Reviewby Carl Kimlinger, Feb 23rd 2007
Akao, under the corrosive influence of Shiva, is tricked into boarding the red Jinki and promptly goes on a rampage. Her former allies, unable to counter her massive destructive potential, must rely on the only person capable of stopping her: Aoba. It's a final confrontation with the life of an innocent amnesiac on the line, and Aoba's ability to save her may hinge on her ability to reconcile herself with her vile mother.
For a while now, Jinki:Extend has been too occupied with maintaining its fragmented post-Tarantino timeline to bother with such niceties as character and emotional involvement. This volume marks the end of the show's dual timeline structure, and provides answers to many of the show's nagging questions, but the damage has already been done, and try as the it might, the series can't completely resurrect the appeal that it lost when it choked on its self-imposed complexity.
There's nothing inherently wrong with experimenting with narrative structure. Jinki:Extend's structure—all abrupt narrative cutoffs, flashbacks and unpredictable temporal jump-cuts—does keep audiences on their proverbial toes, but the narrative razzle-dazzle ultimately feels like mere sleight of hand: an attempt to hide the show's essential predictability behind a veil of narrative trickery. And after spending volumes puzzling out details, it's frustrating that the end result is so pedestrian.
To be fair, as annoying as it is, the problems with the series aren't all (or even mostly) attributable to it's needlessly complicated structure; far more damaging is the sheer volume of plot and characters. The apparent result of combining two manga series, Jinki:Extend suffers greatly from an attempt to cram a big confusing cast and a big confusing story into an itty bitty thirteen episode series. The plot is streamlined to within an inch of its life, and with little to no time to distinguish themselves, the cast becomes a bewildering blur of uninvolving stereotypes. Things aren't helped in the least by the look-alike character designs (older Aoba, older Minami, Shizuka, and Shiva all bear a disconcerting resemblance to each other); add in characters' shifting appearances over time, and it becomes a chore just to figure out who is who.
As it turns out, there are reasons why some characters look so alike. A fact that is among many of the tidbits dropped during these four episodes, along with others that help to explain things such as Akao's resemblance to Genta's wife, who Siva is, and why Shizuka and Aoba's relationship is so foul. The resolution of many—if not all—of the plot points that were lost in the muddled jumble of the two volumes, as well as the more traditional buildup/climax structure of this set of episodes makes this volume an easier (if not necessarily more enjoyable) experience than the last.
It also helps that this volume doesn't skimp on the main draws of a "girls piloting giant robots" show: namely cute girls and massive destruction. As expected, Tokyo gets trashed, buildings are reduced to steel girders and rubble, and Tokyo Tower gets blown in half. It's definitely enough to keep fans of mecha mayhem satisfied, even if the effects used and shortcuts taken during parts of the fights rival the dialogue in cheesiness, and Moribito-02 undergoes a last-minute "what's this mysterious button for, oh-my-God it's a super transformation button" super transformation. The cute girls fare much better, thanks to their rounded, attractive designs. Those for whom tight pilot suits aren't enough will be pleased to know that this volume also features skinny dipping, plenty of bathing, a gratuitous clothes-melting, and some all-girl under-the-covers kanoodling of the "my, your breasts have grown" variety usually heard through the dividing wall of an outdoor bath in harem comedies.
Of the episodes, number thirteen is probably the strongest on a strictly technical level, largely thanks to the shift in emphasis from animation to art that stems from its more sedate nature. Interiors may be a bit too sterile and trees a little too simplified, but the washed-out color scheme and strangely empty settings (are people really that much of a hassle to animate?) actually work in favor of the episode's mildly melancholy tone, and the running photo motif (this episode's stab at artiness) actually works.
Kenji Kawai, as reliable as ever, assembles an all-around enjoyable score, though the introspective themes definitely stand out more than the action themes. The upbeat opening is fun to listen to, and angela's closer is a rollicking little number sung in their distinctive style.
The English cast does a commendable job with lending the extensive female cast distinctive voices that help to define the characters' otherwise underdeveloped personalities. Other than Mel J's slight, origin-appropriate accent and Shiva's scenery-chewing tendencies, this dub sticks tight to the original script in tone, delivery, and characterization.
Though extras are at first glance abundant, most are long-time standards such as production galleries, previews, and textless openings and closings. The location notes, other than some geographic information, are mostly background art with comments; the glossary is a description of various different Jinki combat moves; and the seiyuu comments are short text messages written by the Japanese cast after the recording of episode thirteen. The most interesting extra is a fifty minute video of a live concert/question session with unicorn table and angela, the bands that sing the show's opening and closing themes.
Not all questions are answered this volume. What exactly happened to Shizuka is left unclear, and no explanation is given as to how Akao was responsible for the Lost Life Phenomena. However, enough pieces of the puzzle are delivered to make going back over the previous volumes to see where they fit a worthwhile endeavor. Worthwhile, however, only for those who actually enjoyed those episodes. For those who didn't, wading through the muddy, limp middle set of episodes again will be like pulling teeth.
Overall (dub) : C+
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C+
Animation : B-
Art : B
Music : B
+ Simpler structure makes for a less aggravating viewing experience.
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