What They Say
It’s been twelve years since the Blast Fall, an unexplained disaster that left countless dead and many more 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 has seen it all, walking alone in this shattered city. That is, until the day a strange little girl named Solty falls from the sky straight into his heart. The search for family turns into a search for meaning and those that wield harsh power over society won’t go unnamed for long. Roy and Solty may seek different things… But who wants to search for truth alone?
Contains all 24 episodes!
For this viewing session, I listened to the English dub, which is offered in 5.1. A stereo mix is also offered for both the English and Japanese tracks. For the most part, the sound is clear, with no distortion, and some nice directionality was on display for sound effects; however, the language track is only on the center channel, and therefore on occasion gets drowned out by the music, which comes across each channel. That said, that is a rare occurrence, and everything else sounds really nice.
Presented in its original 16:9 aspect ratio, Solty Rei looks gorgeous in this release. Since it is a recent show (2005), the DVD transfer seems to have gone without a hitch. Colors are rich and bold, with no bleeding or cross coloration present. The show uses an impressive variety of bright and dark colors, and it all comes through nicely here.
I am also a huge fan of the design of this show. Character designs are well varied and tend to match their personality. Roy looks like the part of a typical noir detective, while Rose has the ‘blonde-bombshell thief’ look down. Yet what I really like is how various themes are seamlessly integrated, as elements of realism mix with cyberpunk visuals, and the deep contrasts and dramatic shading of noir invade what is otherwise a very colorful show. The way that these integrations shift as the story shifts reflect and enhance the progression of the story, and shows that a great deal of forethought went into the design of Solty Rei. Very impressed.
I’ve made no bones about it before, but I love Funimation’s set designs. They are always well put together, and they pack a lot into a nice compact package. The front of the sleeve that contains everything has a picture of Roy, Solty, and Rose that looks more like a mosaic of three individual images rather than a planned piece with a series logo dear the bottom. The back of the sleeve has another conglomerated image of the three, along with screenshots, series summary, and technical details.
The interior case is a tri-fold that has a blurry image of Solty standing with her eyes closed. When fully opened, that image is on the back of the right-hand third of the tri-fold. Along the left and center portions is an image of Rose in full battle gear fighting with Solty, and an episode and disc list appears at the bottom on the left. The interior of the tri-fold houses the six discs, two per section with the bottom disc overlapping the top. Each disc has an image of some of the characters, which except for the last disc, is the same image from the covers of the single releases. Underneath the discs is a pretty cool picture that stretches all three portions featuring each of the prominent characters walking along in a line behind Roy. Again, there is a lot packed into this set, but it is nice and compact when folded up so that it takes up little space on the shelf.
The menus here are fairly basic. For each disc, except again for the last, the main menu uses the same image that is physically printed on the disc, with the selections down below. The selections are for Play All, Episodes, Audio, and Extras. The episode submenu just goes to a list of the episodes; selecting one of the episodes then shows a list of all the chapter breaks in that episode. The design of the menus is pleasant and easy to follow.
For a company that usually does more than most with extras, and for a release that Funimation was excited about, Solty Rei has an odd lack of extras. The main extra is that each disc has textless versions of the opening and closing themes. The only other extras available are Character Cast Auditions on Disc 1, and a commentary for Episode 12 on Disc 3 with Chris Sabat (ADR Director and voice of Roy), Carrie Savage (Solty), and Colleen Clinkenbeard (Rose). Character Cast Auditions is a bit of a misnomer, because it is actually just an eleven-minute audio track set to still images of Chris Sabat discussing why and how he cast each part. There are actually no auditions. Overall, there are pretty slim pickings here.
I first heard of Solty Rei at Anime Boston in 2006 where I attended a panel with Shuzilow.HA (Creator and Animation Director) and Sumi Shimatomo (Japanese VA who oddly only had a bit part in Solty Rei) hyping the release of this show. Upon seeing the trailer they showed, I immediately fell in love with the art direction and knew this was a show that I needed to see. Unfortunately, while decent, Solty Rei did not quite live up to even my lesser expectations.
Solty Rei takes place in a world still dealing with the after-effects of a mysterious disaster known as the Blast Fall. Twelve years previous, a bolt of lightning from the Aurora Barrier, a protective shell that covers human civilization, struck a tower that caused a massive explosion. A large portion of the population was killed in the blast, and still more just disappeared. Only through the efforts and benevolence of the RUC, a large corporation that controls everything, has the human race been able to recover. Thanks to RUC’s research, they have been able to create Resemble, a line of robotic parts designed to take the place of body parts lost in the Blast Fall. They also recreate the government and get society up and running in quick order.
Roy Revant has spent his time since the Blast Fall searching for his missing daughter, Rita. Roy’s wife had died of cancer before the Blast Fall, leaving him to care for Rita. Roy was one of the lucky few to not be physically affected by the Blast Fall, but Rita was one of the many who were never found. In his desperation, Roy quit the police force and became a Hunter for the Maverick Agency, as accepting bounties made decent money and left him with enough time to also continue his search.
