Utawarerumono Vol. #6 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • 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. #6

By Chris Beveridge     September 25, 2007
Release Date: September 25, 2007


Utawarerumono Vol. #6
© ADV Films


What They Say
The question of Hakuoro's past has never loomed more ominously. Now, the reluctant leader is forced to piece together his true identity, even as more questions arise. How is it possible to have a twin from an alternate world? Why is Eluluu named Mikoto in this futuristic world? And will the traitorous Genjimaru plunge his people into certain destruction as the new head of the Tuskuru army? One thing is for certain " Hakuoro must embrace both the darkness and light hidden deep within himself in order to find the truth. Is Hakuoro's quest for peace, love and family really a mask for an evil lust for blood? Find out in the sixth and final supernatural volume of Utawarerumono!

The Review!
As difficult a battle as there is with Kuuya's people, it pales in comparison to the battle that Hakuoro has to face within himself as the series concludes.

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 final volume lets Hakuoro shine with a really nice design as it features him in the foreground while the shadow version of his other self is behind him. The overall design of the series has been quite good even with the foil and this volume works out even better than previous ones with it. 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 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 best extra however is the final piece in the Omake Theater series which continues from the previous one and goes off in even more fun directions. New to this volume is a promo for the Japanese PS2 game that I wish I could play as well as a Q&A piece. This is actually a fairly lengthy piece as it runs just under twenty minutes and has questions asked of the characters that are amusing and work well in humanizing the cast even more.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With most series, as we approach the end of it, there is a mix of elation at being able to close out one more thing as well as sadness as the characters and stories we've come to enjoy are ending. With Utawarerumono, this is mostly just sadness because I don't want to be able to close out this series. Though it was a bit awkward at first as it set the stage, it progressed into a fascinating series that really captured your attention for each and every episode. Even better was that they found the right mix of humor to put into it which helped balance things out.

If there is any downside to Utawarerumono, it's in that it doesn't have the smoothest transitions from one story arc to another. Seemingly the moment one major arc is concluded, we're whisked into the next with no time to really catch our collective breath and take stock of things. This is all the more apparent in this final volume as the storyline involving Kunekuman comes to a close within the first two episodes. The seeds of the larger storyline have been sown earlier but have made more inroads during this particular arc. That leaves us jumping right into things once Kuuya's tale has been closed out and Hakuoro has to face his inner demons and his own true history.

The Kunekuman arc has been a challenge to watch as it introduced not only the robots into the series but also a sense of science fiction as we've seen some of Hakuoro's past. Both make return appearances here for the finale though it's just Hakuoro's past that is expanded upon. For the robot side of it, we're left to Hauenkua and Hien battling it out under the apparent control of Dii. Kuuya's role in all of this is fairly twisty as it delves into the previous ruler of Kunekaman and deals with Genjimaru's long standing participation with Dii. The small amount of information that we do get from it seems to be enough for a series all of its own but in the end it all works towards bringing Kuuya's arc to an end. Of all the characters in the series, Kuuya is the one that I found myself feeling the most sorry for as she was swept up by so many others and found herself in the worst position when all is said and done.

The introduction of science fiction elements into the series had me wary but not too concerned. Numerous novels I've read over the years have done similar so there was an interest in seeing how a Japanese take on it would be. In the end there is really little difference in their take as it introduces some reasoning behind things though it leaves plenty of questions unanswered. As Hakuoro starts to grasp more of what he is and struggles with what he can become, seeing the things he has gone through in years past is fascinating to see. Though he's generally a very well controlled character in terms of his emotions, the things that set him off are the same throughout, be it in the past or in this incarnation. Gaining this understanding of him and what he has suffered " while still not seeing his full history " brings him some more depth and really works to explain his actions towards the end here.

Though Utawarerumono feels a bit rushed at times in these final four episodes, the end result is one that I found very satisfying. Kuuya's arc is over far too quickly with little examination of the ramifications but that isn't the focus. The focus is on putting Hakuoro and Dii together in the same place and letting their instincts overwhelm them. Some of the tricks used seem cheap at first, such as having Camus tied to Dii in an unusual way, but they provide some insight into the larger picture such as when we learn where her purification fire trick really comes from. The passage of time in the series has always seemed to suffer the most and it's no different here. The best part however is that the end credits are given over to an epilogue that touches upon all of the surviving characters and gives them a few moments to let us see where they end up. Some will make you smile, some will make you sad, but in the end all will play out just as you'd expect.

In Summary:
When first announced, Utawarerumono was a series that just begged for jokes with its name. Once it got into my hands however, it simply impressed and continued to do so for the entire run. There were no real slow moments here or stories you would want to do away with. At the same time, it was all balanced out with wonderful Omake Theater moments that just made it all the more alive and fun to watch. Though there are aspects you'd like to see played up more in the relationship side of things, Utawarerumono is a winner in just about every regard. Few series have been this much fun and have me lamenting as much afterwards that there is no more to be seen. Few series would have me pick it up again in raw form just to see it in high definition either. Though it doesn't get as much attention as some other titles, this is a real gem in the catalog of titles that ADV Films has to offer. Highly recommended, especially in singles form, as the extras are not worth passing up.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Omake Theater, Utawarerumono Q&A,Utawarerumono PS2 Game Promo,Character art gallery,Glossary of terms,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
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.

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