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Unbreakable Machine Doll Complete Collection Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Unbreakable Machine Doll PackageThe quest for revenge.

What They Say:
Raishin Akabane and his beautiful companion Yaya enroll at Walpurgis Royal Academy to study Machinart: a dangerous blend of magic and technology. Raishin is a puppeteer capable of using magic to power up Yaya, his automaton, for ruthless battles no mere human could survive.

In the wrong hands, Yaya is a deadly weapon, but the honorable Raishin, despite his mysterious quest for vengeance, takes no pleasure in killing for sport. Instead, he joins forces with a harem of gorgeous classmates to unmask those responsible for a rash of heinous human experimentation. If new enemies and terrible grades don’t spell doom for Raishin, he and Yaya might live long enough to conquer the school where magic meets machine!

Contains episodes 1-12 and OVA episodes 1-6, plus an art booklet, all inside a rigid art box.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series is done up in a straightforward manner as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo and the English language adaptation in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the lossless Dolby TrueHD codec. The show is one that plays well to both dialogue and action as there’s a good balance there. The dialogue side is naturally the largest part of it and with it placed well throughout and some decent effects with some of the automatons, it has a solid feel that definitely keeps it alive and moving. The action when it hits definitely raises the level a bit and is a bit more immersive, as well as having more impact, which is more noticeable in the 5.1 English mix with the subwoofer. There’s not a lot of directionality to it overall, but it hits some good notes and the mixes are solid across the board.

Video:
Originally airing in the fall of 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/three format that gives it plenty of space to work with. Animated by studio Lerche, the show has a different kind of approach where there’s an almost layered/painted feeling to it at times and that can make some of the color and visual choices disconcerting and almost a little too 3D in a way, as well as introducing a few more visible gradients into the backgrounds. By and large it’s a problem free transfer, but it’s also one that runs to a lot of dark colors and night time sequences, This keeps the detail down a bit and more shadowed material for backgrounds, which also take on a little bit of that 3D video game effect. It’s not bad looking, but it’s disconcerting in some ways and a bit distracting. Overall things are pretty solid though and it avoids significant issues such as cross coloration or line noise during panning sequences, making iti a largely enjoy presentation.

Packaging:
The packaging for this limited edition release is pretty solid with some great design to work with as we get the heavy chipboard box that features the main cast on the front with the clockwork gears in the background done in darker gold and black. With the character designs standing out well but not with too much pop to it, it blends together well. THe back cover brings in some of the supporting cast with a full length shot of Henrietta and Frey which looks quite good as well as both have their automatons with them. Inside the box we get two standard sized Blu-ray cases that have each format in their own case, which is definitely the preferred layout. The DVD cover gives us a rough image of a wounded Yaya and Raishin on the front while the Blu-ray case has Freya and Loki with some similar kind of roughness applied, though a bit more fanservice as well with Freya than we get with Yaya. The back covers are done with just the light black and soft gold clockwork material without anything to it, so it’s pretty restrained. Both covers are fully reversible though so we get more of the cast getting their own front panels if turned around while the other side breaks down the discs by format with the episodes and titles for each along with the extras. The release also comes with a mini booklet to it that shows off a lot of really appealing and sexy artwork.

Menu:
The menu design for this release goes with a simple but nicely stylized approach that fits the theme of the series well and sets the proper tone. With it using clips from the series, they’re done with the darker scenes for the most part and that sets the atmosphere pretty well when tied with the music aspect as well. A good mix of action, character and settings helps to bring it all together while we get the logo across it with its own stylized design. That carries into the navigation strip along the bottom, which uses larger text to good effect, with a good ornate aspect to it as well as some clockwork pieces for the cursor itself. The layout is easy to navigate and language selection is a breeze. The pop-up menu works well during playback by using the same design and it showcases which episode you’re on easily enough as well.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty straightforward as we get a pair of English language commentary tracks from the production team, for the first and last episode, which feels rather appropriate. We also get the expected clean opening and closing sequences as well as a collection of commercials and promotional spots. The extras a lot of fans are hoping for are here in the form of the six short OVA episodes, which have a lot of fun with the cast and show in brief. These run about thirty minutes in total as we get some lightly serious material but also a lot of excuses to be undressed.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series of the same name by Reiji Kaitō, that work began in 2009 and has fourteen volumes to its name so far, providing more than enough material for an anime adaptation. This series landed in the fall of 2013 and had a twelve episode run that was animated by studio Lerche, with FUNimation simulcasting it originally, which is where I saw it for the first time. The series is one that has some interesting aspects to it with its design, particularly the layered animation look and the color palette used, and it’s one that plays to some tricky kinds of magic along the way as well in order to work. Which, at times, doesn’t feel like it really has a cohesive and consistent set of rules, when you get down to it.

