What They Say:
In a devastated world overrun by monstrous bugs and ravaged by outlaws, there’s only one person to call when you really need a job done right: Honoka. With a sixth sense for danger, sword skills second to none, and a smart-aleck A.I. tank by the name of Bogie, she’s ready to tackle any job and solve any problem for her clients. But while crossing the desert one night, she finds a young man alone in the wasteland. It’s the first step of a journey that will challenge even Honoka’s amazing skills to their very limit!
The audio presentation for this series is presented with the standard options of the original Japanese stereo mix as well as an English stereo mix. In addition to that it’s been given a spruced up English 5.1 mix, at 448 kbps as opposed to the other mixes 192 kbps, which gives it much greater clarity and sense of impact. The 5.1 mix provides something that gives the show a fuller feeling that enhances the overall presentation and once again illustrates the need on the part of the Japanese to stop mucking around in stereo so much. The stereo mixes certainly aren’t bad as we listened to this primarily in the Japanese language and it fit with the show well enough. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is spread across six discs with four episodes each on them. At the time this was originally released, which is what we get for the discs here as it’s replicated from that, it was the first anamorphic series by Nozomi. While there’s a good bit of extras on the first couple of discs, the show overall manages to have a pretty good look about it with clean colors throughout and only a bit of noise in some of the darker scenes here and there. The blustery wind and sand pieces hold up well and there’s a fair amount of detail throughout that comes across well. It’s not the most detailed of shows overall but it looks good and both the regular animation and the CG animation has a good feel about it.
The packaging for this release uses the litebox approach where it’s a standard sized DVD case with the hinges in it to allow all six discs to be held tightly and securely. The front cover gives us the familiar image that we’ve gotten before of Honoka in the foreground with her mecha in the background as the sun sets across the desert. It’s a bit darker and murkier than it feels like it should be but it has a distinctive enough look to it that it stands out a bit. The back cover goes with a darker background itself with a mix of reds and blacks that doesn’t give much in the way of an attractive visual but we do get a good look at several of the main cast along it that is bright and colorful. The premise is kept simple and short, which is to its advantage, and there’s a good breakdown of the extras available on the release.
The menu design for the series is fairly simple but has some nice design and animation elements to it. The main menu uses the character artwork from each of the original individual volumes in expanded form along with the PSP visuals to tie it all together with the navigation strip. A bit of music plays back during it and there are some nice animation moments to it as it reloads or as it shifts to the show itself. Moving about is quick and easy and the design is intuitive while still flowing well. Access times are fast and the disc correctly read our players’ language presets and played accordingly.
The release contains all the extras that were found with the original single volumes releases and there’s a good bit of it here. Some of the familiar aspects are things like the promos and music videos but we also get a good series of voice actor interviews that are fun to watch and a look at the character bios which are done with a voice over commentary itself. There’s a lot spread across the six discs so there’s something to be had on each volume.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on an original story by Ryou Hoshino with illustrations by Nao Goto that ran in Monthly Dragon Magazine, The Third: The Girl With The Blue Eye is a twenty-four episode series that was interesting when it first came out as it was released by Kadokawa Pictures USA in conjunction with Right Stuf. This release marked the third time that Kadokawa Pictures has worked this way by using a different distributor to handle the title, something that faded over time. The release was also one that held a bit of a special bit of nostalgia for me as when it was licensed, we did a lot of work with Nozomi to help promote it in a fun way. Thankfully, the show has a lot more going for it than just that as it was and is a pretty fun little science fiction story that came at a time when we were getting fewer and fewer of those made.
The story at first is one that is familiar enough but done with just the right mixture of style and restraint to almost feel old school in a way. Taking place in a future where the world has succumbed to cataclysmic events in a war, only a small handful of humanity is left as well as those that now rule it. The world, at least the part we get to see, is reduced to mostly sand and ruins and it is overseen in gleaming towers by a group of people called The Third. These pale looking people have a third eye of sorts on their forehead that’s red and they do seem to possess certain powers though at first we’re given to just seem them as holders of positions of power. Under the Council of the Third, they manage this world to keep it in line though it isn’t clear that they are exactly otherworldly.
The show is focused a bit more on the conventional as we’re introduced to Honoka, a jack of all trades who works the desert to do any job she’s hired to outside of killing someone. Acting traditionally as a transporter or an escort, she does whatever will she’s asked to make the money she needs to survive and buy her fun things. Working with a sand tank that has been restored by one of the best Technos in the area, Bogie provides some of the real heart of the series as an AI built into it. Some of the narration for the show comes from him as he talks in a past tense about the events that are unfolding as Honoka’s life changes with the arrival of a man named Iks.
