20th Century Boys: Chapter 2 - The Last Hope Blu-ray Review
'20th Century Boys: Chapter 2' is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
From the outset I could immediately see this transfer was somewhat weak in comparison to other BD titles out there. The colour palette is muted, with primaries never appearing vibrant. The contrast ratio is also nothing to write home about, with washed out blacks dominating for the majority. Shadow detail is also poor, with many of the darker backgrounds lost in an indistinctive muddle of black crush. In the well lit outdoor scenes, things get a little better. Detail is visible but really sharp detail is absent, even in facial close ups (for the most part). The same can be said for clothing textures and other nuances which BD usually exposes. At times the image quality really deteriorated, especially during the retrospective scenes depicting Kenji's childhood, with some of the long shots appearing particularly soft. The darker portions contain a lot of granular content which detracts detail, rather than adding to it.
In saying that, the print is in good condition and there were no instances of EE or DNR noted but this does not really atone for the poor quality of the video presentation. Overall the palette is distinctly washed out and the image is very soft indeed for the majority. I'm not too sure if this was an intentional decision to faithfully recreate the feel of the comic books (I did note the use of filters throughout) but this one definitely won't make it into the demo material category.
The only English subtitle option also placed Chinese subtitles on the screen at the same time. Initially I found this distracting but as the movie progressed it became unnoticeable and the English subtitles were never difficult to follow.
'20th Century Boys: Chapter 2' comes packed with a Japanese dts HD Mater Audio 7.1 surround track.
I love to see a 7.1 mix on BD's but more often than not the inclusion of the extra two channels does not really add a whole lot to the presentation. I'm pleased to report that this release is an exception to this reviewer's previous observations, making good use of all available channels. Front separation is spot on for the duration, creating a nice wide soundstage. The surrounds are used to great effect throughout, with the opening Mafia standoff scene providing a very immersive soundstage. Bullets zing across the four back channels and panicked shouts, screams and crashes can be heard from all around the listening position. They are used at various points throughout to add significantly to the ambience. The subwoofer gets a good workout in a few of the action orientated scenes and provides some nice, deep rumblage. It is subdued for the majority, providing a pleasing, undulating accompaniment to the fronts and surrounds.
The score is particularly impressive and is well engineered. At times it's possible to even forget that there is a score, as it melds with the on screen activity almost seamlessly. It's never overbearing and has impressive surround bleed and some nice bass tonality. There are plenty of orchestral interludes as well as some more “poppy” tunes, all of which are perfectly represented, with every note audible. This is a fine score and really adds to the main feature. Overall this is a very impressive surround mix and comes recommended.
Approximately 1hr45 minutes into the presentation a couple of loud pops were noted on the track. I was able to reproduce this effect at any stage by pausing the movie and then resuming. I'm not too sure what caused this effect but it was disquieting to say the least, especially when listening at high volumes.
There's not much in the way of extras on this disc, with the only available additional supplements consisting of a standard definition trailer for this movie and 'Chapter 3'. I think that it would have been a nice touch to include some of the manga to assist in unravelling some of the complexities of the plot.
'20th Century Boys: Chapter 2' was released this year (2009) and was directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi. The movie is the second part of a trilogy based on the acclaimed manga of Naoki Urasawa. It revolves around a masked religious zealot, called Friend, who claims to hold the key to uniting humanity with the universe. In an effort to put a dampener on his meteoric rise to religious ecstasy on a global scale, it's up to Kanna (a teenage school girl) and a rag tag bunch of underground rebels to expose Friend as a manipulative maniac. I would place this movie in the same category as “Watchmen”; it's an enjoyable enough affair but the complexity of both the characters and the plot means that viewers unfamiliar with either the manga or the first instalment of the trilogy will find this movie somewhat inaccessible and unrewarding.
The video presentation is somewhat disappointing, with a softness and lack of clarity causing me to really question the transfer process for the release. The audio presentation is a lot better and really makes use of all available channels, demonstrating some nice bass and surround activity. The extras portion is weak, with only two standard definition trailers available. I'm sure that fans of the original movie or the manga on which this movie was based will lap this up but even the pleasing surround mix could not atone for the overly complex feature presentation and poor transfer on this release.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £23.55
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