Orphen Vol. #5 - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: C+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Orphen

Orphen Vol. #5

By Chris Beveridge     May 09, 2002
Release Date: May 28, 2002

Orphen Vol. #5
© ADV Films

What They Say
When she arrives at the mysterious Summit of Moonlight, the dragon Azalie devises a sinister plan. And when the devious magician Flameheart makes his move, the young sorcerer Orphen's teacher finds himself the unwitting victim of them both!

Orphen's last hope to change Azalie back into a human is to find the legendary magician Rox Roe-the only one who knows the spell to transform her. But Azalie has a few spells of her own up her sleeve, so she decides to stop Orphen any way she can. But with the sword-wielding Black Tiger, exploding volcanoes, and giant insects in their path, Azalie may be the last thing Orphen and his friends need to worry about!

The Review!
The penultimate volume of the first Orphen series moves along pretty fast with lots of new information coming to light and some rather surprising moves by the characters. And thankfully, the recap episode is more balanced with new material that makes it much easier to digest. Even the filler is fairly minimal.

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.

This volume also features five episodes like the previous one, and the added benefit of the dual layer space makes itself noticeable again. It’s not a huge jump in quality, as the feature itself isn’t a sparkling clean one to begin with, but backgrounds look much more stable and the darks look better as well. There were only a few slight instances of cross coloration throughout and aliasing was extremely minimal overall. If you like what you saw in volume four, expect more of it here.

This cover doesn’t hold up well against the past ones and almost looks overly cartoony compared to the darker releases. The way it’s laid out just feels cramped with its attempt at depth by having Orphen’s hand come forward so much. The back cover looks much better and keeps the dark feel of the show by providing some nice mixed images in the background and some animation shots below. The discs features and story summary are included as well. The episode titles are listed but no numbers and no volume number, making it awkward for your casual buyer to figure out what it is. I pity the person who picks up volume 5 of any series as the first one. The insert provides another shot of the cover while the reverse side lists the extras and the discs chapter marks.

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.

The new extras here include the TV commercial prior to the series premier, which is thankfully soft subtitled. This includes the shows airtime, which I was surprised to see was Saturday at 5 PM. There’s a new batch of production gallery images and the inclusion of the new opening and ending as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When you move into the late teen episodes of a 24-26 episode series, you tend to have a shift into the less than spectacular episodes due to the budget being pushed towards the big conclusion. Often this means farming out both the story and the animation elsewhere. Thankfully, it looks like this wasn’t done here as the story keeps rolling along through all five episodes, and the one filler-ish episode only just drags out one particular goal, but still advances the story.

There’s three main plots going on here, but we’ll cover two of them as the third one is the second half of the disc, and that has more than enough light hearted fun to it. The main arc that we’re following with Orphen himself is his quest to reach Row, the elder sorcerer who left the Tower of Fangs years ago and isolated himself with his studies in a remote valley. The majority of the opening arc, over the couple of episodes until he reaches Row, is your basic travelogue. Orphen shows off one really nice area where there’s a moondial and some magic involved that can cause magicians over the world to temporarily lose their powers. You almost imagine that they’ll use this as something in the finale, but surprisingly it works against the other arc that’s running.

The other arc deals heavily with Childman and the movements being made in the Tower of Fangs. The push is still hard on him to deal with both Orphen and Bloody August. To make Childman’s choices even more difficult, Hartia keeps confronting him about telling Orphen the truth about why Orphen can’t help Azalie. The reasoning behind it, which we do get told about, is simply a matter of Orphen not having the power level to facilitate her return to her previous form. Childman apparently is one of if not the only one who can do this, and it’s something he desperately wants to do.

We learn a lot more about the past of Childman, Azalie and Orphen through a series of flashbacks that include Row. These provide more motivations for what the characters are doing in the present as well as helping flesh them out overall. Azalie and Childman in particular are in need of being fleshed out, and having some fun with how Childman and Orphen played around during the training days is definitely something that makes the character more interesting in the present and his relationship with Orphen. It also makes some of the choices he makes as his arc comes to a conclusion in this disc make more sense to the viewer.

There’s a lot of fun stuff going on amid all the somber material as well, something Orphen manages to do decently but often overdoes. Volcan and Dortan still annoy me to no end with their antics, particularly Volcan. Someone who does make out better in this series of episodes is the Black Tiger, aka Hartia, in his dark assassin of the night mode. He manages to make his comic turn with his disguise well, but also manages to make a dramatic move when required.

This disc went by really fast as we wanted to get to the next episode quickly and skipped over the openings, endings and previews. It’s not often we can get through five episodes in one sitting, but the storyline here kept us wanting more and more. The final volume can’t get here fast enough.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Original Japanese commercial,Production sketches,Textless Opening/Ending

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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jnager 3/13/2012 10:20:30 PM

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