With a world that’s controlled by the Third, things that could upset the balance are carefully watched and dealt with. Such a thing happens at the start of the series as something has entered the planets atmosphere with a sense of intelligence about it that the Council could not determine. Not prone to acting rashly, they instead send out their minions to investigate which of course ties into what Honoka finds while out on one of her jobs. That mysterious thing is of course Iks, a gentle man with the ability to accelerate a person’s healing. Iks’ arrival on the scene has him staying with Honoka for a bit as she is on a job and through his eyes and Bogie’s narrative we start to get a better feeling for this world and all that it entails.
Similar to most series of this nature, it takes a few episodes before things really start to gel. There is a fair bit of ground to cover in explaining the basics while introducing the core cast of characters and putting it all together. The Third finds a good balance for this as the action moments don’t continue on too long nor do they feel too short as it goes through familiarizing us with how it all works, be it the copycat spiders at the beginning or the way that those involved with Technos are controlled and monitored. By the fourth episode things start to become clearer about what all is involved here with these characters as everyone has more to them than is plainly obvious at first.
To my surprise, Iks actually departs from the show for awhile as he pursues other goals even after making such strong statements to Bogie about his need to travel with her. The removal of Iks at such an early stage changes the dynamic a bit by putting Honoka back out into the deserts with just Bogie. The pair of stories that deals with this helps to bring about more of the larger storyline through small but intriguing moments but it’s the character material that really shines. The series has been unpredictable in several ways from the start but it really is doing a good job on detailing what makes Honoka tick. A pair of stories that delves into her past with her mentor and how she became part of the caravan goes a long way towards explaining her outlook on life.
A lot of shows end up getting into a bit of a rut early on what what it does, but The Third has a fair amount of change going on from episode to episode in the first half. This has actually worked in the shows favor because it allows events to happen off screen that don’t quite impact the pacing of the show. The loss of Iks as early on as it was did seem odd but it worked well as Honoka was forced to deal with the issues surrounding the death of Millie’s father. Even with Millie she didn’t last too long yet was something of a lynchpin in the change in Honoka’s life. So it wasn’t much of a surprise with this set of episodes that someone new enters the picture as Paife takes on a more active role within the storyline.
With the problems going on out in the dunes, and Honoka’s abilities being what they are, it doesn’t take long for the Bureau to try and get her over to their side via some freelance work. With the possibility of the sandworms causing a serious amount of trouble for everyone, sending her out to find out what’s going on with them makes perfect sense. She’s wary of it to some degree, but with what seems to be a high budget and quick work, she’s able to get Bogie back up to speed and with some upgrades at that. What throws her is that after being back out in the wilds for a bit is that Paife shows up in a buggy and claims to be sent along as a partner by the Bureau.
Paife’s role as a teacher is something we haven’t seen too much of but it tied nicely to her more mercenary skills as seen previously. Honoka is distrustful of her at first, but with her mentality being that she can earn anyone’s trust over time if she works at it keeps her dealing with Paife. Knowing exactly what Paife can do and that she doesn’t seem to be upfront about her reasons for being there gives Honoka plenty to distrust. What makes it interesting is that Paife is very interested in seeing what Honoka is capable of, a sense that she may be something more, and that she’s quite surprised to see how Honoka is with Iks when he returns.
The return of Iks signals a change in events as his journey to see things on the planet has resulted in him coming to a place where a big event will happen. That Honoka is tied to it isn’t a surprise considering what kind of trouble magnet she is. The storyline deals with what’s been causing all the trouble to those among the Third, a problem that’s causing them to unearth a weapon from the Great War to use against it. Known only as Gravestone, it’s intent to destroy everything really isn’t a surprise, especially as we learn its origins, but the reason for its sudden awakening is. Even more so is that it not only begins to reveal more about the Great War itself but also what Iks is up to on Earth and the scope of what he’s done in the past.
After the halfway mark of the series, things naturally do manage to get a bit more on track and towards the main storyline. The shift back into Honoka heading out on a job isn’t awkward as she’s simply approached by the Central Integrated Government to come to the Administrative Bureau after she finishes with her collection of the newly updated and reworked PSP. To her surprise upon arriving there however is that she’s met by Fila – after mistaking her for Joganki in drag. As it turns out, she’s requesting Honoka’s help for a sensitive and critical mission that involves rescuing Joganki as he’s disappeared after investigating a Third facility that has gone off the radar. The entire building has been reworked by nanomachines and once Joganki went in to investigate it, or possibly to negotiate with whoever was in there, he hasn’t been heard back from since. While the Third may sacrifice their own in order to keep to the higher goals of protecting the planet, they’ll at least make some sort of attempt.
