Just when you think it can’t get better, it does.
What They Say:
Still reeling from the deaths of her friends and the revelations of the Ethics Committee’s machinations, Saki returns to the village expecting the worst. However, what she’s learned so far barely touches on the edges of an even vaster conspiracy. As she discovers the fate the committee intends for her personally, she realizes that her own mind is being turned against her.
With her memories of Shun fading, she and Satoru find themselves in a race to find Maria and Mamoru before the Committee condemns them to destruction. But the clock is turning against them in more ways than one, as the smoldering conflicts between the rat colonies threatens to erupt into open warfare. As pivotal pieces in a deadly endgame designed to wipe an entire species from the face of the planet, it’s not going to be enough for Saki and Satoru to merely survive. To lead the best laid plans of both rats and men astray, they’ll have to uncover the final secrets to two hidden worlds and turn them against their makers!
The audio presentation for this release comes with the original Japanese language in stereo as well as a new English language adaptation, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that is very dialogue driven with what it does, but it also has some really good action moments along the way and a very well orchestrated mix when it comes to the incidental sounds and the other manipulations that come into play. The dialogue side is what drives it and it plays very well here with what it does as there are a good mix of characters involved throughout and placement is handled well. The action scenes, both in the past and present, provide a good design to it but it never feels overblown or too much for what it does. Add in some of the sound effects used with the telekinesis and the Monster Rats and you get something that keeps it moving well and feeling like a pretty richly lived in world. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2012 and 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This set has the second twelve episodes of the series spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by A-1 Pictures, we get a very earthy design to the series with a whole lot of really good detail to it that makes it feel fully realized. With a kind of throwback to the past in the future feeling to it, there’s a lot of naturalism to it with what it does but it’s balanced a touch with some really interesting bits of technology that comes into play. The transfer takes this distinctive but not overdone show and makes it come alive with great colors, solid backgrounds and the fluid animation feel very well done. It’s not the flashiest show out there but it’s done with such attention to detail and world building that it comes through perfectly in the presentation here, and that makes it easier to be drawn into this world.
The packaging for this release gives us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover artwork goes for a somewhat traditional approach here but it’s very eye-catching as we get the main cast of characters that has them standing along a mirrored lake like we did with the first volume but it does it with a darkening sunset background that gives it a more ominous feeling The characters, viewed at an angle, have a somewhat downbeat look to them and that works with the background and overall color design. The back cover works a bit of a darker angle to it with the background and we get a few shots from the show that also play to this darker nature. The middle section has the premise that’s gone into a good bit of detail but we also get a nice piece of illustration artwork along the left that gives Kiroumaru some time to shine. The episode count and extras are all laid out clearly and we get a good breakdown of production credits and technical information through the bottom section of the series. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
While the cover art went with the more predictable image, I really wanted them to use the illustration pieces they had originally solicited. Thankfully, those pieces show up here as the menu artwork and that gives it a great presence. With some beautiful designs and colors to it and a soft approach that has it feeling very rich in texture, the menus come alive here as we get a look at various characters across both volumes. That takes up the majority of the screen and even the logo over the empty part is done light enough that it doesn’t stand out much. The right side gives us the navigation itself which is done in a subdued but appealing way with some nice framing to it and a black background that breaks down the episode titles in purple while the numbers are done with black and white. The navigation is a breeze and easy to move around in and everything accesses correctly and quickly.
The extras for this release are a bit minimal but expected as we get the clean closing sequence and the inclusion of the original Japanese episode promos.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
From the New World is a series that had won me over handily when I watched the simulcast and I was quite excited to revisit it in marathon session with the two half season sets. The series works well on a weekly basis, but it has so much going on that bringing it all together with large runs of episodes at a time really brings it all home in a bigger way. The first season did a whole lot to get us to understand the nature of the world, the Impure Cats, the way kids are educated and the dangers that exist in the world. In some ways, it felt like one episode did more than a lot of shows do in an entire season to deal with meaty material. Looking at the first thirteen episodes, it was a great sociology piece that explored how a society adapted to some traumatic events in a post-apocalyptic world, finding a kind of peace.
