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Speed Grapher: Vol. 5 (UK) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000123166
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 9/11/2009 14:30
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    Speed Grapher: Vol. 5

    8 / 10


    Tatsumi Saiga was an acclaimed war photographer back in the Economic Bubble War. It was a war that further deepened the divide between the haves and have nots, the rich got richer, and the poor became doormats. Tokyo is the city where the rich walk over the poor with impunity, and it's Tokyo where Saiga now practices his trade, no longer able to leave the country. But he's suited to this decadent capital, a man who can only be aroused when he has his camera in hand. He works as a freelance photographer, when he isn't being the plaything of Detective Ginza, a woman who needs a gun in her hand to get sexual pleasure. You'd think that they would be perfectly suited to each other, but Saiga wants more, and his pursuit of a killer story leads him into the depraved underworld, a secret club under Roppongi. It's here where he encounters a teenaged goddess named Kagura; it's here where he obtains an amazing new power. Now when he looks through the lens of his camera and clicks the shutter, whatever he snaps explodes.

    Four more degenerate episodes are here on this MVM disc.

    17. The Reaper and the Nouveau Riche
    A young boy lived with his sister Yui and his wealthy family, happy and secure, until the day his family ran up a debt, and the debtors came calling. Their parents took the easy way out, which left the children responsible for the balance. Separated and sold into servitude until they worked it off, all that the boy had left of his sister was a broken music box. First he became a rich man's plaything, then he was shipped off into a warzone, turned into a child soldier. He grew up, under fire, and he was just about to complete his final mission, when the roof fell in, literally. He was the sole survivor of a unit that went in to investigate a genetics facility, and an experimental virus infected him, before the facility was destroyed in an explosion. Torn apart, he was found by the researchers, who literally put him back together. Finally free of servitude, and looking for vengeance against the tainted society that had enslaved him, he headed back to Tokyo, and began his climb up the ladder of power. He took the name of a sword he first used to take over a Yakuza group, Suitengu.

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    18. Fates and Fists
    Suitengu's plan is about to come to fruition, the money's rolling in, The Goddess' Tears drug is saturating the market, and the rich and powerful of the nation are in his pocket. Except there are a couple of loose ends. Two of those loose ends, Kagura and Saiga are finally about to escape the country and head to Russia, when military vessels surround the fishing trawler they are on. It's not Suitengu though. This time they have been 'caught' by Seiji Ochiai, one of the few independent minded and anti-corruption politicians in the Diet. He's arranged for a safe place for the pair to hide, and promises them that their medical conditions will be treated. He just needs them to testify against the Prime Minister and Suitengu in parliament. Saiga's torn between his need to protect Kagura, and ending this thing once and for all.

    19. Lips and Lies
    Things are getting complicated. Saiga has a decision to make, and it will mean lying to Kagura. He's willing to testify, but he wants to protect the girl by sending her to safety. As she insists on staying with him, it's making things awkward. Before that can happen though, Seiji wants him to meet with the White Hawks Society, a group of likeminded people who wish to clean up the government. It's getting beyond simple testimony, so Saiga escapes the embassy for a while to drink his way through the problem. At the bar, he happens to meet a young man named Joe with a similar dilemma, and sharing their problems helps make up his mind. The next morning, Saiga goes ahead to the meeting, while Kagura is whisked away to safety. Or so they think. In fact, there is a traitor in the White Hawks, and soon Kagura is captured, and Saiga's running for his life.

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    20. Good Vibrations
    The White Hawks have been slaughtered, and following Saiga into the subways under Tokyo is a Euphorian with a lethal talent with sound. His camera is having no effect, and worse, Saiga's vision is becoming impaired. Meanwhile, Ginza has been tracking Saiga again, and she comes across the slaughter of the White Hawks. But lying in the carnage is a vital piece of evidence, a book listing all the exclusive members of the Roppongi Club. One of the names in the book takes her to the front door of her own Chief Commissioner.


    Speed Grapher gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, and it's par for the course for anime on DVD. You have your NTSC-PAL conversion issues, although not too many of them, the image is clear and sharp throughout, and the animation is smooth and detailed. It's a Gonzo product, so expect smart looking characters, a blending of traditional 2D and 3D CGI, and plenty of bang for your buck. In fact the characters in Speed Grapher are a little more edgy than usual for Gonzo, certainly suiting the decadent nature of the story, and it seems the animators went to dominatrix school for some of the get ups.

