Reviewby Theron Martin,
Hou Chu, a bomber whose arm Roy destroyed in the process of apprehending him 10 years ago, has escaped prison and arranged an elaborate revenge scheme against Roy, one which draws in all the people associated with him, including the Andersons and the female RUC agents. A former RUC associate of Yolta's is up to a potentially extremely dangerous experiment, while the masked RUC elite Ashley seeming to be conducting his own mysterious schemes.
If the Synopsis above seems shorter than normal, it's because nothing else can be said about what actually happen without delving into the big surprises it offers. The third volume starts out just like the previous one, with more seemingly episodic tales about Roy, Solty, Rose, and friends, the trouble the get into, and their trials and tribulations about learning to live together. By the end of the two-episode bomber arc, however, the first bombshell certain to shake up the series has fallen. Enough obvious hints are dropped beforehand that that revelation should not be too surprising, although the impact it has on the story – and the way key characters react to it in episode 13 – is undeniable. Just as episode 13 finishes dealing with the fallout of the first bombshell, though, another one drops which viewers are much less likely to see coming. It may shake up viewers and will even more radically impact the characters during episode 14. The less said about either one, the better; even the rather vague back cover blurb is a little too revealing. The way the two incidents are handled may not be wholly fresh or original, but the skill with which they are executed should erase any lingering doubts about whether or not muddling through the first ten episodes was worth the time and effort. This is definitely a better series by the end of the volume than it was at the start.
Improvements can also be heard in the musical score, where the consistency and effectiveness of mood-setting pieces has increased greatly, especially in the more emotional episodes 13 and 14. Supporting it are some nice sound effects, especially with all the explosions, while the opener and closer remain unchanged.
Even the artistry and animation seem like they have improved some. For all her attitude, Rose is still the best-looking character, but the Anderson brothers, RUC women, and other supporting characters all look a bit sharper. The most striking improvement can be seen in Roy, who gains some dramatically different facial expressions and definitions in the wake of the first revelation. Perhaps also helping matters is the absence of CG-generated mecha and a reduced amount of CG-animated moving vehicles and people in backgrounds over this span of episodes, both of which have created distracting contrasts in the past. Solty does not get much chance to show off her stuff, but the animation in the brief action scenes and more general content holds up well. Also watch for a couple of scenes of near-miss nudity and lots of nice explosion effects complete with CG-animated smoke.
The English dub has proven a major strength in the previous two volumes, but it's in this one, where the actors are called upon to produce by far their most intensely emotional content yet, where the dub truly shines. It is difficult to imagine even the most extreme purist finding fault with the performance of Christopher Sabat (who also directs) as Roy, especially given the way he flawlessly brings out all the nuances of emotion underlying the normally-stoic character. It is a performance deserving of consideration for end-of-year acting awards. Colleen Clinkenbeard, as normal, turns in great work as Rose, Carrie Savage still finds the right pitch as Solty, and most of the supporting characters are at their best, too. The script may play fast and loose with its interpretations of the original dialogue, but this is, overall, one of the better current English dubs.
On-disc Extras include only textless songs and an English commentary track for episode 13 which features the three principal English voice actors – and why they chose that episode will be eminently clear by the time you finish the volume. Some nice bonus artwork can also be found on the inside cover.
With episode 13 marking the turning point, Solty Rei has transitioned from a more light-hearted, mecha-oriented action piece into a much more involved character study. Almost no action takes place in the volume's last two episodes, but even those who signed on to the series only for its over-the-top action elements may find themselves not caring about its absence. This is the volume that could change your mind about the watchability and quality of this series.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B
+ English dub, better in nearly every other aspect than previous volumes.
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