Dying may not have been the strangest thing to happen to Balot.
What They Say:
Rescued by Doctor Easter from a deadly assault on their headquarters by Dimsdale Boiled, Rune Balot finds temporary shelter in “Paradise,” a high-tech laboratory where the Scramble 09 protocol originated. While the severely injured Oeufcoque regenerates in a healing vat, Rune struggles to find the answers within herself that will let her equally injured psyche find some measure of peace. But as the search for clues to the location of Shell’s hidden memories continues, Boiled finds them again, and Rune and the Doctor decide it’s time to carry the war to the enemy.
Contains both the television version and director’s cut of Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion.
Mardock Scramble makes out well with its audio presentation by getting both of its language tracks, Japanese and English, in a 5.1 mix using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show has some solid moments to it where it gets to work its magic, but a lot of the best uses come with the dialogue in terms of placement and depth. The show goes big at times and the payoff is certainly there, but it’s also the accents of the music that helps to make it a solid, fully realized work. There’s a good warmth to a lot of the dialogue and from the performances at times that lets it carry through well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in theaters in 2011, the transfer for this features is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The presentation is quite good here, especially in comparison to the first feature, as this one doesn’t take place in quite as many dark and murky places. The feature here is quite good looking as there’s a lot of lush colors and the high definition presentation really drives home the visual quality of it in a big way. There isn’t a lot of action to be had here but the higher action areas really look great with the animation and combined with the lush colors really brings it out in a great way.
The packaging design for this release is a much better than the first, which was definitely a mixed bag. Whereas the first was dark and murky, this one gives us Balot in little clothes set against a lot of lush blues and greens with a kind of surreal setting. It’s more outgoing and inviting overall. The back cover is a bit brighter with the right side where we get Rune in a very different costume and look that’s darker but still feels surprisingly rich The summary is well handled and it makes it clear that both cuts of the film are here. The remainder is given over to the usual production credits and a clean and accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design here is quite appealing even if it is just a static piece without any music playing. With a bright blue sky visual design for the background with elements of the big city, it has a lot of pop and color that draws you in easily. The central image is that of Balot herself in her casino outfit that really changes how you view here. The reds of her outfit have a great pop and comes across really well. The navigation menu along the bottom is straightforward as it has a selection of which cut of the film you want to watch and all the other usual selections that you’d expect. The menu doubles as the pop-up menu and blends in fairly well with the show itself.
While there is a special features menu, all it has is a series of trailers and disc credits.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Mardock Scramble had an interesting first installment previously, but it was one that felt like it was just too oddly structured for me to get into. I found a number of parts of it appealing, but the DVD presentation for it was lacking and I just found myself having a very hard time getting into what kind of world this was. It didn’t exactly make for a smooth understanding at times and left me more miffed than I should have been, which impacted the enjoyment. Thankfully, the Second Combustion sort of fixes these issues, but more so just because it’s not a dreary, murky and action oriented piece. Instead, we get something that’s filled with a bit more wonder and some really surreal aspects that make you want to know more to try and pull it all together.
With Balot having gone up against Boiled, this feature keeps us right in the spirit of things as she is fending off Boiled in a brief but tense fight. Which ends in an amusing way as the doctor shows up and whisks her away in an egg called the Humpty. It’s a pretty fantastic little bit of technology and creative in what it looks like, but it gets the job done in taking the pair to Paradise. It’s once in here that things get even more surreal as we learn that it’s a former military base that’s been taken over and turned into an amazing base for those invested in the forbidden sciences. It’s here that Balot, recovering from her wounds, meets Twee, a young man with a minor horn jutting out of his forehead that allows him to talk as he doesn’t do it through normal mouth communication. The two get along quite well, but Twee has an odd view of the world since he’s been in this facility for so long.
Not that facility really covers it. When Twee takes her out to meet with Oeculefe, she gets a really fascinating view of the place. There’s a huge ocean that exists here, both below her feet and above thanks to zero gravity devices, and there’s a way of communicating with the dolphins and sharks that exist within it. It’s in here that we get to meet one dolphin in particular that Twee is really connected with, though you can’t help but to feel that some of the terms he uses to explore their relationship don’t mean the same as what other people would interpret. Balot really gets into the place and spends a good deal of time in the water with both of them which results in some gorgeous sequences, not just because she’s naked but because of the very primal and naturalistic aspects of it.
While exploring the strange forbidden science aspects a bit, we also get some plot points here as there are those “administrators” that run the place, or rather just the one that has currently survived and still resides there as just a single head in a cage. It’s through here that we learn more of Oeculefe’s past and his connection to Boiled, which leads to why Boiled continues to hunt him down and why he’s being hunted in return. At the same time, Balot ends up getting a bit more information about what it’s going to take to find Shell, which is her main reason for being at this time as she continues to heal. There’s some neat bits here, but also some really good dramatic action elements since Boiled and one of his flunkies make it into Paradise to confront them, only to not entirely make it out unscathed in one of the more engaging action sequences I’ve seen over the years.
What Balot does gain here moves her on to her next phase, along with the doctor that’s still pairing up with her, as she finds out what she needs to do to go after Shell. With his connections out there, the thrust of the second half takes the two of them off to the land of casinos where they have to pose as guests in order to get closer to the goal. It’s an unusual second half in a way as it’s almost entirely devoted to just watching them gamble. But with their means of communication and skills, it has an intriguing way of unfolding as we see Balot take to gambling by understanding the mathematics of it all and the people that are there. It’s high stakes grifting to be sure but there’s something that really draws you in, especially with some of the tools that Balot has to use to and the general tone, tension and beauty of it. It does shift to where it’s going to go next towards the end, but that’s just for that final minute or two more than anything else.
The Second Combustion is a bit of a surprising feature after the first one which had a dark, grimy and earthy feel to it with what Balot was discovering and going through. Here, it almost feels magical and unearthly with what it’s going, introducing us to the variety of people and situations at Paradise and then shifting to the casino where it allows us to see Balot in a very different light. Both aspects work well and expands on the story overall, bringing the world a little more into focus even as strange as it seems capable of getting. The story itself feels weaker since there isn’t a lot of real forward momentum here, but as an expansion piece that fills in some of the blanks, it definitely leaves you wanting to see more, which is something that the first installment certainly didn’t leave me feeling.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 1st, 2013
Running Time: 65 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480 i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic 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.