As it adapts the novel work, there isn’t the traditional half season event that we usually get, so this set ends up bringing us a couple of episodes at the end of that last arc we had to deal with. Going back to the time when Saki and Satoru had gone in search of Mamoru with Maria and Maria stayed with him while the other two went back to the village to check in and try and ease things over, it all goes downhill pretty fast here. The fact they left and did all of this has put them in a bad spot and the committee’s are all set to essentially take Saki down for what she did. What intervenes is Tomiko as she knows there’s more going on here than the others know. And she has a special spot for Saki as she’s been grooming her to become the next leader of the village in her own way. What’s really interesting though is that we learn a lot about Tomiko in that she’s almost three hundred years old and has a lot of context to what’s going on, filling in some blanks and expanding on just how involved all of this is.
The net result of all of this though is that when the pair goes back to bring Maria and Mamoru back, they’ve disappeared. And not just disappeared but apparently died as well, according to the Monster Rat Squera, who has taken on the name Yakomaru. This proves to be a haunting event for Saki for years to come, which we get to see since events advance by about a decade or so after all of that. Saki and Satoru have gone separate ways to some degree and are focusing on their specialties, with her doing the focus on the monster rats, but there’s still some kind of connection there. The series has done some time leaps before and each of those has worked out really well since it kept things from being static or putting too much importance on just a single period of time. What we get is to see the long range implications of what’s going on.
The majority of this set does continue to revolve around these two, which has its painful aspects for them because out of their entire group, they’re really the only two left. With their positions within the village, it allows them to get intimately involved with what this half really wants to focus on, that being the monster rats. And it is a hugely fascinating piece because as the years have gone on, we learn how Yakomaru has really changed the nature of the Robber Fly colony. The shift from being servants and essentially slaves to the queen, they’ve discovered ancient information somewhere, likely through a mobile library, and have instituted a kind of democracy for their colony and have lobotomized their queen in order to deal with her issues while also ensuring that their colony can survive with more births. It’s a complicated piece and you can see a mixture of revulsion and fascination from both Saki and Satoru, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Over the years, Yakomaru has taken on a near messiah status and has lead his colony, now viewed as individuals rather than a collective or hive group, to taking over or destroying other colonies. He’s built a master plan, something that the humans in the village can’t even conceive of Monster Rats doing, and it’s endlessly fascinating to watch.
There’s so much with what it does here that really pulling it apart could be a thesis all on its own because the show deals with some really big things here about how a society exists like this, the things done in the past and how the “subservient” races that exist are handled by humanity and how they handle it themselves. Yakomaru is largely out insight into things as he changes his colony in ways nobody could expect, but we also get an outlook from Kiroumaru, the leader of the Green Hornet colony. He’s a bit more of a traditionalist to be sure, and with his larger size and different appearance adds a kind of odd gravitas to the Monster Rats, but he has to struggle with what the Robbery Fly colony is doing. And as we get some real insights into what Yakomaru is up to, you can see that it is truly a world changing event in so many ways. It’s really a look at chaos theory when you get down to it, the whole “nature will find a way” line writ large, but done in a very Japanese style across a large, beautiful canvas that is more engaging, more detailed and built more intricately than just about any other series I’ve seen in recent years.
From The New World is a series that captivated me once it got rolling. I had felt like I was getting one kind of show when it first started, but then it revealed itself to be something far more complex, thoughtful and engaging. This half of the show takes all that foundation material and really follows it through to some logical if scary conclusions that reminds you that nature cannot be controlled. The whittling down of the cast is actually more helpful than I expected it to be and giving its focus more and more to Saki gave us a view of someone that was going to be outside of the others in the village for good reason. But as interesting as her arc is, the insight she has, the fear and curiosity, it’s the story of the Monster Rats that utterly fascinates. When the oppressed realize they have power and can fight back in creative ways against a complacent superior power, the whole dynamic is up in the air. Seeing that play out here across a show that covers a lot of years and a lot of changes hits everything right. I’m sure folks can find issues with it, but for me it feels like a flawless series that really deserves to be in every collection and extensively talked about. Highly recommended.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Clean Closing
Content Grade: A+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date:August 12th, 2014
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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.