What They Say:
It’s been twelve years since an unexplained disaster left countless dead and maimed. Society is divided and every citizen feels the burn, most of all the Resembles – people whose mangled bodies have been rebuilt with high-tech prosthetic devices. Bounty hunter Roy Revant’s had his fill of pain, walking alone in the shattered city. That is, until the day a strange little girl named Solty falls from the sky. Roy and Solty may seek different things… but who wants to search for truth alone?
The audio presentation for this release is one that certainly reminds of a different day as we get three audio tracks, FUNimation has their bases pretty covered here. Providing both a 5.1 and 2.0 English mix as well as the original 2.0 Japanese mix, Solty Rei covers the bases well with both the action and dialogue. We listened to the show primarily in Japanese and it was solid but without much real flair to it. Dialogue was well placed and the action sequences have enough sense of directionality about them, but it’s a fairly typical mix for a show of this nature. We did listen to the English 2.0 mix as well and had essentially the same kind of sense about it. On both language tracks, we didn’t notice any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twenty-four episode series plus extra length bonus episode are spread across four discs in a 7/7/6/6 format that works better than the original single volume releases that were problematic in a lot of ways. In general, the show has a decent enough look with a clean color palette that doesn’t stand out heavily or look to vibrant but also avoids looking murky. There is detail visible in some of the darker areas and the show is free of cross coloration which is a plus. This show comes from one of the waning periods at Gonzo where it just doesn’t hold together well with the look as outside of the backgrounds, everything feels a lot more minimal than it should and that impacts the overall view. Thankfully, the problems we had with the original discs seem to be mostly corrected here, plus better decoding players and upscaling, so that colors come across a lot more solid and there’s less noise in general with the show.
The packaging for this SAVE edition release of Solty Rei is one that’s not made worse by the SAVE banner but by the choice of artwork once again. Done up in a standard sized clear case, the front cover has the usual green band but uses the awful artwork of Roy and Solty facing towards each other but not looking at each other. Set against a brick wall, it’s dark, murky and uses unappealing colors while setting an absolutely depressing tone about it. Hell, it looks like it could be a pimp and his prostitute here by the way it’s laid out. It’s just terrible artwork that I can never understand why it’s used so frequently. The back cover extends this further and gives us the image of Rose, though she’s mostly hidden by a red umbrella that fades to black along with the brick itself. That makes the artwork appeal here nearly zero as well. The premise is decently covered and four small shots showcase the series itself, but nowhere near enough or big enough to make it something to base a choice on. Where the artwork does work perfectly is with the reverse side cover as it’s a two panel spread with the core trio in the middle. It’s got a lot of white space on the top and bottom while the middle uses a good visual of the city itself. It’s clean, appealing and highlights the character artwork and design in a positive way. The episodes are broken out into the four quadrants as well with each representing a disc and what’s on it, including the extras. No show related inserts are included with the series.
The menu design uses the artwork from the various previous releases where we get different character configurations across the four discs that are set against a white background. This gives the whole thing a bit more pop and cohesion than it might otherwise if it just ported the cover material as a whole, particularly with the main cover here. The logo is shifted to the lower left and the navigation strip is done in the same style as the episode titles, all of which is set to an upbeat piece of instrumental music. Access times are solid and navigation quick and easy and we had no trouble getting around since there’s little to the release outside of the last disc with the extras.
The extras for this release are kept simple in that it’s really just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. The listing of the bonus episode as an extra is something that I really classify as content unless they’re the little shorts, which this one isn’t.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original work created by Gonzo and AIC that was directed by Yoshimasa Hiraike, SoltyRei is one of those series that just left me feeling at the time very disinterested in Gonzo as a studio. While I know this show was a gateway show for a number of fans and there’s a certain charm about it, I really struggled with it back when FUNimation released it in 2006. So revisiting it now, almost ten years later and in marathon form with the whole show at once instead of the six singles of the old day, I was curious to see if my views on it would changed. Sadly, I still find it to be a show that has some ideas that it could work with but it never really found its voice or a narrative that felt compelling or cohesive in order to make it engaging. There’s some larger arc material sprinkled in, but mostly it’s a poor man’s character drama that could have been so much more. Especially when you real lead character isn’t the moetoy Solty but rather Roy, the father who has lost everything – repeatedly – and is trying to keep a connection with his humanity and the world.
