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Solty Rei: The Complete Series - S.A.V.E.
Solty Rei is a title I've heard quite a bit about over the past few years with most people telling me it's s hidden gem that flew under the radar. It's animated by one of my favorite studios, Gonzo, the studio behind personal favorite titles of mine like Full Metal Panic!, Hellsing, Last Exile, Gankutsuou, Romeo X Juliet, Samurai 7, and Desert Punk, so I knew I had to give it a shot when it was announced for FUNimation's S.A.V.E. line. Did it live up to expectations?
Solty Rei takes place in the distant future, with humanity colonizing planets due to Earth's atmosphere becoming unstable over time. In this specific New York-esque metropolis where Solty Rei is set has a dark past. 12 years before the start of the series, tragic befell as the city was destroyed by a cataclysmic event simply referred to as the Blast Fall, leaving the city in ruins, with a large portion of the populous either dead or maimed. Due to this event, the city is now protected by what is known as the Aurora Shell, a colored barrier that keeps the atmosphere intact.
The series starts off with the introduction of our main protagonist, Roy Revant (played by Chris Sabat), a quiet, brooding and broken down 40 something whom was heavily affected by the Blast Fall as we learn Roy is an ex cop who tore his way through the underworld criminal element looking for his beloved daughter, Rita Revant, who was lost in the Blast Fall event, 100 percent convinced that she is still alive somewhere. After her apparent death and his wife's sudden ailing health, Roy turned to drinking and pills to ease his pain, becoming a loner, eventually becoming a lone wolf, working for a bounty hunting agency, Maverick Hunters, working under Miranda Maverick (voiced by Stephanie Young) and her commanding adoptive daughter, Kasha (voiced by Luci Christian.)
As we meet Roy, he's chasing down his next bounty to collect on who happens to be a man that has been maimed by the Blast Fall, Those who were maimed by the event are known as "Resembles", being repaired with technologically advanced prostheses which are used to replace human body parts. Outmatched due to the enhancements of the resemble, Roy is backed into a corner, until he's suddenly saved by a green haired girl who falls from the sky and quickly destroys the resemble.
After the grim set up, one would expect a darker story revolving around Roy trying to find his daughter and the psychological after effects of the Blast Fall, right? Wrong. Instead of focusing on the logical thing, the girl quickly takes a liking to Roy, much to his chagrin, and the writers instead go the comedic route as thanks to some interjections from Miranda and Kasha, Roy inadvertently becomes the legal guardian to the newly named Solty Rei Revant. Over the course of the next 12 or so episodes, the show takes the approach of an episodic slice of life series, with small doses of action occasionally thrown in, if anything, as we watch Roy, Solty, and Miranda do things like stop thieves (one of which decides to break into Roy's house and moves in when she decides she likes it), taking on a pair of infamous brother who consider themselves outlaws, deal with a resemble specialist falling in love with Solty, or a day trip to the spa. I'm fairly certain that any anime fan can find something to like in each of these installments as they're all pretty fun stories, but the simple fact is that it could have been more.
Around the halfway mark of the series, Solty Rei becomes less episodic and begins to focus on the Blast Fall storyline when a character who was introduced early on, Ashley (voiced by Jason Liebrecht), the head of the R.U.C., a company dedicated to rebuilding what was destroyed by the Blast Fall, and the man that's in charge of pretty much the entire city, takes center stage. Ashley, who initially was very calm, collected, and all around charismatic, is now slowly becoming more unhinged and begins to show his true colors as a psychopath bent on destroying everything after he comes into contact with Solty. With Ashley's true nature coming to light and Solty's mysterious connection to the Blast Fall revealed, Roy and Solty must scramble to save their city and stop Ashley before he reaches his end game.
Solty Rei for me is a bit of a mixed bag, while I feel it had a good premise and characters, I don't think it fully capitalized on the potential. My primary problem with the series is the fact that it spends half of its run time with the cast doing odd jobs like stopping a jewelry heist. It had an amazing setup in the first episode for this wonderful story to unfold with a plethora of paths it could take. Instead it follows them going to the pool for a day... Yeah, the show is fun in its first 12 episodes, but the way the first half of the show is represented feels completely out of place with the overall story, and it's not until the back half of the series when Solty Rei finally starts to realize its potential. Unfortunately, it's a ittle too late.
+ Excellent dub work, pretty much everyone is cast perfectly into their roles.
+ With its slow pacing, there is time for the audience to grow attached to the characters, and I did. By the end of the show I felt there was quite a bit of character development and that I actually found myself caring about the characters.
+ A well developed lead villain.
- Takes too long for the main story to kick into gear, waiting until past the halfway point to do so.
- Takes an odd turn to comedy/slice of life after a very dark setup, which to me was extremely jarring.
- It seems like every show has that one character that is just horribly annoying, and with Solty Rei it's no different. The adopted daughter of Miranda Maverick, Kasha (voiced by the terrific Luci Christian), honestly has no place in this series and just sucks screen time from the other characters.
Video and Audio:
Considering that this is just a repackaging from its 2007 release, expect the same as the last 3 releases, so I won't say much, but overall it's a very average production. The one thing I have against Studio Gonzo is its hit or miss animation. Some of their work is the some of the best animation I've ever laid eyes on. Series' like The Count of Monte Cristo, Romeo X Juliet and Last Exile are simply stunning, animation that I'd put up against any other show on the market. However, there are times where it feels like it's phoned in, and unfortunately like Speed Grapher, Solty Rei is one of them. The character designs are pretty generic with not a whole lot to help them stand out. The New York City type setting is quite striking but honestly that's about it.
As for the audio selection, once again, it's the exact transfer as the other releases. Presented with the standard two audio options, the first is the original 2.0 Japanese stereo track, and the second being the 5.1 English Dolby Digital track. As per usual, I sampled a bit of the Japanese while watching the majority with the English dub. Both mixes are solid across the board, the dialogue is crisp and clean, with no noticeable dropouts or distortions throughout.
Extras: - Episode commentary with Chris Sabat, Carrie Savage and Colleen Clinkenbeard. - Cast audition. - Photo gallery. - Textless opening and closing themes. - Trailers. Overall:
Solty Rei was a bit of a let down for me, yes it was good, but it was just that. It was simply a good anime when it had the potential to have been great. The characters were there, they had a solid story to work off of, but for some reason the writers made it a cutesy comedy for half of its run. Had it focused more on the blast fall and the effects it had on our characters, I'm confident in saying that Solty Rei could have been one of the best anime of it's time, instead it feels like Solty Rei is a one time watch. Recommended.
- Episode commentary with Chris Sabat, Carrie Savage and Colleen Clinkenbeard.
- Cast audition.
- Photo gallery.
- Textless opening and closing themes.