Which is what draws Honoka into the event, something that becomes a bit more forced when she and Fila are ambushed by some remotely controlled automatic soldiers that the Third typically employ. Honoka’s relationship with Joganki is an amusing one to watch since he typically just shows up wherever she is when he needs to talk with her and just has a certain air and presence about him. Having to save him from harm puts the relationship into a new spin, one that she’s not quite sure how to feel about. But with plenty of money being thrown at her and the need to help save someone that she does know, it’s not something that she can easily refuse. Where the problem comes in is when Fila requests that she take Blue Breaker with her on the mission.
The tension is certainly understandable since Blue Breaker was the one that killed Millie’s father not that long ago. While she’s definitely had the intention of settling the score, it doesn’t exactly feel like it’s her personality to swear a blood vengeance about it even considering what’s happened. The confrontation between the two is something that was expected, but being thrown into this situation was not something that I saw coming easily. Honoka is first and foremost a professional however so it wasn’t a surprise that she’d accept him coming on the mission with certain conditions since he could at the least provide a solid distraction for the numerous soldiers that they’re bound to find at the facility. The addition of him to this team along with Paife and Iks really works well in that there’s so many different little things going on yet it all flows together very smoothly.
The storyline dealing with Rona Fauna is one that works out well for getting the gang all back together and involving Joganki once again so that there’s that sense of connectedness that’s been missing while everyone has been split apart. The series had used these characters to good effect early on in very different ways, so bringing them together and sort of on the same side when dealing with Fauna has been a very positive aspect. The actual story of Fauna with her control of the wormhole diver satellite weapon and her intent on destroying the world hasn’t been quite as satisfying but it is one that becomes important once it’s seen through to its conclusion.
Where the importance comes is in seeing what changes that Honoka has gone through since we first met her. She’s the kind of character that you know isn’t who she was beforehand and that she’s always been growing. In dealing with Fauna as she comes to know her, Honoka realizes that she’s actually just like her in that she’s an outcast of sorts within The Third and that they actually share a lot of similarities in their mindsets. The main difference obviously being that Honoka doesn’t want to destroy the world. Similarly, we get to see how Honoka has been dealing with the autonomous soldiers in general but more specifically with Blue Breaker with whom she certainly has plenty of reason to hate. While it’s understandable that she’s holding back because of the job, there is more to it than that as she’s grown to understand the nature of things and why he did what he did. In some way, it feels like there’s some growing respect between the two of them that’s born out of this experience.
Towards the end of the series, with some awkward off-model animation at hand, we get some decent pushes towards dealing with some of the real issues of the series. With Iks, he decides that it’s time for him to make his proper journey that he came to this planet for. That means going to the Steel Gorge where Third security is at its highest as there is a deep dark secret down there amongst all the technology that has them scared to death. The two episodes that cover this are ones that admittedly fit into the themes of the show and ties strongly to what has come before, but it also has that larger than life feeling to it that is a bit out of place. Honoka’s role as someone who is basically a third path gives plenty of reason for her being here to deal with such momentous events, but the show is one that doesn’t seem like it should reach this high and far for what it wants to tell.
Though the show does get a bit too cosmic for my tastes, what it does with these last two episodes is very enjoyable. Bringing closure to what Iks is all about and what the nature of his mission is isn’t a surprise but it just has that kind of epic yet down to earth feeling that has permeated so much of the series. The relationship that Iks and Honoka shares receives some of the spotlight but what this material does is spread itself among a number of characters and gives it a feeling of being very real. The emotions feel raw and true and it does admittedly work very well on the cosmic sense as well, even if it is somewhat familiar to anyone who has read a fair bit of science fiction novels of the years. Looking at the show as a whole, the narrative really is pretty strong when you take these last two episodes into it and view how it all gets tied together.
The Third is a series that in some ways plays to convention if you really remember that it’s all about Honoka. We get the usual cast building at first, but much like real life the other characters come and go from her life. She’s really the only constant here outside of Bogie and the two have a very parental/child relationship going on that works well without being overbearing. With those changes and the initial focus on the bugs that gives way to the larger story of how this world exists and what’s going on, it shifts the narrative well while allowing the supporting cast to provide Honoka with opportunities to grow and change with what they bring to the table. What we ended up getting was a far more introspective show about people on the outside who lived in a way that made them happy while butting up against the authority that had set itself up on the world. There are slow parts to be found, but a lot of them are actually the positives to the show. The visual design for the most part was very well done, admittedly making me want a high definition version of it, and the characters are interesting and fun to watch. I’ve always enjoyed this show for what it does in both the big and small aspects and it’s one that has a lot of love poured into it, even if it falters in its animation at times along the way. With the amount of material here and the price for it as well as the amount of extras, this is one of those no-brainer shows that’s worth checking out just for the sake of it and the discovering a really fun and enjoyable science fiction series with a complex character.
Japanese 2.0 Language, Japanese 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Character Bios (including some with commentary by Megumi Toyoguchi [Honoka]), Japanese Voice Actor Interviews, Music Videos
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: April 1st, 2014
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.