The premise of the series revolves around a fairly futuristic yet retro city that’s split in two, one where there are people who are considered true citizens called competents and then those who are considered incompetents. The difference between the two is that one is a fully registered citizen that is able to utilize all the resources of the city they live and work in and are guaranteed certain basics. If you don’t have a registration card or aren’t in the system, you’re basically trash outside the wall in the crumbling remains of the city. The area is still in recovery from an event twelve years earlier called the Blast Fall where the unexplained Aurora-Wave had a massive lightning strike that caused massive damage.
One thing that has helped people recover from this event is a technology called “resemble.” Essentially a way to create cyborg parts, people are able to take their broken bodies from the Blast Fall and become fully functioning citizens again. There are limits though and only a certain percentage of a person’s body can go through this. There also seem to be some limits on how people can change themselves, in that we don’t have any truly outlandish looking people and most of what is unusual comes from methods of interacting with machinery. Naturally, it’s also quite expensive so there’s an element of crime and corruption that’s grown into the process. One of the holy grails of those that work on these resemble processes is creating a 100% full on a resemblized person.
So it’s little surprise that the series revolves around a young girl who arrives in the midst of things that’s 100% resemblized. Falling into the life of a bounty hunter named Roy Revant who works for the Maverick Hunters Office, she ends up saving his life during the confusion of a capture so he takes her in briefly to make sure she’s all right. Next thing he knows, he’s got something like a puppy following him around. Solty ends up in yet another situation that helps Roy out and through the usual kinds of misunderstandings and minced words they come to an agreement where they’ll sort of tolerate each other and work together. Roy works well as a grouchy older type who lost his daughter in the Blast Fall event and is continuing to look for her. He’s not quite so disgruntled as you find in this kind of show but he has a bit of that rough edge that Solty is able to soften.
At the same time, Solty’s introduction to the group dynamic brings Roy into more interaction with others. The company he works for is run by the woman his best friend was married to and she lost her husband in the Blast Fall as well, which has led to them being at the least respectful of each other and the different way they work. When Solty enters the mix, she befriends Maverick’s daughter Kasha as well as her mother. Solty’s complete lack of understanding of certain social basics, like clothes, lets her play mother again but also gives Kasha something of a friend. From there the show starts drawing in other members, bounty hunters from other groups and your occasional thief.
Where the show ends up not necessarily falling apart but coming across as weak is that the opening six episodes really don’t have much going for them. And this begins to spill into a lot more of the series as it progresses. The show is basically a series of standalone stories once we get past Solty getting into the routine. Each episode kicks off with a little tidbit about how the world is in this setting but half the time it feels like they put in a caveat of how that isn’t really related to anything the show is going to be about. The main sense of continuity along the way is watching Solty realize just how powerful she is as a fully realized resemblized person and helping out Roy and the others. What she never realizes though is just how awful her outfit looks. Thankfully everyone else does but they’re too polite to say anything.
When the show moves past this and closer to the halfway mark, it starts to try and do a couple of different things but even there ends up undercutting itself later on. What helped was that for a good chunk of these episodes, both Roy and Solty aren’t quite the lead characters. While both are around, this feels far more like the Rose Show than anything else. With the way incidents in the previous volume played out, master thief Rose is now crashing with Roy and Solty. Roy’s obviously not keen on it but Solty is easily manipulated and she likes having a plucky energetic woman nearby to learn from. While I like Roy because of the way he plays his life, Rose is the character with a real sense of personality to her. Of course, it’s a personality designed around getting herself whatever she wants to make her happy.
