Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars

Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     April 21, 2005
Release Date: May 31, 2005


Shingu: Secret of the Stellar Wars Vol. #2
© Nozomi Entertainment


What They Say
The whole school’s buzzing – it’s time for Misumaru Middle School’s annual Athletic Festival! When Kyoichi discovers that Muryou has volunteered to be the White Team’s captain, he immediately volunteers to be captain of the Red Team. Now these two fierce rivals will battle it out on the field for victory!

Races, costumes, stunts and skits... There’s so much excitement going on, it’s almost enough to make Hajime and his friends forget about the recent alien incidents! That is, until the final festival event ends with a suspicious twist. It serves as a quiet reminder that there’s more going on in Tenmo than meets the eye.

A lot more, in fact... While the students are enjoying themselves, the hidden danger around them is continuing to grow. Yamamoto, Isozaki and Jiltosh discover that several more alien scouts have managed to sneak onto the school grounds, and it soon becomes apparent that these spies are specifically looking for something...or someone. Everyone had better be ready, because when their reconnaissance is complete, a full invasion force will be headed for Tenmo’s shores!

The Review!
While the kids get to experience a relatively normal range of school events, the adults are working through quite the intergalactic diplomatic event.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is of an action/adventure type and there are plenty of areas where there is some good directionality across the forward soundstage, generally in the action sequences, as well as a well placed dialogue track that is generally center channel bound but it gets around on occasion as well. It's not a giant stand-out mix but it's one that conveys the actions in the show properly. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being a Madhouse produced show, the animation in here is really quite attractive and smooth throughout though they do go something of a minimalist approach in some of the style and design, but it works well with the kind of story being told and the visuals are generally very clean and straightforward but with enough detail to keep it interesting. The transfer in general is solid here with no problems with aliasing or cross coloration. When played with the player set for upconversion, some of the large black sequences comes across as fairly blocky but this disappears almost completely when set back down to 480p that the show was authored for. The opening and closing sequences are done with alternate angles so that one of them has the original Japanese logo and credits while the other has fully translated credits and English language production information.

Packaging:
Packaged in a clear keepcase, the front cover is awash in a couple of shades of green and goes with the standard character art shots of Setsuna, Hajime and Futaba all with big smiles. While the poses are fairly standard, it's an eye-catching cover with the shading and colors used and it looks good. The back cover keeps a similar layout and provides a few shots from the show and a lengthy set of summary paragraphs that cover the basics. The discs features are clearly listed and a well laid out technical grid keeps everything very easy to find for the technical parts. The cover is reversible though the opposite side is identical to the front cover but it uses the original Japanese logo instead (as does the spine) so you don't need to refer to it as Shingu. One area that Right Stuf is continually getting better and better at is the booklets and this one is really good. It covers a range of terms from the show and talks about the food and media of the day before going into some sketches of equipment and talking about that as well. The back of the booklet even has a couple of panels from a strip written about the show.

Menu:
The menu layout is designed the same as the front cover but it shifts Hajime out of the picture and keeps just Setsuna and Futaba there while displaying the selections along the right side, all set to some of the music of the show. The layout is simple and easy to use with no navigational quirks and features an easy way to move between episodes in the scene selection area. The menu listed our players' language presets properly but when played they went to a default of English language and sign/song only subtitles instead.

Extras:
This volume has a couple of extras but nothing too major. There's a section of character bios which I'll avoid since they may have spoilers, an art gallery and an on-disc version of much of the production notes found in the booklet.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first volume of Shingu across its five episodes, there was quite a lot of material to get through in order to establish some of the basics of this world that the story is set in. While most things are fairly similar to today, once more proving that as much as people like change they like things to stay the same, there is enough going on with the Galactic Federation part and how everything clicks together that it took some time for it all to really get properly revealed so the show can go forward.

