Speed Grapher Vol. #2 - 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. #2

By Bryan Morton     July 23, 2007
Release Date: June 18, 2007


Speed Grapher Vol. #2
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
Smile for the camera... or perish in the glare of its lens!

Alongside a tragic girl named Kagura, the supernaturally empowered Saiga flees from both enemies and inner demons. A single kiss has potentially delivered a crushing blow to the entire ruling class and the point of no return has been passed.

Episodes Comprise
5 " Diamond Woman
6 " Farewell, Diamond Woman
7 " Grotesque Drills
8 " Kagura's Lamp

The Review!
Saiga and Kagura continue to run from Suitengu's sidekicks, but are never able to get far enough a head for them to feel safe. Along the way, a visit to a friendly doctor provides a way for Saiga to try and find out what Kagura's kiss has done to him " but along the way he finds out something unexpected about Kagura herself...

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 Tsujido 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, and another audio segment where dub ADR director Christopher Bevans talks about the casting process used for Speed Grapher, and introduces some clips from the auditions themselves, this time featuring casting for Tsujido and Suitengu. 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)
Koganei's a woman who is obsessed by diamonds - to the point where she even eats them. Very strange. While on the one hand Suitengu's having to deal with Shinsen's anger over her daughter's 'kidnapping', he's also planning to make use of Koganei's abilities in taking care of Saiga - Koganei's another of the Roppongi Club's beneficiaries, and her love of diamonds means she's got a rather sharp power. Meanwhile, Saiga and Kagura are on the run, but Kagura's naivety means it's not easy for them to get around without being noticed. When Koganei inevitably catches up with them, her unique nature gives Saiga problems, as well, as he finds it's nearly impossible for him to focus his camera on her - meaning there's no easy way for him to deal with her. The arrival of Tsujido on the scene doesn't help, either. But when Koganei manages to get her hands on Kagura, it turns out she's not entirely on the Roppongi Club's side...

Speed Grapher is settling into a decent pattern now, with each "mini-arc" of two episodes following a similar format. In the first episode, Saiga and Kagura continue their efforts to get ahead of Tsujido and their other pursuers, while their next main adversary " always a beneficiary of powers gained from the Goddess' kiss " is introduced. There's usually a decent bit of character development in these episodes, and it's also where the plot gets moved forward. The second episode of each arc is more action-focused, as Saiga must deal with the latest attacker and make his escape along with Kagura. Simple, a little repetitive, but it works well in the context of the show. It also beats the more typical "villain of the week" format by giving a little more time for the story and characters to be fleshed out, and stops the series from becoming a pure action piece.

Away from the efforts of Tsujido and the other Euphorians to recapture Kagura, the main focus of these episodes is on Saiga trying to discover why Kagura's kiss holds the power that it does. Thanks to all the contacts he's made as a photographer, he knows of someone who's able to give her a thorough examination without having to go through proper channels " and what he discovers makes Kagura's future look even more bleak.

She's not the only person with problems, either " her departure has left Suitengu without the key element in his club's success, and without the one person who could potentially hold the cure to the illness he's struggling to deal with. That adds another layer to his character, and makes him a little less of the stereotypical villain " still far from being a nice man, but there's something more to him than simply the quest for money. It's also another mystery to solve as far as Kagura's concerned " she's clearly not your normal teenager, and while Saiga's discovery might explain some of what she's capable of, I doubt it would cover it all. I love a good mystery, and I'm looking forward to the one surrounding Kagura being unravelled.

While some core characters get some depth to them, though, others are left untouched. There's a sad lack of Ginza on this volume " she's one of my favourite characters in the show, but other than a few scenes in episode 7 she suffers from a disappointingly low profile here. Shinsen is similarly unused (although in her one scene, she does her damndest to show Suitengu who's boss " something he clearly isn't used to). Tsujido and his band of sidekicks exist simply to chase Kagura down " they fill that role well enough, but given how much screentime he gets I can't help but wish there was a little more depth given to him.

The good of Speed Grapher is still outweighing the bad, though. There's still a lot that needs explaining, but there's also plenty of time left for that to be done. In the meantime, the episodes here a certainly enjoyable enough to keep the interest alive.

In summary:
Speed Grapher's second volume serves up a good mix of action and story that easily kept me entertained. The series settles into a routine here that could get a bit dull if it's kept for too long, but that also provides a way for Saiga to continue to learn more about Kagura and his own new abilities " I wouldn't want that routine to continue for too long, as there's still plenty of scope to kick up the pace a gear, but there's enough of the series left that I'm not worried too much yet. A very enjoyable release, and worth checking out.

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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