The closer examination of Rose brings her a bit more into focus and she’s a fairly fun character. Through the episodes here she gets a couple of decent story arcs that help to flesh her out a bit more but not too deeply. Her nature does have her taking advantage of Solty though which is something that Solty doesn’t quite realize. Getting her to show off her resemble skills in a way that helps her pull off a heist fits with her character perfectly but it doesn’t say much for Solty. She ends up coming across as even more naïve and innocent than she has in the past. Rose hasn’t rubbed off on her the right way. It was hilarious though seeing Rose get Roy’s place into shape with lots of clothes and furniture.
Where Rose’s story does get to be fun to watch, particularly after we get to learn more of her past, is when she ends up on a date with the RUC division chief. He’s been picking his moments just right to get closer to her and seems genuinely interested in her. That only makes her more wary but she’s certainly going to take advantage of what he offers when they head out on the town during the day. Their time together is a bit awkward but fun to watch. It picks up on the comedy side nicely when Kasha and Sylvia see them and team up without realizing who each other is and try to figure out what the others are up to. It spirals a bit more out of control when Integra gets involved, but the “Girls Day Off” episode is a good standalone piece that humanizes the cast a bit more.
Rose and Solty do have another good episode together when they both fall into an underground part of the city that’s in surprisingly good shape considering it’s abandoned. They spend their time trying to find their way out and just interacting with each others very different personalities while the “special services” work to find a way in. The spotlight is a bit on them as they have resemble technology altering their bodies in ways that helps their job but they come across more as a gimmick than anything else. The heavy focus, to me at least, on Rose once again just makes this chunk of episodes seem far more interested in dealing with her than anyone else. Rose isn’t a bad character and the earlier episodes were obviously a bit more heavy on Solty but essentially four episodes in a row about Rose is too much even with the things that they bring to the table for her afterwards.
While there is plenty of angst in how some of the characters deal with each other, particularly between Rose and Roy, much of that is pushed to the side early on here as Roy’s life just gets increasingly worse. While people are talking and reflecting over recent events, an old enemy of Roy’s has escaped from prison and is extracting his revenge. Hou Chu was one of the people Roy was merciless with years ago and had shot repeatedly, something like twelve shots in the arm which completely destroyed it. Hou Chu has spent his time in prison since he was a criminal but he’s been given a new arm with plenty of tricks to it and is intent on putting Roy in his place for what he’s suffered.
Taking a page out of the Die Hard movies, Hou Chu has placed a number of bombs throughout the city that he can detonate at any time. In order to truly mess with Roy, it starts off small with a toy one inside the bar where he’s chatting with Larry but then they get more intense as time goes on. Roy’s given plenty of chances to get close to where the bombs are but never quite enough to stop them. From the larger one in the bar to another at the hunter office and some out on the street, Hou Chu is taking down just about anyone and everyone that means something to Roy. And not just there but associated folks as well which means practically no one is safe. Even civilians walking down the street are getting caught up in it and Roy is in a panic about making sure he stays alive but also Solty and the others.
These episodes give everyone a fair chance at running around and being involved but the fact that it ties into so many secondary characters helps to sort of bring some extra cohesion to the series. Where the show takes a really interesting turn is that we see more of Roy from the past when he became a truly hard boiled cop and just did whatever he felt was right regardless of how brutal it was. Though displayed through Hou Chu’s perceptions, it brings Rose into the picture in a stronger manner and begins to reveal just how close her ties are to Roy. This changes how the series is perceived as well as some of the relationships in general.
