Ragnarok Vol. #3 - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: C+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 200
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ragnarok

Ragnarok Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     April 25, 2008
Release Date: March 25, 2008

Ragnarok Vol. #3
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
Every journey must come to an end, and the same is certainly true for Roan and his mighty band of adventurers. A few brief points of light still linger along their path, from long lost friends to brigand impersonators, but these are to be short-lived and lost forever in the past. The sea of darkness has grown into a tidal wave as the Dark Lord's power reaches its zenith.

There remains only one last hope between all that is good and evil: the magic, might and mystery of true heroes! But that last hope is fast fading as the travelers find themselves splintered and flung far across the realms. Is the fate of all involved already sealed? As every epic ends, every man must find his true meaning...

Contains episodes 19-26:
We'll Always be Together
It's Okay
I Need You
Who's the Lonely One?
Good Bye
Place of Reckoning
One Who Realizes His Mistake
For the Sake of Our Future

The Review!
Death and destruction are the main pieces of the series as the Dark Lord is ready to rise and rumble in the world.

The bilingual presentation for this release is a bit of a surprise as both tracks are done in stereo encoded at 224 kbps. There's a touch of extra impact in some of the action scenes that lets the mix stand out a bit more in general, but when it comes to dialogue and other ambient sounds it's a fairly standard full center mix. The music has some occasional good moments where it feels wide and there are a few moments of dialogue placement that fits, but for the most part it's a standard weekly action show when it comes to how it's mixed. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in Japan in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this looks to be in good shape and the episode spread, five on the first disc and four on the second, isn't unusual in the slightest. The bitrates for the series doesn't have any regular rate but there are numerous scenes where it sits in the sevens and peaks into the eights. The opening and closings tend to be the lowest due to the alternate angles but that isn't where the show hits the most snags. The series seems to fall victim to practices that Gonzo uses on its lower tier shows in that it features a horrendous amount of banding and that translates poorly here. When it's at its strongest, it macroblocks severely since it's all tied to motion. It's more noticeable when you're watching eight episodes in a row perhaps. Noise is fairly mild throughout, though you can see some motion in some of the dark blue backgrounds, and overall it looks decent throughout but the banding and gradient issues are just heavily distracting when they hit. Some problems just don't stand out much but these aren't like that.

The final volume of the series does have one truly horrible moment when it comes to the video however and it needs to be addressed separately. The last episode has the end credits playing over part of the story instead of using the same ending animation it has for the previous twenty five episodes. Apparently no clean version of this exists so we get the Japanese text over it and it plays out in its normal aspect ratio. Providing you're watching it in Japanese and using that particular angle. If you were watching it in English however, the screen is shrunk down to a far too small size so that a sideways scroll of the translated end credits plays out. This is what you expect from broadcast networks like TBS and the like when they try to cram multiple episodes of a show together without losing the audience. It is not what you expect from FUNimation. If no clean version was available, the end credits should have followed as a black screen scrawl after the end of the show and not this. Ragnarok has been a pretty solid show in general with what they've done but this was very surprising.

This double disc set is in a standard black keepcase which has a hinge inside for the first disc while the second one is attached to the back interior of the case. The artwork for this is solid all around as it features Roan and Yuufa heavily with some striking looking designs, plenty of detail and a certain kind of vibrancy to the colors that brings it to life. It's dark overall as you have the Dark Lord rising in the background but it's a very appealing cover. The series logo is a touch small but familiar and they do make good note that this is a double disc set instead of just hiding it like some others do. The back cover is fairly traditional with a large character shot of Takius and Keogh along one side while the rest of the background is made up of small shots from the show itself. The summary is simple but covers the basics and there is a breakdown of the episode numbers and titles to highlight just how much content there is here. The bottom portion is the standard data crunch with a lot of production information on top of a squished technical grid. No real insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu designs for the series are pretty straightforward and unsurprisingly simple considering the value of the release. The main menus are designed around a piece of character artwork and a fantasy oriented background that gives everything a nice feel and in a way seems more distinct than some of the scenes in the show itself. No motion to speak of but there is some good if brief instrumental music that sets the mood nicely. The navigation is simple as there are no extras and only the second volume features any trailers. Access times are nice and fast and we kept to the menu selections for our audio/subtitle options due to the opening and closing angle issue. It also doesn't help that the subtitle track for full subtitles continues to be listed as Japanese.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While Ragnarok was not a series that I dreaded seeing upon hearing of its license, it wasn't one that exactly came across as something I was going to be heavily drawn to. I enjoy the hardcore fantasy concept as done by Record of Lodoss War all those years ago but the genre has been so underutilized since then that most attempts at it are just poor. Even worse for this is that it was based off of a MMORPG, though at least there is some good crossover fandom. Ragnarok didn't exactly capture my imagination throughout its run but it proved to be more fun that I thought it would be.

