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[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility Complete Series Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

The world of high finance is not only dark and shadowy, it’s also otherworldly.

What They Say:
Kimimaro is a hard-working college student, raised by his grandmother after his mother died and his father went mysteriously missing. Working at a mini-mart to eke out a meager existence while completing his studies, one night he is approached by a strange, clown-like man. This man has an offer: receive a near-endless supply of money through loans leveraged against one’s future.

Part of the bargain includes joining other “Entrepreneurs” and battling with animal-like “Assets” to gain money directly tied to their lives. Intrugued, Kimimaro finds himself fighting alongside his Asset, Mshyu, and inadvertently discovers the twisted ties that secretly hold the World’s economy together as well as his own family’s past.

Contains episodes 1-11.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series is quite good no matter which track you listen to. Both tracks are presented using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec and we get the original Japanese in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 upgrade. Both tracks are “locked” in a sense in that you can’t turn the subtitles off for the Japanese track and you can’t change languages on the fly. That’s problematic for some and a deal breaker. With the mix itself, it works very, very well though we primarily listened to the Japanese track because of the locks and did less sampling. The show uses a lot of great sound effects to drive home its point, especially in the Financial District, and it just has such a rich voice to it with the almost casino-like elements. There’s a good range to the action throughout as it hits with the placement of dialogue and characters while the smaller and more personal moments feel all the more intense because of how well the sound design works. The show definitely stands out well and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in the spring of 2011, the transfer for this eleven episode series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with seven episodes on the first and four on the second, which also has the few extras included. The series, animated by Tatsunoko Productions, is a striking work that really comes across well here overall. The series does very well in the real world where we get a detail and engaging show with just enough subtext and nuance to what lies beneath. When it shifts to the Financial District, it’s even more stark and more CG filled, but it blends very well and stands out with its reds and golds. The backgrounds with the red skies feel just a bit weaker than they should be, but it’s part and parcel of the source materials themselves. The series works a very good look and by and large it looks very, very good here, especially compared to the low quality simulcast I had originally seen.

Packaging:
The packaging for this limited edition combo release is quite good as we get the heavy chipboard ox done in black and red with the grid-like background breaking out as it does in the Financial District in the show. The front cover gives us a great pairing of Kimimaro and Mashu together that’s stylish and sleek. The back cover runs with the same background idea but uses the pairing of Mashu and Q together that’s certainly amusing. Inside the box we get two standard sized Blu-ray cases where one holds the DVDs and the other the Blu-ray discs. The front cover artwork is quite good as one features Kimimaro with his group of friends and people he trusts, to some degree, while the other gives us Mikuni with those of his guild around him. Both have the C logo in different combinations along the bottom that works quite well. The back covers use the C logo in full in just a pair of colors, each different for the two volumes, as well as the episode numbers and titles along with the extras included for each format. Each cover is reversible with the back covers the same while the new front covers offer up more character combinations that show off some really great and detailed characters. No show related inserts are included with this release.

Menu:
The menu design for the show does things with a bit of an in-theme feel that at least satisfies that aspect of it, but by and large it’s all about the clips. The majority of the menu is designed around the clips running through with action,colors and more to keep you watching it and it does keep things moving well. The navigation strip along the bottom is the in-theme piece where it’s a black strip with the navigation that has the edges of the way the Assets communicate in the real world with people. The layout is simple and easy to utilize and navigation is a breeze overall. As noted in the audio section, there are no subtitle selections in the audio menu as they’re locked to the Japanese language track.

Extras:
The extras for this series are quite good overall as we get a mix of original and new extras. On the original side, there’s the inclusion of the clean opening and closing sequences as well as the original promotional videos, commercials and trailer for the series. On the new side, we get a pair of commentary tracks with the English production crew talking about the show and their experiences with it. We also get two segments of liners notes, one that deals with economic terms in a general sense while another goes into things episode by episode. There’s a lot to like here with this and it’s definitely a show that I’m glad to see some form of liner notes were included.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When new series hit the noitaminA block, they’re almost always something I look forward to if only because the majority of them tend to be original productions. With C, its arrival is one that rides off of the fears of the day coming off of the financial collapse of 2008. The seeds of that are well reworked here in a story that comes just a few years later that in its own way manages to rekindle them and give them a far scarier and more menacing feel but also a comfort in taking it out of the hands of many and placing it into something larger. The idea that it’s not entirely within our control frees us from being responsible, yet in the end here, it’s all about the temptation, the gamble and the power that comes from money. And for the few, the soul that it can truly give.

