Mezzo Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mezzo

Mezzo Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     December 16, 2004
Release Date: December 14, 2004


Mezzo Vol. #2
© ADV Films


What They Say
For the best looking team in the ass-kicking game, high stakes action with low life criminals is just another day at the office. It was hard enough already to wake up alive every day, but for Mikura, Harada, and Kurokawa it just keeps getting harder. Along with their squeaky killer-in-training, Asami, the DSA team is learning just how deceiving appearances can be. Is it a video game or a torture chamber? A clown or a bloodthirsty maniac? For the DSA, the cost of the answers may cost them their lives!

The Review!
After a very strong opening set of episodes, Mezzo falls into routine and some of its charm seems to disappear.

Audio:
For our primary viewing sessions, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. While not completely attached to the voice cast from the OVA, the continuity aspect was a plus. The series sports a solid stereo mix that has a good sense of directionality across the forward soundstage in both dialogue and action effects. There's a lot going on with this show and the track handles it well and it's all very clean and clear. During regular playback on either track, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in the first quarter of 2004, the transfer for this release is just beautiful. Much like a lot of Umetsu's works, there's a wide range of very vibrant colors mixed into the show and they shine through great here. From the oranges of Mikura's outfit to the splattering blood, it's a solid set of colors with no visible blocking and only the slightest hints in one or two scenes of some slight color gradation. Aliasing and cross coloration are virtually absent for the bulk of the print and all the high paced action is kept very solid. While it's not quite OVA level, it looks great here and is a transfer that's very easy to get lost in once it gets into gear.

Packaging:
The first cover was one that was very strong with the characters definition and style which this cover follows just as well with the focus on the three women that make an impact in this volume. Mikura gets the forefront and larger design and continues to look really good but I'm continually liking the attention to detail that Asami gets with hers. Mixed in with some nice blue shading and a simple design in general this is a good looking cover that I really like. The back cover is very nicely laid out with everything sectionalized and easy to find. There's a small number of shots from the show and another look at Mikura as well as a good summary of the premise. The discs production information and features are all clear and easy to find. The reverse side of the cover has a great dual panel shot of Mikura and Asami up close while the men are in the other panel with the car. No insert is included (nor needed) with this release. I continue to like the lessening of useless inserts in releases.

Menu:
The main menu is a decent piece that uses the image of Mikura from the front cover set against a bloodied and grimy brick wall where underneath you get bits of animation flowing through that looks mostly like fog or dust clouds moving by, all of which is set to a brief loop of part of the hyper paced opening song. Episode selections are lined along the right and submenu navigation is quick and easy. Access times are nice and fast and the disc correctly read our players language presets.

Extras:
Much like the first volume, this release has only a few of the basic extras that you can expect to see. The opening and closing sequences are presented in textless form and there's an art gallery in video form as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first set of episodes of Mezzo had really done a number on us with its quirky storytelling style, the slick looking animation, the fun character designs and just the way they managed to tie things together from the outlandish to the normal. The parallel storytelling set of episodes was a particularly solid piece that definitely had us intrigued with what kind of stories they want to tell here. With the second set of episodes though, things don't have quite the same spark to them that had me eager to get to the next episode as soon as the credits rolled. There are still plenty of laughs and enjoyment to be had here though.

The main episode of interest in this set is the first one which provides some rather detailed history for Harada during his high school years. After a chance meeting at a parts marketplace with a woman he had dated back in high school, his time there begins to show in flashback form as he decides he doesn't want to talk about it with anyone. It's interesting to see a much cleaner cut and dressed Harada doing the school gig and going out on his first date with who is presumably the hardest to get woman in the class. The actual romance is very mild and played out in a very simple way but it has that kind of raw innocence to it that you sometimes get in reflecting on the past. I also rather liked how it was sort of tied around in an interesting way with Asami spending a good deal of time with Harada in the present and her carefully prodding him for questions that shows she has an interest on some level for him. It's quite endearing when it comes from someone like Asami.

The rest of the volume doesn't fare as well. There's an episode where the group gets picked up at a basement bargain price to do some bodyguard work for an elderly couple who are trying to get rid of a couple of gangsters who have moved into the apartment complex that's being torn down in just a few days. There's some light surveillance and an attempt to get inside to see what's going on, which is well done since it has Mikura posing as a masseuse girl only to find that the customer wants more and he starts to really go at her. The quirky angle to this episode is that there's a girl that's all in white and carrying a bunny that supposedly only other women can see that is wandering around the building. This isn't tied into things until the end and it's almost seemingly forgotten at one point but it just feels so overly forced into things. Granted, this is the series that's already had an alien encounter so anything is possible, but it just didn't feel like it clicked well.

The science fiction nature of the series comes into play again in another episode though this time it goes to tackle virtual reality instead. Asami gets a pair of tickets as a prize to go try out a virtual reality simulator and is all excited to do it. She's been down a bit since she's still getting picked on and hasn't learned to really stand up for herself, which is why her being listed as a killer-in-training on the cover summary is so amusing, and thinks this might be a good chance to go try to be what she wants to be. Her interest in Harada has her asking him to go with her only to be awkwardly turned down, which sends her into confusion. That sets the stage for a somewhat bored sounding Mikura to walk in and see the tickets only to take them for herself.

The actual virtual reality piece isn't given a whole lot of detail other than I can't imagine trusting anyone who runs his laboratory like that out of his house, even if he does have some professional looking assistants. Naturally, something goes wrong when Mikura is in there and she's acting out different times and places not realizing she's actually in the VR simulator, so we get to see her go from normal attire to a feudal era Japanese princess and to a skimpy ninja and so forth. It's cute and amusing but predictable in that they'd send Asami in after her to try and rescue her. I'm definitely all for Asami stepping up to the plate and getting a gun in hand and learning the trade – I think it'd be a nice side arc to the whole thing – but it's not what they're going to do by all appearances and instead just tease us.

While I don't think there's a significant drop in the quality of the animation from the first volume to the next, there are definitely less action sequences all around which need that kind of really fluid animation we got in the first volume. Mikura's not being wildly thrown around in each episode and some there's a bit more panning of shots than before. The opening episode doesn't have too much Mikura in it and that's a plus since her design looks like it was left to the secondary animation team but overall I didn't think too much of the drop that is there.

In Summary:
While not as strong a performance as the first volume and losing some of its quirky nature and less action sequences, the characters are still a real treat to watch here as they interact with each other. From Kurokawa's fun dealings with his former chief to the way Asami tries to figure out her feelings for Harada, they've all got some quirks that will always show through and usually at the strangest times. The stories on this volume are more forgettable than the first volume, most of which still resonate with me which says a lot considering how many shows I watch between releases. Mezzo started off strong and hit a lull in the middle but I'm holding out hope for a solid ending and maybe some more OVAs.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation,Production sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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