Speed Grapher Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Speedgrapher

Speed Grapher Vol. #1

By Bryan Morton     April 13, 2007
Release Date: April 16, 2007


Speed Grapher Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
Experience the supernatural action, forbidden lust and conspiracy of this futuristic thrill ride! Death is in the hands of a photographer, assassinations are running rampant and all answers revolve around a beautiful and unimaginably powerful young girl.

Episodes Comprise
1 - Depravity City
2 - Goddess Of Greed
3 - Film Like A Bullet
4 - Lethal Headshot

The Review!
A girl whose kiss can grant supernatural powers, and a man whose loathing for corruption leads him into the darkest areas of human society. Put them together, and all hell's about to break loose...

Audio:
English language 5,1 & 2.0 tracks are provided, along with a Japanese 2.0 track " I listened to the Japanese audio for this review. Good use is made of direction with this track, with sound effects & dialogue appropriately placed on the soundstage according to what's happening on the screen. Dialogue is also clear and easy to pick out, and there are no obvious problems with the encoding.

Video:
Video comes in its original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen format. Speed Grapher tries for a somewhat gritty on-screen look, with use of colour palette and background detail changing from scene to scene in what seems to be an attempt to influence how the viewer will feel about particular scenes. It works surprisingly well, with the atmosphere of the series being enhanced by this little bit of creativity. There's a little colour banding in places, but it's not hugely noticeable and there are no other obvious problems with the transfer.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
Menus are a simple affair " the main screen is a mostly-static piece, with some outline artwork of Saiga and a slowly-scrolling text background. Options are provided for audio select and extras, while direct access is provided to the 4 episodes on the disc. Submenus are static screen featuring other characters from the show. It's all simple enough to use, and no transition animations makes this reviewer happy.

Extras:
Along with the usual creditless opening & closing sequences, this disc provides an art gallery (a 1:30 video sequence featuring screenshots from the show and some character production designs, set to the opening theme), and a 12-minute audio feature, where dub ADR director Christopher Bevans talks about the casting process used for Speed Grapher, and introduces some clips from the auditions themselves. This is quite an unusual extra, and even though I don't normally listen to the English dub on my anime, I found this very interesting indeed.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Tatsumi Saiga is a photographer who's seen many things - although having been through the hell of war, the jobs he's doing now are a lot more boring. In the modern world, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer - something that annoys Saiga immensely. Kagura Tennouzu is one of the richest of the rich " daughter and heir of the Tennouzu business empire, she should be wanting for nothing, but between her mother's cruelty and minder Suitengu's manipulation of her, all she wants is her freedom. Freedom to be herself, to be away from the people who use and mistreat her, and freedom to live her own life.

Their paths cross when Saiga pays a visit to the secretive Roppongi Club, a den of decandence and depravity that counts the country's political and financial elite amongst its members. Saiga has linked a number of recent killings to the club, and so has decided to pay it an undercover visit to try and gather more information, but while there he interrupts a ritual by the club's 'goddess' - Kagura. The ritual promises one of two outcomes to those who take part: the granting of their dreams of power, or death. When Saiga's cover is blown, he unwittingly becomes the ritual's latest participant " and a kiss from Kagura grants him an unusual supernatural power. It's a kiss that also leaves their lives inextricably linked.

With Saiga being a photographer, his power is linked to his camera " point and shoot, and anyone or anything focussed in the frame explodes, as long as there's film in the camera. Very handy when you're trying to fight your way out of a stick situation. Kagura, meanwhile, knows nothing of her life as the Roppongi Club's goddess " if she remembers her time there and her participation in the rituals at all, it's as a hazy dream, and something else to add to her list of things to escape from. While Saiga's making his escape from the Roppongi Club, Kagura's usual personality comes back to the fore, shocked at the situation she finds herself in " and from that point, Saiga becomes her knight in shining armour, but given her family connections keeping her safe soon proves to be anything but easy.

Along with Saiga and Kagura, the core cast includes Kagura's mother, Shinsen, who's insanely jealous over her daughters beauty and mistreats her daughter as a result; Suitengu, who on the surface is Shinsen's trusted advisor and gofer, but who seems to have his own agenda " Shinsen's certainly unaware of how he's been using Kagura at the club; and Ginza, a gun-happy, rebellious policewoman who has an unusual relationship with Saiga that goes just a little beyond the exchange of information.

If there were more seen of Ginza, she'd be the star of the show " she's so completely over-the-top, and has such a complete disregard for authority, that's she's impossible not to love, and her treatment of the people around her only makes her more amusing. Suitengu is a cookie-cutter anime villain, who clearly has his own plans that are as-yet unrevealed. There's some time taken to make sure you know just how evil he his, but beyond that he's just there and doesn't really stand out too much just yet.

The main themes of the show are power, money and influence, and what people will do to gain them " that's what the Roppongi Club is all about, with the added bonus of the "Euphoria" powers that Kagura is able to grant in her role as the club's goddess. Power and money are often accompanied by sex and violence, and there's plenty of both in Speed Grapher " this isn't a series that plays safe and there's plenty happening on-screen to reinforce the message about decadence and corruption that the series seems to be trying to get across. That said, it never gets gratuitous or overly shocking, either.

First impressions of Speed Grapher are good " there are some interesting characters here, the setting and themes of the show have plenty that you can get into, and it's all presented in a way that makes it easy to watch. The story hasn't quite gotten into gear yet " as you'd expect these episodes are mostly setup and introduction, with the real meat of the story still to come " but there's plenty here to enjoy.

I can't finish this review without mentioning the opening credits. During the Japanese TV airings, the OP theme was Duran Duran's "Girls on Film", which suited the show to a tee. Unfortunately, licensing issues mean that for the DVD release, that's been replaced by an instrumental piece that I can't say I found particularly inspiring.

In summary:
Playing to more adult themes than you usually find in anime these days, Speed Grapher takes sex, money and power and adds a dash of superpowers to produce a series that, so far at least, shows a lot of promise. There are any number of shows that have shown early promise and fallen down later on, so I'm not going to get too enthusiastic just yet, but this volume is certainly worth a look.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Character Cast Auditions,Art Gallery,Creditless Opening & Closing Sequences

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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