While this change isn’t out of left field, it’s taken in a surprising manner for such a show. A new storyline involving a rogue RUC scientist that’s performing experiments that aren’t sanctioned hints at the potential of a new Blast Fall kicks off. That premise is more than enough to shake up Roy from the head games he’s putting himself through and to try and deal with that. The way it plays out, and the subsequent episode that really puts the cast through the wringer, simply changes how the series feels. While it’s had its mildly dark moments early on and you’ve got old man angst with Roy, this takes it to an area that few series do these days – providing you believe that they’d kill off a character. While it feels like it’s something that was done a lot more in the days of yore, it was still mostly rare. And even more so these days, even with original series.
Thankfully, Roy is taken out of the picture for a bit as they don’t actually bother to show him all that much up until he starts getting going again by focusing on finding Solty and bringing her back. Where the focus is kept this time around is in two distinct areas. For Solty, she’s been spending her time out of the city and has ended up in a place where an older man and a younger man are living together. The young man, Will, is a happy go lucky type who is all about the moment as he continues to build his own airplane out of junk parts. Joseph on the other hand has become nothing more than a spectator in life after past incidents. Both men have managed to live well enough together but things change as Solty arrives. Even as downcast as she is she’s still able to change other people in a positive way.
While the premise of the multi-episode storyline is obvious in that it’s trying to revitalize Solty in a way that gets her interested in life again it doesn’t really stand out all that much. Will is a decent enough shallow character with a one note trick to his name. His laid back attitude is good for Solty in that he’s not demanding and is pleasant enough with her both in general dialogue but also with a few jokes. But once he starts coughing up blood you can see how the whole subplot is going to go if you couldn’t already. What was very amusing about it was the entire deal with the plane as Solty decides to just build it from scratch without a second thought. The concept of the subplot works well enough but like a lot of things in Solty Rei it really lacks in the actual execution.
The other main subplot isn’t a surprise either though I am surprised it happened so quickly all things considered. The focus on the RUC and the mysterious things that Ashley has planned helps to flesh out a bit of the Blast Fall and some other events that have been going on. Tying into what we learned from Joseph we’re now clearer on just how dangerous he really is. The tests he’s been running with Accela have been useful but he has a new candidate that’s far exceeding what she’s done. Having Rose step in from the land of the dead wasn’t a surprise but it did induce some eye rolling. She seemingly isn’t exactly the same person as she was before and is now firmly controlled by Ashley as he’s placing her in charge of the unit that Silvia and the others work through.
As the series nears its finale, the action picks up considerably and all the various characters who have tangents with each other become more important. In a way it becomes harder to criticize the earlier parts of the series where all these characters and relations were formed but at the same time they were done in such a standard clichéd manner that dragged out too long that it’s still easy to gripe. Ashley’s plans which have been under the surface for awhile become all the clearer, again after a few episodes of teasing, as does the real story behind the city and the situation that everyone finds themselves in. The setting of the story is one that wasn’t deeply explained early on nor was the location really talked about much so having it become a focal point this late in the show shines a light once again on the poor plotting of the series.
The previous batch of episodes focused on the RUC women as they were systematically targeted and taken out of the equation so that Ashley could follow through on his plans. Be it following Integra as she tries to survive or watching as Celica is targeted for termination, the manipulation and complete control that Ashley has over things is apparent. It becomes even more apparent as Accela is now on the run and ends up finding shelter with Roy and Solty only to discover how the images of what happened in the RUC are being altered. The arrival of Accela into the household also marks the arrival of pretty much everyone else over the course of these episodes, from Joseph to Integra and to the “brothers” of Rose’s.
While Roy and many of the others have the initial issue of wanting to find Rose and deal with that problem, a few others crop up along the way such as Solty being taken out of the picture and the potential for the entire city to crumble before them. The arrival of Joseph on the scene is tied to Rose learning what Ashley’s real plans are and agreeing that his course of action is for the best. The reality of what the city is and how it came to be is a fairly traditional plot device in a lot of science fiction shows and always has some interesting possibilities to it. As the secrets are uncovered through the dual conversations, it’s up to the rest of the cast to believe it on faith alone or deny it outright. There isn’t too much of a chance for that though since Ashley’s plans have the potential for throwing the city into utter chaos and Roy has to stop Rose before she can help him do that.
