While the introductory volume of The Third was great, with the second disc the series starts to slide a bit; a victim of the dreaded sophomore slump. Two of the main characters are written out of the show (for now) without any fanfare, and the show seems to be having trouble finding the story it wants to tell. Even so, the individual episodes are still fun and the series has a lot of promise. Many series are able to pick themselves up after a weak second volume, and here's hoping The Third can do it too.
A horrible war engulfed the Earth. It devastated the ecology and killed 80% of the population. Now the planet is watched over by The Third, human-like aliens who get their names from the third eye on their forehead. They carefully regulate how much technology humans are allowed to use and use mechanized robots, the Inspection Force, to enforce the rules.
Honoka is a 17-year-old girl who's trying to keep body and soul together in this desolate future. She's a sword dancer, a highly trained fighter who can do amazing things with a blade, and hires herself out to anyone who has the cash. She'll do anything from delivering goods to cleaning out a nest of giant spiders. She lives in the giant tank that she owns which is controlled by an artificial intelligence named Bogie.
One night while traveling across the desert wastelands, Honoka encounters a mysterious young man who is being attacked by giant ants. She quickly dispatches the monsters and takes the hapless gentleman, named Iks, to the nearest city. Once there however, the Inspection Force shows up and demands that Iks go with them. He doesn't want to, and with the help from some bar patrons, who have no love for the Third's enforcers, manages to escape. Iks then pays Honoka to let him accompany her. She's not too hot on the idea, but she needs the money and he certainly has a lot. Now Iks and Honoka, equipped with a newly purchased battle suit, try to keep one step ahead of the Inspection Force. But who is Iks really, and what are his plans?
After the shocking end to last volume, Honoka has her hands full. She wants to avenge Zankan, but she's also now responsible for his daughter, Millie. She feels terribly guilty that she wasn't able to prevent her friend's death too, and eventually reveals her past to Iks.
The Blue Breaker, one of the Third's greatest weapons, broke off the attack last time because he had orders not to harm Honoka. With those orders revoked, it targets the young sword dancer, and she's more than happy to battle the robot. She's so emotional however that she can't use her powers, and Blue Breaker's cloaking shield make him nearly impossible to defend against.
In the episode after that conflict, the show takes a rather odd turn. Iks disappears, the only explanation is that he had "some business to attend to" and would catch up with Honoka later, though no meeting place or time was established. Honoka also drops Millie off at her aunts and so she and Bogie are alone once more. The pair finds themselves in the desert protecting a giant ant that is molting and temporarily vulnerable. Then they go on to the next job but run across a herd stampeding of Sand Dragons. They barely escape with their lives and the tank is very badly damaged. Meanwhile The Third have noticed a threat to the whole planet. What the exact nature of the danger or who is responsible hasn't been established though.
The first volume of this series was great, and I really enjoyed the first two episodes on this disc, but when the story line took a strange turn the show started to go downhill. It was pretty jarring having Iks and Millie just gone, and the former's absence didn't make any sense. Honoka wasn't the least bit curious about where he was going? Why did all of this happen between episodes? The stand alone episode about the desert ant did fill in some of Honoka's background, but aside from that it seemed like filler, which is too bad.
The show is still fun and has some great potential, so I'm still looking forward to the next volume. There is one aspect of the show that has quickly become bothersome however: the omniscient narrator. For some reason the creators decided that they had to tell the drooling ignorant audience exactly why everything was happening. This is great if your IQ is in the low 50's, but otherwise it's stupid and unnecessary.
This disc offers the viewer the option of the original Japanese track in stereo or an English dub in both stereo and 5.1. I alternated between the 5.1 and stereo Japanese track and enjoyed them both. The English cast does a good job bringing their characters to life and they didn't resort to phony accents or overacting. The female characters don't talk in irritating squeaky high-pitched voices either. The real advantage of the English dub is the 5.1 track. Though the rears and subwoofer mainly come alive during the action scenes, it's worth listening to the dub for that. I especially enjoyed Bogart firing his cannon.
The video looked very good on this disc. The widescreen anamorphic image was crisp with sharp lines and fine detail. The colors are solid and bright and the palate is fairly wide. On the digital side things also look very good. There is only the most minor aliasing present in a couple of parts. Cross colorization, blocking, and posterization aren't present. This is a very good looking disc.
After the nice selection of bonus material on the first volume, this disc is a bit of a let down. The only extras are another gallery of character art, this time spotlighting Joganki, with a commentary track by the Japanese actress who plays Honoka and text biographies of two more characters.
While the first half of this disc was just as good as the first volume,
the second half had its problems. It seems like the creators wanted
to tell a different story and partway into the series and just threw out
the parts that they didn't need. Still, the show has a lot of potential
and so far the ride has been fun. Recommended.