"Oh, you're still in the mood, huh?"—Kazuma
For the uninitiated, s-CRY-ed is an anime series set in Japan of the near future, in which a cataclysmic earthquake ruptures the countryside and transforms one region into a mile-high plateau, cut off from the rest of Japan. In this region, dubbed "The Lost Ground," people develop the ability to form Alters, objects of unparalleled power created out of the user's mind. A police force called HOLY is created to monitor and control these Alter users; considering the awesome power of the Alters, however, control may be impossible, and conflict is inevitable.
When we last left our hero, Kazuma, the hotheaded young Alter user had undergone a transformation, increasing his Alter power to a level that, he hopes, will allow him to hold his own against his adversaries in HOLY. First on his payback list is his archenemy, Ryuho, who has defeated him time and again with his seemingly unstoppable Alter, Zatsuei. Meanwhile, within HOLY, lovely scientist Mimori was caught snooping around the organization attempting to uncover its deepest secrets.
As this third volume, The Other Side, begins, Mimori languishes in a prison cell, which gives her an excellent opportunity to bring us all up to date in a welcome recap episode. Kazuma, fresh from his battle with the Super Pinch alter, regroups with his friend Kimishima and they head off to locate Kazuma's young companion Kanami. Over the course of these four episodes, we will delve deeper into the machinations of HOLY as it steps up its subjugation of the Native Alters of the Lost Ground, Kanami will make a startling discovery about her friend, and Kazuma will suffer a tragic loss. By the end of this volume, none of our heroes will be the same.
So many anime series tend to settle into autopilot towards the middle of their run. S-CRY-ed, thankfully, avoids this pitfall, and then some. The episodes in The Other Side build upon and pay off many of the plot threads from the previous volume, but also throw in some startling new developments that take the story to a whole new level. While this set is strong enough to succeed as a standalone viewing experience (thanks to the recap episode, you can come in at this point and quickly catch up), those who have been following the series from the beginning will find the promise of the early episodes more than fulfilled.
My only quibbles with this latest volume are the unnecessary introductions of new (and annoying) characters, who tend to take too much time away from the existing plot threads without adding much of interest; and HOLY leader Martin Zigmarl's ridiculous mullet, which continues to be the most insidious villain of the entire series.
As with the previous volumes, video and audio quality are excellent, with pristine transfers that display only minimal shimmering, and bold, crisp colors that leap off the screen. The soundtrack, too, is lively and presented with crystal clarity in two-channel Dolby Digital. S-CRY-ed is a fast-paced action title, and it's great to see the visual excitement captured faithfully in this format.
This single-disc volume, while light on episodes compared to volume 2 (which offered five episodes to this set's four), fills the gap with a solid package of extra features. Along with the usual "clean" opening and ending animations and a Design Gallery of artwork, we get a Sound Comic, which is basically a series of panels from the manga version of s-CRY-ed with the word bubbles replaced by original Japanese dialogue, and Character Videos (clips of the characters over a music track) of Kimishima and Ryuho. There's also a trailer of sorts for the series soundtrack album, as well as the usual set of previews for other Bandai titles.
If you've been watching s-CRY-ed up to this point, you won't want to miss this volume, where things start to get really exciting. If you're a newcomer to the series, though, you won't be lost. There's a lot going on here, but volume 3 reshuffles the deck in a way that has this reviewer eagerly anticipating the next installment.
All charges against s-CRY-ed are summarily dismissed, although that odd title remains under strict probation.
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