Neo Ranga Vol. #5 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 120
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Neo Ranga

Neo Ranga Vol. #5

By Chris Beveridge     October 12, 2003
Release Date: October 14, 2003


Neo Ranga Vol. #5
© ADV Films


What They Say
They say justice never sleeps, and in this gripping chapter of the Neo Ranga saga, the Shimabara sisters certainly have enough keeping them up at night. Caught between cruel conspirators and obtuse officials, hammered by the violent tides of public opinion, the girls give in to more personal ghosts that tear at the conscience's core.

The rift in Yuuhi's heart threatens to spread to her family during Christmas, a holiday for which she bears a deep hatred. Ushio triggers bitter memories from Haseoka's troubled past, which he must confront to save her future. But nothing thus far has prepared the sisters for the biggest shock of all-the mystifying return of their long-lost brother, Masaru. Is it really him...or something taking advantage of their greatest weakness?



The Review!
While about half of this volume feels vaguely fillerish, there return of a character to the Shimabara family signals the big changes are about the start.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The show has a pretty decent stereo mix for both language tracks, though the majority of dialogue is center channel based. The action sequences provide a number of good moments of forward soundstage directionality while the music does a solid job of filling an overall field.

Video:
Originally airing back in 1999, Neo Ranga’s transfer is reminiscent of a more traditionally animated show. The color palette used for the majority of it is very muted and earthy, giving it a darker and slightly dirtier feel. The area where this makes things look not so hot is in some of the water scenes or dark night sequences where the dark blues look very grainy and shifty. Colors otherwise look good, though there are some moments where you can see some blockiness in Ranga’s brown face when they have him move up and down. Cross coloration is non-existent and aliasing is very minimal, so overall the transfer is pretty good looking.

Packaging:
Continuing with the same look as the past volumes in clear keepcases, all three sisters appear on the front cover this time with the retail-friendly black and read skinsuit. While I think it looks good, it does provide some chuckles when you compare against the original and notice that they “trimmed” down her nipples too. Fans of the original ‘skin’ version get a great reversible cover here with the great image of them together. The back cover of the modified version has more of the squirlies and provides a brief summary of things and a listing of the discs features and extras while the reverse side of the back cover provides a rather peaceful image of Ranga in the bay against a sunset. While there is no traditional insert included with this release, a foldout map of Tokyo shows various areas where Ranga has been with a summary list explaining what’s really there and what isn’t. This is a really neat extra and adds some flavor to the release.

Menu:
It’s not that often that a menu is as darkly black as this one, but it again fits the Ranga character perfectly with its deep black background offset by some of the red squirlies keeping menu selections to the left side. Like Kurumi, you can jump to any of the eight episodes right from the top while the remaining selections provide quick and easy access to the extras and setup. Access times are nice and fast as well as being free of transitional animations.

Extras:
The extras continue on the same as previous releases, which is a good thing. The translator’s notes provide a lot of interesting and useful information for the eight episodes here. There’s a new section of production sketches and the remainder of the extras are things we’ve seen previously, such as the clean opening and ending sequences and the shows trailer.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Neoranga continues to move along but part of the show feels like it’s losing steam at this point as we’ve meandered a bit here and there now, especially with the first half of this volume. Even though we’re getting roughly the same style of episodes as a regular length show, when you get four mini episodes in a row that feel like filler, it doesn’t feel like two; it feels like four.

Though most of the issues surrounding the Barou in Japan seem to have settled down and they’re no longer apparently watched 24/7, at least from the view we get here, the Shimabara family finds itself being invited down to Osaka by the prefectural governor for a visit. Since it takes a lot of effort to get passports and go out into the larger world, they’re rather excited about the invite since it’ll help smooth the way to doing so. Bringing along some friends who are as equally stuck as they are, and it becomes something akin to a field trip.

For the people in Osaka, things go from potentially good to really bad when one of the Kyoshin creatures ends up causing trouble some distance away. With the ASE brought in to try and deal with the blob like creature that lives via photosynthesis, they use liquid nitrogen to try and contain it. But proving you can’t keep a good blob down, it burrows underground and heads for Osaka where it can really stretch out and get the sunlight. With the news that some of the Shimabara’s are coming, the fear of a Godzilla vs. Big Monster even happening propels many people to leave town and everyone else to put on a happy face. Suffice to say, Ushio is not told about the critter.

There are a few character episodes scattered about that try to provide more background and flesh them out some. One event in particular centers around a woman who is on the run and ends up in Haseoka’s place. She’s been accused of killing a father and daughter and then hiding out from the authorities. Ushio and Yuuhi end up getting involved since she’s trying to find asylum in Barou and claims she had nothing to do with the murder. Bits and pieces of the truth come out, but what plays out really well is when the woman takes Yuuhi hostage with a gun and forces Ushio into a position where she may have to commit the violence herself to save her sister.

With only one volume left, the final set of episodes on this volume starts bringing the bigger picture into play for the upcoming finale. After the even with Ushio facing down real violence, she talks about it afterwards about how people are not put on this planet to kill, yet people kill people every day. This goes deep into Ranga’s core as he tries to deal with what it means. After taking off and circling overhead for a few days straight, he eventually crashes into the Shimabara property. With his eyes now merged into one larger one, it splits to reveal something held within that is slid out on tentacles:

A human male.

To Minami’s immense surprise, it turns out to be their older brother Masaru. His arrival is a sign of great chaos about to start according to Joel, but the sisters all deal with his return differently. Minami tries to recreate familiar things, such as wearing her school uniform again while Ushio moves his body to spell out her name. Yuuhi barely remembers him at this point and does her best to try and feel connected to him. But there’s an undercurrent about whether he’s really Masaru or not that keeps the entire series of events from becoming too happy, plus the fact he’s sleeping constantly since he was removed from within Ranga.

If we hadn’t had the forward motion again with Masaru’s arrival, I’d be wondering just what happened to this series. At one point it seemed fairly focused and going along a good path, but then things seemed to go all over the place very quickly and then downhill. Masaru’s return and bringing the family all back together again, tightening up that bond a bit, has definitely helped and gives some promise to answers forthcoming in the last installment. This may just be something again where it flows better watching it weekly and it loses something when you watch eight in a row.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art gallery,Translator notes,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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