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Shingu: Secret Of The Stellar Wars Complete Collection Review

10 min read

Towards the end of this century, humanity discovers that they truly aren’t alone in the universe.

Audio:
The audio presentation for Shingu is pretty basic but it fits the series pretty well as it contains a pair of bilingual tracks in stereo encoded at 192kbps. The stereo mix is of an action/adventure type and there are plenty of areas where there is some good directionality across the forward soundstage, generally in the action sequences, as well as a well placed dialogue track that is generally center channel bound but it gets around on occasion as well. It’s not a giant stand-out mix but it’s one that conveys the actions in the show properly. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show is spread across five discs with five episodes each with the third one having six. Being a Madhouse produced show, the animation in here is really quite attractive and smooth throughout though they do go something of a minimalist approach in some of the style and design, but it works well with the kind of story being told and the visuals are generally very clean and straightforward but with enough detail to keep it interesting. The transfer in general is solid here with no problems with aliasing or cross coloration. Though this isn’t a stand out kind of show with a lot of pop, it has some very good fluid moments of animation and a color palette that is definitely appealing and looks good here.

Packaging:
This thinpak edition of Shingu is put together rather well as it uses a heavy chipboard box wrapped in black which gives it a very sleek feeling with the background schematics that are done in white. That lets the character artwork that’s on the top layer, Hajime and his sister on the front with Muryou’s sister and Muryo on the back, while between them is the Shingu itself which wraps around the box entirely. The spine gets a little extra pop with Moriyama there and her red outfit. The whole thing ties together very well and it’s the kind of set that has a definite look about it that stands out in the right way. Inside the box we get a really great 44 page booklet that’s in full color and combines the individual booklets from the five original releases. It breaks down a lot of production information and artwork and looks at the world of 2070 that the series takes place in. Add in an interview with the director and a couple of four panel comics and you have a great, informative booklet.

Also inside the case are five clear thinpak cases that are done up similar to the box itself where it’s layered in black Each cover has a large inset on it that uses a different color shaded background that has the schematic angle again with the Galactic Federation symbol included with it. The covers vary up the character combinations and doesn’t hesitate to re-use some of them on subsequent volumes which is nice. The characters are simple in their own way but they have a good look to them and each of the covers has a very nice and elegant design to them that draws the eye properly. The back covers are all laid out the same with a heavy text piece on the right that breaks down what’s going on with that volume as well as listing the episode numbres and what special features are there. The left side provides some character artwork as well as a few shots from the show. There’s also some artwork on the reverse side as it does a top level schematic piece of a starship with the large galaxy laid out behind it. This set comes together really well altogether and fits the theme of it just right.

Menu:
The menu layout is designed the same as the front cover it’s from with character artwork from the singles release along the left side while displaying the selections along the right side, all set to some of the music of the show. The layout is simple and easy to use with no navigational quirks and features an easy way to move between episodes in the scene selection area. The menu listed our players’ language presets properly but when played they went to a default of English language and sign/song only subtitles instead.

Extras:
This release contains all the extras as seen on the single versions where they were before so there’s a fair bit of material to be had overall. The big extra are the liner notes which are spread across them and offer a lot of neat little tidbits. In addition to that, we get some character bio pages, a clean opening and some line artwork galleries. The liner notes are what really drew me in the first time and they’re still fun to read through.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the shows that really surprised me this past decade that flew under the radar for far too many people is this one. When Nozomi grabbed it years ago, it really captured the attention of a group of very enthusiastic fans that broke it down episode by episode. At the time, and even now with a lot of what’s out there, it avoids a lot of the usual things you’d see as there’s no fanservice to really speak of and it’s a very mellow show overall that explores a lot of events and characters as humanity faces the revelation that we are not alone in the galaxy. Ensemble shows can be really hit or miss but this one draws you in and continually expands the storyline as it progresses.

Originally called The Record of School Wars: Muryou, the twenty-six episode series has been renamed to Shingu. This series is one that reminds me of a lot of other shows over the first five episodes but really starts to break out into its own as it gets towards the end of those episodes. The show is focused around the town of Tenmo in 2070 where a transfer student named Muryou Subaru has just arrived as he’s now living with a family named Sanemori as part of a deal his grandfather made with the matriarch of that clan some years ago. Once he turns fourteen he must come live with them and deal with his responsibilities in the family as well as school work. But before we even get to his actual arrival in school, the city of Tokyo is given a big shake-up.