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    Audio-wise, you have the option of DD 5.1 English, and DD 2.0 Japanese, along with translated subtitles and a signs only track. I sampled the English, and it's pretty much like every other Funimation dub, and yes, Monica Rial is in it. You can expect a little added profanity if you want to partake of that surround sound option, but as usual I opted for the Japanese audio, and had no complaints, apart from a couple of dubious English accents, and the clich├ęd effeminate guy. The biggest annoyance is the absence of the original Duran Duran theme tune.


    We have the usual anime presentation, animated menus, jacket picture, and multi-angle credit sequences. It does mean that each episode has two titles, one granted by Funimation and the title translated from the original Japanese. I've used the English episode titles to avoid confusion.

    On the disc, you'll find the textless credits and trailers for Black Cat and GunxSword.

    The small extra this time is 11 minutes of Character Cast Auditions, presented by ADR director Christopher Bevins.

    The big extra is the second part of the Saito Documentary. This runs to 31 minutes, and follows the voice of Kagura Tennozu, Kei Saito. In this volume, the work begins in earnest. She has to fit in PR work, interviews, public appearances, photoshoots, get fitted for cosplay, practice signing cute autographs, even go on the street to distribute flyers for the show dressed as Kagura. If that isn't enough, she has to squeeze in some voice acting as well.

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    Things get really interesting in this penultimate volume of Speed Grapher, something I was a little unsure would happen at the end of the previous instalment, with its disappointing recap episode conclusion. We're definitely entering the endgame of this story, and revelations and upheavals abound. It's just the sort of thing you expect as a story comes to a close, and gratifyingly, Gonzo start the process early in this volume, instead of leaving it to the last few episodes as they are usually apt to do.

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    It does look for a while that this volume would start in as depressingly retrospective a vein as the previous one ended, with another flashback episode. Fortunately, The Reaper and the Nouveau Riche is a story that flashes back to events that we never saw in the first place. This is the episode that fills in the blanks of Suitengu's enigmatic character, by showing us his past, and how he was shaped into the vengeful and devious man he is today. As so often happens in stories like this, especially today, there are no moustache-twirling villains, and everyone has a background and a history that can be empathised with. Suitengu's past is particularly tragic, and the irony is that he went through what many of his club's victims go through. His family got into debt, couldn't pay that debt, and as a result he was left orphaned, separated from his kid sister, and sold into servitude and exploitation. Given what he has done to the people who frequent his club, to Shinsen and Kagura, and what he has planned for the city and its people, you've probably spent all this time building him up as the ultimate slimeball of a villain, then all of a sudden you're left feeling sorry for him. At the very least, it gives the motivations behind his actions, but more than that, it makes him an interesting and rounded person, rather than a mono-dimensional villain.

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    The final three episodes on this disc are the start of the final arc, that sees Kagura and Saiga return to Tokyo, offered a chance of resolving the situation, finding their freedom from the Tennozu group once and for all, and maybe just finding cures for their respective conditions. Of course by now, the situation has escalated beyond recognition. Suitengu openly runs the Tennozu Group, plainly supported by the nation's politicians, and the same corrupt politicians who are behind him, are also sharpening their blades, looking to 'nationalise' the Roppongi Club. It seems as if the whole system of government is corrupt, but the presence of one senator, originally a journalist that Saiga respects, offers a hope for a legal resolution. Seiji Ochiai gives Saiga and Kagura a chance to testify in front of the government and the public, revealing all about the club. But things get complicated straight from the off, with Saiga wanting to protect Kagura from the glare of publicity, and with the reveal of the White Hawks Society that support Ochiai. It seems that rather than testifying, Ochiai is planning a coup. The most interesting development in this arc is the reveal of a member list for the club, which could potentially be a significant weapon. Of course its liability becomes apparent when it turns out that a high-ranking member of the White Hawks is affiliated with the club, and the proverbial hits the fan. It's here that the toll on Saiga of his photo-explosive ability becomes clear, as he begins to lose his sight. Meanwhile that guest list turns out to be a poison chalice, as Ginza, investigating Saiga's whereabouts, comes across the bloodbath at the White Hawks meeting, and finds the book with the names in. It turns out that her own boss is a member of Suitengu's club, and he has a particularly creepy perversion. He collects women's legs, and he prefers to 'harvest' them himself. When Ginza knocks on his door, it turns out that he's been eyeing her legs for a long time, and the volume ends on perhaps the most sinister cliffhanger yet.

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    This is the best volume of Speed Grapher yet, if only because we're finally getting to the meat of the story. The pieces of the plot are finally falling into place, revelations are coming through thick and fast, and the stakes keep getting raised higher and higher. Gonzo accomplish the perfect set up here, leaving everything on a knife's edge at the end of the disc. Usually, that's where they falter, but I'll be approaching volume 6 optimistically, and hopeful of a worthy resolution.

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