Speed Grapher Vol. #4 - 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. #4

By Bryan Morton     October 03, 2007
Release Date: October 01, 2007


Speed Grapher Vol. #4
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
The stink of corruption permeates every brick in the city, and Saiga's eyesight continues to grow worse by the day. As the truth is revealed through the lens of a microscope, the photographer is left to wonder which battlefield from his past made him a player in this deadly game. But the genetic puzzle must be left for another day, for Saiga has a promise to keep.

In Tokyo, celebrities gather to the strains of blasphemous organ music while the new king of the underworld waits for his silent bride-to-be at the altar. As all that is holy crumbles around the nuptials, and Saiga attempts a daring rescue with the whole world watching. Once again the unlikely pair are forced to flee, leaving Suitengu's intentions to grow darker by the day as he works to outmaneuver those who plot against him, all swearing an unsteady allegiance to the flesh.

Episodes Comprise
13 – Ginza the Lawless
14 – The Wedding Photographer
15 – Hell is a Wet Woman
16 – Audit the Wicked

The Review!
Suitengu’s on the verge of making Kagura his own – and with her, the entire Tennozu fortune will become his, as well. Saiga’s not inclined to just sit back and let that happen – but does he have the ability to take on Suitengu and his backers on his own..?

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 sample.

Menu:
Menus are a simple affair – the main screen is a mostly-static piece, with some outline artwork of Ginza 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 art gallery and clean opening & closing sequences (with a new closing animation this disc), you also get another set of cast auditions for the English dub, and a 50-minute documentary looking at the casting of Kagura’s Japanese VA, and unknown rookie at the time, and her subsequent rise to fame. Not a bad selection.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Kagura doesn't get much time to grieve for her mother, before Suitengu weaves his magic and suggests he should be marrying her instead - and there definitely seems to be some hypnotic power at work, as Kagura's initial resistance soon fades. Ginza, meanwhile, has Saiga right where she wants him - in a cell, unable to go investigating Suitengu or rescuing Kagura. Until he gets his hands on his camera, anyway. Once Ginza realises that fighting Saiga may not be the best of ideas - however comic-book his ability seems to be - she soon decides to help him out. First order of business: pay a visit Dr Ryogoku to see just what's happened to him. It seems Kagura's kiss has infected him with a DNA-altering retrovirus, one that allows him to rewrite his DNA at will - but the ability comes at a cost: if he's not healed soon, he'll likely lose his vision, and possibly his life.

When Saiga manages to get his hands on an invitation to Suitengu's wedding reception, he sees his opportunity to get Kagura back - his own feelings for her aside, spending her remaining days as the plaything of Suitengu and the Roppongi Club isn't a fate he's prepared to leave her to. If he's to free her, though, he's going to need help. Meanwhile, Suitengu's medical team has finally succeeding in manufacturing the substance he's been taking from her, while some of the Roppongi Club's most influential members decide that Suitengu's becoming too powerful, and needs to be removed.

Nothing keeps Saiga down for long, apparently, and even the threat of what could happen to him if he overuses his abilities (as happens to another Euphorian on this disc) doesn’t stop him going completely to town in his efforts to free Kagura from Suitengu’s grasp. This disc is a good mix of detail and action, with the first episode finally giving us the details of what happens when someone is kissed by the Goddess (in the process giving Saiga a line of investigation he can follow to look for a cure for himself and, hopefully, Kagura), and the remaining episodes getting back to the on-the-run style of story that we’ve seen before. The final episode here is a recap episode – slightly more inventive than most, to be fair (it’s done in the style of an end-of-year accounting, as Suitengu’s accountant tallies up how much money he’s managed to fleece off people so far, and how much Saiga’s interventions have cost him), but I can never really find it in myself to pay too much attention to recap stories.

Episode 14 gives us the big set-piece story as Saiga and Suitengu go head to head in front of the world’s media, a confrontation that Saiga hopes will both get him Kagura back, and leave Suitengu’s plans in ruins. It’s an impressive episode to watch, even if Saiga doesn’t manage to get all he wants, and it’s probably the best part of the disc.

It’s also good to finally get some details on how the Euphorians gain their powers – and the downsides that come with using them. After having been so reluctant to give out anything more than the sketchiest background information before now, we’re finally given the full medical explanation – and with it being a medical condition, that hangs the possibility of a cure in the air and gives Saiga something to work towards. His added desire to see Kagura live long enough to actually enjoy her life gives him even more of an incentive.

I wasn’t so happy with episode 15, which is just another on-the-run story much like any other, with the main difference that the Euphorian in this one doesn’t behave like any of the others we’ve seen up until now. She’s even got an interesting backstory, which gave me hopes of seeing the formula play out differently this time around, but come the end of the episode the story had ended pretty much according to expectations, leaving me disappointed. When Speed Grapher wants to be, it’s a really good series, but its reliance on a Euphorian-of-the-week formula for so much of the series is something I find frustrating, especially with only three episodes of ‘real’ story this time around.

In summary:
This is another decent volume, even with the recap episode taking up a chunk of valuable disk space – with plenty of information given out to help the story move along and some good action to keep the adrenaline going, there’s plenty to like. The downside is the continued reliance on a set formula for some episodes, which is really starting to feel repetitive. Overall, though, if you’ve enjoyed the previous volumes this will still have plenty of appeal.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Saito Documentary Part 1,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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