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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 50
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Munto

Munto

By Chris Beveridge     November 04, 2004
Release Date: November 09, 2004


Munto
© Central Park Media


What They Say
Second sight is a curse for Yumemi, a psychic schoolgirl who just wants to be normal. But she's about to discover the true value of her gift, when Magical King Munto arrives in her world, with enemies in hot pursuit! Munto's realm is linked to ours by magic, but that power is fading, and his world is on the brink of death. Yumemi is the only Earthling with the power to save his people if she can only find the courage to use it!

The Review!
A relatively self-contained storyline, Munto deals with the end of one world and the need to gain power from another in order to save it.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this release in its original language of Japanese. The show provides a pretty good sounding forward soundstage mix with some distinct directionality across it, typically in some of the bigger action sequences or some of the sound effects such as when Munto becomes visible to Yumemi. I didn't notice all that much in the way of strong directionality when it comes to dialogue but all of it was clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with distortions or dropouts during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released to video in 2003, this OVA is presented here in its original full frame aspect ratio. With this being a show that feels like it's being done outside the normal system, it has a slightly different feel to the transfer but it comes across very strongly here with great looking colors and a very clean print. There's some visible cross coloration going on along the edges but with suppression in both our DVD player and TV, cross coloration isn't something that affects us as heavily as it used to. There's a touch of some color gradation issues in a few scenes but the bulk of the solid colors look just that and are problem free. Aliasing is minimal and overall this is a very sweet looking transfer.

Packaging:
The cover art for this release is just very appealing. The mixture of the character designs and the background with its blues and greens is very striking as is the bright white nature of the girls' outfits. Add in their smiles, the flowers and the clouds and it all seems to work together very well. I think a lot of the appeal comes just from the simple yet happy nature of the artwork here, it seems to really just reach out to you. The back cover is a fair bit simpler with Munto and Yumemi together in very basic outlines while a more detailed image of Yumemi is in the background just in blue underneath the summary of the shows premise. The discs features are clear and easy to figure out though as usual I dislike how they seemingly hide the runtime in such small print. The reverse side of the cover has a black and white image of one of the bad guys on the left panel while the right panel lists the bilingual cast list and chapter stops as well as the mixed production credits.

Menu:
After a bit of pre-load animation, the menu settles into a good looking animated piece that has a large view of the upper world in the distance that serves as a split. Along the top half there are clips playing from the show while the lower half or so has the shows selections along one side while the other rotates in characters from the show while a nice bit of relaxing instrumental music plays along. This is a good looking menu with easy navigation and fast accessing submenus. The disc didn't read our language presets too well as there are two English subtitle tracks and it picked up the sign/song track first instead of the real full English subtitles.

Extras:
This release has a good helping of the basic extras included with it. There's both the Japanese and US trailer for the show as well as the inclusion of the Japanese TV Warning piece which is cute (unsubtitled, but you know the gist of it if you watch any TV anime releases on DVD). In addition to that there are three galleries, a standard art gallery, one just for some of the lush backgrounds and one of the character sketches.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Munto's an interesting show and while it plays up a number of the basic clichés it also feels like it's trying to bring something new to the table. Produced by Kyoto Animation in what feels like a show coming from outside of the normal anime studio production format, Munto is a fifty minute storyline that is pretty self-contained but has plenty of material that could be done both before and after this episode. As of this writing, I believe a second episode is currently being planned and worked on in Japan.

Munto throws us right into the story without much background. We see a realm of floating islands in the sky where some strange but military like people are attacking these massive pillars around the largest of the islands we can see. With their strike, the pillar breaks and it falls down through the island and into the blue below, where we eventually see it landing on Earth itself, though it goes unnoticed by those around it but it does seem to affect the weather. As we learn up above on the island, the place is called the Magical Kingdom and it's being attacked for its overuse of the source of all magic, Akuto. Once all seven pillars are destroyed, the island will fall to the realm below and eventually dissolve as there is no Akuto down there to sustain it.

