Speed Grapher Vol. #5 - 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. #5

By Bryan Morton     January 03, 2008
Release Date: December 10, 2007


Speed Grapher Vol. #5
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
Tokyo has adopted a new tune, as a music box chimes in the night from Suitengu's palm. The tragic melody of a childhood stolen; a soul turned black at the hands of those seduced by greed. Draining the financial lifeblood of the nation, the Goddess has gone commercial, her essence reducing the masses to their baser instincts. Laughter rings down from the heights on to a city infected and dying.

Yet the damnable underground has a counterpoint; a revolution on the horizon determined to unseat the corrupt. A new leader in the eyes of the idealistic, Saiga is faced with a difficult decision to either bring the system down alongside the political maverick, or to focus on shielding the innocence of Kagura. But a staggering betrayal shakes the city to its depths as the ultimate administrator of wickedness rises to unleash anarchy.

Episodes Comprise
17 - Death Profiteer
18 - Third Bureau
19 - Lies and Lips
20 - Good Vibrations

The Review!
Just when you think you've found an ally, it turns out to be your enemy in disguise. I'm sure we've been here before – and this volume of Speed Grapher takes us over the same territory, as Saiga and Kagura continue to try and expose Suitengu's scheming. But Suitengu himself seems to have other things on his mind…

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 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 the second part of the documentary looking at Kagura's Japanese VA. Not a bad selection.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
The thing to remember about evil geniuses, is that even they were kids, once. Suitengu - then going by the name of Takeshi - and his little sister Yui once lived a happy life until, when Takeshi was 13 years old, his parents got over their heads in debt. Their creditors called the debts in by killing them, and taking Yui and Takeshi into servitude. Takeshi found himself being trained to kill in a war he knew nothing about - what happened to Yui, he never found out. His experiences taught him a lot about how to respect human life (that is, don't) - and led to him becoming the subject of certain illicit experiments that led to him gaining his Euphorian abilities. And so Suitengu was born, and his rise to power began.

With the history lesson out of the way, the story returns to the present, where on the one hand Suitengu's plan continues apace (although doesn't seem to make much sense to anyone but him) while on the other Saiga and Kagura receive an unexpected offer of help - the good Dr Ryogoku has a contact within the political class who has assured Saiga and Kagura of their safety if they'll help get rid of Suitengu and the man who's supporting him: Prime Minister Kamiya. Representative Ochiai seems to be anti-corruption and someone Saiga can work with - but can you ever trust a politician..?

Of course not – I'll not spoil the gory details of that side of the story, other than to say we've been through that little formula many times already this series. On the plus side, we do finally get to see Saiga taking a stand for the forces of "good", such as they are – on the downside, for a lot of this disc Kagura comes across as an annoyingly wilful teenager – that does fit her age, but it's not how she's usually portrayed, and it's definitely a step backwards for her. I had thought when Ochiai first appeared that we here beginning to make some real progress in tackling Suitengu and his associates, but sadly not – it looks like that will have to be saved for the final disc.

Or maybe not. The events of real interest here all surround Suitengu – episode 17 does a very good job of filling in his past and explaining how he came to be the man he is, but it also takes him from being an outright evil character – which is what he's always seemed up until now – and turns him into someone who is painted in a lot more shades of grey. His present-day actions are rooted in the suffering he endured in the past, he isn't a Euphorian through choice, and through a few scenes scattered across this disc you can get the distinct impression that he may have some good intentions underpinning his actions. If that's the case, then maybe letting him get on with it wouldn't be such a bad thing. The ends may not outweigh the means, but he certainly ends up being a far more interesting character by then end of the disc.

At this stage of a series, I'd be expecting the various aspects of the story to be slotting into place and to be seeing the beginnings of how things are going to end up. Unusually, the revelations about Suitengu actually serve to leave things even more confused than they were at the start of the disc, in terms of knowing where people stand. Depending how it's done, that can often lead to frustration, but here it's done well enough that it really does get you to thinking a little about the characters, how they've come to be where they are now, and who really are the good guys and the bad guys. As Speed Grapher isn't really a thinking man's show, we're not talking about anything that requires serious brain power here, but it's enough to make the show a little more than Saiga versus the Euphorians. That's a good thing.

In summary:
Quite a bit happens on this volume, and quite a bit of that is unexpected. Yes, the series does retread old territory and sticks to its tried-and-tested formula in places, but elsewhere it tries to flesh things out a bit more and start the buildup to the next volume's finale. If you've enjoyed Speed Grapher up to this point, you certainly won't be disappointed, as it's just getting better.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Saito Documentary Part 2,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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