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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Speed Grapher: Box Set
Speed Grapher: Box Set
FUNimation // Unrated // March 11, 2008
List Price: $69.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted March 26, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Series:

One of the things that keeps anime fans coming back for more is the wildly creative shows that pop up every once in a while.  Yeah, a lot of mecha and fan service shows seem virtually interchangeable, but programs like Paranoia Agent and Excel Saga are so different that they are hard to pigeon-hole.  Another such show is Speed Grapher.  Set in a dystopian future, the show tells a unique story filled with sex, violence, and corruption.  An engaging and enticing show, this series goes beyond the typical mature anime program and has a very solid story with fully fleshed out characters and some true surprises.

After a war and an economic collapse, Japan's citizens are split into two categories, the hyper-rich and the poor.  In Tokyo, the rich get whatever they want because money can buy anything no matter how decadent or objectionable.  Into this world a man named Chouji Suitengu, with the help of the ultra rich head of the Tennouzu Group, Shinsen Tennouzu, has set up an exclusive club to cater to the most outrageous desires of the rich and powerful.  The type of club that would have fit into Caligula's Rome, the secret society has an astronomical membership fee that assures that only the most elite will be able to join.

Even more attractive than the sex, gourmet food, and torture that goes on in the club is the Goddess:  The 15-year old daughter of Shinsen Tennouzu, Kagura.  Those that are deemed worthy by Suitengu, and can come up with the cash, are permitted to go through a ceremony where Kagura gives them a kiss.  This single touching of the lips grants the man his deepest desire, and it's often not what he was expecting.

Tatsumi Saiga was a veteran war photographer until he was wounded and forced to stay in Tokyo.  He's not really at home in the city, and mainly covers gruesome crimes.  When he follows a politician into Suitengu's club things change for him.  He sees Kagura and instantly falls in love, and when he gets kissed by her, instead of a waiting politician, he gains the power to blow up anything that he can see through his camera lens.  Escaping the club with Kagura, she begs him to take her away.  She's a prisoner and hates her life.  Tatsumi promises that he'll free her, but Suitengu has big plans and they revolve around the young girl.  He's not going to let her go so easily.

This was an excellent series.  In most anime the characters start out with their one or two personality traits and don't change from there.  That's not the case here.  The characters, especially the supporting ones, grow over the course of the show.  Their backgrounds are examined and their motives are often much different than viewers originally suspected.

The plot progresses at a good pace too, without any down time except for the single recap episode that contains some vital information in the epilog.  It's not just a chase show, and there are several interesting twists that will take viewers by surprise.

All this is set on a background of kinky sex and decadence, which is hard not to watch.  The sex in this show isn't the typical anime "oh you saw my panties!" fan service....it's pretty mature.  In one scene a girl arrives home to see her mother going down on her (female) teacher.  What's worse is that the mother planed for her daughter to see it.  Definitely for mature audiences.

The DVD:


This 24 episode series is presented on six DVDs.  These come in a fold-out case with two overlapping discs on each page.  In addition there are six booklets included with the set.  Each one is 12-pages long and includes character profiles and production sketches.  The discs and the booklets are housed in a nicely illustrated slipcase.  All in all this is a very nice package.

Audio:

This show comes with the original Japanese soundtrack, in stereo, as well as an English dub in both stereo and DD 5.1.  I alternated audio tracks while I screened the show, and all there are very good.  The Japanese stereo track has a good amount of separation and some nice audio effects across the front sound stage.  During some of the battles the soundtrack lacks some punch, but it wasn't a major defect.  The English 5.1 track makes up for that and is pretty impressive.  The action scenes are full and immersive and, like the Japanese track, the dialog sequences make use of the soundstage.  The English voice actors do a very good job and really bring their characters to life.  Whether you're a sub or dub fan, this set will please.

Video:

The show is presented with its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 intact.  The image is anamorphically enhanced and like the audio the picture is strong.  There are several different styles used through the show.  The poor areas of town have a more earthy color palate and faded tones while the people who are privileged enough to live in the towers have bright colors surrounding them.  Both of these (and the brown-filled war zone scenes) are reproduced well with accurate hues and tight lines.  There is a bit of posterization in some scenes, and some very minor aliasing, but these aren't major defects.

Extras:

This set ports over all of the bonus features that the original six volume release had, and there's some good stuff here.  Scattered across these discs are character profiles, image galleries, outtakes from the English dubbing sessions and clean opening and closings.  In addition to these rather standard features there are a series of cast auditions for the English voice artists.  The ADR introduces each of these and talks a little about what he liked in the voice and the audition process.

The most interesting bonus item was the three-part documentary on lead voice actress Kei Saito.  She was chosen out of 2500+ women who answered the open audition call.  Without any previous voice over experience she won the role after two additional interviews and try-outs.  Each of these documentaries last about 45 minutes, and it goes from the auditions to selection and recording the show to promoting it.  Apparently part of the reason that she got the job was because of her looks, something that struck me as odd at the time.  When I saw how much publicity she was expected to do, everything from handing out flyers to making appearances on Internet radio shows and at anime conventions, it became clear that it was necessary to judge her physical appearance.  Kei was even given a radio show and cut a CD.  It's apparent that they were trying to turn her into a pop star, though whether that was ultimately successful or not wasn't revealed in this documentary.

Final Thoughts:

This is a great show.  With an opening sequence that promises a lot of sex and debauchery, it's no surprise that the show delivers that in spades.  What is surprising is that there's a solid story underneath the decadence that is easy to get hooked on.  FUNimation has done a great job with this set, not only are all the extras ported over to discs, but they've also included the booklets that came with the original releases.  This is an all around excellent presentation.  Highly Recommended, but only for mature audiences.
 

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