The series takes place in a relative present day world where we’re introduced to nineteen year old Kimimaro, a college student of economics that’s looking to do whatever he can to find a normal and stable life. He’s trying to leapfrog things by taking the civil servant exam while still a freshman by doing the heavy studying and he lives very frugally. As we learn, he lost his father years ago and his mother died not long after, leaving him to live with an aunt. He’s not had much and is just looking to eke out an existence that keeps him simple, happy and able to provide for others. With an upbringing that has had him feel abandoned, he wants to build a life that allows him to take care of the family that he wants. Unfortunately, he’s ended up rather lonely because of the frugal living.

That changes though when, through a very freak occurrence, he’s approached by a ghostly white man in a colorful outfit and top hat that offers him a world of money and power, implying stability where there really is none. This power comes with a price, and the tease certainly is enough to draw him in. It tuns out that there’s an otherworldly shadow place called the Financial District that exists outside of reality in which randomly selected people from the real world are drawn to. Here, in these various districts that are created around the world where money is the center of power, the people drawn there fight weekly duels using their Assets, varied and intriguing people or creatures that exist only in this world to fight. And they do it using the monetary value of their master, fighting with various forms of economic terms as styles that each cost different amounts. It’s a fascinating form of fighting as they’re called Deals and if you loose too badly or too often, you end up bankrupt and removed from the Financial District.

And those losses have real impact on the real world. When the people involved gain power through the District with the Midas money, it bleeds into the real world and they gain power and wealth there as well. But as we see during one fight with big powers, a series of serious blows causes a company of ten thousand to go under and that can threaten the overall fabric of the real world side of that District, which in turn can lower its overall value. And as we learn, various Districts have gone under in the real world and when that happens, they disappear completely from the world as if they never existed. Discovering the idea of a Caribbean Empire of sorts that existed for a time and is now gone paints a big picture really well.

There is a very, very big picture feel to the series for a show so short and it handles it well as we discover the nuance of this place, its rules and how it impacts the real world. While Kimimaro is the main focus and we do get a lot of good stuff with him that ties the show together, he has some great characters to play off of. His Asset turns out to be a very powerful if diminutive and flat chested girl with horns named Mashu that isn’t sure what to make of him at first but quickly finds him to be fascinating with how he treats her like any other person. Most treat their Assets like tools. The other key play here is that of Mikuni, someone of similar nature to Kimimaro that is quite a few years older and had his hardships. He’s built a guild of sorts with other powerful players in the Financial District and is working a much, much larger game here, one that Kimimaro is being drawn into but can’t bring himself to embrace.

While the show doesn’t follow through on the kind of potential some would want, myself included, when it comes to examining the financial world and tying it in a big way, it does a very good job for making a series that’s exciting. It avoids the whole Deal of the week angle that you might think it has and it provides a show with some significant consequences to the actions of the characters. Kimimaro gets to deal with this from an outsiders perspective so it helps us to see how it all works, but I really liked that it didn’t hold back from making changes to how everything exists as it goes on. There’s real threats to what’s going on and the series manages to go very, very big as it progresses and there are few series that really do that these days.

In Summary:
When I had first started watching this series in simulcast form, it captivated me because of its timely nature but it also proved frustrating since it was defining a fairly unique kind of world and style of “dueling.” As it progressed, it worked really well and was one of the most exciting shows of the year for me. Getting it in a high quality form here and watching it all in a marathon session really makes it clear just how smoothly it all ties together, the tightness of the themes and the gray areas that drive it all home. Kimimaro is a good lead character, but the story that Mikuni brings to it gives it that elevated feeling, treating it in a more mature way and delving into a world where it truly isn’t black and white. This was a fantastic experience to have.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, Commentary for Episodes 5 & 11, C-conomics 101, Promotional Videos, Original Trailer, Original Commercials, U.S. Trailer, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: October 30th, 2012
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

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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