Reviewby Theron Martin, Jun 7th 2007
In the wake of the events of last volume Solty has run off, ending up at an isolated house where Joseph, an old black hermit with an involved past, has fully dedicated himself to watching the events of the world unfold without interference. There Solty also meets Will, a young man working on a plane, and seriously hits if off with him. Roy, still deep in his depression, must be forcibly convinced to go out looking for her. Bigger events are afoot at the RUC headquarters, where the Chief Director's efforts into refining his Proceeds have produced a superior candidate to take over the Special Operations team, much to the consternation of Sylvia and (to a lesser extent) the other ladies. But the bigger surprise is who he has found that surpasses even his prized experiment Accela. The implication of who she is, and how her presence affects everyone in the story, runs long and deep.
Didn't get enough of major bombshells in the previous volume? This one offers two more, as well as a host of attendant mysteries and one key revelation. Not numbered among the bombshells is the ending of episode 15, which may be dramatic but should surprise no one and has little actual impact on the plot. No, the bombshell label is reserved for much bigger doozies, ones that have Earth-shattering plot implications. And both of these do.
The first of the two bombshells has the feel of a comic bookish cop-out given how things played out in episode 13. This is not the kind of series that would have the guts to leave things as they were at the end of the last volume, however, so experienced viewers should not be caught off guard by it. (Exactly how it happened remains obfuscated, however.) More of a surprise is the extent of the impact that bombshell has on the both the main Roy/Solty plot line and the “RUC girls” side plot, which gets much, much heavier emphasis in this volume; most of the RUC girls actually get as much screen time as Roy does through these four episodes, and possibly more. Also called into question are the motives of the person responsible for the bombshell, who seems willingly involved for as-yet-unexplained reasons. What this and the reminiscing by Joseph imply about the Blast Fall event in the series' backstory raises all sorts of interesting questions. The mystery deepens.
That the second bombshell happens is less of a surprise than the way it happens and how events play out in its immediate aftermath. It is what turns the storyline of the RUC girls from a mere side plot to a second main path, however, as it finally makes clear that the RUC Director has been up to the expected dastardly deeds (what would a series like this be without a main corporate-type as a villain?) and that those deeds are going to affect everyone in the story in one way or another. Although episode 18 ends with a lot of questions still floating around, the biggest unresolved issue is how, exactly, Solty fits into the picture. So far that has not even been hinted at yet, and we're 2/3 of the way through the series by the end of this volume.
Although the plot developments have gotten juicier, the characters and how they relate to each other is still the main draw. Yuto continues to be the annoying comedy relief, but all the other main characters get their fair shares of emotional content; although Roy does not have many scenes this time around, his range of emotions in the scenes he does have makes him every bit as endearing as the last volume did. Even the RUC girls, with more screen time, also become more interesting. Amongst new characters, Joseph with his absolute “I'm a Marvel Comics Watcher” attitude offers an interesting (if annoying) new personality type, while Will presents his own colorful world view.
The CG effects both look better and are better-integrated in this volume, and the visuals as a whole seem a little sharper than before. Depicting an old black man without resorting to caricature is a nice touch. On the slight downside, one character gets a significant make-over in costuming but does not look and feel quite right in the new outfits. This volume features far less actual action than the previous ones, but the animation is handled very well; one scene where a character approaches from background to foreground, hence giving a real sense of depth, truly impresses. True fan service is limited to the closer and one scene in episode 18, although the series seems fascinated with showing Solty shake her booty. Despite the aforementioned costume change and brief artistic quality inconsistencies, this is the best the series has looked to date.
This is also the best the series has sounded to date. Most of its themes do a strong job of complementing their respective scenes, and a lot of brand-new ones make their appearance here. Particularly noteworthy are the heavier and more ominous numbers which appear in episodes 17 and 18 and a fine English-language insert song in episode 16. Opener and closer remain unchanged.
The dub loses not a step on its previous high level of quality, maintaining the series' standing as one of the year's best to date for English dubs. All the actors that have excelled in the past continue to do so, with Markus Lloyd, who has done only bit parts before, stepping up to make Joseph sound properly black and the more experienced Greg Ayres doing a spot-on job as Will. Particularly noteworthy here is the excellent job done in handling background chatter in a few scenes, some of which was never subtitled. The English script still varies quite a bit in places but invariably sounds smooth and proper and loses no meaning in translation. The one minor flaw is a spelling inconsistency between Accela's name in the subtitles and in the ending credits (where it is spelled “Axela”).
Although FUNimation provides its traditional “Japanese credits available on the angle button” option in the opener and closer, and offers both English Stereo and English 5.1 audio tracks, its only on-disc Extras are a clean opener and closer. In an interesting production move, the slipcover art is reproduced on the interior of the reversible case cover, while a single piece of bonus artwork spans the actual cover.
The oddity of the release breakdown for the series – it's apparently going to go 6/4/4/4/3/3 – can still be called into question, but the quality of the production merits hit their highest level yet as the series proves that it does have a full-blown plot. If you have been hanging in so far, your perseverance will be rewarded.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Good technical merits, excellent English dub.
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