroom that allows him to travel to " you guessed it " a fantasy world.

Ginta's arrival in this new world is one that seems to hit up every one of his dreams. He feels like he fits in perfectly with it and his very vivid dreams seem like they've come to life. It doesn't take long until he gets taken advantage of though as a seemingly powerful witch named Dorothy comes along. Ginta ends up in a spot of trouble with her but it's an exercise that allows his innate abilities to shine through, namely that he's both quite strong in this world and is able to handled low level ARMs with ease. Though the world has things such as fairies and the like to it, where the real value appears to be is in the ARMs, devices that can perform various functions. Some of them are obvious like Guardians that look like fantasy-style robots that protect or magical flying lions, but there are also weapon-like ones such as the impressive shovel ARM.

Seeing that Ginta may be useful in her search for a mysterious ARM that is supposedly quite powerful, she intends to use him as a diversion for the Guardian that's there. Of course, it goes in the opposite direction and our overly enthusiastic good guy hero ends up with his first and likely only ARM of the series. This one is even more impressive than the shovel ARM as it's a ball and cup ARM named Babbo. Unlike other ARMs however, Babbo is apparently sentient and can talk which makes it all the more valuable. Babbo has been asleep for some time though and has lost his memory outside of what his name is. That he ends up as Ginta's ARM isn't a surprise nor are the couple of predictable and poorly done episodes that have them going through early relationship pangs as Babbo doesn't want to do anything with anyone and just sleep.

Like most early episodes of any series, there is a lot of basic introductions going on here and the usual plot devices to familiarize us with the world. That in itself isn't a bad thing but the world that it's introducing us to is fairly bland. Even worse, Ginta is an entirely too shallow empty shell of a character to get behind. Combined with the simple animation and overly vibrant design and it has all the trappings of a series that's a lightweight. If even that much. While the show does share some flaws that are found within Anzai's Flame of Recca series, this one skews younger and goofier. Babbo alone is something that makes me cringe as I can only imagine it with a really bad French accent.

This release also has a couple of technical issues that are worth covering. Poor authoring is once again evident as the prologue and the opening sequence are included on one chapter. No next episode previews are included with the show so at least that end of the equation wasn't done improperly. Another issue is that the opening and closing sequences have the dub version utilized for both of them. The ending in particular is really bad as it sounds like a poorly updated Dragon Ball Z dub music piece. It's done by the voice director of the series, Keith Arem, who is also the president and creative director of PCB Productions. This isn't the first time PCB Productions has marred a series nor will it be the last I suspect. PCB Productions continues to come across as the kiss of death for a series getting an unmolested release. The last thing to note with this release is not only is the Japanese cast completely uncredited but so is the English cast.

In Summary:
MAR has all the basics of a boys series and little in the way of any real originality to it. With this being even more geared towards kids than a show like Flame of Recca, I figured the appeal would be stronger there. But even here both of my kids watched for a couple of minutes before deciding that playing somewhere else would be more fun. MAR doesn't have a lot going for it and it's only the barely an improvement over what I thought was a terribly bad manga from what I was able to read. If there's anything positive to say about it it's that there is hardly any of the dreaded moe in it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production Artwork,Glossary of Terms

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 480p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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