The last eight episodes of the series are fairly traditional in what it's trying to get done here, especially after the first eighteen episodes where the main cast has come together, learned about each other and then been thrust against each other. While the split up hasn't been horrendous, the closeness that developed among them for awhile has certainly fallen away and left the group feeling a bit colder. Takius has gone off on her own for a bit after some of what she's learned while Roan and Yuufa seem to have been all over the map with how their relationship has been. Interestingly enough, Iruga and Judia have gotten closer but she's almost clingy with him in a way since she knows that he has to fight Keogh and that he can't really win and it will lead to his death. So she's more intent on protecting him until that time and savoring what she has with him.

Most of the characters have their episodes and arcs where they confront their inner demons and deal with what's there before they can truly achieve a conclusion. Maaya's is decent enough though it does deal in maids, something that just bothers me since I don't want that element in my fantasy shows. Jartis has been manipulating events nicely and utilizes a new friend that Maaya makes in Alice but turning her all Monster-y without Maaya realizing it. It goes all bad on Maaya but it really turns more into an issue between her and Jartis that plays out well. The half breed aspect of the character does offer some potential - not that it's properly used here - but it plays out well against the wise innocence that Maaya tends to have.

When Takius finally returns to the story after wandering off for awhile to confront her own issues regarding becoming a Sage, more details on her background enter the story. Her relationship with her sensei, Zephyrus, becomes key to the storyline as his work with raising the Dark Lord has him confronting her at long last and pointing out that she is very much a pawn like so many other people. This actually has a nice twist as the story progresses and it works well in giving Takius some varied motivations in how to deal with him. In the end though, it felt rather weak when it came to how their relationship was resolved since the fates kept Takius from taking an active role in it. The best she can say is that she held her own against him and stayed true to what she believed in.

The core set of characters is where the most fun is with the series as it draws to a conclusion, first in Comodo and that at Glast Heim. Iruga's need to deal with Keogh goes back to when the group of four first went towards Glast Heim - against Iruga's wishes to bring Roan and Yuufa with them - as that was when everything went badly for Keogh. The bond that was formed among them, which has been covered in the past, becomes central again towards the end. It's particularly difficult for all of them for different reasons. Iruga wants to save his best friend but knows that one of them won't survive the confrontation. Keogh wants to bring Yuufa over to his side and she simply wants to save her brother and can't get past the fact that she still trusts him more than anyone else in her life. And poor Roan has been all over the map in realizing what he really wants that when Yuufa is finally taken away from him he nearly breaks down from the impact of it. Watching this foursome go through their final confrontations - physical and emotional - at long last is one of the better parts of the show.

What surprised me with this series, less so as it progressed, was just how dark and cruel it got at times. It started off like one would expect of any mainstream show from this particular genre as it seemed to want to hit a wide audience which includes kids. The opening episodes seemed fairly kid friendly as well. Then the dark stuff started to hit, it got more violent and bloody (yet cartoony) and it put the characters into a mild blender along the way. These last episodes ratchet things up a bit by actually killing off characters, both from the main cast and the supporting cast, which is somewhat rare in a lot of series these days unfortunately. This does give it a bit more oomph as the Dark Lord begins to draw everyone into his plan.

In Summary:
Ragnarok wasn't a show that was going to win me over for the most part but it did a pretty good job in defying my expectations of it, especially after the first couple of episodes. This last double disc set of eight episodes carries through on the dark side of it with plenty of death and destruction and a series of personal events and confrontations for the main characters to face. While it is all fairly predictable, it plays out very well in marathon form and left me pretty well satisfied by it. The only negative to it was the way that the end of the last episode went depending on which language/angle you were watching as the English version totally takes you out of the show. Ragnarok is ideal for the format the FUNimation chose to release it in and it made it much easier to get into and more fun overall.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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