This series works with an alternate history world where it takes place in a kind of early 1900’s feel in the UK where science and magic have progressed together. It focuses specifically on the Walpurgis Royal Academy of Machinart in Liverpool where a young Japanese man named Raishin has come. The school is one of the most respected out there with over twelve hundred students that study and compete when it comes to Machinart, a process of bringing artificial life to automatons that are created. There are a range of different types that we see that are based on the personalities of their creators, where we get cute dragon types, larger armored knight types and, of course, the incredibly strong and life-like young Japanese woman who is subservient to her master, but also completely in love with him as well. Raishin, interestingly enough, doesn’t seem to be all that skilled at creation as we learn that Yaya is his sister Shoko’s creation that is bonded to him at this point.

What Raishin is good at is the actual combat and use of automatons like Yaya, which is necessary when it comes to this academy as part of it revolves around a series of competitions. Those competitions bring out the best of the best to take on the title of Wise Man, which frees them from the ethical restraints of Machinart so they can do what they want, within the confines of the law though as there are Banned Dolls out there that cannot be built for a variety of reasons. Raishin’s intent on winning the event and taking on the title in his quest for revenge, though it’s going to be a long road as his testing has him ranked second to last out of the student body, earning him the name of Second Last for the matches that he has to go into. Of course, a little luck enters along the way and his actual combat skill, quick thinking and foresight allows him to leap up to a hundred, but you do get it made clearly that he’s not really the best kind of person to be here in the concept of actual Machinart creation. Execution is where his thing is, and a lot of that also seems to come from his use of Yaya, who was made by a true master of the craft and is one of the most impressive automatons that we see throughout the series. Not that there seems to be any kind of internal consistency or logic to how Machinart works, which is why they take the shortcut of calling it sorcery.

The structure of the series is one that it works off of its light novel origins in a fairly positive way for me in that we get a three arc breakdown here with it split evenly with four episodes for each arc. It works to bring us the introductory arc, the expansion on the cast arc which also showcases Raishin and Yaya’s abilities, and then a final arc to push Raishin forward with his skill level, though still keeping his goal far away since there’s a lot more material out there. Each of the arcs are decent enough overall with what they’re attempting to do, but the problem I kept running into – and this is after watching it in simulcast form previously – is that the series really doesn’t feel like it has a strong narrative or cohesive way of presenting itself. The concepts are decent, but the execution leaves you feeling like you’re on quicksand in trying to figure out how it all works together and the way the characters are able to do things. Naturally, there’s deeper meanings that are brought here, such as eventually learning in the final arc who Raishin is after for revenge and why. But even that feels very superficially presented instead of being an engaging connection for the viewer.

Where the show does work is with the animation style for it as studio Lerche certainly gave it an interesting look. While there’s a certain traditional aspect to it in the designs, it’s the coloring style that was applied which really gives it a very different look. There’s a kind of layered look to it with the way it’s been painted and it definitely stands out, though not as mentioned earlier in a big, vibrant way with a pop of color. but it has a feeling that gives it a different layering and slickness that’s definitely appealing. It’s more noticeable in the first episodes when you start the series, and it becomes more familiar as it progresses. The look definitely helps with the Machinart side in that it gives it a slightly otherworldly feeling out of the ordinary and the way it all ties together is a positive overall, though I can definitely see it being disconcerting for some folks as they watch it.

In Summary:
With my second viewing of Unbreakable Machine Doll, I once again get the same feeling in that we have a familiar property and storyline here with some interesting trappings to it with the Machinart and the automatons. It really is a revenge story overall, but by holding back on the motivations for so long and giving it only a superficial delving into overall, There’s a lot to like with the concept and ideas behind it and I can see it being really engaging overall, but the execution just left me wanting. It was difficult enough to get into the show during its simulcast run, though there are some great elements and fight sequences that made it easier, but marathoning it as a whole has just left feel less enthused about it because that potential was mismanaged as it was. This release is pretty well put together and getting the OVAs in such a solid form is great, and that booklet makes me love it all the more, so fans of the show will definitely be pleased by this release.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentary (1, 12), Textless Opening and Closings, Commercials, Promo Videos

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: March 3rd, 2015
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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