Ultramaniac Vol. #6 - 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: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ultramaniac

Ultramaniac Vol. #6

By Chris Beveridge     February 20, 2006
Release Date: February 21, 2006


Ultramaniac Vol. #6
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Ayu's love for Kaji is tested time and time again as she faces the possibility that her best friend is in love with Kaji...and Maya doesn't help by taking the pure love from all the girls in the school. How can things be set up to end happily ever after? Does Yuta actually have an answer? And how will Nina gather the rest of the Holy Stones?


The Review!
More secrets are revealed about Sakura's time here but more importantly the circle of trust grows and these kids take leaps of faith to confess their feelings.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports are rather good stereo mix with a lot of moments where the sound is coming in from varying directions 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:
Though more appropriate for the last volume as it has Kaji giving Sakura some of the cookies, the previous volume's cover was definitely needed then. This one does look good though and the characters, though a touch thin and tall, are all in their usual looks which is nicely varied from always being school uniforms or the same clothes when at home or about. 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)
Early on in the series, Ultramaniac was a show that I thought had a really neat look to it but that the writing and plot wasn't going to be one that I could enjoy all that much outside of maybe a few cute episodes. As it's gone along and expanded on what it's trying to do I've come to enjoy it a lot more since it does seem to be taking chances, doing things a bit differently and also having the advantage of the manga already being complete which gives it a few more episodes to play with to expand on things. While this volume marks a drop down to three episodes, the three that we do get here are just fantastic pieces that take what's come before and gives it the right shove to move forward.

While the quest for the stones and Nina's potential to be the princess in the Magic Kingdom has served as the backdrop to the series, the main focal point has mostly been around the relationships that she and Ayu have with each other and the guys over time. Like any pair of girls there's always something to talk about, boys to laugh at and the possibility of misunderstandings coming into play that will challenge the trust level of a relationship. Since the inclusion of Tsujiai into the group that knows about Nina's actual origins, they've been hanging around together a lot more and some of the ways that they huddle and hide what Nina does has caused worry among others. Even internally it's caused some issues because Ayu's seen Nina with Kaji several times and wonders if Nina really likes him.

Of course, we know that it's his trusting Nina with the secret of why he's a nice guy and all which has gotten the two of them talking more. It's a clichéd point in that you see one girl trying to help the other by getting through to the guy while the other girl misunderstands, but we've come to know these characters so well by now and how they react that it doesn't feel forced or out of character. Ayu's believe that Nina may find something in Kaji isn't a surprise nor is her reaction to help Nina one either since the two of them have really kept each other as first priorities over everything else. Naturally, everything can be solved with just a bit of talking between the characters but that never happens. Or so that cliché goes but as the series is getting closer to the end there are some great moments of revelation brought about here about how people really feel about each other as well as Nina's secrets.

Most amusing is Tsujiai's reaction to hearing that Nina's ascension to princess level in the Magic Kingdom would actually come with a prince in hand is fun to watch. You know that he's interested and that she's interested as well but unlike the way Ayu and Kaji just put things on the table for each other to see, they can't quite do that here just yet since things haven't turned the way they should at the moment. Nina's still very much focused on getting the stones as well as worrying about Ayu not taking care of Kaji right as well as not wanting to become close to Tsujiai and then having to disappoint herself or him horribly. She does it all without much of a whiny nature as well, keeping to a positive outlook and not letting the others really see her pain..

In Summary:
Ultramaniac does a nice job of setting things up for the ending and resolving some of its plot lines, mostly, before the last five minutes of the last episode like so many shows do. This has grown into a nicely balanced character drama with some fun magical girl elements along the way that have been nicely modernized. It's also been a good show to watch in that it doesn't feel like it's really been drawn out or filled with filler since its source material is a short and conclusive manga series. This volume does a great job of building upon everything that's come before and seeing the growing confidence in the characters and their actions is something that's evolved wonderfully over the course of the series. This is some good solid shoujo material that's very enjoyable.

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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