Witchblade Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Witchblade

Witchblade Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     November 09, 2007
Release Date: November 06, 2007


Witchblade Vol. #2
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Twisted reflections of Masane's alter ego, the Cloneblades stand at the very pinnacle of bioengineering and shattered corporate alliances. A breed of frightful warriors, confrontation is inevitable when so many share the same desire: the Witchblade. As the past creeps into the present to haunt them all, relationships between unsteady foes lie revealed; old scars explained but never forgotten.

The Review!
While Masane gets only a few more glimpses as to what the Witchblade is all about, the history between the Douji and NSWF becomes clearer which will have a bigger impact on her life.

Audio:
FUNimation has provided for some good audio mixes here as three different tracks exist. The original Japanese track is done in a solid stereo mix at 256 kbps as is that English 2.0 mix. Each of these comes across well during playback with forward soundstage directionality and clarity. There is a bit of depth to be found there but the show doesn't call for much of that just yet. The third track is an English 5.1 mix done at 448 kbps which adds a fair bit more bass to things and overall punches it up a good bit. What's surprising is that the English 5.1 mix is not only the third mix on the disc but it falls behind the stereo English mix. When a player starts, it'll select that one before the 5.1 mix and some folks won't even know. In listening to the Japanese mix, we didn't have any issues 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. Witchblade is a very vibrant series during a lot of the scenes as it features some very fluid animation as the lead character flits about and engages in wonderful violence. The source material for this appears to be in solid shape as there aren't any blemishes or problems with it. The encoding for it has suffered in a few areas but does show some improvement in general over other recent FUNimation releases. The background noise continues to be a problem but generally only in the darker scenes or the red filtered pieces. There are a fair number of these during the first four episodes but they're contrasted with the rather clean looking and solid daytime sequences. The noise during the night sequences tends to vary in how bad it is, some scenes feel very light and almost intentional while others are far too noisy for their own good. The red filtered scenes at the beginning of the opening sequence in particular stand out as being rather bad.

Packaging:
FUNimation's love of the slipcover reaches a new height with this release as it has a rather good looking silver foil piece which showcases some original artwork of Shiori in her Cloneblade mode with a wounded Masane spread out on the ground in front of her. The back cover has some animation artwork of Masane in her normal form where the Witchblade is lit up and starting to kick in on its transformation. The slipcover has a twist in that the front panel pops open to reveal some wonderful cheesecake and the usual information we find on the back covers of releases. What's not done too well is that there's a dab of glue to hold it all together instead of one of those Velcro tabs which means it'll wear off over time and the front flap will, well, flap freely.

The keepcase is done in a rather minimal mode as the front cover has a shot of Shiori in Witchblade form that is rather blunt. The back cover continues to the white from the front and has a sideways design to it wherein it's mostly empty outside of a few lines about the shows premise overall. This really feels like a number of recent Japanese imports I've seen in its layout and design which I have to admit, while minimal on the details, is very striking. The reverse side of the keepcase has some purple and white artwork to it that isn't terribly distinct. The included booklet kicks off with the artwork from the back of the slipcover and then delves into a two page interview with the series planner and scriptwriter before providing a couple of pages of character designs and a few glossary words. The back page is actually a full ad for the original comics as well as the manga which isn't a surprise at all.

Menu:
The menu design for the series is surprisingly restrained as it's an all white background that has a strip along the top area wherein clips from the series play. The series logo is just above it while the simple navigation is below. A bit of instrumental music is set to it as well and overall it feels very classic in its design and very minimal in how it's playing up the fanservice elements. I really expected that to be strong here. The layout is standard for FUNimation and access times are solid when moving about the submenus. As is usual, the player presets are basically ignored and impossible to use due to angle issues as well.

