Ultramaniac Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ultramaniac

Ultramaniac Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     October 03, 2005
Release Date: October 18, 2005


Ultramaniac Vol. #4
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Finding the perfect relationship isn't easy for anyone. Mr. Mikami tries to make a move on Ms. Tamura with a new vest while Kaji finds himself stalked by Maya's depressing friend. Not only that, Tsujiai seems to be getting along rather well with Maya, and Akiho keep Kaji to herself after he is hospitalized. How will Ayu ever find her way into Kaji's heart this way?

The Review!
The challenges get tougher for Nina as she gains in levels while both girls continue to deal with the blossoming but generally not for all that long. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and that had a few good areas of directionality as well. The mix has a good full sound to it and comes across as problem free. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With it being as much of a girls show as it is and being such a recent production, this is one of those transfers that really just stands out because it's so bright and visually vibrant that you can't help but appreciate how gorgeous it looks. Between the lush reds and the solid blues for the backgrounds and skies, this is just eye-candy all around. The transfer appears to have no noticeable problems with cross coloration or aliasing and it even looked blissfully free of blocking and color gradient banding. This just looked gorgeous from start to finish.

Packaging:
By the looks of things, the Japanese release came in three double-disc box sets and none of them have the artwork we have here, though it may have shown up inside of it. The cover for this release has a cute picture of the seemingly always basically fashionable girls watching as the new arrival Luna tries to steal Kaji away. The layout for this is nicely done with bits of magic items along the top and bottom though the series logo is a bit confusing at first glance. The back cover goes minimal on shots from the show with just a small strip of four down the center while giving most of its space over to a fairly detailed summary of the premise. The discs features and episode numbers and titles are clearly listed while the production and technical information is squashed down a bit to get it all to fit. The insert replicates the front cover while the reverse side lists the expected months for future volumes to be released.

Menu:
The menu layout is cutely done with an attractive image from the cover in the center while various glittery lights emanate from behind them in a swirl of stars other thingamajigs while a bit of simple instrumental music plays along to it. The navigation is a bit awkward since it's laid out in a way that moving in direction can take you to another but it's easy to see where you actually are. The only thing I really don't like and it's something that seems to be becoming more common on Geneon releases is putting the set-up and extras in the same section. Even worse, there are no real extras this time so it's rather misleading as well. Access times are nice and fast here but the discs subtitle layout did not provide us with our expected subtitle stream; the first stream is the signs and songs stream so it picked that up instead of the second one as both are listed as English.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ultramaniac moves well past the middle part of the series and far into the teen episodes but for a lot of this still feels like it's doing some of the same kinds of stories we saw earlier. There is still a backdrop story of Nina gaining the stones and getting better at what she's doing as well as something a little more sinister that's been hinted at but for the most part we're still getting standalone stories that are cute and play up the magic in a fun way as well as the relationships.

The four episodes on this volume are fun and mostly harmless as they work towards giving Nina more training and some varied ways of going about it. There's the instance of a new stone being found here and while it is part of the framework of an episode it's such a throwaway bit that it's practically useless. It's almost something where if you blink you miss that MAyu has picked up a stone for herself. The real fun with this volume continues to be in how the characters interact and some of the wacky magic. One of them is the first episode where the girls' teacher, Mikami, meets up with Tamura after picking up a magic shirt that Nina's earth-parents accidentally put out for sale. The vest makes the wearer tell the truth or it constricts on them when they lie. He pretty much blows any chance of being with Tamura through this, never mind getting his order from the waitress.

One fun area to this release is that, for some reason, another magic student makes her way down to Earth and it's one of MAyu's "friends" named Luna. She's the picture perfect vision of the rail thin blonde gothic Lolita type as she wears the red outfit complete with the headwrap and all. Her problem is that she exudes such an aura of negativity and depression that it affects others around her, essentially causing bad luck by force. People would avoid her but she's managed to corner a few into being friends and they're almost afraid to not be her friend because of what might happen, which is where MAyu is for the most part.

Luna's not an all out depressing character as she's actually fun to watch especially when she comes across the others at a movie and instantly falls in love with Kaji because he handed her bag to her when she dropped it. Her way of showing her interest is comical though as she figures because he's been near her that bad things will now happen so she gives him weird magic based cures and the like to fend off the various problems all while running in and hiding just as quickly, trying her best to go unnoticed. Luna's not a character you'd want around for the long haul but she's clearly a lot of fun here with the way she interacts with the world, from her floating along to the way she gets massive and threatens MAyu constantly.

The relationships throughout the series continue to grow as well. The opening of this volume covers the revelation by Tsujiai and his catching Nina during a magical moment but he's playing it cool enough so that she doesn't have to worry by pretending that he didn't really see anything. But things keep happening around them that keeps him fully aware that things are not like they seem but he holds to his words. That alone shows him having a good interest in Nina I'd say. For Ayu, things aren't going quite as smoothly as she continues to play it really coy with how she feels about Kaji. Things seem to go worse when Luna shows up and pretty much tries to steal him away but that was minimal in the end. Where things start to heat up in an interesting way is the last episode when Kaji gets knocked unconscious by a baseball. Another student named Akiho seems to be much closer to Kaji than she is and Ayu starts to feel cast off if not for the help of the currently magic-less Nina. Watching the way Ayu and Kaji are slowly revolving around each other and getting closer and closer is a nice simple and fun aspect of this show that's mostly without a lot of the traditional anxiety elements.

In Summary:
While the series as a whole is moving forward at a snails pace, the active parts with the characters continues to be the real draw. I'm not expecting all that much in plot until the final episodes but until that point what we'll likely get is more of the same as the girls learn to work with what they have and master what powers they do have. MAyu's still the main draw for me but this volume cemented my interest in the Ayu/Kaji relationship and I want to see more of that moving forward as well. Ultramaniac is a great looking show and one that's simple and fun to follow and won't tax you too much.


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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