What They Say:
The epic tapestry of history may be composed of millions of threads, but there are always a select few upon which the entire weight of humanity ultimately comes to bear. As the thread of Chalce, the artificial soldier that Agate saved on his way to Cluster E.A, slowly begins to unravel, the mysteries surrounding Agate’s own past begin to be revealed with staggering implications. Unfortunately, Agate himself may not survive the revelation!
As Vesuvia tortures Agate in an attempt to get him to unleash his powers and Chrome attempts a daring rescue, the discovery of Chalce’s diary may change the course of destiny itself. Will the path woven by Chalce’s past actions become crucial to understanding, and perhaps changing, the fate that has been planned for Agate, the artificial soldiers, and the entire human race?
Contains episodes 13-23 plus OVA “secret episodes” 1-3.
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.
Originally airing in late 2005 and into 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The eleven episodes are spread across two discs with five on the first and six on the second 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.
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 looking grouping of the four primary characters that basically are the good guys where they generally have positive expressions to them. 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.
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.
The extras for this release are all on the third disc, which has some familiar pieces such as the clean opening and closings as well as the mysteries of the academy segment. But what dominates this disc when it comes to the extras are the three bonus episodes. On the first set, they were pretty much just recap pieces which didn’t do much for me in the slightest. Here, we actually get three original episodes that do a fair deal of expanding the overall story and world, though not enough to salvage it. The first one is a fun bit that takes us back to when Chrome and his group was a bit smaller and on their own and how they acquired the three mostly-mute artificial soldiers that became a big part of their life. It’s instructive in showing how Chalce dealt with them all at the time as well as how Chrome was trying to find his place in the world. The second episode is useful in expanding Chalce’s past as we see when he came to the academy himself and how he ended up being such a rival for Vesuvia, not that he wanted to be. The episode does some good in clueing us in to how Ema figures into things as well. The third episode does some good in bringing Fon into play as we get some time with him and the others on campus when his sister visits, which throws a lot of things into disarray. This felt like the weakest of them all, but it was a huge reminder just how little female presence there is in the series overall and just how much that weakens it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a first half of the series that had some interesting ideas at times but a weak execution, the second half plays with the core characters a bit more than it did before and sort of settles down to a few key areas. The show does conitnue to play with a few different expansive areas in some ways, but it really wants to narrow down its focus. At least until it decides to swing wildly to the other side and do something completely out of left field that just makes you laugh. While there were obviously hints there at times, the show pivots in such a way that it left me just staring at it that it actually went there since it just didn’t fit the mold of the show in a more general sense.
With the second half, the main focus really does come down to the pairing of Agate and Chrome and that of Beryl and Fon until all four of them come together in one setting. For Agate and Chrome, the two have been traveling for a bit and doing fairly well as it’s been very educational for Chrome to see how people really live. Giving him that education definitely helps overall but he also gets to see the darker side and the kind of fear that a lot of people and kids have of the artificial soldiers. It’s a difficult education to be sure as there are many that don’t realize what he is at first, but when they learn they typically do turn away from him in various. We even see this with his former comrades to some degree, but for them it’s more about coming to an understanding of how people work.
This dominates a lot of the set, but events turn just after the middle mark because of the race as a Vesuvia makes his play to try and get the artificial soldier he wants. And to do so, he and his small army group end up shelling the academy heavily, causing no deaths but a lot of injuries and other problems. One of which is that the reveal of Chrome being an artificial soldier and that sets off a lot of anger about his presence in general. But where the show goes from there just loses me as it’s essentially revealed that Agate is actually a god, or an aspect of one, created by the blood of artificial soldiers and is something that The Order has dealt with many times over the years in various incarnations.
This kind of takes Agate out of the picture as he shatters into a million pieces, but he does return in a few different forms as there’s a period where he could either be the god of judgment or the god of mercy depending on what happens. It all goes as one might expect for a show of this nature but it just gets weirdly complicated, adds a larger level of back story that just feels too added on and it essentially removes the lead character from the show for a few episodes. This does help the others to band together, but it brings in so many other characters that have had a minor or almost no real role prior to this that it’s just a mess.
While the series is one that I wasn’t a huge fan of in the first part, I liked the general idea that it wanted to deal with about artificial people created for the purpose of fighting and their real place in the world, fighting or not. It has some good ideas to it but the execution has been lacking in a lot of ways. This set spends a lot of time with the four main characters while filtering in lots of others in different positions, but there was always that sense of wondering what the real point of it all was. The obvious is there about the artificial soldiers, but it never felt like it was made strong enough in the actual core part of the story. With this set, it moves through a few different things but it just kind of goes off the rails the further it goes along and especially once it elevates a character to the level of a god. It may have been hinted at in different ways, but it’s still something that just leaves you rolling your eyes when it really does happen.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary, 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: November 20th, 2012
Running Time: 350 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.