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Cluster Edge Collection 1 Anime DVD Review

10 min read

The aftermath of war and the creations of it take center stage in an old school manner.

What They Say:
Cluster Edge Academy isn’t just any school, it’s THE school, where the offspring of the elite come together to prepare for their roles running a world where artificial soldiers and religious sects are major factors in the battle for total control. That may be why new transfer student Agate Fluorite doesn’t quite seem to fit in. It’s not just that Agate’s enthusiastic attitude stands out among the somber, brooding balance of the student body. There’s something about him that demands notice, even from jaded honors students like Beryl Jasper, and from the moment of arrival he’s been at the center of a series of mysteries that not even Agate understands.

Agate’s not just another student, he’s part of a something so momentous and dangerous that the world that built Cluster Edge may not survive its passing. It may take a miracle to survive the deadly forces already in motion against him, but Agate mmight just be able to produce one!

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release contains only the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The series isn’t an old one but it keeps things relatively center channel based with its approach as it deals with both the action and dialogue sequences. The show doesn’t have a lot of things going on at once in terms of dialogue and the action is simple throughout when it hits, but the overall presentation is problem free as it unfolds. The opening and closings stand out a little bit more but even that’s kind of tame when you get down to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2005 and into 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs evenly while the third disc has all the extras, including two bonus episodes. The Sunrise series has a pretty familiar look overall but there’s a simplicity to it that has an appeal in the animation as it has a clean design. There’s detail to be had in some areas but it goes for a more old school feeling that’s a little hard to pin down where you don’t want to call it cheap or kiddish in nature, but it’s not one of their high end properties. There’s little in the way of real issues here outside of some slightly noisy backgrounds at times and a touch of banding but it’s all minimal and doesn’t stand out in a way the draws attention to it constantly.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is pretty nice overall as it’s a standard single sized keepcase that has a hinge inside so all three discs are safely packed. The front cover has a good look pairing of the two main characters together where Beryl is more of a headshot but he balances well against the lengthier shot of Agate with his all black uniform. With the elegant design white background with shades of blue and gray, it gives it a distinctive look overall that has some good detail and is rather eye-catching. The logo along the bottom adds a bit more definition to it and adds a little more color as well. The back cover has a lot of white for the background but it works well with the mix of colors that comes in through the shots that are layered along the stone work that cross all over it. The summary is pretty lengthy and it sort of makes sense since there’s a bit going on here. Add in the production credits along the bottom and the technical grid that lists everything clearly and it has a good flow and feel to it. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release has a pretty good look to it as it uses the lighter colors from some of the outfits as its main design aspect. The left side has the logo along the top with each disc presenting new character artwork against good looking backgrounds. It provides both a headshot and a half length shot of the character while the right side has the episode breakdown by number and title. It has a good thematic look to it while keeping it simple that along with the instrumental music that helps set the mood a bit more. With the two main discs there’s nothing to it besides the episodes themselves while the third disc has the extras and credits. Being a monolingual release, there’s no language selection submenu.

Extras:
The release for this series has a third disc which contains all of the extras, of which there’s a good bit content wise. We get the standards here in the clean opening and closing sequence as well as about five minutes worth of promo spots before the show aired. We get a five part sequence that shows off the mysteries of the academy which is done with very simple animation, akin to what you’d get in a videogame to showcase things, which gives us a look at some of the basic questions about the series which is cute yet informative. Such as what the EA stands for in the show as it’s not said within it. They vary in length but run a couple of minutes each on average. The show also has two full length bonus episodes contained here which are always welcome since you want all the extras that are produced in Japan. They’re essentially recap episodes that covers the majority of this set, so we only skimmed it since we had just seen the entire series and it felt kind of pointless. And almost makes you wonder if it works better in that condensed form.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series from Sunrise, Cluster Edge is a twenty-five episode show with a couple of recaps that we get as a bonus episodes. The show is one that while made in the middle of the previous decade feels like it’s a fair bit older than that. There’s a certain simplicity to the animation and the structure of the story with how its executed and unfolds. There’s something charming about it because it’s the kind of show where everything is laid out on the screen in front of you yet it can make simple leaps elsewhere to tell the story that it wants to tell. It works its narrative, but it’s kind of breezy in a way.

