Zegapain Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Zegapain

Zegapain Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     December 17, 2007
Release Date: December 04, 2007


Zegapain Vol. #2
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
The reality that the real world is destroyed and that he and everyone he knows are just computer recreations of dead humans, has driven Kyo into an existential crisis. What's the point of living in the false peace of Maihama or fighting in the ruins of the real world when all of
humanity has been dead for decades? But even as he pushes those closest to him away, he encounters new allies who help to explain that in the end even computer-generated ghosts like him are still real. As Kyo finally accepts who he is and the truth of the world,
things finally start to look up for him. But there are still secrets to be learned, and a painful truth yet to be faced.

The Review!
Moving past the chaotic and less than interesting opening, Zegapain begins to explore some of the more interesting issues that it presents.

Audio:
The series sports a fairly solid stereo mix as both tracks that are included are done at 224 kbps. Zegapain is a show that really would benefit from a strong 5.1 mix as it features a good deal of mecha action. The stereo mix that we do get however is quite good as it has plenty of placement across the forward soundstage and smooth directionality. There isn't a lot of depth required here though but what we have in total is a clean and solid sounding release. Dialogue is problem free and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Featuring five episodes on this volume, the transfer in general is pretty solid but not without a few problems. The opening episode is where it's the most problematic as some of the initial scenes with heavy blacks have gradients that display a good deal of blocking during it. This eases off in later episodes, especially when you see similar gradients in the blue water but without the same level of noise and blocking. Colors in general are solid and smooth looking with very little noise to them. Aliasing and cross coloration are essentially minimal to non-existent here which leaves the bulk of the show looking good, especially in outdoor city scenes.

Packaging:
Using the Japanese cover artwork once again, this volume avoids using the primaries one more time and decides to use the pairing of the mercenaries Arque and Chris. The character designs and logo is essentially the same, though they swapped the translated languages, but the background color has shifted a bit to provide some green into it which ties it all together rather nicely. The back cover uses a similar color layout but with various hues of purple that come across rather gaudily with the green of the Altair. The cover is a fairly standard layout for Bandai as it provides a brief summary of the premise and a rundown of the discs extras, episodes and titles. The shots from the show are a good mix of character moments and mecha action. The bottom portion of the cover contains the usual minimal and unhelpful technical specs and production information.

Menu:
When it comes to mecha shows, Bandai typically has some good in-theme menus with them and Zegapain is no exception. Menu items are located along the top and bottom while a strip of clips plays through the middle with various action sequences and some key character moments. Interestingly, the menu runs for 48 seconds but they do the audio in 22 second segments so that it rises and falls once before repeating again. The layout is nicely done, though the white text on the purple is a bit awkward at first, but it's a solid piece that fits the show well. Access times are nice and fast but the disc did not properly read our players' language presets and default to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The extras for this volume are nice in that they provide the clean openings and endings for the special episodes that stray from the normal opening and closings.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Zegapain in its first five episodes was a series that frustrated me quite a lot as it presented us with an interesting situation but with an incurious lead character. With a very chaotic feeling and several things that were glossed over too easily, Zegapain left me feeling uninterested in it overall until around the fifth episode. It was at that point that the lead, Kyo, began to start asking the questions and actually getting answers. With a growing foundation for the backdrop of the series, Zegapain got interesting. This volume only further cements that as it plays more to the psychological side than to the action.

The use of similar themes to the Matrix is something that I'm still surprised isn't used more in science fiction anime series these days. Zegapain plays with this nicely with this as it balances out the action and psychology of it all. Kyo's shift from one side of the world to the other is fraught with trying to figure out which is real and which isn't. That provided for some fun moments early on in the first volume but it gets settled fairly quickly here as he begins to learn the truth of the world. And while the truth may set you free, grappling with the scope of the truth that's involved means that Kyo is having a very hard time with it. Enough so that he actually abandons the real world and returns to Maihama. Yet once there, the realization that none of it is quite real almost drives him nuts as he has to find a way to live within it.

What's the point of taking tests if none of it is real? Or to fall in love when there's no true flesh, or even a soul if he wants to believe that far in all of it? These issues plague him for several episodes here before he comes to terms with it. What helps along the way is the recent introduction of the mercenary team, Arque and Chris. The two of them have signed on with the Oceanus as they know that their time is coming to an end and they want to go out properly. Being able to get into the Maihama server in order to make memories, they also help by providing more details for Kyo about the reality of the situation. Kyo's situation isn't an easy one since you can't take all of this in quickly without going insane, but at the same time it never feels like he's getting enough of the info fast enough that he needs.

Even worse is that some of the characters are so caught up in their own situations that it's hard to put themselves in Kyo's place. May-yu's reaction in the previous volume to the destruction of the Shanghai server was certainly appropriate, as was the way she dealt with Kyo when he called it all a game, but she still seemingly holds a grudge over this even though she knows that he wasn't aware of the truth at that time. Shizuno's past relationship with Kyo still isn't clear but even she seems to be acting strangely around him and not doing what she can to alleviate his situation. It's only when he outright confronts her on it that she tells him the truth, and even then it's just a confirmation without an explanation. As Kyo comes to these realizations though and his understanding of the world and his place in it is cemented, everything starts to click more and Zegapain becomes much more enjoyable. The simple fact that it does spend as much time as it does on the character's emotional and psychological issues really gives it a strength beyond just a mecha show.

Not that there isn't action to be found here, or fanservice. The action side is pretty decent now that Kyo is past the game concept idea and he's taking the lead in the battles. One segment deals with going after one of the strongholds of the enemy with the team of three Zegatanks. This takes up the bulk of an episode and along with a few other fights throughout the volume, the mecha get some good moments and a greater understanding. The way the characters are so tied to them and the transmission ranges gives it an interesting feeling, though it also provides that out of teleporting them back if need be. But even there, there is an element of risk that's now introduced. And just like the mecha, the fanservice continues along nicely as well with plenty of poolside scenes that put some of the women into the swimsuits. While some of it is just blatant pandering, enough of it fits into the scenes at hand that you can give in to it just a little bit easier.

In Summary:
Zegapain had me fairly well dreading the remaining five volumes after I had seen most of the first volume. While it hinted at better things to come, the initial setup left me really uninterested in it since it could go downhill quickly. Thankfully, this volume kept up the momentum from the last episode on the previous volume and really does a good job of combining the psychological and emotional side of the story with the science fiction and mecha side of it. It'll be easy to see it leaning more towards the action as it progresses, but these episodes laid down a solid foundation for the characters and why they do what they do. More revelations are bound to come as the past and events are clarified even more which will help it a lot. With all of these characters little more than data, it's going to be interesting to see how it brings it all to a resolution. Zegapain is definitely worth checking out based on the first ten episodes of the series.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Special Clean Openings,Special Clean Endings

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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