Witchblade Vol. #6 - Mania.com

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

By Chris Beveridge     May 01, 2008
Release Date: April 29, 2008

Witchblade Vol. #6
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

What They Say
The emotional strain is nothing when compared to the physical strain of the Witchblade, and it looks like Masane is fast approaching the end. Rapidly deteriorating, the force of normal life continues as all plot and plan around her. Forces begin to gather by the thousands. The good news: Wado's been unseated and Takayama's taken charge. The bad news: this time the lives of everyone in Tokyo are at stake!

Masane is not alone as her few allies are prepared to join the battle, but apocalypse hangs on the horizon. High atop Tokyo Tower, a solitary soldier takes her place in the cruel history of the Witchblade...

The Review!
The series races towards its conclusion in a blaze of glory, but not before providing some sentimentality as Masane realizes the truth of what must happen.

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.

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.

Masane in her fully transformed mode is the central piece of artwork here as done by franchise creator Marc Silvestri. I've always love the style he's had and the kind of rough vibrancy he brings to his characters and he captures Masane quite well here with the detail and layout. While some past covers have come across as a bit dull due to the silver background, it doesn't come across that way here because of the color design. The back cover has a good piece artwork of Masane in her hyper Witchblade form in the background while the foreground is the important image of mother and daughter together in a moment of quiet. The slipcover has a twist in that the front panel pops open to reveal a really cute super deformed character design of one of the Sisters 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 the same as past covers as the front has a shot of Masane in her fully transformed mode where she's able to show off a lot of cleavage and posterior in a very interesting way. 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 interviews, one of with the sound director and another with the main director and the series planner. It also provides for a couple of pages of character designs and notes about them. The back page is actually a full ad for the original comics as well as the manga which isn't a surprise at all.

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.

The extras aren't as expansive as in previous volumes which isn't a surprise since it's hard to maintain a lot of original extras for six volumes. This installment gives us a couple of good ones through with the inclusion of the clean opening and closing sequences as well as about seventy-five seconds of TV spots for the show. The main extra worth checking out though is the voice actor interview with Nana Mizuki who plays Maria in the Japanese language version. Similar to previous voice actor interviews, it covers the basics of things a she sits cutely in a chair and talks about her role based on the questions she gets for about nine minutes.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final four episodes of this twenty-four episode series, Witchblade draws to a close in a way that didn't really surprise all that much. So much of the series is based around the concept of family and the importance of it that having it center on that, even in the midst of lots of action, fit perfectly. At the same time, much of what the show has kept to the background while keeping key are the events of several years ago when Tokyo was destroyed. The slow build up of power within Masane has been pointing for some time that a second event is destined for the city.

With the attacks that Masane had defended against after bedding Takayama, she's realizing that things aren't going to go on much longer as her body is already starting to break down. She's come to peace with it surprisingly quickly as she's mainly quite sure that Rihoko will be taken care of in the end, which is all that really matters to her in the long run. Her relationship with Takayama has been really interesting to watch as it went along and more so in the last few episodes since he was forced out of his position at Douji because they've managed to be more honest with each other and to accept what everything is. That doesn't stop Takayama from trying do whatever he can to save her, but events are moving much bigger than just a single person at this point.

The first half of the volume deals mostly within the realm of setup as we see Masane going through a brief recovery and putting on a brave face for everyone so that she can enjoy her time with them and what it all means. There's concern among some of them who know more, with Tozawa alternating between depression over it and outright aggravation since he can't do anything to help. Interestingly enough though, Rihoko seems to understand everything better than most of the others and has in her own way accepted it and is just taking in what she can from her mother. The bond between the two has been key since the start but it's grown to be something that feels more real than a lot of other shows out there, especially with what they've all been through.

As all of this is going on, events are spiraling out of control elsewhere as the numerous I-weapons that have been shipped out of the Douji Corporation have suddenly started to act on their own. Wadou is panicking over it considering the trouble it could cause, even more so once they realize that the I-weapons are actually leaving the foreign country that they're in and are heading towards Tokyo. Or towards Masane more specifically as she's become the target that they must eliminate. With thousands of these things about to hit the city, Wadou manages a moment of brilliance by getting the government on his side as part of a clean-up of the X-cons and triggering a hunt for Masane at the same time, thereby letting everyone battle it out so that he can walk away the victor.

For the final two episodes, everything comes together in a pretty good blaze of glory as Masane goes above and beyond in taking down as many of the I-weapons as she can amid the city that's being evacuated. There are personal stories that get mixed into it, such as Tozawa trying to get out that Masane isn't a monster but rather someone who is defending everyone, while Takayama heads deep into the Douji Corporation to the lab responsible for dealing with the I-weapons in order to try and save Masane from that direction. Add in the rest of the secondary characters and there are plenty of good brief moments where everyone gets a bit of screen time in order to show that they too care about her and what's going on. Particularly fun as it starts to show who Masane really is which alters the view of her by a few of her friends.

In Summary:
At the end of the series, I find myself looking back at it in a way that tells me it certainly wasn't what I expected it to be. Witchblade had a fair bit of heart to it and tended to spend its time in a more laid back fashion, something I didn't expect after reading the original Image Comics books years ago. The Japanese interpretation of the franchise worked well and fits within what I know of the overall model of it, but it really avoided going for the action route that I thought we'd see more of. It teased with the idea of a monster of the week formula at first and then discarded it quickly to be a bit more thoughtful, a bit more corporate intrigue as well as utilizing a decent sized ensemble cast. At its core however was the relationship between mother and daughter and that defined this incarnation of Witchblade more than anything else. While the show played against what it seemed like it would be about, it didn't quite compel you to watch each episode to follow it. It lacked that certain connection with the viewer that demanded that the next episode be watched. While watching each volume, it was quite enjoyable and fun to watch, but it was almost out of mind and out of sight afterwards. If anything, Witchblade has me hoping that the Japanese will mine more American comic properties in the future to try and come up with some interesting adaptations that will turn off both sides of fandom.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Voice Actress Interview,TV Spots,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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