Stellvia Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Stellvia

Stellvia Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     February 04, 2005
Release Date: February 08, 2005


Stellvia Vol. #3
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
The Second Wave approaches! Now is the time for the Great Mission to set in motion! As communication is lost with Ultima, everyone evacuates to the shelters with their prayers on the Foundations and pilots risking their lives to save the Human Race. A new student arrives and proclaims herself to the Shima’s rival. Shima, who had been excelling in her studies is no match for her. Tensions rise even more as the Second Wave approaches increasing the responsibility placed on Shima’s shoulders. Will she be able to withstand the pressure or will she…

The Review!
The Second Wave finally approaches and all the training gets put to the test.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has a good active stereo mix that features some solid directionality to it in both dialogue and sound effects. While it's not terribly deep there's a lot of well placed moments for dialogue and the Bianca ships come across well when they do their fly by's and all. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame format. Being such a recent release and very much a product of digital animation techniques, this is a very slick looking production. The show is one of the better examples of the meshing of real CG pieces and the animation itself that I've seen as well. With such heavy digital use, I was very happy to see that there were no serious gradient issues with the colors, cross coloration is non-existent and only a few bits of aliasing were noticeable during regular playback. The colors maintain a really good solid feel throughout and provide a great range from vibrant to the dull earth. This is a great looking release in general.

Packaging:
Stellvia uses the same covers as the Japanese release which use pretty bold colors for the background and feature a character or two laid over that. This volume uses the shiny nature of the covers with dark blue that gives it a very neat feel. Arisa takes the center stage for this volume with her happy go lucky smile while Rinna floats behind her. The foil cover continues to work well for this series since the bright bits are going to be the stars in the background. The back cover goes for a traditional SF look with the mix of graphics with the animation shots and summary. The discs episode numbers and titles are clearly listed as well as the volume number on the front cover and spine. The shows features are easy to check out though the production credits are a bit overwhelming with as much as there are and the small font. The insert replicates the front cover without the foil nature while the reverse side cover is a two-panel shot of some area of space with part of the wave residue.

Menu:
The menu layout for the release is pretty simple and relatively in-theme for the series with a look at the solar system with part of the Earth included while having various grids overlaid on top of it where the selections and some small windows of animation clips play along to a brief loop of the opening song. It's a decent looking menu though the loop is just too short – even though it's probably a music rights issue, I wish they'd just use the entire song since so many people often just have the menus running for a bit. Hearing the same 15 seconds over and over is just no fun. I'm also continuing to not like how the language menus seem to be working. On a number of recent releases like this, it's not clear that there's a sign/song subtitle track. If you select English language, the default subtitle track 1 plays, which is signs and songs. But there's no distinction within the menu for it since it just lists subtitles on/off. This is similar to the strangeness of some of FUNimations menus which have caused confusion. The other problem this causes is that since there are two English labeled tracks, a players presets grabs just the first instance it finds for English and plays that. So our default of Japanese with English subtitles grabs Japanese language fine but grabs the English sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the first two volumes of Stellvia, we've gotten a show that's definitely been interesting in its concept with the entire Great Wall that's being set up in space to help defend against the second incoming wave that could potentially destroy all life on Earth as well as the colonies set up throughout the solar system. Granted, they've included the idea of kids being at the front lines of this when it isn't exactly a requirement but they've made it close enough in such a way that they're not the primary ones being involved in the entire front line defense. Add in the sheer loss of lives back from the first wave and the relatively slow population growth over the next six or seven generations and there's enough of a believability factor for keeping the younger generation very much involved.

This volume, with only three episodes, brings the series to a surprisingly interesting point at the end of it and really makes you wonder where the series is intending to go thereafter. It does set up some ideas though. Initially, the show makes a dangerous turn by bringing in a new character, a younger student than the rest named Rinna who has come from the far-flung colony of Ultima. These are the real on the edge people and there's very few kids there and those that are there are so involved in the setting up of their lives that there isn't a lot of real interaction. As we get to know the very outgoing and highly competitive Rinna, we see that she's spent the bulk of her life doing the training and exercises that make her an ideal candidate for what's going on, though she's not going to be used in the actual Great Wall program due to her age. Getting someone as young and talented as her into the program is good though.

Her arrival comes at a time when Katase herself is going through one of her usual spells of swinging wildly back and forth between being confident in her abilities and complete depression. Someone like Rinna could make her spiral even worse or serve as the perfect rival that will get her going again. This gets played out a bit and it's not an aspect that I care for much because it is so clichéd, especially when there are a number of other avenues that could be explored to give Katase the right kind of motivation to get in gear. But Rinna isn't quite as bad as the cliché usually is and though she isn't what I wanted to see added to the series it's not as detrimental as it could be from first impressions. The reasoning behind her choosing the Stellvia and her befriending of Katase goes fairly well once it gets past some of the initial hurdles.

Another thing that gets dealt with in these episodes that makes me leery is the Infinity. Though kept secret from people in general, this over-sized humanoid style robot that looks interestingly archaic and modern at the same time, several of the kids know about it and when the time comes to start locking down the campus and Stellvia in general as the Second Wave is coming they're given the duty of ensuring that it doesn't shake about. What we get from one of the instructors is a bit of knowledge on the beast in that it was sent up from Earth as something that can handle widespread problems, such as wars and other conflicts. Since wars haven't really existed since before the First Wave, this isn't a concept easily grasped by the kids but they're given the impression that while humanity is well united right now, there are those that believe that once everything is said and done there could be some events across the system that would change the balance of power and unity. This bad boy is designed to be a deterrent to that as well as a tool to help quell problems.

As the Second Wave gets closer and things fall into place with it, there's the background fear of things from the first two episodes taking prominence in the upcoming event that will throw off the balance of the show. Though we're still very early into the series, just over the first third of it really, the couple of things that are introduced here feel like they're not exactly what should be here since they could overwhelm the story itself. Depending on how you feel about these new things will determine how much you enjoy the Second Wave episodes. A lot of it so far has turned out really well, particularly since we get a couple of good touching scenes that help explain some of Katase's relationship with her parents, but we also get to see some really good spaced based sequences with a huge number of ships flying around and some interesting science mixed into all the fiction.

In Summary:
Stellvia continues to be a very enjoyable show with a great premise but the show suffers from its volume length since with only three episodes on a disc it feels like it's over before it's even started. The material we get is good and enjoyable but it just has that feeling once the third episode ends of "that's it?!" with a bit of frustration. This volume brings the series to an interesting place as it ends where you expected the entire series to end but it does lay out a number of ideas about what could come next. Stellvia's a series that's very enjoyable but it's frustration factor certainly fits into it due to its release style.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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