As the story opens, Roy is now an anti-social, broken, bitter shell of his former self. He has not given up the search, but he has also never even sniffed one clue as to the whereabouts of Rita. His boss, Miranda, and her daughter, Kasha, continually attempt to cheer Roy up, but make little headway. However, during a job, his life is saved when a young girl mysteriously falls out of the sky and on top of his target, who had gotten one up on Roy.
When she finally wakes up, the girl has no recollection of who she is, but despite Roy’s protestations, she is determined to live with him as his daughter. Though he keeps telling her to go away, she gets involved in another one of his fights, and again saves him when she reveals strange powers that make her super strong and immune to all known weaponry. It quickly becomes obvious that she is a synthetic being. Ultimately, and despite himself, Roy ultimately gives her the name Solty and adopts her, making her a registered citizen.
Roy’s life takes another abrupt turn when he meets the notorious Anderson Gang: brothers Larry and Andy and their sister, Rose. Despite not having any real quarrel with the Andersons, Roy is continually irritated by Rose’s antics, in particular, her efforts to get Solty to join their gang, and is furious when Rose tricks Roy into letting her move in with him and Solty. Quickly, Roy’s life, which had once been quiet and predictable, is now hectic and uncontrollable.
The premise for Solty Rei is fairly solid, if unspectacular. In particular, the dynamic of sullen and cynical Roy and cheerful and innocent Solty works well. His reactions to Solty’s actions give great insight into the man underneath the crusty exterior, and the more we learn about his past, the more realistic his relationship with Solty becomes.
When it comes to Solty, her nature is shaped by everybody she meets. In many ways, Solty Rei explores some of the same themes of a show like Chobits in that it explores what it means to take an innocent being and have to teach it about reality. While Solty is not as cognitively sterile as Chii, her lessons tend to be a bit harsher and unforgiving. In his own gruff way, Roy teaches Solty about right and wrong, but Solty also learns about compassion and friendship from Miranda and Kasha, not to mention social inequality and justice from Rose. The growth of Solty is one of the more fascinating aspects of the show.
While the focus of Solty Rei tends to mostly center on the character growth of Roy, it is Rose that is the most interesting of the characters. On the outside, Rose is every stereotype of the “Blonde Bombshell Master-thief,” ala Fujiko from Lupin III: she is crass, arrogant, and more than willing to screw others over for her own gain. However, despite her many faults, Rose has noble reasons for doing what she does; she steals what she does in an effort to try and reduce the burden of the unregistered citizens. Since the Blast Fall, people have been grouped into two categories: registered and unregistered. Registered citizens are guaranteed a living, housing, medical care, etc., whereas the unregistered citizens are guaranteed nothing. Rose may not consider herself a modern day Robin Hood, but that is the idea with which she and her brothers operate. Rose’s character takes on a more interesting spin as hidden details of her past are revealed and better opportunities open up for her to move up. Despite being more of a third wheel to Roy and Solty, in many ways it is the actions of Rose that push the story forward.
Much of the first half of the series concerns itself with building the dynamic between Roy, Solty, and Rose, and solidifying the relationships they have with one another, and it is surprisingly lighthearted for all of the dark undertones it has. Yet, Solty Rei takes a bit of a dramatic shift at the halfway point, and it is then that it started to lose me. Various events at the midpoint bring the show’s dark themes to the forefront and losing much of the lightheartedness that made the show fun in the first place. Interestingly, I had expected a dark show going into it, but the somewhat whimsical nature of the first twelve episodes made the dark shift a bit unsettling.
The problem is that once the midpoint passes, the focus steps away from the interesting relationships of the characters and instead settles into a typical “government conspiracy” storyline. We begin to learn more about the strange experiments that Operations Director Ashley Links is conducting at RUC, the causes of the Blast Fall, and what/who exactly Solty is. While there was not anything bad about this portion of the show, there was a definite “been there, done that” feel, and each twist and revelation became pretty predictable. It was easy to figure out who was living, who was dying, and who was going to be responsible for what. Ultimately, it left the overall effect of the show somewhat flat.
When all is said and done, the final two episodes are a two-part OVA that takes place somewhere in the latter stages of the first half of the series. Since the focus was back on the exploration of characters, I found these two episodes much more entertaining than the previous ten or so. This arc is actually four or five mini-stories that all come together to help teach Solty what happiness is. The overall theme might be a little cheesy, but it was kind of sweet at the same time. In a way, I was glad the show closed out with these episodes as it left a bit of a better taste in my mouth than it otherwise would.
While I would not call Solty Rei a bad show, it certainly was not as good of a series as I had expected/hoped going in. It showed a lot of promise with the groundwork it laid for the first twelve episodes, but squandered it with the paint-by-numbers conspiracy plot of the last twelve episodes. If you like government conspiracy shows, this is a decent one, but it has been done before and been done better. You could do worse than watching this show, but I would not necessarily go out of my way to watch it either. Very mildly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Two Bonus Episodes, Character Cast Auditions, Actor Commentary, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: C+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: March 18th, 2008
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37″ LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (S-Video Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System