Moon Phase Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Revelation Films
  • MSRP: £15.99/£21.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Moon Phase

Moon Phase Vol. #1

By Bryan Morton     August 08, 2007
Release Date: June 25, 2007


Moon Phase Vol. #1
© Revelation Films


What They Say
Beauty IS The Beast
A vision of grace and beauty trapped within the walls of a forgotten castle, awaiting the one who will set her free.

While Kouhei ranks among the best in paranormal photography, he's never actually seen a ghost! So when he fails to capture a hauntingly beautiful young girl on camera, curiosity drives him into the arms of a haughty vampire and a world he cannot comprehend. The vampire Hazuki, having waited years for someone to finally set her free, proves unwilling to part with her unwitting hero and follows him home, promptly adopting his life as her own. And as the adolescent vampire wreaks her own flavour of havoc, mysterious forces conspire to reclaim what was lost. Some riddles are bestleft unsolved...

Episodes Comprise
1 - Big Brother, Be My Slave
2 - Call Me Mistress
3 - Big Brother, Let's Live Together
4 - Big Brother, I Feel Like Kissing
5 - It's a Full, Full Moon

The Review!
Say hello to Hazuki, the world's cutest vampire. She can bite me anytime. Quite why a vampire is wearing cat ears is completely beyond me, so let's move on quickly and see what the first batch of Tsukuyomi Moon Phase is like...

Audio:
Audio for this release comes in 2.0 Japanese and English, and 5.1 English versions. I listened to the Japanese track for this review. As stereo mixes go, it's pretty good, with some good use made of dialogue placement and background effects to add to the atmosphere of the show. There were no obvious problems.

Video:
Video is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect, enhanced for anamorphic playback. Despite a lot of the scenes making heavy use of colours at the darker end of the scale (all in the name of atmosphere, again), there's a fair amount of detail to pick out in the animation, and it all comes across well & the transfer in general looks good. There were no obvious problems.

Packaging:
The front cover has a large image of Hazuki & her cat-ears, looking as sweet an innocent as she possibly can, with the full moon and castle spire in the background. It's a great piece of artwork that captures one aspect of Hazuki's personality perfectly, while still hinting that the show's not all about cuteness. The rear has the usual disc technical information, promotional blurb and screenshots. The reverse has another nice piece of Hazuki in her white dress, this time in the manga style (as used in the show's ending sequence), and the coverart for the remaining volumes in the series.

Menu:
Another static screen in the usual style of Revelations' release - a close-up image of Hazuki, set against the castle and full moon, takes up one side of the screen, with options for Play All, Episodes, Setup and Extras running along the bottom. Hazuki again features on the scene selection screen, while atmospheric scenery shots grace the setup and extras screens.

Extras:
No much here " a set of character profiles, and creditless versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
In the depths of the German countryside is a haunted castle, which Japanese photographer Kouhei, occult magazine editor Hiromi & paranormal expert Seiji are investigating for Hiromi's magazine. Kouhei's getting a bit tired of chasing the paranormal, wanting instead to get back to taking photographs of normal things - but it seems his life is about to become anything but normal. Inside the castle lives a Japanese girl, Hazuki - not your normal Japanese girl, but a vampire, bound to the castle by forces that won't let her go. When Kouhei sees Hazuki out on the castle rooftop he's instantly entranced by her and starts snapping away, but being a vampire she doesn't turn up on his photographs - something Kouhei doesn't realise until he's already back in Japan. Determined to find out more about her, he returns to the castle, where Hazuki is waiting for the person who'll free her from her prison...

The studio behind Moon Phase is SHAFT, who along with GAINAX were also responsible for Mahoromatic and This Ugly Yet Beautiful World. Given that the worst aspects of both those shows were classic GAINAX failings, I'm hoping that SHAFT on their own will make this a good show. After watching this volume, I have to say that the signs are promising, at least.

There's a very disjointed feeling here between what could be described as classic gothic horror, the sheer cuteness of Hazuki, and the liberal doses of comedy that get dropped in here & there - and that's before mentioning the sugar overdose that passes as the opening sequence. It's a very strange combination - but just as it's said that true vampires can mesmerise their prey, so that all you can do is watch your doom approaching, so here you just can't help yourself watch the terminally cute Hazuki go about her onscreen antics. Ah, the lure of a girl wearing cat ears.

The series starts off in full gothic mode, with the first two episodes set primarily in Vigo's castle and dealing with Hazuki's attempts to enthral Kouhei and secure her freedom while Seiji tries to keep Vigo at bay for long enough for Kouhei to make it back to the outside world. The castle itself is almost a living thing, which leads to a number of great little scenes as Hazuki and Kouhei try to get through it to Vigo's centre of power, and the castle itself is fighting back against them. These scenes are beautifully drawn and hugely atmospheric, with a feeling to them that you don't often get in anime. It's a case of presentation over content, of course " the story is as simple as they come, with the way Hazuki and Kouhei clash with each other bringing a bit of comedy to the story " but it's great fun to watch.

The story moves back to Japan in episode 3, and with it the style of presentation settles back into something more normal and real-world. It's quite a shift of story-telling gear, as the 'new' mode of the story here feels very different from the opening episodes & it takes a little to get used to it. Here, the comedy is more to fore and very slapstick in nature, while there are still serious plotlines to follow, revolving around Hazuki's attempts to track down her mother, and the efforts of fellow vampire Elfriede to bring her back to Germany.

As for the characters... It's nice for a change to have a series that's not led by high-school kids. Yes, Hazuki falls into that age-range, but the rest of the lead characters " Kouhei, Elfriede, Hiromi, Seiji and Kouhei's grandfather " are all older characters, and a more interesting bunch because of it. Hazuki provides general all-round adorability to the mix, along with being the person that the story revolves around; the rest of the cast play second-fiddle to her, but they're all unique and interesting characters. Kouhei's stuck with a talent he'd rather not have (his ability to photograph the paranormal, while being pretty much immune to its affects), and a new role as Hazuki's effective guardian that he never really wanted " although he soon learns to make the most of it. His grandfather seems to be aware that there's a connection between the disappearances of Hazuki's and Kouhei's mothers which leads him to allow Hazuki to stay with them, and along with Seiji is clearly aware that there's more going on with Hazuki than there initially appears. Hiromi is an old friend of Kouhei's, and keeps him supplied with work while lusting over Seiji, and Elfriede initially adds a sense of threat before becoming intrigued by Kouhei's abilities and becoming outwardly more friendly " or is that just a ruse? No doubt time will tell.

The cast play off each other quite well, without falling back too heavily on typical anime stereotypes. With the possible exception of Hiromi, they each also have their own unique aspects or abilities that make them that little more interesting " hopefully the story will develop in ways that make full use of the potential that provides. Based on this disc, I'm hopeful that'll happen.

In summary:
Moon Phase is a strange mix of comedy and what's almost Gothic horror, although the two aspects are mixed well and complement each other well. This volume lays the groundwork and sets up a number of mysteries that the series is going to have to address along the way, while the small core cast are a group of characters who a different enough from the norm that they do grab your attention. Together, that adds up to an overall package that is very entertaining to watch, and hangs enough plot threads in the air to make you want to come back for more. A very promising start to the series, and worth checking out.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Textless Songs

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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