Stellvia Vol. #5 - 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. #5

By Chris Beveridge     June 08, 2005
Release Date: June 14, 2005


Stellvia Vol. #5
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
The UFO activity has increased and sightings have been reported around the El Santo near Jupiter and the Akapusu near Venus. To be safe, the Ultima prepares for evacuation.

The Review!
As the Ultima Foundation continues to be out of touch, everyone is called back as the tension heightens.

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 a mid-range purple that mixes well with the characters. This one goes to bring in several of the secondary characters in their uniforms floating against the background. 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 one of the Foundation's situation rooms at night.

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)
Stellvia won some major kudos from us with the last volume with their way of bringing the actual Great Mission to an end halfway through the series when it could have easily run the entire thing, which means they managed to provide a really nice fake-out for what the series is really going to be about, at least beyond the character interactions and growth. This volume runs with that storyline by slowly raising the level of tension and uncertainty among the cast while we get some small glimpses of just what's going on out there at Ultima.

This volume kicks off with Kouta and Katase returning from Earth together and becoming even more friendly as events roll along. Their return is met by Arisa who had stayed behind and she ribs the two continually about their relationship and just has fun with Katase in general, mostly because Katase is feeling so down and worried about what's going on. The fact that she and Kouta were called back before anyone else but that everyone else is coming back for the emergency meeting has her really concerned about what's going on. Especially in regards to Rinna since there's no contact with the Ultima and her transport ship still hasn't reached there on its forty-day journey.

While the small interpersonal events go on, especially as the others arrive and the relationships slowly seem to be growing more romantic between a few of them, we do get some inside glimpses into the upper levels of the administration of the Stellvia Foundation as they find their roles beginning to change. The idea of nation being gone is discussed as there is evidence that they've simply been consolidated into Foundations and renamed instead and that with the Stellvia being the closest one to Earth, it has the responsibility to take a lead in matters since it's the last line of defense for the planet. The discussions here are interesting as they go over the way things can potentially change if they just take the lead and do something without consulting the other Foundations. But with the potential of some of the Foundations going off on their own plans, that could reveal their hand too early.

Events do progress nicely here as both elements come together. The talk of what war is and what may be involved starts to filter down to the student level and other aspects of the Foundation are slowly changing as the possibility of fighting becomes more real. With the return of Rinna, we get some first hand accounts of what's happening at Ultima and when combined with the raw visuals that almost feel like the classic footage of UFO's with it being fuzzy and grainy, the mystery only deepens as the things that are all over it only add more questions than answers. The build-up along all of this is very slow and methodical but when combined with the varied and interesting cast and their own concerns and questions with what's going on out there in space, it's done just right so that the time is spent really building the tension and mystery.

In Summary:
Stellvia continues to be a fascinating series but one that is also frustrating. The arc here does admittedly work with the three episodes and past volumes have as well with the episode count, but the show is just so intriguing and builds up so nicely that it's almost painful to get to that last episode and know that you're getting cut off just as it's getting better. This volume has some good character material across the board and all of the pilots are becoming much more interesting people as their choices are reflected in everything they do. Stellvia's not the average kids in space series that I figured it would be and this volume only continues to solidify that opinion.

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, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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