Suzuka Vol. #6 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Suzuka

Suzuka Vol. #6

By Chris Beveridge     January 15, 2008
Release Date: January 08, 2008


Suzuka Vol. #6
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
A new goal requires a new game plan, and Yamato has become a far cry from his former self! Purpose and drive, dedication and determination - one would think the young man finally worthy of Suzuka's affections... As Yamato takes training to new levels of obsession, as he improves - second by painstaking second - little else matters to the reformed runner as he prepares to take on the fates.

But somewhere between the starting pistol and the finish line, Yamato's solid start leaves him lagging far behind! Echoing the fates he so recklessly challenged, Suzuka cannot take it anymore and races away into the night... There's simply no competing with the past!

Contains episodes 23-26:
Encouragement
Disappearance
Loss
Cool Wind

The Review!
The tension goes up a few notches as Yamato realizes he's not going to back down from his feelings even when Suzuka retreats completely.

Audio:
The audio side of this release is pretty straightforward but with a bit of a twist to it. Each of the language tracks are standard 256 kbps stereo mixes that handle this show well as it is mostly just dialogue and music. We listened to the show in both languages and didn't have any real issues with it terms of its presentation as it's mostly a full sounding mix. Surprisingly, the opening and closing songs on the English language track have been dubbed, something that FUNimation seems to be trying to do a bit more these days. The Japanese track retains the original vocals. In listening to both language tracks, we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show has a bright and colorful palette to it with its basis in a real world setting that comes across nicely here. Colors are strong and generally solid both in the background and foreground. There is a bit of mosquito noise creeping in from time to time but it's minimal overall and not terribly noticeable. Aliasing is generally non-existent and there wasn't any visible cross coloration either. On our 70" setup the backgrounds did show a bit more blocking than on our 50" setup with both players outputting standard 480p. There are some small moments throughout that will continue to be problematic for those sensitive to the blocking but overall it's a decent clean looking transfer for the five episodes that are here.

Packaging:
Using the artwork from the Japanese release, the final volume lets Suzuka take over once again, this time with a very pleased and content smile on her face as she's wearing her school uniform. With the red background and the heavy whites of her outfit, it all just comes together in a very pleasing manner to me. Colors look good and there is some nice detail within the overall design. The back cover is fairly traditional with a cloudy sky background that has a number of shots from the show strewn about as photographs. The summary covers the basics and the discs episode titles and numbers along with the extras are all clearly listed. With as much empty space as there is here though I wish the technical grid could get a little more space so it's not quite so cramped. The reverse side of the cover features a great illustration of Miki, Honoka and Suzuka at a summer festival where they're all in kimono's under a moonlit night.

Menu:
The menu design is the same as the cover as it uses the still of Miki set against a blue sky background with some white clouds. Unlike the front cover though, the colors are really punched up here and maybe a bit too vibrant. A bit of soft instrumental music plays back during this for the standard loop length. The menu overall is appealing but it's pretty minimal yet functional and easy to navigate. Access times are nice and fast and the disc unfortunately did not read our players' language presets and instead defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The extras included for this volume pretty much on par with the previous releases as it has a clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a brief photo gallery done up as a yearbook.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The series draws to a close with the final four episodes and it's all fairly predictable, though that isn't necessarily a bad thing. With the core of the show really being about the will they or won't they aspect between Yamato and Suzuka, you know it will be dragged out until the last few minutes and they'll face their toughest challenges right up until that moment. In that way, Suzuka doesn't disappoint as everything she's struggling with finally comes to a head.

There are a few things running through these episodes beyond the simple relationship side of Yamato and Suzuka, which helps the overall flow of the series. This volume opens up with Yamato suffering a setback in his plan to reveal his feelings to her again when he loses his first place standing in the tournament and ends up in second place. His stint as being the number one guy there was brief and it really affected him. Feeling that he can't reveal things to her, he becomes very focused on fixing what his problems are and undergoes a change in his running program, something that's obviously difficult to implement with only a few weeks before the Metropolitan tournament. His change makes a certain sense, particularly considering his mindset, but even with the backing of the Captain behind him, Suzuka gives him little encouragement and a bucket load of grief.

As the back and forth starts to move forward again between the pair, others find themselves drawn into it partially as well. Yasunobu still can't figure out why Yamato is all over this girl considering the way he's treated her and he's plain enough to say it. He does change his heart a bit about how Yamato is doing with the track and field events as he gets really supportive at times when the chips are down. And even then, he feels some disappointment along with everyone else when Yamato starts to fail at his races. It's unusual to see him truly sympathetic but it's a very good change of character for him. Similarly, the other women in the series pine for Yamato in their own way but no longer try to make good with it. Honoka is finally realizing she needs to move forward and grow since Yamato is lost to her while Miki is just dealing with frustration over it, especially since Yamato never really realized that she had an interest in him.

And that's one of the most frustrating aspects of the show. People tend to be divided about how they feel about Suzuka and whether she's worth Yamato's time and effort. Her character certainly hasn't been likable, nor has she given much reason out of his view for us to believe she should be worth pursuing. Her issues are explored a good bit more during these episodes as we see in detail what happened when Tsuda died and how she reacted to it. What is much clearer is that she was a typical unsure kid when she first realized she liked Tsuda, but his death really stunted her ability to cope with personal relationships in this manner. Yamato's wishy washy nature at times really grated on her since he was able to sometimes push beyond some of her barriers, but then he'd do something that would completely kill the moment and put all those barriers back up for her.

It's hard to sympathize with her simply because of how she put herself out there as unapproachable. Her reasons may not be important to anyone else, but they're important to her and that's impossible to deny. With things a bit clearer now, it's easier to understand it, but it's also easy to see why Yamato got under her skin and was the kind of person she needed to encounter in order to take those barriers down. Yamato is in a situation where he's got a lot of work ahead of him, but it's work that he's bound to enjoy and really find a great payoff for. In a way, this is the kind of series where you really want to see these episodes as the start and not the end. As much fun as Suzuka has been, I'd enjoy seeing where they go from here rather than ending, but that would take out much of the fun that people see in it.

In Summary:
While there are parts of Suzuka that I didn't care for, and I think they missed a good deal of potential when it came to Yamato and his track and field participation, in the end I really do enjoy the series. I don't think he ended up with the right girl, but I think he ended up with the right romanticized girl that a high school boy would want. My money was on seeing an upset with Honoka really taking him at the end or Miki making a stronger play along the way to bring in more confusion. It's easy enough to see why the girls are interested in Yamato, which is a pleasant change from the usual nice guy with no redeeming qualities that are usually thrown out there. It may just be that it's stemming from my own interest in the track and field world, but the overall release of Suzuka has left me happy and I looked forward to each volume to see how strained the relationships would get. It's definitely a love it or hate it series, but I think in the long run I'll only have good memories of the series. Especially those suggestive covers!

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Yearbook Picture Gallery

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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