Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B+
- Age Rating: TV PG
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Utawarerumono
Utawarerumono Vol. #3
By Chris Beveridge
May 09, 2007
Release Date: May 15, 2007
Utawarerumono Vol. #3
What They Say
© ADV Films
Loyalty leads to death, especially when an evil dictator would rather cover the world with blood then take prisoners. Now, a demon from the benevolent emperor's long-forgotten past threatens to tear his country apart. He must face his dark truth and fight an internal war alone.
The rival emperor is ramping up the destruction, razing entire villages and leaving inhabitants to die in the ruin. No longer able to sit idly by, the kindhearted leader orders his wicked rival put to death. Opposing forces attack with great rage in this tumultuous clash of good versus evil. Who will reign in the end?
Contains episodes 11-14.The Review!
With a known enemy already to deal with, Hakuoro's past comes back to haunt him and put his country through the wringer.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a strong stereo mix that has plenty of well placed directionality across the forward soundstage. There are a number of good action sequences throughout but it's the dialogue and incidental sound effects that come across rather well here. The English mix is done in 5.1 and brings that extra bit of clarity in placement as well as with the music. With both tracks the dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no trouble with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Similar to a few other new series from ADV, the presentation here looks very strong with lots of great looking solid colors with lots of vibrancy. Backgrounds in particular look very strong with little in the way of shifting or noise and the characters hair avoids noise or blocking as well. The color palette isn't an overly bright or saturated one so we get a good mix of strong but earthy tones here that serve the material well. Add in that it's free of cross coloration and very minimal with aliasing and you have a very solid presentation.Packaging:
The character artwork selection for the series is decent but still feels off in comparison to what you'd expect to be used. The third volume uses the same kind of style and background while bringing in Oboro as the main focus. It has an interesting sense of depth to it depending on the angle you hold it at which works well with the clean looking artwork. The logo, again using the foil, looks good along the bottom and the background in general has an eye-catching look to it with the green layered foil. The back cover doesn't make out too well with it though as holding it at even a slight angle to read, particularly in the overhead lighting of a retail store, will make it difficult. The top third is given over to the summary for the show and a listing of the extras while the middle has shots from the show and a tagline to sell it with that's done in the silver foil. The bottom third brings about the standard clean layout of the production information and technical grid which incorrect lists the number of episodes but gets the running time right. No reversible cover is provided but we get a good looking booklet with some character artwork on the cover that opens up to multiple interviews with both the Japanese creative staff and the US staff.Menu:
The menu design is rather simple and effective as it uses the cover artwork zoomed in on the mask along with all the grass around it. Behind it there are clouds passing by at a brisk pace that blends into the color scheme which gives it a really interesting sense of movement. Overlaid on this image is access to all five episodes while the languages and extras are accessible along the bottom. Combined with a bit of fast paced instrumental music from the series, it comes together well and sets the mood nicely. Submenus load quickly with no transitional animations and the disc read our players' language presets and played accordingly.Extras:
The extras get expanded a bit with this volume though it does keep to the basics. The usual suspects are here as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a character artwork gallery. The extended episode previews are here for these relevant episodes and a new round of terms in the glossary are provided. A new interview with Suara who worked on the opening song is included which is a decent length text interview. My favorite extra continues to be the omake theater material that shows up as it just beautifully skews things in a most amusing way.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Utawarerumono moves up through the midway point of the series with this volume and begins to unravel some of the mysteries that have been here since the beginning. The plotlines from the previous volume continue on nicely here as Hakuoro deals with his rise to power while trying to keep the country in one piece. Everyone has looked to him for leadership but with a series of stalemates and rumors of his past surfacing they're not quite so sure anymore.
The preparations for dealing with the immediate threat against the nation are ones that are occupying much of Hokuoro's time as well as others at the command level. When the attacks begin though, they're surprised that it's not who they expected but rather a completely different force. A bit of time finally unearths that it's the people from Kuccha Keccha that behind this. The reasons are still unclear but the forces that are being used are well laid out across the countryside. The attacks seem to come out of nowhere and even such solid generals as Benawi find that they're unable to predict or pin down where it will come from. The worst part of the attacks is that the enemy isn't just hitting military posts but rather slashing and burning every village along the way, including the one where Hakuoro was found.
Over the course of a couple of episodes, more light is shed on the situation as key characters come onto the scene. The forces are arguably led by Orikakan, a man somewhat older than Hakuoro who has a close tie to him. When they come across each other in battle, it's then that Hakuoro is confronted with the name Rakshain. Learning that name is who he used to be and that the people of Kuccha Keccha despise him for a myriad of reasons which include his killing his own wife and children unnerves him. So much so that his previously very calculated battles are now ruled by emotion. With his military now stretched thin and having the potential of two or more enemies on different sides to deal with, Hakuoro begins to falter.
The psychological ramifications of Hakuoro finally learning some of his past become some of the best moments since they drive him to do things that he hasn't before. Being more emotional in his fights doesn't help him in the slightest nor does the fact that he needs to find out what's really going on with his past. That continues to draw him towards battle and the need to get close to Orikakan to find out the truth. The other area that starts to get some nice play is his relationship with Eluluu as she now knows she must support him and become closer in order to give him what he needs. He still views her as something of a mother figure though in the strange relationship he has with her and Aruruu but there are hints that this may change some as time goes on.
A good deal of this set of episodes is focused around battles which start to show a bit of repetition across all four. Seeing the same scene of the cavalry leaving the capital or pans across the same battle sequences isn't a surprise but they do stand out in succession like this. What does stand out positively in these fights is a new character and a recently introduced one. On the side of Orikakan is a woman named Touka, a warrior from the Evankulga clan that is renowned for their abilities in combat. Between her and Karula, they provide some of the best material when it comes to the major fighting sequences. Karula's abilities shine well against someone so formidable while Touka has a certain flair and style to her that sets her apart from the rest.
Utawarerumono isn't unlike a number of other shows in that there's a seeming turning point in the series. This seems to come around episode fourteen as Hakuoro begins to try and take charge of his destiny and that of the country he now controls. With a good sized cast now assembled on his side and some reflection time that sets things in the right frame of mind, everything just comes together in a way that clicks perfectly. The series has been quite enjoyable up until now to begin with so many storylines running and so many characters filling their roles perfectly. In a lot of ways, there's little that I find I can complain about with this series in how it's playing out. It could have gone in so many predictable ways from the start but instead it's moved quickly into a larger and more enjoyable realm.In Summary:
With the series now at the halfway point, some of the mysteries have started to become fleshed out. From simple beginnings of a man in a mask found near death it's become a story of countries clashing against each other and that man trying to bring about peace for those that have adopted him as their own. The death count is high and nobody is safe from the reality of war, a war that starts to get increasingly bloody as it progresses. Both in style and execution, Utawarerumono is a very engaging show that serves up a great deal of entertainment.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Omake Theater,Extended episode previews,Character art gallery,Glossary of terms,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation,Interview with Suara
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.