Speed Grapher Vol. #3 - 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: B+
  • 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. #3

By Bryan Morton     September 21, 2007
Release Date: August 06, 2007


Speed Grapher Vol. #3
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
The truth exposed to the glare of the lens!

The icy fingers of the Tokyo underworld reach out beyond the city's limits, searching the shadows for the rebel photographer and his young muse. Inspired by a remnant from the past, the fugitive duo seek out a beautiful woman's humble beginnings to uncover hidden family ties, ending at an abandoned research facility as the hounds close in. But in a bloody confrontation with Suitengu, Saiga finally learns the truth.

Criminals and cops explore both sides of a life and death coin, and when Kagura accepts the help of a dirty detective with her own agenda, the young girl finds herself to be the currency. One transaction complete, Suitengu pursues another, testing the boundaries of twisted love and seeking to consolidate his kingdom at last. Eyes closed, Saiga and Kagura reach across captivity, both trapped and dreaming of freedom.

Episodes Comprise
9 " Into the Bath
10 " Suitengu Cometh
11 " Mother Critical
12 " Left Hand Lullaby

The Review!
Saiga & Kagura's time on the run comes to an end as Suitengu takes a personal interest in capturing his prey and Ginza's own feelings for Saiga lead her to get involved on the wrong side of the chase. With Kagura back in his hands, Suitengu's able to move on to the next stage of his plan " but events don't entirely go according to plan...

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 Shinsen 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 Shinsen, Gotokuji and Odawara.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Saiga fills Ryogoku in on what he knows about Kagura, and on how he wants to find out why she has the powers she has and what the effect of her kiss has done to his own body - although he's also aware that getting him involved could well place the doctor in danger. That doesn't seem to bother Ryogoku, though, and he promises to have some information for Saiga if he contacts him again in a week. Back in Tokyo, Ginza's trying to find out where Saiga's disappeared to - she's managed to link his disappearance back to the Roppongi Club, but can't pin down his current location. Fortunately, she knows a few very effective methods for gathering information, and pays Suitengu a little visit.

Suitengu, meanwhile, moves his own plans for seizing control of Shinsen's business empire. It's a plan that involves seduction and betrayal on a grand scale " but just for once, his plans don't turn out as he expects them to...

No more 'road movie' stories, no new Euphorians for Saiga and Kagura to deal with (although there are a few glimpses at what I expect will be the next one to appear) " just four episodes of plotting, scheming and betrayal on all sides. The first two episodes close out the one-the-run episodes, as Suitengu takes personal responsibility for dealing with Saiga and retrieving Kagura " thanks to his own need for Kagura's ability and the failure of Tsujido and his other lackeys to complete the job, he's forced to it himself, and in doing so reveals that he too has special abilities of his own. As you'd expect, he's a bit more powerful that any of Saiga's other opponents so far, leading to a more balanced and enjoyable battle between the two, even though Saiga's left seriously-enough injured that he's out of the picture for the rest of the volume.

Instead, the focus moves to Kagura and Shinsen, as Kagura finds herself back in her family's tender care (thanks to act of betrayal number one) and Shinsen's past gets some exploration. The final episode on the disc does a lot to change perceptions of Shinsen, explaining how she came to be the cold person she is now and why she's been so distrustful of Kagura and mistreated her the way she has " not in any way that tries to condone it, but just lets you know where the character has come from and how that's moulded her into her current personality. You definitely end up with more sympathy for Shinsen at the end of it " rather than being deliberately evil, she's just been burnt by past experience and has become distrustful and paranoid as a result.

Shinsen's transformation is mirrored by Ginza's shift in my estimations from fun, over-the-top character to someone who has her own dangerous obsessions that make her someone to be very wary of, if not downright creepy. In her case, it's the obsession she's developed over Saiga that drives her actions, and suddenly her antics aren't so enjoyable to watch.

In between all this, Kagura finally begins thinking for herself and doing what she feels to be right " even though her choices aren't exactly the smartest moves on the block and leave her in a very dangerous situation at the end of the disc, it's about time she developed more of a personality of her own and stopped being a walking plot-point for Saiga to protect. She's still possibly one of the least-developed characters in the show, but it's a start.

In summary:
This volume of Speed Grapher gets away from the chase episodes and moves more into the meat of the story, as Suitengu's plans develop. It's a good change of pace, an the way event play out mean you have to rethink your opinions of some of the characters as you learn more about them. There's still a fair amount of action slotted in, too, giving a good balance between the fighting and the more plot-heavy scenes. It's a mix that works quite well " I'm still enjoying this series, and looking forward to seeing more.

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
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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