Witchblade Vol. #5 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: TV MA
  • 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. #5

By Chris Beveridge     March 07, 2008
Release Date: March 11, 2008


Witchblade Vol. #5
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.


What They Say
Sought by the greed of men since the dawn of humankind, but only bestowed upon the woman whose fate it forever scars - the Witchblade. Is it the righteous sword of God, or the hand of the Devil himself? Now a new bearer has been chosen, and she must discover the answers for herself. As she stands on the brink of destiny, she is forced to seek the balance between ecstasy and ruin...

The brutal, bloodied path of the Witchblade and the calculated cruelty of corporate cutthroat make for desperate bedfellows, with sides being chosen even as the final battle approaches. Poor Masane, current bearer of the blade, is the unwilling ground zero for the swelling chaos that approaches, and those dearest to the destined are in the greatest danger of all.

As leaders rise and leaders fall, alliances shift and tumble; the lust for complete control of history's weapon, for the power promised, surges and pulses through the veins of all that have been touched by the Witchblade.

Contains episodes 17-20:
Confusion
Turn
Feelings
Request

The Review!
Wadou makes his move against Takayama which sets into motion a new series of events as Maria matures.

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 is fairly well reduced in this volume due to some higher bitrates being thrown at the main program which helps smooth it out. With the recent change in opening sequences the issues there are pretty minimized as well.

Packaging:
Maria with her multi colored hair takes the cover here but it's suspiring in that she's almost taking a backseat to the wounded Furumizu that's in front of her. The designs look good with a lot of detail to them and the color style fits well, though the silver foil of the slipcover causes it to look a bit dull. The back cover has a neat piece artwork of Masane in her hyper Witchblade form while Maria and her new assistant are in the background which adds some nice softer colors to it. The slipcover has a twist in that the front panel pops open to reveal some cute beefcake 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 what looks to be Maria in her Cloneblade mode but with a really crystallized form to her that stands out as very creepy. The back cover continues 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 Masanori Takumi before providing a couple of pages of character designs. 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:
The included extras once more provides a good mix between US and Japan that gives a larger view of the franchise. The first extra is a nineteen minute piece done in association with Top Cow that goes into the origins of the series in comic book form and how it transitioned to animation form. The other big extra gives some quality time to the Japanese voice actors who again get to go over their roles, characters and thoughts on the series in general. This time it's an eight minute piece that talks with the voice actor for Segawa and another one that runs just under eight minutes with Furumizu's voice actor. 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 progresses closer to the end of its storyline, events are moving in a way that starts to change some of the status quo. Not that there's been a lot of static things in the show, but the shake-ups are a bit stronger this time around as power is used, people get killed and Masane undergoes some dramatic changes with her Witchblade abilities. Yet throughout all the upheaval, the series really does retain its sort of quiet mood that has been built up which helps to give it a stronger feeling than just another busty woman with attitude show.

With this show having a fair bit of corporate intrigue to it, it's not much of a surprise that some of it comes bubbling to the top this time around, particularly as Wadou is doing his best to outdo Takayama in everything. His attempts to gain control of things has pushed him to doing some irrational things, especially since Takayama almost seems to walk on water at times both in what he does and how he carries himself. That only serves to infuriate someone like Wadou who can't stand to see it happen like that. That Wadou goes so far as to actually put out incriminating videos of what's going on within the company is a bit of a surprise since it could bring a lot more than just the Special Section to ruin. But in his single-minded desire to outdo Takayama, he'll go there.

In fact, he'll even sacrifice his secretary, Yagi. Wadou's research into the Ultimate Blades is interesting enough but the revelation of how it really does destroy the wearer within a few days of operation paints a bleak picture. Even Takayama toys with him in this by talking about how it's quite the technical feat to have achieved this but at the same time Wadou doesn't have any real world experience about what their clients are looking for. Wadou's approach is one that fits a different time and a different mentality, something that Takayama has grasped for quite some time. The two of them end up in such a face off because of that, but Takayama is the kind that has the grace and knowledge to know when to get out of the game. Whether he realizes the toll of it or not is another matter though.

While the corporate side has a lot going on, the more personal side is moving along pretty nicely as well. After the recent back and forth issues with Rihoko, Masane is doing her best to overcompensate on the matter and is practically babying the poor girl. Others are aware of it but after all that's gone on they don't feel like they can really get all that involved. Rihoko is pretty aware of it as well but even as "enlightened" as she is at this age, she doesn't know what to do about it. Masane just seems oblivious to it all and just continues to dote on her. Her position is at least understandable, especially now that she's starting to realize that she won't be around for long because of how her powers are changing and increasing. Every time she deals with something in that regard it brings her closer to death. What is a lot of fun to watch is how she deals with Takayama, especially in the last episode, in an attempt to foster a stronger relationship between him and Rihoko. It's simply very adorable.

What proved to be the most fun for this volume, if a bit oddly done, is the transformation of Maria and her role inside the NSWF. She's been the spoiled bratty badass killer for quite awhile now, especially with that multicolored hair style of hers, that her suddenly changing into someone mores restrained and calculating is very odd. With an assistant of her own, she starts pushing out against her grandfather, Furumizu, as she's learned quite clearly what it is he's trying to do. The open realization that his effort at creating the Sisters in order to form the perfect mother for himself to be reborn through is positively disturbing, especially considering how he's doted over some of them like Maria in the past. But as she realizes that she has to forge her own path to gain power for her own needs, she knows who she has to deal with first and what she has to do. This sudden shift as she matures brings a good new element to the show but it feels like it's been done in a way that minimizes the impact of it because of how quickly it came about. Of course, we should realize it just because her hair has changed color…

In Summary:
The penultimate volume of Witchbade brings together a few different things and plays it pretty serious once again for the most part. The lighter moments towards the end revolve around the amusing family of Masane, Takayama and Rihoko but that really comes together in a fun and enjoyable way. Witchblade does provide for some quick bursts of violent action here but that hasn't been the shows strong point since the beginning which is still very much a surprise. These four episodes bring about some good moments to them, especially as you watch the building insanity of Wadou, and it sets the stage decently enough for the final volume. As enjoyable as all of it is though, Witchblade continues to feel like it's missing that really critical component to make it a great show rather than just a good fun show.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles, The Witchblade Forged Part 3, Japanese Cast Interviews, Textless Songs

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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