Steam Detectives Vol. #5 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Steam Detectives

Steam Detectives Vol. #5

By Chris Beveridge     April 08, 2004
Release Date: April 06, 2004

Steam Detectives Vol. #5
© ADV Films

What They Say
Narutaki's cases have always had him putting his neck on the line?but never this close. Between the Crimson Scorpion and a masked villain bent on ridding the world of detectives, each step the boy detective takes could be his last.

On top of that, Le Bled has resurfaced and extended an invitation, promising to make it worth the detective's while. Narutaki's gut tells him it's a trap, but how can he resist a chance to finally apprehend his arch-nemesis? Will he triumph at last?

Crime never sleeps, but neither do our heroes! Occupational hazard or not, the Steam Detectives are on the job!

The Review!
As the series gets closer to its end, the stories start taking on a bit more of a personal approach as we see some origins and other key elements to the villains lives.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series is done in a pretty basic stereo mix that's fairly center channel based but has a number of stereo moments of directionality that come across nicely. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 1998, Steam Detectives comes across decently in this print but suffers from some intentional issues. With it being part of the traditional animation time, we get some good colors throughout and some of them are very vibrant, but most lack much in the way of depth but avoid being over saturated. Cross coloration is minimal while there is a bit more aliasing going on, mostly during panning sequences. With the show having a heavy design on steam and clouds, there's a grainy feel to the print that's accentuated due to the way the backgrounds are. With the darker scenes and some of the blue skies, it becomes even more apparent.

Continuing with the white keepcases that look great with the amount of white in the cover art, the artwork for this volume has a really slick image of Crimson Scorpion that highlights her pale skin nature against the red leather of her outfit. It's very striking against the white and the small bits of building design and the other headshots that are around her. She's most definitely the focus. The logo is a bit difficult to read at first, but the cover does get props for listing the volume number on the front and the spine. The back cover provides a few shots from the show and a character design piece for the Baron alongside the story summary paragraphs. The back cover is a mix of blue and white with the discs features and production information listed (but no episode numbers or titles). The insert is a great little paper piece that folds open to three panels that has an interview with the series director Murayama wherein he talks about how he wanted to approach the series and the changes he wanted to implement that weren't in the original manga. It's an interesting approach.

The menu is a simple piece with a bit of somber instrumental music playing over it where the central image is of the Crimson Scorpion from the cover with a purple/blue cityscape backdrop and some black circles bubbling up over it that turn into the selections. It's an interesting looking menu with good access times and quick submenu loads with no transitional animations.

The extras are similar to the past couple of volumes with the original Japanese opening sequence (which is what's in the show itself, but with the addition of English translated credits around them), a textless ending sequence and a few minutes worth of production sketches that showcase the various characters and equipment of the series. There is also a segment of text comments from the script writers, but we skipped reading it since the forward indicates that there are spoilers for upcoming episodes as these comments were done after the series had finished airing in Japan.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While Steam Detectives isn't one of the most challenging series out there, it does continue to be fun and enjoys the world its created, playing within its own set bounds and letting the characters slowly but surely grow some. With these episodes, the past weighs in and provides some balance with the present.

The opening episode is a perfect example of it, though the past is very minimal in its influence, or at least from what we gleam from it. Narutaki is brought in to guard a massive room full of treasures as the Crimson Scorpion and her gang have sent notice that they intend to hit this particular residence. So with Ling Ling helping out, they wait for the villainness to arrive. To their surprise, Crimson Scorpion does arrive but takes out a supply building down the residence a bit and ends up taking off with an old rusted sword, something that the owner claims has no value and is nothing more than a third rate trinket. When Narutaki confronts her, he's almost taken aback by the intensity in her eyes and the way she feels so different this time around. The item has a personal value to her and she's intent on making this theft succeed, but Narutaki's mindset has him unable to let any robbery go unanswered, so the two end up in a chase until the climax fight between the two where it all comes clear. This was much enjoyable for the difference in how Crimson Scorpion lets her attitude take over completely here and gives her a great intensity.

Another episode that has the past coming forward is the second one where Narutaki ends up not becoming a bodyguard but requiring one as someone named Justice has come to Steam City in an effort to kill him. Justice, as we learn when he first appears, is essentially someone in a Steam-powered exo-suit complete with full covering helmet. Narutaki's heard of him from his exploits in other cities where he's on some sort of crusade against detectives, killing them one by one as he finds them. Now that he's in Steam City, Narutaki is on the list and he finds himself being chased by him and having things blow up around him. So he gets a beautiful blonde police officer named Anna to provide the guard duty for him and the two actually start to develop a nice little relationship as they learn about each other while keeping out of Justice's sight. As the violence goes up between Justice and Narutaki, the story gets more intense and personal as we learn about Narutaki's own past as well as Anna's. This is a really good episode and a tragic one in many ways.

The remaining episodes are quite good as well. Le Bled gets to return, though he's quite ill from the sickness he has. Narutaki even manages to learn just how bad he is by getting his hands on some of the painkillers Le Bled is taking. The analysis the Ling Ling gets him is something we see confirmed with the doctor that's attending Le Bled, and that's that things are beyond hope. The dosage of the painkillers are done up for one whose life has no chance of continuing for much longer and the interest is only in ensuring they don't suffer. Le Bled despises the fact that Narutaki likely knows this and will change his approach in handling him, since he would much rather take on the young detective at his peak rather than being treated like a weakling. This all plays out beautifully over the next two episodes as it builds up. There's some great characterization going on for Le Bled here as he deals with his sickness and how he wants to be dealt with and perceived by his enemies.

In Summary:
Though a few pieces of the two part storyline feel like it's drawn out, there's little to complain about overall with this volume. The episodes continue to be fun and engaging in their own way as the Sherlock Holmes style plays out with some fun science fiction/super hero elements combine with it. Getting to see a serious and intense Crimson Scorpion was a huge plus for this volume as well as the second episode that featured Narutaki at something of a disadvantage by needing a bodyguard. These stories are simply fun and don't require knowing everything that happened in the past twenty-odd episodes, letting the viewer just focus on the here and now of each story. Steam Detectives is just good clean fun that doesn't require a lot of heavy mental processing.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Screenwriter's comments,Production sketches,Japanese opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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