If the series had worked with these elements in a more straightforward manner earlier on and avoided some of the really bad plot elements and contrivances that it handed out, I can imagine that this would be far more enjoyable. There are series and films that play with these concepts that I absolutely adore so when I see a new series try to tackle it and do so in such a poor manner it just baffles and saddens me. A lot of the things Solty Rei brought into play have been left behind over the course of it. The resemble technology was such a big thing at first which ended up with little screen time after awhile. The same for Solty herself and her nature. The most interesting elements which can be better paid attention to on a second viewing revolve around the RUC itself in how you can or cannot tease out what’s really going on.
Ashley’s goal of getting into space is expanded upon in the opening episode as we start to see more of his past in how Eunomia has manipulated him. With his lifespan now at over two hundred years, it’s easy to understand him being a little bit cracked in the head. It’s even more understandable as his time during the colonization period is explored and we understand some of what happened to those who were trying to settle there. His methods of course are what has caused him so much trouble but through these revelations we also gain a greater understanding of who Solty is. Her history is tied to Ashley’s just as much and seeing some of the perspective from both sides over the course of the two episodes goes a long way towards explaining things from earlier in the series.
Solty Rei unfortunately goes with a standard cliché in these final two episodes however by providing an even bigger danger than Ashley as that arc closes down. Granted, it’s only going to run one episode but it feels like those last few minutes in the first Terminator movie where you just roll your eyes that it’s going in this direction. There are some good moments to be had however, particularly as the show starts moving forward a few months at time and then several years so that we get to see some of the ramifications of everything that’s happened. There is more than enough material that they could have fleshed out another two episodes worth of epilogue for the series, particularly in explaining more of the back story, but that wasn’t in the cards.
What we get instead is a double length extra episode that shifts the storyline back to when Rose was living with Roy and Solty. A couple of different stories are mixed into it, from a case that Roy reluctantly takes with a woman who reminds him of his wife to something that Rose gets involved in where she forces Andy to be some girls pretend girlfriend. The stories overlap and we get essentially some decent yet simple material that slowly brings in the majority of the cast that has fallen off the page since events picked up. Especially good for some of those who may have died off earlier. There is also a storyline that runs across both episodes that involves Solty trying to understand the concept of happiness and a storyline for Kasha in which she discovers she has real relatives and a connection to the RUC. The danger in such storylines is whether they create an imbalance in the episodes that have already aired in terms of character relations.
The look and design of the show is one that has some nice moments to it but has some of the more generic feel to it. I admit to liking the way the CG cars look when they’re zipping along but those scenes are short and the passage of time gives us these elements in a lot smoother and integrated way now. There isn’t any real visual hook into the show to set it apart from any number of other ones that run with the same concept either. The Aurora-Wave part only shows at night and even then it’s just a brief glance at it in the sky before they pan the camera elsewhere for the story. The character designs are pretty good though as I rather like Shuzilow.HA’s material and they at least have a group of characters that’s out of the school age realm other than Solty and Kasha. The older characters definitely help but that only goes so far.
The bulk of Solty Rei has once again proven to be so uninteresting that an imbalance would actually be a welcome addition to it. The show has had a number of concepts that were poorly executed from the start which left the entire series feeling very problematic with its execution. It seemed to shift gears too frequently and played too many emotional clichés which pushed people away from it. I don’t mind clichés in general but when they’re done so obviously and tied together with so many other ones with a poor execution it just makes it a worse experience. Solty Rei seemed so unsure of what kind of series it wanted to be for so long that the final big arcs of the show felt like an entirely different series. A far more interesting one. Most people who may have found that likely never made it that far either.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Bonus Episodes, Textless Opening and Closing, Trailers
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: C
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: May 5th, 2015
Running Time: 615 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.