Reviewby Theron Martin, Apr 3rd 2007
The wheels of Suitengu's grand plot spin towards their cataclysmic conclusion as the Rappongi Club reopens for business. Kagura and the doctor sit imprisoned in a house that ultimately turns out to be the residence of a key government figure, while Saiga struggles to overcome injuries suffered in his most recent battle with another Euphoric and Ginza finds herself at the mercy of the police chief – who turns out to be yet another twisted member of the club. As the government tries to sink Suitengu and the Tennozu Group, Suitengu unleashes the full measure of his revenge, and seems determined to take Kagura down with him. It falls to Saiga and Ginza to avert disaster and save Kagura at any cost, a task even more worth doing once it's discovered that she may not necessarily be doomed to her fate.
It's a shame that Gonzo couldn't execute this story better than it did, because its final volume suggests that it actually had a worthy plot to go along with its catchy concept (i.e. a photographer who can blow things up by taking pictures of them). It even has a villain that can, at times, almost be considered sympathetic – and who would have expected that of Suitengu earlier in the series? Volume 5 laid the framework and justification for his actions, and here his ruthless accumulation of power and wealth is revealed to merely be a means to an end rather than the end itself. Quite surprisingly, the volume's most touching moments belong to him.
Story execution has always been the series' main fault, however, and despite some good material the last four episodes do not much improve on that. Stiff and awkward storytelling, weak original dialogue, and ham-handed moralizing remain consistent problems, and many of the dramatic and action confrontations lack the punch that they should have. Even to the last the series never figures out how to properly use its graphic content, either. Too often scenes that are supposed to be edgy stray over the line into the realm of ridiculous or just plain disgusting, with the latter being especially true in episode 21. No review of the final volume or the series as a whole would be complete without the words “sick bastards” somewhere in it, and this isn't even a hentai title.
Despite its issues, the final few episodes do offer some bright spots. Ginza proves that she can be an interesting character even when not going around shouting “self defense!” every time she shoots someone, and Suitengu's chief henchmen Niihari, Makabe, and Tsujido prove that the scenes which made them likeable earlier in the series were no flukes; whatever flaws they may have, they show a deep and profound loyalty to the man who not only employs but inspires them, ironically demonstrating that they are, in their own way, as much above the common man as Saiga is when it comes to principles. And while the conclusion and What Happens After parts (which you must watch completely through the final credits to catch) are mostly predictable, they should nonetheless satisfy any fan of the series. Given all that has happened, there is only one proper way this series should end, and writers do, at least, get that part right.
Not much can be said about the artistry and animation that hasn't been said before: it remains the most disappointing-looking title Gonzo has made to date, with animation so lackluster that it undermines the effectiveness of the action scenes. Although it does try, the series never captures the visual edge that is a hallmark of all the better action series. The deficiency shows most clearly in Suitengu's Euphoric form: when his blood wings unfold he should exude a certain degree of menace, but instead he looks bored and laughable. Graphic content lacks actual nudity but does include lots of strongly implied sexual activity, a fair amount of bloodletting, and some highly disturbing scenes.
The soundtrack is a bit more effective in these final few episodes than it has generally been, especially in its use of the music box theme, and it does mix in a few new themes. The same lame replacement opener remains, as does the original closer. Both are absent for the final episode.
As with the rest of the series, the English dub is a saving grace. It much more liberally peppers the dialogue with swearing than the subtitles while compensating for blasé phrasing used in the original script, rarely altering things too much and never going too far. The directing gets a little too happy with the parody speech patterns applied to foreign leaders in a few scenes, but otherwise the English performances continue to remind that, whatever problems this series may have, the English dub is not one of them.
The final volume comes with a full allotment of Extras, all typical of what has been seen on previous volumes. Character Profiles this time around include Prime Minister Kamiya and Suitengu's henchmen, while other extras include more Character Cast Auditions, an Art Gallery of screen shots set to music, and part three of the documentary focusing on Kei Saito, the seiyuu for Kagura. New is a substantial collection of outtakes spanning all six volumes, most of them simple flubs but a few containing amusing alternate dialogues. Textless songs are also present, but annoyingly absent is the closer for the final episode, whose animation is heavily obscured by the rolling credits. Also look for bonus interior artwork.
The final volume may not escape the problems plaguing the previous ones, but does at least bring the series to a pleasing (if predictable) conclusion while revealing Suitengu's full scheme. Not great, but it does have spots of better content.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : C
Story : B-
Animation : C
Art : C
Music : B-
+ Likeable supporting characters, good conclusion.
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