That going forward part is what makes up most of the next five episodes but in two very different ways. For most of this volume, up until things converge again near the end of the last episode, we're essentially given two different stories to follow. One of the storylines follows the kids as they go through some of the normal events of the school year, starting off with the Athletic Festival where Muryou is the White Team cheer captain. The festival spans a bit of the storyline here and provides for some good fun as it lets the kids work together more and the new group that's come just before it gets a chance to really interact more with each other in this kind of setting. It also provides for some great comedy that gets repeated constantly in different settings later on that Nayuta feels completely shamed by but is just priceless.

Between the Athletic Festival and afterwards, the bonding of the group is what's given the main thrust of their tale here. The kids are kept away from the big galactic issues that are at play so that they can be saved for when they're really needed so a lot of what's going on they're unaware of. Circumstances tend to bring the same group back together over and over again though and for some it really causes problems. One thing in particular is that Nayuta feels like she's being picked on constantly and manipulated by others, such as when Muryou and Hajime take the suggestion from Hachi that they create a Festival Club. As both of them aren't from Tenmo, they wanted to do something that would help teach them and others about the various things done at festivals and in Tenmo in particular so that they could really help out at the November Festival Day event.

On the other side of the storyline, we get a lot of focus on the Zaiglian issue as they're continuing to send spies down to investigate what's going on in Tenmo so that they can properly plan their invasion. Their fleet's been discovered hiding behind Mars by some of Isozaki's people so the element of surprise has been removed. Watching the spies as they go about gathering information during the Athletic Festival is amusing since they all do the trenchcoat gig with the hat and sunglasses to help cover up their alien-ness but still be completely obvious who they are. The Festival is fun for other reasons as well since so many of the ambassadors and others tangentially related to the Galactic Federation issue are there and all sorts of little tidbits get revealed as they all talk to each other in various groups. Even Hajime finds himself being questioned after his experience in the previous volume where the truth was revealed to him.

What turns to be the most interesting twist to the show, both in plot and in simple humor, is that when the spies are confronted, the drone ones are destroyed but the living one requests asylum as he's confused between the reality he sees and the stories he's been raised with on his homeworld. As we've learned before about the tragic history of his world and how it has split and caused its past to be rewritten to remove information about their being a part of the Federation, the things he's learned since coming to Earth has him questioning everything. So he ends up living with Jiltosh, one of the most amusing ambassadors I've seen in anime in some time, and ends up wearing the Hawaiian style clothing and learning about what's really going on as they share information. The entire Zaiglian storyline is dealt with nicely throughout these episodes as we get to see more of how diplomacy and tact works in this kind of environment.

There's a lot to like in this volume and even though the kids storyline is something of a drop compared to the first volume, it's a necessary piece of the tale as we have to get more familiar with the cast in a relaxed setting where they're learning to get along with each other as well. It's really well balanced against the larger storyline of those who want to invade the planet for their own gain as well as those that may be manipulating them into doing it. In some ways the story is reminding me of the old Surveillance and Jack the Bodiless novels from years ago by Julian May and that's keeping me really intrigued. Another thing that really managed to make an impression with this volume is the gorgeous background artwork. With the bulk of these episodes taking place during the rainy season, the backgrounds just struck me as particularly well done here with all the rain in how they truly evoked a great atmosphere to help accentuate the characters situations.

In Summary:
Shingu continues to be a show that's layering its plot very strategically and getting things into place. There's a lot of information that had to be conveyed in the first volume and this one lets it all sink in while moving things forward even more. They even manage to set things so that there's a great cliffhanger right at the end that makes you want more right away. The production values are still just as good as the first volume and it only seems to get better with how it looks I think. This series hits a few things that doesn't come up in too many shows and some of the ideas it plays with are favorites of old science fiction novels so it appeals quite a bit. Fill it up with some interesting and colorful characters and some fascinating action sequences and this really looks to be one of those hidden gems.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles, Character Bios, Line Art Gallery, Special 12-page Booklet, Original Production Notes, English Production Notes

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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