Zegapain Vol. #3 - 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: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Zegapain

Zegapain Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     March 10, 2008
Release Date: February 19, 2008


Zegapain Vol. #3
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Death's shadow is falling over Kyo and the rest of the Oceanus crew. As Arque fights her final battle, Ryoko is drawn into the war as a new pilot. But the enemy's progress is steady and very, very fast, and soon Kyo and Ryoko find themselves at the mercy of the latest Gardsorm weapon. The results of the battle leave Kyo angry and demanding to know more about who they're fighting. At last, we learn the truth about what triggered the destruction of the human race.

The Review!
Reaching several critical episodes, Zegapain begins to move from a decent show to a very good show.

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, Zegapain turns over the cover to the bad guys as Abyss and Sin are paired together. With their dark designs they look a bit off putting with the brighter colors around them, as well as the shoulder pads, but it certainly is a good kind of darkness. 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 ending sequences for the third and fourth versions and clean endings for the special endings used for episodes thirteen and fourteen.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the second volume of Zegapain did a good job of changing my opinion of the show after the first volume, this third installment has only further cemented it. Moving just past the halfway point in the series, I'm becoming rather hopeful that Zegapain will turn into a great little mecha series that defies expectations and fandom by being better than it should be. While I do find the Zega's to be gaudy looking pieces and I disliked the stilted storytelling in the first four episodes, the creators have turned out a rather intricate and emotional show when nobody was quite looking.

The emotional side of the series is what's turned out to be so striking as it plays out. This volume delves into the issue that cropped up in the previous one with Arque continuing to basically lose integrity. The relationship between her and Chris isn't exactly a deep one since they haven't really been around all that long or given a huge amount of attention, but with the knowledge that her time is very near the bond between them feels real. The soft emotional side of it, the comfort that exists between the two of them, is given time to be explored as well as how her death will impact others. And like many who know their time is limited, Arque uses it to reassure some of them while trying to tease others into really being honest with themselves. Arque and Shizuno go back a bit and there's some nice quiet moments between the two of them during and around this that helps to humanize Shizuno more than she has been so far.

This part of the storyline is one that doesn't take up a lot of time on this volume but it helps to set the stage for more things to come. Where the real meat of the story is here revolves around Ryoko. She and Kyo continue to be close in their own special way but Ryoko has been getting closer to figuring out what's really going on in the world for awhile now, partially due to Kyo and the others close proximity. All of that eventually comes to a head when a new Awakening pattern begins in the Maihama server and she's one of those that is a possible candidate for Cerebrum. The need for more people within the group is apparent with the way the battle is going but Kyo obviously has an issue with Ryoko being involved in any way since he's sworn to protect her. Even worse, Shizuno sees this a further development that has cost her Kyo since his rebirth has removed all traces of their relationship from his mind.

Ryoko has been a curious character from the start so seeing her become aware of the situation is certainly not a surprise. What is a surprise is just how quickly it happens and the path that it puts her on. Sometimes when things are done in this way where the character is given what seems like a free pass to leapfrog over things, you can look at them in an unfavorable light. Yet Ryoko manages to come across in a way that doesn't engender that feeling, partially because she does it the way you believe Kyo should have. She's far more curious about everything and isn't afraid to ask questions or to get hands on with it all. When she manages to move on board the Oceanus on her own without even realizing what it is she has no problem in getting very friendly with everyone and pretty much disarming them from the start. Not all of them, of course, but enough that you can see why she's the kind of catalyst she is.

What helps this volume even more than the quiet moments between Ryoko and Kyo as they feel each other out for what they should do is the greater understanding of the world that we're given. Through some not all to surprising circumstances, Kyo finds himself trying to really grasp what happened in the real world in the past that led to the very real end of humanity. Though it's told by Lu-shen after a bit in order for him to get it clear in his own head, it's not disputed by any of the other members of the crew and it paints a bleak yet fascinating view of how things could go. The arrival of quantum computing servers that could punch things up in a very fast manner in order to evolve humanity to the next level in order to reach utopia is a very intriguing idea. The results of that are patently obvious within the framework of the show but it opens the door wider for what we may find as we move into the second half of the series.

In Summary:
Considering how I found the first volume to be mediocre at best, I continue to be surprised at how much fun this show has turned into. It's playing with some interesting concepts and has built up a decent little cast as it's gone along that has helped to offset the weakness that is Kyo. Even Kyo is starting to get a bit better as his focus shifts with these episodes. While I do find the Zegapain's to be gaudy looking beasts, I'm growing much more accustomed to the way it's all tying together with the visual style and the shift between the virtual and the real. Zegapain was something that had gotten little buzz before but it's quickly becoming one of my favorite more serious shows that's out there right now. This is the volume that will help cement its position going forward and I hope that it'll live up to the promise that's shown here.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Endings (4)

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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jnager 3/13/2012 10:49:54 AM

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