Tactics Vol. #5 - 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: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tactics

Tactics Vol. #5

By Chris Beveridge     June 18, 2008
Release Date: February 12, 2008


Tactics Vol. #5
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
It all ends here, as the destinies of supernatural sleuth Kantaro and the moody black-winged Haruka are sealed forever. In this feudal world of darkness and light, the young folklorist will sacrifice everything to protect the creature he's searched for his entire life. Experience the ultimate clash of Haruka and Kantaro - along with Yoko, Suzu, Moochan, Sugino, the armies of Minamoto and more - in the surprising final episodes of Tactics.

The Review!
Tactics draws to a close but it's more the end of a chapter rather than a proper closure for the cast and their situations.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. A Japanese 5.1 mix was made for this show which is what we listened to though the stereo mix is also included thankfully. The 5.1 mix isn't bad by any stretch but it doesn't add much in terms of real directionality or sounds to the rear speakers. It does provide more clarity to the forward soundstage though and overall gives the mix a bit more power. The Japanese release was only a PCM mix so I imagine that this is a remastered mix done by Manga as they tend to provide 5.1 mixes for most of their shows. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The source materials for this show look like they're in fantastic shape and there is a lot of good detail to the show in general as these episodes almost look like OVA quality pieces. During a lot of the scenes in the episodes proper, colors are very solid with a great smooth feel and warmth to them. Blocking is very minimal and difficult to pick out of most scenes and aliasing and cross coloration is essentially non-existent. The opening sequences are some of the best moments as the colors simply pop out at you..

Packaging:
The darker cover from before is gone as this one has more of an autumn feeling with the orange and yellow colors throughout it. Raiko is an interesting choice to cap off the series but he has a bit of a look to him that's certainly appealing and it's not the worst choice for ending it. The layout of the design along with the sideways logo and colors works really well here and this is a very appealing cover that stands out very strongly. The back cover brings the orange/yellow shades and design pieces to it as it provides for a couple of shots from the show that displays its darker nature. The summary is pretty solid and each of the episodes is listed with mini summaries for them. Though there's no technical grid, the features and extras for the release are clear and easy to find but I wish they had a better method for the technical side since you can't tell that the show is widescreen until you put it in the player. Contrary to the previous volumes, the run time is now much more accurate as it lists 120 minutes for the runtime without including the extras in it. I'm very glad to see this since so many people found the previous method to be less than honest.

Menu:
Very few menus really have much in the way of motion these days but this one is nicely done as pieces move and flow about when you go between menus. A good part of the layout is made up of the character art while there are scroll pieces where the navigation strip is as some of the instrumental music plays along to it. Load times between menus is pretty good though it does have some minor motion to it but the overall design makes it appealing enough to look at. Due to there being multiple Japanese language tracks on it, we didn't go through the standard method of letting our player presets pick it up and manually selected the Japanese 5.1 track and subtitles.

Extras:
The extras are much lighter for this volume but there are still a few nice inclusions to be had here. The back cover amusingly lists the language options as bonus features but we're not listing those here for obvious reasons. A new still gallery of shots from the show makes its way here as does a new round of original Japanese TV commercials and merchandising ads. The new music video on this volume is for "In a Corner of the World" is rather nicely done and the music certainly catchy and moody enough to fit the series. .

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The end of Tactics with the final five episodes of the twenty-five episode series is rather anti-climactic and at times surprisingly dull. The show has had its lulls to be sure, largely due to the kinds of stories it's telling and the laid back nature of its characters, but with everything seemingly reaching towards a crescendo, it instead plays it as just the end of a large chapter which has much more to go on to. Of course, you'll have to go read the manga for that.

There are a few smaller stories mixed into these episodes, but by and large it's mostly about the relationship between Haruka and Kantaro. Haruka has been increasingly depressed and unsure of himself as some sparks of his former memories come to light and he's realizing what he really was before. That life of his certainly wasn't what it is now and it's such a drastic conflict to him that it's affecting everything he's doing. It doesn't help that he's actually bound under oath with Kantaro and that Kantaro is seemingly oblivious to a lot of what's going on with him. The two are slipping apart but Kantaro can't see it while it's becoming almost overwhelming for Haruka.

What makes it all worse is that Raiko is continuing his efforts to free Haruka from the bond that Kantaro shares with him so that he can use him for his own nefarious purposes. Small instances have been going on for a bit now, but Raiko is actually getting rather forward with it all by appealing directly to Kantaro that it would be in Haruka's best interests to do so. That throws Kantaro a bit and starts to open his eyes to what's going on, but he has the background mindset of needing Haruka and knowing that he can't be killed by Raiko since that would keep the bond between the two going forever. That in the end brings the big climactic scenes between the two opposing sides to little more than a stand-off with no serious resolution. All the drama and intensity literally collapses under this. No matter how visually appealing it was, ending it in the way that they did just felt incredibly weak.

And even more problematic is that this is done during episode twenty-four, which means that the final episode is mostly epilogue in a sense. The way that Kantaro and Haruka leave things after their confrontation with Raiko is one that keeps them apart and almost at odds with each other. What better way to mend bridges than to take the relatively minor and somewhat annoying character of Suzu and reveal what's really going on with her. Let her drama and tragedy be the bond by which the two men realize that they have much to talk about and a lot more to deal with as time goes on. Suzu's story is one that likely makes sense, but the character has been so bland and uninteresting for so long that it's not a surprise that you miss the truth about her. Of course, it doesn't help that there was a year between the release of the fourth and fifth volumes either, so remembering what all was done with her isn't exactly in the forefront.

In Summary:
Tactics did not have an easy release in the US. First picked up by ADV Films and then nabbed by Manga Entertainment, it felt like a series with no home. The production work done by ADV Films is solid and the releases overall were good, but it wasn't a show that was going to do gangbusters, especially with the manga faltering between two publishers as well. The release had a lot of things right, including a lower price point and only five volumes for all of it, but it just never clicked and wasn't marketed all that well. Tactics has some good material to it but it's the kind that is familiar, fairly derivative and likely plays out better in manga form. The mood and atmosphere here is good but it's not enough to carry a series, especially when it ends in the way it does here. Certainly worth grabbing in the collected form, but easily avoided in its single disc form.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Still Gallery,Music Video,TV Commercials,Merchandise Ads

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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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