Moon Phase Vol. #4 - 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. #4

By Chris Beveridge     March 13, 2007
Release Date: February 20, 2007


Moon Phase Vol. #4
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Even as Kouhei and his family risk all to save Hazuki from her fate, the formidable Count Kinkel refuses to be thwarted by human designs. As his plans grow darker and the web draws tighter, death and destruction nip at the heels of all. The Count's powers lie beyond compare, and not even dawn's light can offer new hope.

Despite certain failure, failure which could prove fatal, the Mido clan must set aide their fear. And when the young vampire rises up to reshape her own destiny, the consequences will prove disturbing indeed. Some riddles are best left unsolved...

Contains episodes 15-18:
It's More Than a Responsibility!
I Have to Eat Cat-Ear Buns!
Big Brother, Why is this Happening?
Yahoo! I'll See You Soon!

The Review!
Hazuki and Kouhei's relationship continues to be the central focus as the series loses a lot of the steam it built up in the previous volume.

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 strong 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. The sheer amount of noise in most scenes seems to be even stronger with this volume which is causing many areas to just block horribly. Moon Phase was never a truly impressive looking disc but this one feels like it just dipped a fair bit lower in quality.

Packaging:
Hazuki takes center stage again, this time in a cute outfit with a shiny red backpack that has some amusing items falling out of it. With a dark background and very little of it really showing, the focus is very much on her bright colors and ruby red shoes which works well. The silver foil used for the logo is once again very well done here as it's a great looking accent but not overpowering. 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 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. A surprise change with this volume is that the subtitle tracks are now labeled which makes changing it on the fly easier (as slates/songs are listed as English and the full subtitles are listed as Japanese).

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)
Moon Phase manages to confound once again as I sit through another four episodes and feel like very little really happened. When reflecting on the episodes and trying to get a sense of what really just happened, I mostly come up empty with anything of merit. After the heightened action and revelations of the previous volume, the shift away from just about all of it to simple relationship issues between the leads is quite disappointing.

With Elfriede now living with Kouhei for a bit, the house is a bit more packed when you add in Hazuki and Haiji. Elfriede is a bit minimal in terms of the space she's taking up but she makes up for it in other ways. The relationship between Kouhei and Hazuki has been an odd one as she's trying to keep up her expected role of being his Master. At the same time, she has some strong feelings for him under the surface and Kouhei has a hard time finding it all the time. Add in that he's such a milquetoast himself and unsure of his own feelings for so long that they have something of an adversarial relationship. Revealing their feelings to each other comes at a time when she must hunt in order to drink, which in a lot of ways makes you wonder about the revelations each of them make. How much of it is just a way for them to do what their underlying instincts are telling them to do.

The next big storyline starts to get some movement across a couple of these episodes, but it makes up what is likely less than five minutes of screen time across it that it's more just teases and hints. What that does is leave a lot of time to be filled by the regular characters both in exposition and general silliness. The exposition side is mostly given over to our learning more of Elfriede's past as a child over a hundred years ago. Her time with her original parents and her becoming a vampire is nicely covered but with the flashback style given to it and the fact that it's not even given an entire episode to be dealt with leaves it feeling somewhat minimal and incomplete. It's more of a refresher in a sense than a true character piece so that we at least get some idea of her past a bit more of a connection with her.

One thing that did amuse me before they got into the character material for Hazuki and Kouhei is the sequence that had her and Haiji working up a plan to defeat some crows. It's a brief scene, one with some amusingly wicked crows that want her special buns, but the way that she uses Haiji and gets so emotional herself is quite good. The crows and the way they act just add quite a bit more, especially when she goes into Nekomimi Vision for it. Hazuki's learning to fish was another cute experience as she has that kind of go for the gusto attitude when she really gets into it. All the time she spends with Kouhei on their attempts to get a good picture works well in solidifying their relationship as truly started during the first episode.

While Hazuki manages to have some cute scenes, she's still not a character that is really all that appealing to me with her personality. Weak personalities can still make for an interesting relationship but Kouhei has been, as stated, such an uninteresting character that he's not really able to bring anything to the table to enhance the relationship. This doesn't exactly change here but he seems to be getting more serious about being able to protect Hazuki which means he has to start learning things. Of course, he's going to go to his grandfather first since he's revealed some of his better abilities but this is only the start for him. In order to really be able to learn, he has to actually leave Hazuki for a time and go into proper training. The separation of the two so early on into their new relationship means that the focus returns to Hazuki. Not necessarily a bad thing but now that she's practically pining for Kouhei, who really has no qualities that would draw in someone, it all feels incredibly forced.

In Summary:
In the end, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what the draw here is. While the show has a very nice style to it in terms of atmosphere and the cuteness of Hazuki, the storyline has been far too drawn out. The shift from the important moments in the previous volume to this one isn't an unusual storytelling technique but it does reveal just how weak the rest of the show is. What doesn't help is just how increasingly poor the video quality is turning out to be. The amount of noise in the animation just continues to grow with so many scenes becoming more and more distracting. There's something to be said for being a soft focus but when the fuzziness and noise dominates the image, it's hard to believe that was the original intent.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening,Clean closing

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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