Moon Phase Vol. #5 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • 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. #5

By Chris Beveridge     May 17, 2007
Release Date: April 03, 2007

Moon Phase Vol. #5
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
With the danger behind them, Hazuki and the Mido clan enjoy life's fullest moments. While the young vampire struggles to come to peace with her battling personalities and her place in the world, Gramps and Elfriede seek to secure their safety against further attack. But in the quiet hours of the night, one small mistake has dire consequences.

As their world comes crashing down, both Kouhei and Hazuki curse the fate which left them powerless. As the past bears witness to the present, the future is rewritten with one single event.

Contains episodes 19-22:
Day on the Mountain, Monkey in the Spa, the Cat's Whiskers... And Who Are You?
Grandfather, Why Are You Dressed Like That?
Big Brother, Where Is This Nursery Rhyme From?
I Didn't Know You Were Like That!

The Review!
The vampire's will be coming 'round the mountain when they come...

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.

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.

While Hazuki is one of the focuses here, the cover gives some nice balance with Artemis and her bright colors, at least with her hair. The generally dark covers of the series works well here with a moonlit forest but Artemis blends in just a bit too much. 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.

The menu layout is simple but nicely effective with a close-up shot of Artemis 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).

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 continues to tease and torment as it provides some interesting story elements but then seemingly drags them out and doesn't know what to do with it. While the show was certainly a slow starter filled with lots of atmosphere, it decided it wanted to mix in cute and cuddly as well. That dynamic worked at times but has faltered in others, mostly because Hazuki tended to grate on my nerves. Adding in younger girls and pint sized demons didn't help either.

Thankfully though the overall mythos behind the series has been interesting to watch and provided for some solid entertainment. The introduction of Elfriede early on helped as did some of the revelations about what Hazuki really is and why others want her. With the events of the last volume and the way things burned down, the cast has been paired down a bit with the loss of Kouhei's grandfather and Elfriede. A greater focus on Kouhei and Hazuki isn't a bad thing but it's keeping the two younglings of Kaoru and Hikaru in the picture more than I care for. Kouhei is continuing his training in the mountains which has him away from Hazuki quite a bit. She's fallen nicely into a shrine maiden mode and has been killing time between visits for the most part.

Kouhei has long been the easily interchangeable male lead in the series but he's finally starting to develop into something with this set of episodes. His time in the mountains has put him to a lot of work on gaining the abilities he needs to protect Hazuki but he's really only made some small progress. As good as he is doing in the eight months that they've been there he still has a long way to go before he can properly defend her. The best catalyst for just such a thing is having to deal with a real situation. With Artemis having been instructed to bring back Hazuki, she and her two minions are now slowly making their way through the mountain to find her. When Artemis isn't playing with a monkey in a hot spring at least.

A series of short confrontations kick off things as Yayoi does his best to defend his mountain against Artemis but it's all just prelude for the real confrontation that must happen. Similar to earlier episodes in the series, it's a fairly drawn out affair here but we do get to see Artemis in action a bit more and start to understand how the relationships are really being drawn. Artemis isn't exactly an interesting character yet because of her personality but she does have an amusing method of handling those she wants to deal with, such as playing ball with Kouhei. Her companions, Vargas and Jeda, prove to be somewhat annoying at times but more so with Vargas than Jeda. Jeda has the feel of a seasoned fighter who takes some caution in what he does while Vargas just barrels right into things.

While the minor background we get for now on Artemis is interesting enough to set the stage for the finale, the real meat of these episodes comes from Kouhei. His training has been fun to watch when they do show it as it's started to display why he's interesting. Though his devotion to Hazuki to me isn't quite so defined, it is to him and he shows it intently. When he falls from a rock face, he knows that he can't do there and just tries his best to survive it in a way that will let him defend her in the long run. Though short, the visuals and the narrative to it was just solid and engaging. Even more so is that we start to see what his past is really about though and why he's been so "dense" when it comes to seeing the spirit world around him. Kouhei has finally started to become something more than a simple slave to Hazuki and these segments really make me want to see more of it from here as opposed to what the first twenty or so episodes of the series was about.

In Summary:
Moon Phase continues to be a series that I want to love but often has me hating it. I love the atmosphere it provides but certain aspects just keep seeming to rankle me. This set of episodes has picked up my interest again after it gets underway by revealing something of what's really going on. There are a few nice moments in there as well that deal with the recently departed and some very good moments that help to explain Kouhei's origins. The situation he's been placed in now moves him from a milksop of a character to one with some real potential depending on how he handles himself. His world has just changed and it has the potential to really make these last episodes on the next volume click just right.

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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