A massive spinning object had appeared overhead and landed in the Shinjuku area and began to do some kind of data gathering mission which resulted in anything electronic being scrambled, but most people didn’t notice as the power went out right afterwards. The sight of the alien ship there was enough to surprise people but they got even more when a very strange looking humanoid robot for the lack of a better word shows up and engages the spinning top in a fight and completely destroys it, returning power to the city as it disappears itself. The world is given the announcement via TV that in the year 2070, we’ve now made contact with aliens and they are real. Amusingly, people are blasé about this as they both don’t really believe everything they see on TV and most people believe the government has been hiding their arrival for years so it’s not really new in a sense. It’s an interesting method of forcing acceptance over the long time.

While this big news plays out in the background, the focus shifts to the school level where Muryou starts off his first day and we’re introduced to the rest of the cast, which the lead character seems more to be Hajime Murata, the class rep who befriends Muryou quickly. Muryou’s arrival has triggered something though and several of the student government members are out to get him from the start, such as Kyoichi who challenges him to a fight on the roof that Murata tries to stop. What’s interesting is that when the two start to fight, they use some of the same powers we saw in the aliens fighting the day prior and Murata catches sight of it, something that he shouldn’t. But his easy acceptance of such a thing, though filled with questions, allows him to get closer to Muryou.

It all starts to spiral from here as others of the student government try to deal with not only Muryou in their own way but with Murata as well since he shouldn’t have seen things. Throughout their conversations and arguments as well as one or two more alien arrivals, things are slowly pieced together that there are those in the school who know far more about what’s going on than they’re letting on about and that it’s not restricted to just the students, but many more people throughout the town. In the midst of all this there’s a spy that’s trying to get information on the kids so he can report back to his government but we learn so much more from it when he’s confronted by a very laid back gentleman who reveals himself to be an official diplomat of the Galactic Federation and tries treating the spy as much the same so he can get more information out of him. This is a very strange but highly amusing subplot as it reveals so many little things about the larger picture in such a creative way as the spy himself is out of the loop about galactic affairs.

Though it takes most of the five episodes before things really hit a stride where you think you might get a handle on the plot, it’s done very well and it allows for the student characters to be able to show their quirks without being forced into episode after episode of fighting against aliens or revealing deep dark secrets. Muryou is such a laid back and happy character that it’s a great change of pace from the usual group of angst-ridden and whiny kids that we get. Having Murata play off of him with his natural curiosity works well as do most of the other student government kids who provide some interesting challenges. The potential mixed love-interest of Moriyama is amusing since she starts off such a tomboy but still knows when she’s been put in her place and realizes it. It’s hard to say where you want her to go since Muryou only reveals so much about himself but Murata is such a instantly likeable character, though Moriyama’s attempts on his life may keep him from feeling too much for her.

As the series progresses, we get a much greater look at what’s going on and it’s fairly detailed. What’s important though is that it’s very much grounded in the characters and in the three M’s; Muryo, Moriyama and Murata. It’s not really a relationship show, though there are some mild nods towards one a few times, but these three are the ones that define the future for what’s going on as the observation of humanity starts to turn more to investigations and potentially a lot more as the various forces off world want to get involved. Much of the show is focused on what the Galactic Federation is doing on their observation, but it touches on how they handle evolving worlds and cultures by talking about others. It has a really engaging feeling as it deals with all of this, through the numerous aliens that are living on Earth and their interactions with the people of Tenmo. There’s a lot of subplots that go on through all of this and it never really has an urgent feel to it outside of part of the ending and a few other scenes, but that gives it the feeling it should have. With this taking place in 2070 at a time when humanity has largely come together and ended the majority of it’s squabbles, it’s the right mood for a civilization that’s been talked about for being examined in full by the Galactic Federation.

In Summary:
Shingu is the kind of series where there is so much going on, and it’s all layered on top of itself with revelations, character studies and an exploration of where humanity is and where humanity is going that it can be difficult to give a top level view of it. It’s the kind of science fiction that I really like, the kind that’s usually done very poorly when it comes to using middle school students. Shingu bucks the trend because it isn’t solely about them but involves people of all ages and situations and backgrounds and draws it all together in a slow but purposeful way to make for a very engaging series. Shingu defies a lot of conventions and it succeeds handily because of that. It’s one of the best jewels in the Nozomi library and the one that really showed the kinds of intriguing and engaging series that they’d pursue. Very highly recommended.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Liner Notes, Clean Opening, Art Galleries, Character Bios

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

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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