What They Say:
Ever since she was a little girl, Escha Malier has held two dreams in her heart: to become an Alchemist like her late mother, and to one day explore the mysterious ruins that float in the sky above her hometown. Now, after years of study, she’s ready to make the first dream come true, working in the R&D branch of her town’s Alchemy department. However, while she has all of the knowledge and skills required to meet the job head on, she’s not quite as ready for the new coworker, Logix “Logy” Fiscario.
They seem to be such total opposites, in everything from their attitudes on life to the tools they prefer. Not to mention that he’s from the well-populated central region while she’s always lived out on the very edge of what’s left of civilization. But as contaminants and pollution threaten the farmlands that keep their people alive, they’ll have to work together to seek out the causes and protect their people from the blight and dust that has consumed most of the world. Because sometimes, when one person alone can’t save the world, two of them, working in harmony, can.
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this game brings us the original Japanese language track only in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that is essentially basic role-playing dialogue kind of material with a few brief flashes of minor “action” where things get a little busy. Beyond those brief spurts towards the end of the season, for the most part, the show is one where it’s center channel based without much in the way of placement to it that stands out. The show is all about the characters simply talking to each other and going through their days, so it handles it well enough but in a kind of basic no frills way. That’s not to say it’s bad but rather that it’s serviceable and little more than that. Dialogue itself is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are all on one Blu-ray here and it makes sense to do that considering the non-action heavy work that it is and the lack of an entire lossless track. Animated by Studio Gokumi, the series has a decent enough look to it where it’s a more middle of the road production that has some decent character designs and backgrounds with some solid detail to it, which makes it look like a lived in world, but also still adhering to what you’d call the game world look itself. The show is not one with a lot of bright pop or vibrancy outside of a couple of flashes here and there, but it’s not a dull flat world either. The transfer captures the look of the show pretty well and outside of a few areas of line noise during slow panning sequences, there’s little to complain about here overall.
The packaging for this release goes with a nicely framed look that gives it an almost antique look for the borders. Within that we get the main cast of girls in some nicely detailed designs where they’re all looking out at the viewer with smiles and expressions that represent them well. Of course, we don’t get the main male character here because that would just be plain silly. Even if his name is in the series name. The back cover lets Logy get his time in the sun, almost literally, and it’s not a great image for him along the left with an almost too-thin look about him. The premise is run through the middle in a very small font done in black on brown, which makes it a minor challenge to read. Shots from the show are scattered about and they added a little more color to things. The remainder of the cover is made up of the familiar production credits and technical grid, both of which covers things cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is kept very simple with a static image along the right of Escha taken from above, so we get a good view of all of her, as she’s set against a brown/tan shaded background. This lets the character artwork stand out more, which it and the logo does. The navigation along the left is done in different shades of brown as it breaks down the episodes by number and title with a single submenu added for the special features. It’s a pretty simple menu overall with a nice bit of music to it, but there’s not much here overall and it feels just a bit barren with one character considering the overall ensemble mix here.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Part of the spring 2014 season, the twelve episode series Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky comes from Studio Gokumi with Yoshiaki Iwasaki directing it. The series is based on the fifteenth game in the overall series that comes from Gust. The Atelier series is one that I’ve seen bits and pieces of over the years, but I’ve never actually played it. I’ve played games like it though, so it was easy enough to get into as there’s a kind of base familiarity to it. In fact, it’s a kind of base familiarity that goes back to the old 2D sprite days, so while graphics continues to evolve, the games themselves continue to work a very familiar and worn path. And I suspect with fifteen games to the series at the point this came out that it’s a well-worn path.