The series takes place in an alternate world where it has a mixture of high end science and a rather early industrial age kind of military. Events are shown to us early on about how the various nations fought with each other as is common in history, but along the way they developed Artificial Soldiers to step in and do the deed. This worked well early on as there was a lot of pride in these soldiers by the citizenry, especially since blood of each nation was poured into them in essence, making it something where there is a lot of pride. But as time goes on, the wars go on and the violence escalates, things begin to change. Even worse is that a segment of the Artificial Soldiers eventually ends up rebelling which leads to them being taken out of production and nations ending their plans with it. Some nations have made out better in the long run which adds tensions along the way.

What the show brings into play is a place called Cluster EA, a very elite academy where people from all nations come that are among the best of the best to learn. Those who go there end up in high level government jobs while those that end up in the student council essentially become key policy makers as time goes on when they return to their home nations. It’s here that a lot of things happen, but at the same time it’s a huge dose of the status quo as they all know they’ll go back to their home nations, go nationalistic and work from there. There’s some bonding but it’s far more adversarial in a sense and through the first half of this set, we see how they do ostracize those that aren’t part of particular clicks.

The series follows two very different characters who end up at the school but have a lot in common under the hood. The first is the son of a wealthy businessman named Beryl Jasper, though the family isn’t what it once was due to the shutdown of Artificial Soldiers. Beryl, at 15, is cool and aloof but highly educated and is looking for a way to change the world from the inside. On the flip side, he arrives at the same time as the hands, outgoing and bright Agate Fluorite, a young man with an unknown past who seems to have wild skills as he gets caught up in a military action just arriving on the train. Agate has some hidden abilities that come to the surface here and elsewhere that do eventually get explained in a hackneyed kind of way as it simply allows him to be a powerful everyman depending on the situation at hand. But he has his heart in the right place so it’s all okay of course.

While these two don’t connect well or often as there’s a kind of orbit about them that keeps them apart, you can see the crossover as well as each gets pushed forward in different ways. While they deal with the weirdness of the school situation, they also have the problem of the military looking for Agate since someone did something at the start with the person they’re looking for, a man named Chalce who has ended up being the inspiration and figurehead for an Artificial Soldier resistance and movement to give them equal human rights. That becomes one of the legs of the series as it goes on and we see various aspects of the love/hate relationship people have out there with them due to the destruction many caused while others understand and sympathize with their situation.

What the show does as it progresses is throw both of them in and out of the school, though it’s Agate that ends up seriously on the outside while Beryl is outside even while he ends up on the student council through a bit of luck. Through Agate, we see a variety of people and locales, understand how the world works in its overly simplistic ways and how his seemingly endless luck lets him get into some amusing situations that slowly but surely builds him a reputation of his own. What becomes interesting with him is that we do see a lot of his past come to light in this first half of the series and it does make a sort of sense in a way as he’s pretty much presented as a messiah by those that were involved with him, but Agate just sees himself as a catalyst more than anything else and continually nudges Beryl into the real position of change. You know where it’ll go, but mostly this half is introduction, setup and some exposition. More than one might expect for a series at this stage, but the same nonetheless.

In Summary:
In a way, Cluster Edger is the kind of series where you don’t know what to make of it yet it’s very simple and obvious. It has a kind of early 90’s feel to it at times with the way it leaps about and the basic animation style and it feels weird to have a full frame show from just six years ago, though a lot still hadn’t transitioned. It’s a show that doesn’t seem like it’s a Sunrise show, though you can see some of their familiar design elements to it. It has a curiosity factor that does work and it’s easy to get drawn in to what Agate is doing since it’s pretty light and fun even if it doesn’t flow well sometimes. There’s some good ideas and nuggets in here with the Artificial Soldiers and the concept behind the Cluster EA but it doesn’t feel fully formed.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Extra Episode 1: Journey to the Past, Extra Episode 2: The Path of Fate, Commentary, Japanese Promo Spots, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 11th, 2012
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p 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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