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"This is self defence, just so you know."
A UK region 2 DVD review of SPEED GRAPHER, VOL. 3 by Slarek
 

As with volume 2 of Speed Grapher, this review assumes that you've seen the previous episodes, but I'll try to keep major spoilers to a minimum for newcomers. If you are new to the series then I'd seriously recommend you read up on Volume 1 and Volume 2 before proceeding here, as what follows won't make a lot of sense without that background.

Sorted? OK. Intriguing and involving though the episodes in volume 2 were, the signs were that the episode structure was in danger of falling into a formula. The first thing volume 3 does right is dispell any such suspicions, the first of a few surprises delivered by the latest four episodes.

What hasn't changed initially is that Saiga and Kagura are still being pursued by Tsujido, her Euphoria-enhanced sense of smell and her two hapless goons. But she's not the only one now – Suitengu has decided to stop sitting on the sidelines and get personally involved, while rogue cop Ginza has her own reasons for wanting to get her hands on the pair. Events take an interesting turn when Kagura expresses a desire to find out about her father, providing Saiga with a clue that opens a story strand to her mother's past. The icy nastiness that defines the unholy couple of Suitengu and Shinsen actually melts a little when the former makes his feelings for the latter known and even proposes marriage. It doesn't last, of course, but series regulars might still be caught out by the dramatic turn events take.

These are a busy four episodes in character as well as narrative terms, from Shinsen's back story and the old woman she keeps captive in her tower, to the revelation of the nature of Suitengu's Euphoria. Worry not, it's a goodie. Particularly pleasing for this viewer is the expansion of Ginza's role, her lust for Saiga having developed into something more controlling. "I understand him more than anyone!" she yells at a lawyer she has attempted to trade with as she furiously rains bullets around him, "He's my very life!" And in one of the series' more perversely fruity sequences, she's not going to let a simple thing like her unwilling lover's unconsciousness stop her from sexually ravaging him. Whether Saiga would get off on this if he were awake is another matter – as Tsujido handily informs us, "Euphorians can't achieve orgasm through regular sex." Just how they do will presumably be answered in future episodes.

It's all good stuff with enough incident and story twists to keep future events uncertain, although Kagura is starting to bounce between freedom and captivity in a manner reminiscent of Jack Bauer's daughter in the first series of 24. It ends on just the right note, a dramatic conclusion to one story moving us to the starting gate of another. If you've been following the series then you'll have no complaints with volume 3.

Episodes 9-12 are included here, which official listings and the English language version have as Into the Bath, Suitengu Cometh, Mother Critical and Left Hand Lullaby. The subtitles on the Japanese version have them as At the Bath, Suitengu Comes, Mother I'll Return at Once, and the rather poetic Rest, Embraced by the Left Hand.

sound and vision

There's no change in the specs from the previous volumes, with a decent anamorphic 16:9 NTSC to PAL transfer that has good contrast and detail and a slight judder in fast camera moves. As before the haziness of some shots is a stylistic choice. It plays well enough when you're watching, and that's all that matters.

Once again the English language 5.1 has a lot more wallop than the Japanese stereo 2.0 track. The voice work on the American dub is pretty good and the language is toughened up – Ginza gets to say "fuck" – but I'm too much of a purist and still prefer the Japanese original.

extra features

Character Cast Auditions (7:44)
Christopher Bevins, voice director and line producer for the US version, introduces another brief but interesting set of audition recordings, with Pam Dougherty reading for Shinsen, Julie Mayfield for the same and for the old women Gotokuji, and John Burgmeier for Dr. Odowara. There's an amusing moment when Bevins remembers he's dealing with an adult anime: "I can say batshit can't I. This is Speed Grapher."

There's also a rolling Art Gallery (1:06) of stills from the series set to music, which is no big shakes, the usual Textless Opening (1:33) and Textless Closing (1:32), and Trailers for Ergo Proxy (1:40) and Elemental Gelade (1:29)

summary

A fine third volume for a consistently involving and inventive anime series that throws a welcome spanner in any suspicions that the show was settling into a formula. A lively quartet of episodes that deliver on the first volume's promise and certainly have me eager for volume 4.

Speed Grapher, Vol. 3

Japan 2005
93 mins
director
Kunihisa Sugishima

DVD details
region 2 UK
video
16:9 anamorphic
sound
Dolby stereo 2.0
Dolby surround 5.1
languages
Japanese
English
subtitles
English
extras
Character cast auditions
Textless opening and closing
Stills
Trailers
distributor
MVM
release date
6 August 2007
review posted
6 August 2007

Related Reviews
Speed Grapher,
Vol. 1
Speed Grapher,
Vol. 2
Speed Grapher,
Vol. 4
Speed Grapher,
Vol. 5
Speed Grapher,
Vol. 6

See all of Slarek's reviews