The anime adaptation works off of the basic structure of the game itself in that it introduces us to a fifteen-year-old girl named Escha. Escha has finally been given the chance to work in the R&D department in the decent sized village/small town along the edges of the wastelands. The world has largely turned uninhabitable over the years for reasons that the game players familiar with the world mythology understand, and we do get a taste of it towards the end. But here, we’re mostly following Escha’s journey to be an alchemist by working for the government branch that exists here from Central. She’s a bright and outgoing young woman that knows her town quite well and is well liked. She’s got skills but is growing into what she can do, so she takes learning seriously and doesn’t go outside of the rules to do things. She mostly plays by the book and simply living towards her goal. That goal is to visit the ruins that hang some distance outside of the city in the sky. It’s a place she and her mother looked at since she was young, but with her mother passing some years ago, Escha continues to look on in hope and curiosity.
While Escha has made the grade, she’s also getting a co-worker that has come in front Central to be a part of it as well. Enter Logix Fiscario, aka Logy. Logy is your standard male lead in a lot of ways with this, balancing the standard female lead we get in Escha, as he’s straightforward and relatively quiet, curious without getting into a lot of trouble and has plenty of ability but not a lot of “street knowledge” coming from Central to the outskirts of civilization. There’s several of these moments throughout, such as the realization that they have to go foraging for the ingredients to work with or that the cauldron that they have is definitely old school compared to Central. But he doesn’t act superior or lord Central’s ways over what’s done here. It’s just that he’s surprised by it and works to adapt while nudging things towards a little modernity where he can.
The bulk of the series works along a very familiar line, unfortunately, where you can largely map it out. A large chunk of the episodes involve meeting new people in each of them, building up the roster of friends and those that live and work in the area and those that visit through town while doing their own jobs. All of them bring unique skills to the table – there’s barely any overlap at all here since that would be redundant and too real – and their personalities have quirks to them. They’re all also what’s needed when the show moves into its final arc in the last couple of episodes as the unexplored floating ruins are approved for exploration and the main group all end up going. But they need all the various abilities and skills to do it, guided by Escha’s growing mastery of alchemy and Logy’s own technical skill honed from some dark times in Central that get touched upon, but not in a big way. It is all very, very, predictable.
The cast that’s introduced is decent but all have the familiar hooks and mold about them. Another part of the new group is the young Lucille, who has come to practice medicine because back home in Central she wasn’t expected to do anything coming from a wealthy family. So she’s out here to prove herself. We get Wilbell, which is basically someone that comes across as a witch within the series as she practices actual magic and provides some non-alchemy based solutions. She also comes with a friend named Nio as she’s partially the medical route as well. These two, plus the swordswoman Linca, are all carryovers from the pervious game and have their own histories. Not that you’d know it from the show itself as they feel like they have little existence to them outside of when Escha needs them. Linca is seemingly the most interesting, but only late into the series, as we learn that she has at least two identical siblings that are of vastly different personalities. It’s a gimmick but it also offers something fresh in an otherwise stale show.
With the beginning episodes all about the foundations and the ending episodes dealing with the arc of what happened years ago in the ruins, and how it’s a part of trying to save the world, the bulk of the rest is all the usual introductions of the new characters, the growing interactions among everyone and the general friendly atmosphere. There’s no real strife to be had here, no characters that are very strongly opinionated about someone else or situation. There’s no real tension to be had and there’s not even a real hint of a romantic possibility between anyone – even though they try to make things emotional between Escha and Logy towards the end. There were so many scenes where it just felt like I needed to pick up a game controller and take over from the automatic play that was going on because it was dull. And that’s pretty much the greatest sin of the series. It has no real motivation to it. It made me wish that the characters would start baking bread.
I went into this series without any real knowledge other than it was part of an expansive game series. I’ve seen enough of those to know it can go a few ways, especially since I’ve seen some that have shined brightly. This one just comes across in a rather flat way, though I suspect that fans of the franchise will have their own attachments that will make this a delight to watch on some level. When you invest hours and hours into play as the characters, you align with them more. For me, it simply didn’t do anything to connect with me as a non-fan of the game and it certainly didn’t get me to want to play any of the games either. It plays with familiar routes and handles it competently enough, but it lacks life and vibrancy and a sense of purpose about it. With it working to fit in alongside the games themselves and not alter anything, that’s not really a surprise, unfortunately.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 7th, 2015
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.