Reviewby Theron Martin, Sep 1st 2007
The full truths behind Ashley Links' identity, past, intentions, and motivations have finally been revealed, and it falls to Roy, Solty, and Rose to try to put a stop to his obsessive plan. Even after they succeed and apparently have full control of the situation, though, one final major threat reveals itself, one directly connected to Solty's own true identity and one which only Solty alone can confront. Will the bonds with family and friends that she has built over the past year prove strong enough to bring her back from an apparently suicidal mission? And can Roy really let her go now that his family is finally coming together again, even with everything that's at stake?
In the bonus episodes “Opportunity Missed” and “Love Shared,” Solty contemplates the meaning of happiness, the theme for the upcoming Appreciation Day holiday, as a mother and daughter drag the gang into their relationship problems, Kasha and some of the RUC girls get involved in an adoption issue, and Vuto revels in the spectacle of it all.
It's eminently satisfying when a series that started out weak comes together marvelously well in the end, and that holds true for Solty Rei. Episodes 23 and 24, which finish fleshing out the crucial picture of Ashley Links that started to come together in the previous volume, also finally confront a mystery that the series has dodged since its earliest episodes and rarely dropped any hints about: who and what SOLTY really is. The name “Dike” (pronounced “dee-kay” instead of like the English word) surfaced last volume, but now, finally, in episode 24 we learn why Joseph found that name significant, and what Joseph meant about all of her abilities being restored. The truth is one that fans of the series will probably not anticipate, but that's not the only juicy secret the series saves for its final episode.
As neat as those revelation are, much of the charm of the final two episodes comes from seeing all of the associations that characters have built over the course of the series come to full fruition, and Roy stands at the center of it all. Characters of his age rarely play leading roles in anime series which make it to North America, and rarer still are characters of his age allowed to show this degree of emotional range. His moments with Rose and SOLTY, and how they finally talk of being a family, are convincingly heartwarming. Next to those the final battle with Ashley seems recycled and anticlimactic, but the series redeems itself with a far better final confrontation between SOLTY and the last villain, one which reveals aspects of her personality which she has not previously shown and an intensity at least as great as any the series has previously accomplished. And, notably, it finally brings SOLTY back to the forefront of the action after having her essentially relegated to a supporting character for the past couple of volumes.
If you wish to truly enjoy these two episodes, though, then watch them without careful analysis. Holes exist in the plot and logic which may not be immediately apparent but reveal themselves under close scrutiny. (They cannot be discussed here without delving into spoilers, but you will not have to think hard about the content to notice them.) The finale also falls back on well-proven plot and story structures to round out its conclusion, but it executes them well enough that fans are unlikely to mind.
The series concludes with episode 24, so to fill out the volume two full-length bonus episodes have been included. Run together as a single 44-minute episode (but listed as two separate parts in the menus), they tell a side story which takes place amidst the events of volume 2, not long after Rose came to live at Roy's place. Occasionally serious but often very funny, they provide an entertaining sidelight to the main story and elaborate more on a couple of points that are never much dealt with in the regular series, such as Kasha being adopted rather than Miranda's biological daughter.
The artistry in the last two regular episodes suffers from some minor breakdowns in the quality control of some character renderings, the depictions of the tentacle-like wires of the computer Eunomia thoroughly underwhelm, and the recurring problems of occasional background/foreground integration flaws still pop up, but on the whole the artistry falls only slightly short of the best work the series has offered. The CG effects look best in depictions of explosions, while character designs maintain their high level of appeal. (And is it just me, or was the little girl shown prominently late in episode 23 and in 24 deliberately given a hair styling that suggests cat ears?) The animation generally looks good but also has its own occasional minor defects, while the epilogue offers several nice artistic bonuses for dedicated viewers.
The effectiveness of both the final two episodes and the bonus episodes could not have been achieved without a quality effort from the soundtrack. Though it repeats some hard-edged themes it has used before, it once again redefines itself to serve the tone of the content. Gently moody piano numbers highlight melancholy scenes, while an English version of the lightly jazzy lounge song used in the Next Episode previews becomes the theme for Roy's difficulty confronting his feelings for SOLTY; a Japanese version of the same song finds its way into the Epilogue credits. For the climatic battle scene the series dispenses with the grandiose, dramatic music you would normally expect in favor of an organ-based number with backing vocals that sounds like a cross between the dark opening theme of the Fellowship of the Rings soundtrack and the aftermath theme from Akira, an effect which complements the action superbly well, while the bonus episodes sport more light-hearted tunes. The original opening and closing themes remain through episode 23, and the bonus episode, while episode 24 dispenses with its opener altogether and sets clips from throughout the series to the nicely appropriate adult contemporary-styled number “piece” by R*O*N for the closer.
The English dub has always excelled, and no letdown will be heard here. Skillfully-handled emotional content and vocal adjustments appropriate to the circumstances contribute to performances which should not disappoint any but the pickiest of purists, and casting for new roles in both the regular and bonus episodes continues to be as appropriate as ever. The English scripting may be an issue for some, as it takes more liberties than it needs to, adds in a couple of lines in places where no vocal line exists in the Japanese dub (and deletes a couple of spoken lines in another place), and completely neglects to ever mention Ashley's original name, which does get revealed in Japanese and the subtitles. It does improve on awkward dialogue in a few places, though, and the script still runs smoothly enough that the discrepancies will only become apparent if you go looking for them.
If you don't count the bonus episodes as Extras then the only ones offered in this volume are repeats of the original clean opener and closer and nice a portrait shot of Roy with all of the principle female cast members on the outside of the reversible cover (which comes under a slip sleeve, naturally). Both 2.0 and 5.1 English language tracks are offered.
Those who have stuck with the series to this point should be pleased with how it turns out. Crucial secrets get revealed, and the humor and filler is saved for bonus episodes, as the series comes to a decisive conclusion.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : A-
+ Excellent dub work, satisfying conclusion, entertaining bonus episodes.
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