Reviewby Theron Martin,
Kurau: Phantom Memory
DVD 6 - To Split Infinity
Based on its first five volumes, fellow ANN reviewer Carl Kimlinger and I both named Kurau Phantom Memory amongst our picks for 2007's best anime releases in America. This final volume, which covers episodes 21-24, affirms that we made the right choice. Always heartfelt, sometimes emotional, and in the end a little bittersweet yet also highly satisfying, volume 6 offers a fantastic conclusion to a fantastic series. The ending may not be entirely what you'd expect, but the closure it provides will not disappoint.
Although ADV deserves kudos for licensing and releasing this wonderful series, their advertisements for it have typically overemphasized the series' action components, perhaps because they feel it is most easily marketable that way. Sure, the action scenes do play a significant role in the series, and this final volume certainly has no shortage of them, but the deeply-ingrained human element separates this series from all others of its ilk, and that holds true through to the final moments of the series. Even when engaging in flashy displays of power, the best moments come when Kurau and Christmas finally help Windt and Regel make a human connection to their actions, or when Kurau must struggle to restrain the Rynax kindred she has inadvertently called to our world in order to prevent harm to both them and humans.
But those are not the only places the human element prevails in this volume. You see it, as always, in the deeply caring relationship between Kurau and Christmas, only by this point in the series it is a mutually supportive relationship instead of a protective one. You see it in Kurau's father, when he laments his own role in causing all this Rynax trouble and his self-perceived powerlessness to do anything to help Kurau or correct the wrongs that have indirectly resulted from his actions. (Has the portrayal of such a character ever been more convincing than it is here?) You see it in the attitudes of Kurau's aunt and uncle, and in the people coming together to memorialize those slain by the twins in volume 5. You see it in Ayaka, when she must struggle with her motivations when faced with the reality that she may be rushing to protect the man responsible for the murder of her family. You even, to an extent, see it in the dastardly Saito, as a flashback reveals the devastating past which set him on the road to his current course of action.
Nowhere does that element more completely take control than in the final episode. With the action climax of the series more or less coming at the end of 23, almost the entire last episode is left to serve as clean-up duty, which is what allows the series to achieve its complete sense of closure. Finally fans get to see and understand the significance of Christmas's name, but just as fulfilling is getting to see how Kurau's complicated situation gets resolved and how characters who survive the events of episodes 21-23 are able to move forward with their lives. Have some tissue handy when you get to this point, as some of those scenes are quite moving.
Perhaps moreso than at any other point in the series, the soundtrack proves utterly indispensable to setting just the right tone and promoting the emotional appeal. It mixes a couple of new mood numbers in with standards like variations on the closing theme, the powerful insert song (“Lonely Freedom?”), and others carried over from earlier in the series, all to beautifully carry the feeling of the series and its momentous events to the viewer. The final episode juxtaposes the normal opening and closing songs, but otherwise they remain intact through to the end.
Nowhere in the series is the English dubbing more effective, either. Monica Rial shows a capable range and expert vocal adjustments as Kurau, Jessica Boone hits exactly the right note as Christmas, and John Gremillion perfectly hits the mark in the challenging emotional scenes for Dr. Amami, along with several fine supporting performances. Even if the dub does not blow you away, you'll be hard-pressed to find an even moderately weak performance here. The dub script varies a bit but not enough to be a problem.
The visuals also do their part, although they are not as integral to this series' feelings and emotions as the music and vocals. They simply offer a lovely depiction of the settings and an excellent rendition of the characters trying to appeal to our hearts, especially in the lead roles and the future versions of several characters at the end. If minor flaws occasionally show in the quality control or a slight roughness sometimes pops up in the animation, the lovely backgrounds of mountain settings and urban scenes, which evoke an impression of the cleanliness made possible by “blue energy,” more than make up for them. The animation, while not stellar, is good enough.
The final volume contains what has become the standard set of Extras for the series: clean opener and closer, production art set to series music, and a Key Words entry. This time the latter provides some background about “blue energy” and how Dr. Amami's research related to that led to the incident which set the series in motion. It gets rather complex and theoretical but is hardly necessary for a deep appreciation of the series.
“To Split Infinity” is not without some flaws. The encounter with the Rynax soldiers, though an outgrowth of what Commissioner Saito has been scheming since his first appearance, seems a little forced, and some of Kurau's comments about her fellow Rynax get repetitious. The rest of the volume is so overwhelmingly well-done that those minor problems can be overlooked, however. For fans of the series this is a top-priority view; for all others, check the series out from the beginning knowing that it will not leave you hanging in the end.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A
Animation : B+
Art : A-
Music : A-
+ Sense of closure, emotional appeal, never loses its humanity despite its action component.
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