s-CRY-ed Vol.2 Review
The action continues with episodes 5-8 in this anime series produced by Sunrise...
When Kanami falls ill we see the bond between her and Kazuma reinforced as he goes to great lengths to seek out the care and medicine she requires. This involves another meeting with Mimori, the new representative at HOLD who is able to see past the labels forced upon the "inners" and "native altars" to the people they really are, human beings just like you or I, meaning she gladly helps Kazuma, defying Ryuho's stubborn, blind devotion to his job in the process. Following a battle with Asuka, the HOLY operative whom Kazuma embarrassed when escaping from HOLD, HOLY are left shamed in the eyes of their government sponsors and so step-up their operation to a full-on manhunt of Native Altars in the undeveloped area of Lost Ground.
Kazuma and a group of Native Altars join forces to combat the cruel punishment they learn HOLY are doling out, which allows for an impressive battle in episode six where several new Native Altars are on display. More telling however is the second match-up between Kazuma and Ryuho where their true powers are unleashed. Animated using an emboss filter the destruction witnessed is a sight to behold and one that doesn't end particularly well for either party, especially when Asuka gets in the way at a pivotal point in a vein attempt to win back his lost pride. This in turn sets up the subsequent episode, in which Asuka and Kazuma are forced to work together to escape the tunnel they find themselves in following the landslide which resulted from the previous showdown involving Ryuho and his Altar in its full devastating form. This allows for some character and situation development as the merits of living within the city and working for HOLY are argued against Kazuma's opposite choice. True to form with a plot device such as this the two learn a little something about their own selves in the process, while also helping to define who and what they're fighting for along the way. But this is all handled well and never verges toward melodrama, instead using the sharp sarcastic wit the show has been developing with the help of its unpredictable lead.
The final episode of this volume returns to a more formulaic 'struggle of the week' format but does so within the developing Kazuma/HOLY struggle. The foe Kazuma must defeat is also more imaginative than your typical Altar user, with a character who calls himself the ultimate 'screenwriter' controlling Kazuma's will, forcing him to forget his purpose and join HOLY unconditionally. The most interesting development to come from this episode (which is mostly standard fare thanks to the dream world Kazuma inhabits) is the affect Kazuma's dreamlike state has on Kanami's own dreams, which continue to open each episode and suggest a deeper link to Kazuma than previously suspected.
The choice of cover art is simple but appealing, placing Kazuma and Kanami on a random artistic backdrop resembling the show's opening title effect, while the inside cover once again reveals character profiles (this time for Mimori and Kanami). The menu system is straightforward, quick to navigate and accompanied by the main title music while the chaptering covers all the stops.
Presented in 1.33:1 Full Frame s-CRY-ed looks much better here than on the previous volume, with artefacting now kept to an absolute minimum leaving only some unfortunate aliasing on fine details behind. This results in a minor shimmering affect which crops up from time to time, but nothing serious enough to put you off. Other than that and a little ghosting most are unlikely to notice from the standards conversion the show looks as you would expect for such a recent production, absolutely spotless with crisp bold colours and deep black levels.
Japanese and English language tracks are available (both Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo) and complement the visuals well, separating effects across the front soundstage while dialogue and music are well reproduced. Subtitles are available in English, French and Dutch utilising an easy to read white font. Using the English subs I can report just the odd error, a repeated word or slight grammatical mistake, but nothing particularly bad (and certainly no Americanisms as is common on other labels).
In terms of extras you'll find text based Character Profiles and Translation Notes which have a few points of interest but fail to be sufficiently different to those found on Volume 1 to be truly worthy of inclusion here. The same can be said for the Textless Openings, which span episodes 1-8 pleasing the completist but feeling like overkill to this viewer (the difference in the openings is minimal). Making up for these fairly redundant extras are "Sound Comics: 25 & 39", which running for just under ten minutes are best described as mini s-CRY-ed Manga sketches with dubbing by the Japanese voice cast. The content is quite unusual, with a comedic and slightly perverse tangent which makes them great fun and an excellent addition to the disc. Beez trailers round out the extras.
The series picks up in the episodes found on this second volume, with a much higher action quotient and more focused character development that highlights both primary and secondary figures in the show while maintaining a level of mystery to the link between Kazuma, Kanami and Ryuho.