Orphen Vol. #6 - Mania.com



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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: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Orphen

Orphen Vol. #6

By Chris Beveridge     June 23, 2002
Release Date: July 30, 2002


Orphen Vol. #6
© ADV Films


What They Say
As the trolls Volcan and Dortin take healing herbs to the ailing dragon, Orphen and his friends enter the Room of Knowledge to translate the mysterious runes.

If they can do this, they can locate the last talisman that will save the dragon. But the devious sorcerer Flameheart and the mysterious Azalie will stop at nothing to destroy Orphen. And Cleao finds she accidentally holds the key to saving Orphen and rescuing the dragon!

The Review!
The final five episodes of the first Orphen TV series bring things to a solid and conclusive ending, one that takes half of the last episode to follow the characters in a good epilogue, rather than just ending abruptly after the big final battle.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. This continues to be a straightforward stereo mix where 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.

Video:
The transfer here is essentially the same as the previous volume, with a pretty solid looking image for the most part. There’s a number of soft sequences much like earlier episodes where it’s done for dramatic effect. Colors continue to be of the same palette, mostly real-world styled with no noticeable bleeding or over saturation. Only on some close-ups do you notice some color banding, partially due to the grain.

Packaging:
While not as cartoony as the previous volume, this one lacks much of the cool feeling of the first couple of releases. This volume is pretty much a cast call for the primary characters. 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. The insert provides another shot of the cover while the reverse side lists the extras and the discs chapter marks.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
A nice selection of extras caps off this series, starting with a 90 second video gallery of production artwork from the show. The opening and ending is presented in a clean format here as well, with my favorite being the ending still. Also included is an eleven minute Japanese produced “staff and production thanks” for the fans of the series who supported it, showing various aspects of production and having staffers talk about it. A fair amount of animation is mingled in as well as a segment of most memorable battle scenes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This disc just flew by, with the show flowing so well that the episodes just moved almost seamlessly. It wasn’t until the final episode, when they took the second half as an epilogue, that it actually felt like things were winding down for a minute.

The first part of these episodes brings Orphen and company back into contact with Stephanie. She’s spent her time away from the group doing a lot of research, and as the group is now trying to enter the Heavenly Being’s imposing library, she’s a real asset to them. She’s uncovered documents that lets them figure out the riddle in front of them. Once inside though, it’s like a whole other riddle.

The library is vast, spanning several levels high, but no books. Instead, the knowledge contained within is sealed inside of long crimson jewel shards. When held up against a wall, the light and liquid inside reveals what each shard is about. So they begin their effort to check out what appears to be thousands of shards, looking for the one that will help them understand the sword of Baltanders better and use it to free Azalie.

The time spent doing the research also is spent in getting the characters developed a bit more. Majic gets some training along the way about what powers to use when, but he’s also getting more praise, particularly from Stephanie, as he works hard to unlock the secrets of this vast chamber. Orphen and Cleao continue to push against each other though, as Orphen’s single-mindedness about freeing Azalie is taking control of him completely.

A good number of things are going on in the Tower of Fangs as well. Azalie as Childman continues to absorb knowledge as fast as she can, using his body to augment her own abilities. She takes things a step further by destroying each book or artifact afterwards, which eventually causes some of the others to really start paying attention to her. It’s Hartia in the end though that realizes something isn’t quite right with Childman. And with at least one other Elder plotting against him using her own son as a pawn in her game of power, there’s plenty to contend with.

Things do come to a head of course, when Orphen ends up being told that Childman is Azalie and Bloody August is actually Childman. A number of memories come to the foreground that bring things even in more perspective about the relationship between the three, which segues right into predictable but well done open battle and changes of heart most people end up going through. With Bloody August arriving outside of the Tower of Fangs, the final confrontation is one that’s going to be quite remembered.

And while it is drawn out over a couple of episodes, it’s very well done. The revelations made to most people involved are played out well. Each had believed their own mindset about who felt what about who and who had hurt who and so forth that when the real truths are revealed, each character behaves as you’d really expect them to, having seen their memories back to childhood on it. The series even manages to do one of the more perfect things by closing on how it opened, back in the lack outside of Cleao’s house. The memories of the moonlit night over the ruins in the lake are brought forward again, and we realize just how well this tale went full circle.

While this series had its ups and downs, with only a few really mid range filler episodes, it’s one I’m definitely going to have fond memories of. With some great looking character designs and a fun playful style of magic combined with plenty of angst, it plays out the expected storyline but does it well, with some style. Now all we need is the follow-up series to get into production and released, as waiting several years for that will be highly annoying.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Japanese staff interviews,Production sketches,Clean open and close

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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