What They Say:
Ten years ago, a massive invasion by the Erebonian Empire almost shattered the Kingdom of Liberl, piercing to the heart of Capital City before being driven back by a determined counteroffensive led by Cassius Bright. Now, as the invaders pace behind the northern borders, coveting the small kingdom’s magic and high technology, Liberl slowly rebuilds with the aid of the Bracer’s Guild, whose mystical use of “Craft” is even more intrinsic to the nation’s defense than its own army.
For young Estelle Bright, daughter of Cassius, this is all just ancient history that she and her adopted brother Joshua learned as kids. But history has a way of repeating itself, and as they prepare to join the Bracers Guild themselves, sinister forces are preparing to thrust them into the familiar family situation of being in the worst possible place when mayhem breaks out. When their father’s airship goes suddenly missing, of course it only makes sense to two green, but extraordinarily capable, young teenagers to strike out on a rescue mission of their own!
The audio presentation for this release gives us the original Japanese in 5.1 as well as a new English language 5.1 mix, both of which use the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that spends some good time with the action part of the show, but even there it still feels as though it’s far more forward soundstage oriented than throwing things to the real channels. It does have a good, rich design overall when it comes to that side and the music in particular is a real standout. The dialogue throughout is handled well with some good placement at key times and some areas of depth that adds a bit more richness to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback when we listened to the Japanese track.
Originally released in 2011 and 2012, the transfer for this two part OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show gets the disc all to itself outside of a few trailers and that lets the Kinema Citrus animation really shine through. I’ve definitely come to appreciate them a good bit as of late and the show here, while a bit streamlined in character designs, has a very good look overall with strong and solid backgrounds and a lot of detail. The CG side blends well with no noticeable issues and when the magic hits, it runs with far more vibrant colors that really stand out well. There’s a touch of background noise here and there in some of the usual colors, and even a touch of line noise during some panning sequences, but it’s pretty minimal and not distracting unless it’s something that stands out for you.
Presented in a standard sized Blu-ray case, the packaging for this release is pretty good as we get a front cover that uses the blue of the case well and shows off the cast against a blue but cloudy sky. Colors are strong here and the character designs appealing even if a little bland and formulaic. The logo is obviously a bit involved and there are those that would prefer a different way of translating it, but the overall look is decent and problem free. The back cover uses a good bit of blue and white as it sets a cloud filled background with a look at Estelle and Joshua while the right has a block of black in which we get the plot concept. A few shots from the show are included which gives it a bit more color but isn’t all that useful. The production credits are clean and the technical grid lays everything out clearly and in an easy to read format. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is kept very simple with a very good looking still image that has lots of blue sky, clouds and the pairing of Joshua and Estelle that hits the right notes. The logo is a decent size without dominating, but with no music it feels a little hollow here overall. The navigation is kept along the bottom with a bit of gear world while also having the piece from the logo serve as a navigation icon. The layout is simple and easy to use as there’s little here besides the show and that bottom strip also doubles as the pop-up menu during regular playback. The disc defaults to the English language track with sign/song subtitles selected but it can all be changed on the fly during playback as well.
This release has no extras.
Based on the games of the same franchise name that began back in 2004 on the PC and were later released for other systems, it gained a new lease on life in the last two years as HD updated versions were slated for release on the latest console systems. And with that in mind, a new two part OVA was commissioned to draw more attention to it and play the whole tiered strategy approach of drawing in as many people as possible. Bringing a gaming world to life isn’t always easy since there’s a lot of generalities between many of them and you also have the problem of either being too immersed in things for the hardcore fans or too simple which annoys the hardcore fans and turns them away. And with a good bit of content there, you also have to choose whether to really adapt a part of it or do something fresh and original. Having not seen the games before, there’s nothing I can really speak of from there, but I can say that getting into the show wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t really highly engaging either.
The show brings us the natural opening of introducing us to the various lands out there, the recent history, wars and the specialty materials that dominate it and gives it its unique blend of atmosphere and style. We also get the rush of characters right out of the gate as we meet some of those in the Liberl kingdom that are attacked, almost a bit comically, by a masked man with only a hint of real purpose. It serves largely to introduce us to the action side of things with Estelle being the primary active young woman who helps to defend the kingdom as she just likes action and little talk. Along with a decent group of others that come into play as comrades, they’re all sent off to learn more about problems happening near Zeiss in which a series of artificially created earthquakes are happening that’s causing a whole lot of trouble.
The first half does alright with introducing us to some of the basics before it gives us a hot spring scene that quickly shifts to the action component as one of the bad guys has tracked them down, largely using Estelle in order to find someone named Joshua that’s dear to her. The action is quite good as the group is generally skilled but underpowered compared to their older opponent, but it also brings the mysterious Joshua into play and he outshines them all in a huge way. Visually, it’s hugely engaging with a great look and sense of style about it and it doesn’t hold back on the blood either, making it feel like there’s some real impact to it. But it’s very, very weak on story itself if you’re not familiar with the game world from what I can tell.
Once it progresses from there, it continues to just throw more and more at the viewer. Having played my fair share of games years and years ago, there are obvious and plain angles here, but it’s also hugely compressed and simply keeps moving full steam ahead. Most characters don’t get much in the way of attention, just a key scene here and there, a little background if you’re lucky and for some of them it’s just a cameo in a big action sequence. Estelle makes out the best but Joshua shines pretty well at that, though for him it’s more about the action as the two tracks of the story keeps them separate for most of it and pursuing their goals. It’s all given a large, epic feeling – especially through the musical score – but the further it progressed, the more it lost me since it was just barreling through it with one dimensional characters.
With the release of the game this month and plenty of attention and marketing being paid to there, it makes a lot of sense to bring out a short two part OVA like this on Blu-ray and give it a full on dub treatment. It’s not going to be huge crossover material to a full on mainstream audience, but it’s smartly done. Unfortunately, the show is one that just left me cold when it came to the important part – the story. It’s not so much a bad story but bad execution and wholly designed around the idea that you know these characters as they’re all mainly playable types from the game itself. The game is not something I’ll ever end up playing so that larger connective storyline and appeal simply isn’t there. I can definitely appreciate the visual design here and the animation goes all out, giving you two very good looking OVAs, but that’s about as far as I could connect with it.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 18th, 2012
Running Time: 81 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.