As the pillars are slowly destroyed, we're introduced to an interesting pair of men. One is an Arabic dressed man named Gus who has sigils all across his arms and body when he utilizes the Akuto and has sworn himself to protect the Magical Kingdom and fights alone against them now. There is something inherently cool about this character and his design which is only accentuated by the way he doesn't have much to say but just acts. Next to him there is Lord Munto, the king of the Magical Kingdom. While Gus is set on protecting the Kingdom in his own way, Munto has decided to use the revelation he got just recently from a priestess of sorts that he has a menta image of the Girl of Destiny, a young woman on Earth who can cross the space/time barrier that separates the two worlds and restore the balance of Akuto to his world. And so he descends down to a certain death as there is no Akuto to be found to sustain him there.

On Earth, we're introduced to a trio of friends, Yumemi, Ichiko and Suzume. The real focus is on Yumemi and she's supported by her friends. Ever since she was five, at various times she's been able to look up into the sky and see the islands floating up there, something nobody else could see. She got plenty of grief over it for some time until she simply stopped talking about it, but both Ichiko and Suzume know and believe her in all of this, though it doesn't really impact their lives at all which makes it easier. But all of that changes when Munto makes his way down to the same level and the vision of him starts to crash through onto her reality. Munto can't make it across the time space barrier but his image and his words do and he tries to convince Yumemi that she isn't mad or imaging any of this and that he needs her power to save his world.

Along with all of this, there's an interesting allegory tale of sorts that deals with Yumemi's friend Suzume who is the only one of the three to apparently have a boyfriend. When Suzume tells them that they're getting married, it panics them a bit and they try to find out as much as they can about this rough and tumble hoodlum that she's taken an interest in. It's a slightly odd story for most of it until you get towards the real meaning of it and get to know what the two of them are really trying to do and then you can see how it blends into the larger storyline here at the same time.

As I said at first, Munto is a tale that feels clichéd but then feels fresh and original at the same time. There's a lot of material that could certainly expand this world, the real stories of what's going on as opposed to just that final epic moment which is what it really is, but at that time I think we'd end up with a very overdone series, something filled with lots of what we've seen before. By having it basically as a two-episode length OVA here, it manages to avoid a lot of that and just focus on the big epic parts while still trying to bring in some of the key character goodness to it. They pull it off for the most part because it is an engaging OVA, even with the odd relationship of Suzume and Kazuya that gets pulled into it early on.

One of the appeals of this show was definitely in its visuals. The character designs have this really slimmed down and basic look to them with little line work. It's almost like, if it wasn't necessary then don't add it. But they don't come off looking cartoonish but rather just sleek and powerful when it comes to the male characters or incredibly soft with the female characters, especially due to their school dresses. Yumemi and Ishiko come across really well here in how they look, especially their facial designs and expressiveness. Munto is probably the weakest with his look, especially the red hair and tight red pants, but at the same time there's an interesting element about him with the cloak that almost looks like bat wings when they float. But for me it all comes down to just how neat Gus looks and the way his magical abilities were presented when used. It's a good use of cg mixed into the anime.

But there's some bad cg in there as well. Almost any time you have a moving car you want to cringe since they look like moving boxes that you'd imagine would be done more realistically on South Park. That was the one area that looked like it was still being done as it was in the late 90's as opposed to some of the very smooth moving pieces that are more common today. A lot of the other cg in here looks really good, again the magic is a key point of it and the way it was used to work over the sigils in Gus' body. I just can't help but to pick on the cars.

In Summary:
While more Munto will eventually be made, this OVA most definitely stands on its own. This is the kind of show where if I was twenty years younger it'd be a great launching point for creating a pen and paper RPG world to work off of and to create some new stories there. Some points of this are pretty clichéd but there's just something really interesting in here that it manages to hook you and keep you drawn to it, through both the slow moments of Yumemi trying to understand what's going on and through the fast high-action moments. This is an interesting show and one I hope to see more of but find myself pretty satisfied with what I have seen of it.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Background Gallery,Character Gallery,Japanese Trailer,Japanese TV Warning

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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