What They Say:
A war between bordering lands Roland and Estabul has begun. At the King of Roland’s command, Ryner Lute, a bearer of a cursed, extremely lethal power called the Alpha Stigma, and his beautiful comrade Ferris set out on a search for the Heroic Relics – artifacts that contain enormous supernatural powers and can be devastating if placed in the wrong hands. War tactics, bloody magical battles, and political intrigue ensue!
Contains episodes 14-25.
The technical portions of this review covers only the Blu-ray discs in this set.
The audio presentation for this series is par for the course from FUNimation in that we get a pair of lossless tracks for it using the Dolby TrueHD codec. The original Japanese track is kept in stereo with its variable bitrate while the English mix is bumped up to 5.1 and gets an obviously higher rate on average. The show has a very good balance of dialogue and action but it’s the action where it stands out the most. The series has a lot of back and forth banter between some characters and lots of intrigue with others and it’s pretty well handled as nothing is ever too soft to hear or too loud from where it should be. When it gets tot he action though, the magic and swordplay come across really well with some very big moments, a good sense of scale and a solid sweep across the forward soundstage as it unfolds. It’s a very engaging mix overall that really showcases the action in a great way.
Originally airing in the second half of 2010, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The set has twelve episodes to it spread across two volumes with eight on the first and four on the second with just a couple of extras that don’t have much impact with space. The series, animated by Zexcs, has a very rich and appealing design to it as it works through different scenarios. While it keeps to the fantasy setting, it moves between the towns in general, castles and the general countryside. The character designs have a good detailed look to them that’s very evident throughout and the colors are rich and warm. The magic is where it shines the most as it stands out properly and with a distinct look, but the series overall has a fantastic design to it and the transfer captures it beautifully.
With the first set getting the limited edition release, this one goes for just the Blu-ray case itself inside of an O-Card that mirrors the case artwork and design itself. The Blu-ray case itself is done similar to the previous set with the background while doing a similar foreground as well with the core trio together looking good with their poses. This one uses less vibrant colors overall but still looks very appealing and stands out well with the detail and designs. The back cover gives us some of the supporting cast along it with a breakdown along the bottom of the episodes by number and title as well as what types of discs are included in the set. The cover has artwork on the reverse side which uses the same as the main cover but changes up how the back is laid out with more of a focus on just the artwork and a design that replicates the first volume that avoids logos and the like and just showcases different groupings of the supporting cast. No other show related inserts are included.
The menus for this release are decent overall and certainly done in theme with the main part that’s created for it, which is the strip along the bottom that’s on the main menu and doubles as the pop-up menu. That navigation strip has the usual elements we see but is done in a standard fantasy script. The selections themselves are of a good size but some of the submenu stuff is just done with the usual small font that can be a little difficult to read at times. The layout is quick and easy to access and good overall as it sets the mood. The main menu draw in a lot of good clips from the show after it rolls out the logo for a few seconds to make it clear what you’re watching, but the rest of it shows off the action and characters well. Submenus load quickly and everything is easy to move through without any problems.
The extras for this release are pretty decent as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequence but also a pair of commentary tracks from the English language production team that lets them talk about the show a good bit.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After being surprised by how much I enjoyed the first half of the series after really struggling with the simulcast, I was far more curious how the second half would play out since it’s a bit more complicated. The second half has more problems to it with how it unfolds with its structure and pacing but also the fact that it doesn’t give us a proper conclusion, instead feeling more like it’s setting the stage for something bigger but wasn’t able to capitalize it. It’s more like the end of the first big section of a thick book rather than the end of the first chapter or even the whole book. Even worse during the simulcast run was the inclusion of episode 15.5, which recapped the series through Ferris’ younger sisters eyes.
The first half of the series was one that dealt with a few different stories as it introduced us to the core cast and massaged things with stories that blended between the trio but also a distinct subplot involved Miran as he manipulates events for Sion in order to be the darkness to Sion’s light. That largely does continue here, but it’s a reduced role and one that’s a bit more complicated as we get a better idea of the real story going on with Sion and how it completely shocks Miran. It’s a very intriguing bit as it delves into Sion’s mind but it’s such a tantalizing tease that builds up without any real exploration of what it all means and where it can go. This kind of subplot is one of the few that really makes you demand a follow up season or two to start digging into it.
The main thrust of these episodes is dealing with Ryner as he and Ferris continues their search for the hero relics. What makes it more difficult and ends up derailing it is that they get caught up in the way the world is changing as the nation of Gastark is making further incursions south and causing problems. We’ve seen some of the advance scouts with Sui and Kuu, and they definitely caused a lot of trouble, but for Ryner the whole thing is wearing him down. He does get some fun opportunities to nap, but the life of an Alpha Stigma is making its mark on him. What draws him further to what he is though is when the pair came across the young Alpha Stigma in their journey and they worked to keep him safe and get him somewhere where Sion could get him protected. It showed how territorial that Ryner can get but also started to enhance the wedge that can be taken advantage of about how different the Alpha Stigmas are.
And that gets taken advantage of by Tiir, another Alpha Stigma wielder that shows up and plays up the whole superiority complex thing, talking about how they’re born to humans but they’re not human. Unlike Ryner, he wasn’t raised by a human mother and doesn’t have the shackles of humanity on him. But he does have some qualities that keep him from being an utter ass, it’s just that he and those others he’s with view humanity as something they’re better than and can back it up with power. Tiir does bring a different level of action to the show since he has a lot of power like Ryner and watching them go at it is pretty intense and powerful. It’s the kind of sequence that really shows just how far these men can go when they cut loose.
While a great deal of this set focuses on Ryner, especailly when he cuts and runs from Ferris and what Sion has going on since he learns there are to kill orders out there in regards to him if he goes wild, it does deal with others as well. There are some decent moments with Milk and we see some of what’s going on with Gastark, but it’s Ferris that commands most of the attention otherwise. Her past is complicated enough in itself but as we see how things unfolded for her when she was fourteen and the way her father had treated her, it’s surprising just how well adjusted she is in the end. Her addiction to dango is quite dealt with here, though she has many moments of enjoying it here, but it’s seeing how her brother changed things for her that really helps to define things. To have it rough, to be protected and then to channel it into the world like she does shows an interesting coping mechanism.
While the second half of the series didn’t win me over quiet as much as the first, things do flow pretty well here and it spends a lot of good time dealing with Ryner and his difficult past. The series does work the larger storyline well enough as Sion continues to push towards a better and more peaceful world and we do see that he’s making progress, especially in Estabul. There are many things going on in this series, owing to its light novel origins and the sheer amount of material written over the years as it does play large and epic, but that works against it as well since it can go only so far. The series as a whole has definitely redeemed itself for me compared to the very difficult simulcast run and the sets FUNimation has put out are very good across the board. It’s a series that definitely merits multiple viewings in order to get all that’s going on as more layers are revealed and that’s a big plus in its favor. It may not be complete and the novels are certainly never going to make it over here, but it’s a show that gives you a great taste of something big.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Tracks, Clean Opening, Clean Closing.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: April 17th, 2012
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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.