Extras:
Not unlike the first volume, there are some good extras to be found here with both a US and Japanese angle. The first one is a seventeen minute piece about how to make a comic book the Top Cow way. Having been out of comics in terms of creation for the better part of a decade, I was interested to see some of this with the technology and approach, especially having gotten used to the Japanese side of it for a few years. On the Japanese side we get a pair of video interview pieces with the voice actors. The first one is a seven minute interview with the actress for Rihoko as she runs through the standard gauntlet of softball questions. Just why is Riko so cute after all? The second interview runs just under eight minutes and is with the voice actor for Tozawa. No questions of cuteness here but a few more softball questions about the character's role and approach in the series. Also included is the standard and always welcome clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Witchblade starts to move forward and expand past the introductory phase of the series, the revelations start coming a bit more. Some of then are small and a bit subtle while others just hit you over the head with how obvious it is when you put them together. What continues to be interesting about the show is that it is for the most part fairly laid back as it avoids going the monster of the week route. Even when they do bring in the generic monsters there is something behind it that slowly changes how it all plays out.

When you have a lead character who is suffering from amnesia you really can't be sure exactly what you'll get from it. Masane is interesting in that we're not picking up from her having the amnesia but rather several years afterwards when she's built something of a life with Riko and is moving forward. She's still wanting to understand her past, especially in terms of really feeling the bond with her daughter, but it's not an overriding sense for her. Though she is somewhat ditzy at times and has a rather spastic approach to events, she does try to work some cunning into her plans. This is most evident when she starts hitting up Takayama for money in a different manner than they had planned. Her approach is amusing even with her going at it using little real knowledge of how much the jobs she's pulling off could be worth.

The main focus of these episodes is kept to that of Masane dealing with a new powerful opponent. Through a bit of exposition, we come to understand the research agreement that the Douji company had with NSWF several years back regarding the Witchblade. The revelation that they produced something called Cloneblades which have since fused with wearers gives Masane some real opposition. The X-cons have been really weak links in the show so far both in terms of design and use within the show. The Cloneblades gives Masane someone with power and intent to use it to deal with. While we get some sidelong glances at the one called Lady, these episodes focuses on Shiori and her Cloneblade.

The two have a rather good pitched battle in an abandoned section which then eventually leads to a more populated area when Masane's watchers perform an extraction on her. While we've seen Masane really get into fights in the first few episodes with the X-cons, she takes on an even more feral approach when dealing with Shiori as the Witchblade knows exactly what the Cloneblades are. Shiori for her part gets into it as well as the Cloneblade starts to take advantage of her personality to achieve what it wants. With the idea that the blades take to the person that they find the most suitable, it's a symbiosis that doesn't work out for the wearer in the long run if they're not in sync at all times. Shiori finds this out in no uncertain terms and it puts Masane into a new mindset in how she has to deal with everything.

As much fun as the battles are and some of the revelations that we get along the way, it's the smaller and quieter moments that carry the show along. Tozawa is intent on figuring out what happened at the detention center and is even more excited when he stumbles across the battle between Masane and Shiori. Though Masane tries to deny it, Tozawa knows full well he's got the scoop of the century on his hands and is intent on following through with it. This starts to bring the two of them closer together in an awkward way and along with more time spent with the cast at the bar/residence, the secondary cast of characters gets fleshed out rather nicely. This is done even as more folks from NSWF start to get involved and their backgrounds are touched upon, such as that of the Lady.

In Summary:
Witchblade still doesn't feel anything like the comic books I used to read outside of the inclusion of the Witchblade itself and its basic mythology. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though I'd love to see some of those early comics animated in a proper fashion. Witchblade is surprisingly reminiscent of Go Nagai's Devil Lady when it comes to the look and use of power by the women in the cast as well as their outfits. It's much brighter and less focused on the supernatural and creepy sides of the concept but there are definitely similarities. These episodes start to forge more of the larger story and background for the series while still providing plenty of sexy action scenes that are almost obscene at times. That little bikini patch of clothing really doesn't leave anything to the imagination.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,How to make comics the Top Cow way,Voice Actor Interviews,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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