What They Say:
If you have enough money, you can buy anything, so why wait for an organ you need to become available? Raised to be harvested for parts, Ray had already lost her eyes when renegade surgeon Black Jack rescued her. Now, ten years later, she has grown up to be a surgeon herself. Thanks to the unique artificial eyes she received as replacements, she has a reputation for performing incredible medical operations that no one else could even attempt.
But unknown to any but a select few, her surgical endeavors are only part of a greater mission: to discover what happened to the other children she was raised with, and to find the men who stole the eyes she was born with and to bring them to justice.
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this series is standard in that it contains only the Japanese stereo language track encoded at 224kbps. The series is one that is very much dialogue driven but it also has its tense moments and mild action where things ramp up a bit more. The mix isn’t one that stands out when it comes to the dialogue bit it is well placed and has some distinct moments where it captures the softness well and there’s some decent placement as well. The action is similar in that its serviceable, but what I liked overall is the music as it blended into the scenes well without being a standout distraction while enhancing the scenes just right. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
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. The thirteen episode series is spread across two discs in a six/seven format with a rather average bitrate applied. The animation by OLM is somewhat subdued in that it uses a soft palette to it when it comes to the colors that keeps it from looking vibrant but is definitely appropriate for the content. It’s the kind of visual design that to me always reminds me of fall colors in that there are soft whites and faded colors of leaves for a lot of it as well as distinct colors. With most of the cast kept to real world colors, that adds to the overall visual flavor. The transfer captures all of this rather well with only some background noise being the main issue which is more visible in some scenes than others, but rarely becomes a significant distraction.
The packaging for this release puts the two discs inside a single sized keepcase with a hinge to hold the first disc. The cover artwork for this release is pretty solid as it features Ray in her usual outfit, sans doctor’s coat, where she looks very current and sleek. With her simple colors for the skin tone and outfit, the striking area here revolves around the blacks and reds in the background. It gives it a really good look and the cover does manage to draw you in surprisingly well. The back cover uses more of the blacks and reds for the layout which has a fairly indistinct background, which isn’t bad since we get an attractive shot of Ray in very little overall along the right. The shots from the show are rather small and scrunched together in a way that doesn’t sell the show well, but the summary does a good job with it so it balances out alright. The discs extras are clearly listed and the technical grid is solid with laying out its specs. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for Ray The Animation uses the same elements as the cover in a good way as the background is similar with the blacks and reds that gives it a bit of vibrancy but not outlandish with the reds going too far. The left side features the episode selection by number with titles along them as well as submenus for extras and trailers. The right side has each main menu using different pieces of character artwork for Ray. The second volume is kind of awkward since it has Ray in a lot of bandages which wasn’t exactly all that appealing. The layout is quick and easy to use and due to its monolingual nature, no language menu is included though you can change the subtitles on the fly.
The only extras included with this release are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Akihito Yoshitomi, Ray The Animation is a thirteen episode series that takes place in the world of Black Jack and has a pretty solid connection to it. When the manga first started coming out in 2004, they just alluded to the Black Jack angle since it wasn’t something they had the rights to. When the animation came about a few years later, it was something they could make a lot more concrete since it was OLM animating it and that’s essentially Osamu Tezuka’s studio. That connection was fun in the manga but having it more upfront here definitely makes it all the better.
Taking place in a near future world where things are basically the same but some fun technology is considered a bit more normal, the series revolves around a young woman named Ray that has followed in her mothers footsteps by becoming an top of the line surgeon at a very young age. Unlike Black Jack, she’s not an underground doctor but her reputation is definitely there and working in a rather quirky hospital doesn’t help. When the chief director looks like he stepped out of an old style gang, completely with grizzled look and eyepatch, he’s the type that takes in odd cases and has complete faith in Ray which gets her some unusual cases. And like the world of Black Jack, the cases are based in fairly normal real world ideas but taken a few steps further into the fantastic.
Ray’s not normal herself either, as we see at the start as Black Jack operated on her with the promise that she follow through with her path in life when she got older. At a young age, she had lost both her eyes and he installed a pair of special ones that gave her the ability to use them as x-ray capabilities. It’s kind of outlandish, but she uses it to really look into the bodies of special cases to see what the problem is with the patient. With the technology of the series, it’s definitely advanced as Ray spends a lot of time with an inventor named Shinoyama. He’s the type that comes up with artificial heart prototypes overnight just because of boredom but has a strong reputation that we see expanded on as the show progresses. And naturally, he’s got a strong interest in Ray as well though it’s something that’s just around the edges for a lot of it.
While the series works through some of those kinds of unusual cases that you’d expect, such as one woman with a cherry tree nut lodged inside her that lets her feel what the tree is feeling, a lot of it is actually tied to a larger storyline that’s teased out throughout the run. That storyline does take awhile to really come together which is the downside to it because it plays with some less than appealing story elements. What becomes the driving force is a variety of cases that seem to involve a mysterious man with no name who is only referred to as the Man with the H Ring as he has, surprise surprise, a ring with the letter H on it. He’s part of some mysterious organization that has been doing all sorts of medical manipulation and experiments on people and several of the cases end up in front of Ray which piques her curiosity.
The mystery brings in a lot of interesting ideas along the way with the way medicine and technology comes together to make things need to be thought and talked about. With organ harvesting, cloning, replacement parts and more, there’s a lot covered here and both Ray and Shinoyama but it has that larger background to it of the mysterious organization. That tends to be the weak part overall though since they’re apparently capable of doing anything, any time to anyone, but the mystery of it is what does manage to draw you back into it. When that storyline gets expanded in the last few episodes with a lot of revelations, it does go big and it works in its own way, but it’s the kind of story that definitely fits in a Black Jack world.
While OLM isn’t the kind of studio that has a really high presence among fans with what they do, they’ve been involved with a good variety of shows and films and definitely have a good sense of style about them. With Ray the Animation, they take the designs from the manga and really work them well here. I really enjoyed the use of colors throughout this as it keeps it to a softer look but with the strong line work to give it definition. There’s plenty of fluid areas of animation throughout it but a lot of it is fairly relaxed with the way it’s dialogue driven and talking about the situations and medical investigations. OLM works both of these ares really well and while the show is not one that leaps out with what it does in terms of visuals, it’s a strong and competent work.
When this series was licensed, it quickly went up my list of shows I was interested in because of its ties to Black Jack. The series does a good job of telling an interesting story with a larger mystery to it that’s shown from the start and carried through. It’s not a series of medical mysteries of the week, though they do populate it, but rather something that’s all connected together in different ways that does have a goal in mind from the start and doesn’t save all its cards until the last couple of episodes. There’s a lot to like here and it definitely progresses at its own pace in a way that definitely has echoes of the Black Jack series itself. While some of it goes (appropriately) campy with the kinds of science fiction it brings in, overall it’s a show to have a lot of fun with unless you just can’t stand medical shows at all.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: October 18th, 2011
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
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.