Reviewby Theron Martin, Mar 17th 2007
Despite Roy's initially fierce resistance, master thief Rose manages to finagle her way into living with him and Solty. Though she is at least partly an altruistic thief, she also makes it no secret that she wants to recruit Solty as a new member for the gang constituting herself and her brothers. Her priorities change dramatically, however, when a devil from her past steps back into the picture and a handsome, half-masked RUC elite starts flirting with her, much to the consternation of one of his female officers. A day off means remembrances for some, shopping or dating for others, and cooking practice for Solty as paths cross in many oddly coincidental ways. Later, an accident during an attempt to capture a bounty results in an underground excursion for Solty and Rose while their friends and relatives fret away topside.
Based on its first ten episodes, Soly Rei is not a series that is going to dazzle anyone with its quality, overly excite its viewers, or break any new ground. Its second volume does put together enough interesting characters and situations, and sufficient story execution, to remain moderately entertaining, however. Don't come into the second volume with high expectations and it may pleasantly surprise you.
Whereas the first six episodes principally concentrated on establishing Solty and Roy, and drew their strength from the appealing dynamic gradually developing between the two, the focus for episodes 7-10 shifts firmly to Rose. She gets so much more screen time than those two over the course of this volume that one might come to believe that she is actually the series' central character instead of Roy and Solty, who basically serve supporting roles for much of these four episodes. Fortunately Rose proves to have a lot more character than she showed in the first volume. A young lady in an anime series who combines the self-confident, assertive, and morally flexible package with both self-indulgence and genuine altruism may be a bit out of the ordinary, but the way she acts when suddenly distracted from her original goals by a vengeful tear, and when on the date with the RUC elite, is what truly shows extra dimensions beyond what such characters are normally allowed. By the end of episode 9 she is the best-developed character in the series, and will grow on you if given the chance.
Beyond Rose, additional character development is minimal. Firmly-establishing Rose's position in Roy's household marks the limits of the actual plot development, and that is done by the end of episode 8. Not a lot else with long-term meaning (or originality) actually happens, nor does Solty get more than a small handful of opportunities to show off her phenomenal might, but events move along at a steady enough pace and with enough fun factor that at least a viewer won't get bored. Most of the volume carries a lighter tone, although darker moments surface in parts of episodes 8 and 10. The series misses no opportunity to show the implied nudity of a female character in a shower, but it generally doesn't resort to panty-flashing gimmicks.
If series like Basilisk mark Gonzo's A-team effort, then Solty Rei is an example of their B-team effort. (Speed Grapher, by comparison, is a C-team effort.) Very little is actually conspicuously wrong with the artwork, but the level of quality seen in Gonzo's best works just isn't there. The artwork is at its strongest in Rose's character design, although most of the designs beyond Roy work well. (Is it just me, or do Japanese animators seem to have a problem handling adult male characters with stubble?) Solty's hair, while clearly designed to make her stand out in a crowd, is just a little too weird, and that Mahoro Ando-like affectation feels too much like a copycat. Background art and equipment designs, beyond Rose's outrageous bike, are well-done but not spectacular. Normal animation sufficiently supports the action content, but the CG animation effects deserve more attention. Gonzo apparently uses some kind of automatic animation software to simulate vehicle movements and background pedestrian traffic, which can create a jarring contrast with the regular animation if one pays enough attention. Foreground vehicle and mecha movements, which look more like they were guided by hand, integrate much better.
Each episode opens with a rousing pop/rock tune and closes with a more mundane and generic piece. In between the eclectic soundtrack tries hard to set the tone and mood for each scene, whether light-hearted or dramatic, but only sporadically succeeds with its mix of themes borrowed from several different genres. Too often the musical effect is either too blunt or too weak to be effective.
Much greater props can be given to the English dub. Purists doubtless will be uncomfortable with rewordings so extensive that a character is sometimes saying something entirely different in English, but it does have that smoothness that FUNimation dubs have come to be known for. Finding fault with the casting or performances of the veteran English crew is a much more difficult task. No English VA does dour, deep-voiced heroes like Roy Revant better than Christopher Sabat (who also directs), Carrie Savage hits both the right tones and (more impressively) pitch as Solty, and Collen Clinkenbeard ably handles the full attitude and emotional range of Rose. More style variance can be heard in the supporting roles, but nothing that is not pleasing to the ear or suitable to the character. Overall it's a strong effort that won't disappoint dub fans and should be at least tolerable to others.
The cover for the DVD case is flipped, putting what would normally be the interior artwork on the outside, although a slipcover features a copy of the proper cover artwork. Beyond that, only textless songs stand among the Extras.
The second volume of Solty Rei may not be great anime, but it's not bad either. Clearer plot direction would help, but as is it should be enough to hold the interest of those who got drawn in by the first volume.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : C+
+ Good English dub, Rose proves to be a likeable character.
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