Orphen Vol. #4 - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Orphen

Orphen Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     February 26, 2002
Release Date: March 26, 2002

Orphen Vol. #4
© ADV Films

What They Say
A murderous doll traps Orphen in the City of Canals, forcing the young sorcerer and his friends to fight for their lives against an enemy who definitely isn't playing around.

Then, when the conniving Volcan falls ill, Orphen must put aside his mistrust and find magical herbs to rescue him. But once Orphen returns, he finds his friends are disappearing one by one. Is the kidnapper the mysterious Black Tiger? Or is it something far more sinister?

Finally, the Tower of Fang issues an order calling for the destruction of the dragon Azalie, giving Orphen and his friends no choice but to risk capture and return to the College of Magic to search its vast library for the Book of Shadows!

The Review!
The fourth installment of Orphen bumps up the episode count from three to five and gets the story moving more directly into the larger arc.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. There's little to write home about with the audio tracks here, as it's pretty much a typical TV series. So that means the majority of dialogue is through the center channel with only a few scant moments where there's some faked directionality across the soundstage. Dialogue is nice and clear though and there weren't any noticeable dropouts or other distortions.

With the bump up from three to five episodes, Orphen moves to a dual layered disc and has some room to breathe. Things in general look about much as they did in the first half of the series release with decent if murky colors on purpose and hardly any cross coloration. Some of the night sky blues and some of the black backgrounds do look a bit shaky with some slight macroblocking noticeable in some scenes. There's still a layer of persistent grain to the show but it fades in and out of being noticeable to me. The show continues to have a fairly murky and almost dirty feel to it with mostly drab colors. The few really good action sequences here show off some very nice animation however.

The front cover gives a nice dark foreboding image with Black Tiger in his mysterious outfit riding his beast under the moonlight. This will at least seem impressive until you meet the character. The back cover provides a few pieces of animation and a look at one of the menus along with the discs features. There's a good summary of the episodes inside as well as the episode titles, but no numbers. With there being no volume numbering on the disc, it again makes it near impossible to figure out what order to watch these discs in. The insert provides another shot of the cover art while the reverse side lists the chapters for each of the episodes.

The menu system is set up much like the earlier releases with a small portion of animation playing as the menu builds and then the menu is free to manipulate. It's not a terribly long load, but once that's done the access times between the menus is pretty solid. The menus are laid out nicely with episodes selectable from the main menu and everything else easy to get to. The design style is very much in the style of the show itself with the runes as the cursor and overall it looks quite good.

There's a nice selection of extras here, particularly if you're an op/ed fan and of the music of the series. We get the US teaser that uses the opening song as well as the more Hollywood style longer trailer that talks about the show and uses the dub for the voice overs. There's also about a minute and a half of a video conceptual artwork gallery that has some really nice pieces of Azelie in there. There's also the inclusion of another clean opening and ending, but not the new one we get on the last episode of this disc unfortunately.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The show opens up with the events from the last volume very prominent, which means we've got Orphen facing down the killer doll that seems pretty damn powerful. With it creating runes across its body and adapting to all the magic that Orphen throws at it, it's an impressive piece of work and finally gives us an extended chance to view the way magical battles work in this world. There's a good amount of story involved with this creature and its eventual defeat, but that's all a given.

There's a bit of fillerish material mixed into things here since we're also now moving into the halfway mark of the series. There's an amusing piece with a haunted house of sorts that was reminicent of Those Who Hunt Elves but with giant spiders instead of small naked elves. The story works well for me in that it keeps Volcan unconscious for a lot of it and I don't have to listen to his voice. But even during a fillerish episode like this, we have someone from the Tower of Fangs arriving and providing a surprising amount of help.

Thankfully though things move back towards the main arc of Orphen finding a cure for Azalie. With the group now effectively working together, Orphen decides to head to the Tower of Fangs and to use their own library to try and discover a cure or some kind of lead. Their ability to get into the Tower is something they aren't sure of though since it's one of the most guarded places in the world. Their arrival there though proves things may be easier than they suspected as it appears Azalie has been by recently and has caused the first actual amount of destruction ever visited upon the Tower by crushing one of the exterior walls. This lets the group get in and begin to investigate the myriad number of books available there.

There's some interesting things revealed throughout the time spent here as we see some power plays going on with those who control the Tower. While Childman continues to claim he will deal with Azalie, and intends to even more so after what has happened, one of the others in power has brought someone into play she thinks can be more effective at it. And going by the glances and nods, also become more of a powerful player than Childman, but still be a puppet of the one bringing him in. Unfortunately, this new sorcerer is named Flameheart and just looks evil. I'd have prefered something just a bit more subtle.

One of the more amusing moments that surprised me was watching Volcan inside the Tower. Since he had been previously wanting to sell the sword of Baltanders to the sorcerers there, I found it very amusing and very in character for him to search the place while the others looked for a cure and then tries to steal gems from them. I generally don't like the character, but at least he's consistent.

There's a lot of subtle build up and good stuff going on here, but it feels a bit thin across the five episodes mostly because there's some filler mixed into things as opposed to full outright filler episodes. The episode increase is definitely welcome, especially since it lets me see the new opening sequence on the last episode here, which just looks and sounds fantastic.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches,Textless opening and ending credits,Original U.S. teaser and trailer

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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