Moon Phase Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Moon Phase

Moon Phase Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     January 12, 2007
Release Date: January 09, 2007


Moon Phase Vol. #3
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
A vision of grace and beauty trapped within the ancient walls of a forgotten castle, awaiting the one who will set her free. The young vampire Hazuki has found herself a new life: Kouhei's. Enchanted not by any supernatural wiles, but rather by her internal grace and charm, the photographer's family has grown quite protective of their new charge.

As the dark forces of Count Kinkel stretch across nations to draw Hazuki back into their dire embrace, the Mido clan risk life and limb to save the petite fanged. But mystery leads to enigma and deception flies think in the night sky. The truth could be one that none dare to face. When the master is foresworn, so shall be the servant.

Contains episodes 11-14:
Big Brother, Get Some Rest!
I Can't Forgive Him!
Let's Defeat the Count!
Big Brother, Will You Walk With Me?

The Review!
The confrontation with Kinkel finally hits its crescendo but the reality is that it reveals far more about the larger picture than ever.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The included stereo mix is pretty good and very useful throughout as there is a lot of well placed dialogue in quiet scenes that add to the overall eerie ambience that the show promotes. The more active scenes have a fuller feel to them though it's really just the end sequence that has a strong overall feeling with its music. The show isn't terribly heavy on action so it mixes in some dramatic musical cues to the dialogue and it works well. We sampled parts of the English mixes, presented in 2.0 and 5.1 tracks, and among all three of them we didn't notice any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Overall this looks to be a rather good show and the quality pretty strong but similar to other recent releases from FUNimation like Speed Grapher, there's a feeling of softness and fuzziness to the end result. This may be intentional in some areas due to the nature of the show, but there are scenes where the colors are so strong against each other, such as the greens and blacks, that they tend to shift a bit too much. This seems to hit mid-range shots more but is noticeable in some close-ups as well. The other part that is hard to pin down is that some of the blacks don't seem to be all that dark and tend to have more of a dark gray look to them. There are a lot of good looking deep black areas but there is more emphasis on a lighter and softer look. Thankfully, the transfer is free of problems such as cross coloration and aliasing.

Packaging:
The first cover remains the best of the series so far but this one is a cute one with a shot of Hazuki in lots of pink while Hajji clings to her nice and close. The background manages to keep the dark feeling to it while shadowing the room within Kouhei's house. The back cover works a very simple but strong approach as it keeps to a black background with the elegant writing here and there. While the technical information continues to be too small and out of the way, the rest of the cover is very well laid out with a look at the summary, the episode numbers and titles, and several good looking shots. It's very nicely done with a bit of restraint I think. The included booklet, though short, is packed of great material, such as rundowns on the episodes on this volume and interviews with some of the voice actors and key creative staff. Add in some gorgeous artwork and a good paper stock and it's a good read. Also included with this volume is a handful of postcards featuring gorgeous illustrations of Hazuki in outfits and positions that may have you questioning yourself.

Menu:
The menu layout is simple but nicely effective with a close-up shot of Hazuki and Hajji from the front cover along the right side. Combined with the really nice logo and design for the Phase portion of it, the navigation strip looks really good and keeps to the overall theme of the show. Add in a really nice bit of haunting instrumental music and you wish that the loop was smoother so that you could leave it on for awhile without realizing it. Access times are nice and fast and the disc had no problems in reading our audio playback preset; due to the subtitle tracks not being properly labeled, they did not play and needed to be turned on manually.

Extras:
The extras are pretty basic as we get only the textless songs section for the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Getting into Moon Phase hasn't been the easiest thing because it's been so lackadaisical in how it's gone about telling its story. It's certainly built up a nice atmosphere to it and the mostly serious nature has made Hazuki's outburst and almost comical nature at times seem really out of place in a good way. But throughout the first ten episodes, we got some tantalizing bits but nothing that's really solid that led me to anticipate the next volume.

With this set of episodes, now down to four per volume for the remainder, cleans house a little bit and then moves forward with some interesting big picture material. What pleased me the most was getting past episode eleven, wherein Hazuki is chided by Kouhei for the way she deals with the visiting twins. The two girls seem to just tweak her the wrong way about everything which means she's constantly sniping at them and their country bumpkin ways. It's amusing if only for the fact that she's been so out of touch for so long herself that she feels she can be this way, but she's just so completely possessive of Kouhei that she can't stand to see them interact. With Kouhei feeling under the weather though and his grandfather in the hospital, Hazuki now finds herself in the position of having to deal with them better and actually take them places " during daylight hours.

The solution isn't the best but it's the kind of thing that Hazuki would think of and in its own way it works out well since it brings the trio a bit closer together. The lack of Kouhei in the situation certainly helped and is often one of the better ways to remedy such situations. The best moment though is when the twins leave and head back home since I found them to just be too much, especially with the entire promised marriage aspect. With them gone, the show quickly gets back into the more serious material which has the ever fun Kinkel working his manipulative ways by taking Kouhei's grandfather hostage in the place where Hazuki was bound for so long.

The reasons behind Hazuki's being restrained there and the mysterious personality that she had from that period comes back to the current storyline as Kouhei, Seiji and Hazuki all race there to save him. Kinkel has brought in a few manipulated servants of his own, such as Kouhei's former editor as well as Hiromi, but he's also punished one much closer to him. Elfriede hasn't lived up to her fathers expectations here and he's set her in a most amusing simple trap that has her close to being exposed to sunlight. Though there is an interesting of somewhat ridiculous sense of honor about how Kouhei and his grandfather fight against Kinkel, it's the kind of design that has a sense of tradition to it that gives it a bit more of an important feeling. This is particularly true with the music that it's set to.

The show focuses nicely back on the core characters for this two part arc and takes the small nuggets we've learned about them over the previous eleven episodes and fleshes it out even more. Though Kouhei doesn't really develop much, he continues to be a more interesting male lead here because he is so level headed and generally not susceptible to Hazuki's weirdness. Elfriede gets a bit of nice expansion as well as her role changes here and even Seiji is less of a cipher than usual. The follow-up episode to the two part arc changes the dynamic a fair bit as well while allowing the revelations to truly sink in about what it all means. Unlike the previous volumes, this one has left me really wanting to see the next one much more quickly.

Two areas of this release continue to be really enjoyable that I have to comment on. The first is the way the show has worked about the cutaway view of Kouhei's residence. Yeah, it looks like a diorama sometimes but it really adds a lot to be able to see Hazuki sleeping in her underground room while everyone else is in the living area, or watching Kouhei race around the house without having to do numerous quick cuts and "dramatic angle" shots to emphasize the fast pace. The other is the continuing change in the opening sequences both in animation and in the songs that are used. The last one here, voiced by Luna, is a perfect cap to the two part storyline that preceded it. The other ones work just as well as various remixes and different takes on the openings. The closing sequence is also turning into a real favorite with its soft lullaby feeling and the slow cascading visuals of it.

In Summary:
Moon Phase starts to work much better with this volume with a couple of revelations that explain why things were the way they were earlier at the start of the show. These revelations also give an idea of how the rest of the show might work out as it changes the dynamic of Hazuki and her relationship to other vampires. Things work out fairly similar to previous episodes in how it goes about presenting its atmosphere and build up but there are some rather good action sequences along the way as well. But Moon Phase is at its core a character driven show and though the growth is small, it's fairly key here as the leads are all now viewing things very differently than they were at the start. The evolution of the show is working well and it's gradually becoming a far more interesting show because of it.

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

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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