Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B+
- Age Rating: TV 14
- 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. #5
By Chris Beveridge
August 31, 2007
Release Date: August 28, 2007
Utawarerumono Vol. #5
What They Say
© ADV Films
In a warring land, blood runs deep and trust wears thin. Just when Hakuoro thinks he has gained a trustworthy ally, he finds that he must defend his people against a power-hungry onslaught from an invincible mechanized force, the likes of which have never been seen in this primitive world. When Hakuoro is backed into a corner, his inner beast is unleashed " and pieces of the mystery begin to unfold. Is he a bloodthirsty killer, or a mystical protector of life? How did he get here? Don't blink, or you might miss a clue! So sit back, relax, and decipher the flashbacks in this compelling installment of Utawarerumono!The Review!
A time of upheaval is the best way to describe this land as it seems to be nothing but constant yet diverse warfare.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 fifth volume is nicely done as a family portrait of sorts with Hokuoro, Eluluu and Aruruu all together with happy smiles and a real sense of comfort with each other. It certainly belies the carnage and violence actually within these episodes which works well in its favor to me. 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 voice actors.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. The Story So Far is continued again with another fifteen minute recap of the series to date which is certainly interesting from the perspective that's used. The best extra however is the latest piece in the Omake Theater series. These continue to be priceless and certainly help to offset the violence in the story itself. Though it runs for eight minutes, the actual comedy section is about five minutes with the rest done as stills to credits. All in all, it succeeds just like the earlier ones and lets Touka fans really have something to be happy about.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The series to date has had a number of interesting fantasy elements to it that gave it a great look and feel while still keeping within the usual boundaries, even for an anime series. With this set of episodes we finally get what's been missing all this time " mobile suits. All we need is to have a crossover with Gundam Wing and Hokuoro can really shine in conjunction with certain characters there.
The four episodes on this volume are split across a pair of stories. The first two episodes are rather solid as they bring to conclusion the slave revolt arc while letting Karula really shine a bit. Like a number of characters that have been drawn to Hakuoro, Karula was one of the early ones but she set the basics in terms of expectations for everyone. She's got a bit of mystery to her, some seriously strong personality traits and a great style with her weapon. Though she was one of the earliest to join him, she's late in getting some exploration of her past. We've seen tidbits of it in the previous couple of episodes as she and the others went to her homeland and we got a sense of what her background was before wanderlust set in.
Though Karula certainly gets her fair share of attention here, there is a definite attempt to shift more of it to Delihourai as the intent is to have him really assume the role of leadership there. He's still rash and far too quick to attack while having a mild sister complex going on. He's also a bit daft as he can't recognize his sister even with the way she's changed over the years. The story arc is a decent one, even if it does have something of a filler feel to it, as it works to cement more of a relationship with another kingdom in the world while also expanding on the cast and their interactions a bit more. Knowing more about Karula after all of this, even with as little as we really get, makes her a far more interesting character considering how her life could have gone.
Where Utawarerumono runs into some trouble and could alienate some of its fans is with the start of the next arc which is what will likely go through to the series conclusion. The first two episodes of it works in some familiar themes and characters as Kuuya continues to come to Hakuoro for support and advice in her own weird fashion. Unfortunately for their relationship, her home country is about to be attacked by a league of nations that's being manipulated by one of the Three Great Kingdoms. Her people have never been loved or even tolerated so it's little surprise to see them being attacked. With a young leader in charge and some subordinates intent on glory and mass murder, their position isn't as clear as it could have been. It doesn't take long before war hits and they must fight back.
With heavy ties to Hakuoro's past that come out during it, the real focus is on the strange machines that Kuuya's people have in their possession. A secret weapon that is essentially animated armor which the pilots are able to control as if they were performing the acts themselves. The armors are incredibly resilient and unlike anything the lands have seen in recent memory at least. With one of her more bloodthirsty advisors at the helm, Kuuya is able to take control of the war quickly and spread it to other lands in a quest for unification. Though she's not quite stricken with a bloodlust, the entire ordeal of being on the frontlines and seeing her people harmed has left her in a position where her youth and inexperience overwhelm her.
The appearance of these armored suits, and some of what's revealed about them in brief, radically changes how the series is viewed. With so little information actually at hand for it so far, it's hard to say whether it's a deal breaker for the story. Certain mysteries are very much going to be cleared up by this and it offers a number of new questions to be asked. Yet even with this change to the overall mythos of Utawarerumono, the strengths of it all really shine through here. Solid looking animation, great pacing, engaging battles and a really well put together cast that has a lot of emotion to it. There is a bit of amusing retroactive continuity that should have been introduced far earlier in the series and a bit more of a nod towards what's potentially going to happen, but those elements earlier in the series could have proved too distracting to what they were trying to build. In Summary:
The direction Utawarerumono heading now isn't an unfamiliar one and it will succeed only in how it's told. With how the story has been told so far, I certainly have high hopes for it. Everything to date has been engaging and exciting, particularly after coming off of the last volume with its highly fluid battles and animation. There really isn't a departure in this volume from what's come before, but the series has certainly grown from what it started out with. As the central character is a mystery himself, this isn't a surprise and it appears to be handled well so far. Utawarerumono has definitely earned me trust in being able to pull off something great and the potential is very much there for the final volume to really pull it all together in a beautiful way.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,"make Theatre video short,15-minute video "Utawarerumono: The Story So Far", Extended episode previews,Glossary of terms,Character art gallery,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 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.