Neo Ranga, Volume 2

Yushiro (Former Staff) — September 17th, 2003
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Adventures in Fun with Exploitation continue in the second volume of Neo Ranga. While the first volume seemed a bit chaotic, trying to introduce a lot of people and tell a lot of stories in a short amount of time, the second volume has far better pacing than the last disc. Things still move quickly, but the show manages to keep from feeling rushed by giving each story two episodes to tell it in, pairing the fifteen minute episodes into thirty minute couplets. The use of humor in the show seems to have improved over the last volume, and I found myself chuckling quite a bit this time around. On top of that, the times that the show does steer towards more serious events, I am genuinely interested in watching how the characters handle each other. The transitions between these moods are seamless in the first six episodes, and flow into each other nicely. As I stated last time, Neo Ranga is good, solid show, and while it is worth your time, it hasn't improved enough yet to come close to must-see status in my mind.

For the first couple of episodes, we initially have the government-official-sponsored local mob syndicate who open up a Ranga-themed convenience store to exploit the god, then the Andous exploit Ushio by getting her to work at their store to take all the business away from the mob's store. Not a good plan, as the criminals don't take kindly to the loss of profits and arrange some harsh retaliation. The first few episodes also have the arrival of the three Barou ministers in Japan. There is no discernable reason, other than to follow Neo Ranga, for why they come to Japan, but their presence certainly makes things interesting. When not expounding on the virtues of Barouism (the key tenets of which apparently involving eating whatever is in sight, lifting up ladies' skirts as necessary, and making absolutely sure to be on time for television soap operas), they chime in with vague, almost sage commentary on events as they transpire.

The second pair of episodes continue to show the heavy influence organized crime has in Neo Ranga's Tokyo through a bank robbery in which Minami becomes embroiled. This affords us the first opportunity for some heavy character development for one of the Shimabara sisters, which has thus far been dependent on the characters' attitudes and portrayed personalities, and we learn a great deal about what the eldest sister must do to keep her family together, and to what further lengths she is willing to go to. On the subject of development, the next two episodes feature heavy exposition on a character that has received almost no screen-time up to this point, and sort of comes out of nowhere. The Andou's daughter and former friend to Ushio, Hiromi, has fallen in with a bad crowd - the charismatic Yakuza boss in charge of the Shinjuku district, Asao. Disenchanted with her stifling parents and very much enchanted by Asao's maverick attitude, she runs away from home, at a mere fourteen years old. The conflict between the "National Interest Party" (a.k.a. the Yakuza), the Defense Force, and Shimabara family come to a head in a small battle in the city. Of course Neo Ranga wins and the mob is far from defeated, it seems things will ease up for a little while. These last few episodes cemented my interest in continuing with the show, all of the threads in the show meld together quite well, though there is a lot going on with what would normally be too many characters. I got the feeling that the show was in some very capable hands... until the last two episodes.

The final couplet on the disc are the "odd men out" for this volume, as the entire style of the show seems to title heavily towards a blunt way of telling the story and being humorous, whereas the previous episodes have been more realistic in their storytelling. The animation also 'features' the simplified character design and animation that I mentioned in regards to the first volume, which has not present on the disc thus far. Perhaps the key animators or even directors have been switching of between episodes, for whatever reason, which would explain the drastic changes. But it is quite jarring to see, especially since the former style is so much more detailed in both the animation and attention to telling the story, while the latter is just... sloppy and simplistic. Regardless, the final episodes have the girls going to the island on which their mother is from (though there is no mention of what has become of her) where the islanders are holding a festival for Neo Ranga. While most people are happy exploiting the god, just like everyone else has, there are a few on the island who either want to cause trouble or just want it to go away. There are the beginnings of a pretty intriguing conflict between old religions and this new 'god', though it doesn't get nearly as much exploration as it ought to have, and I certainly hope it will be looked at more in the future. (Wouldn't religions across the world be threatened by a newly found deity? With all the news reports on Ranga that I have been forced to watch in the show, surely the Vatican must have seen one by now...)

While these last couple of episodes left a bit of a bitter taste, I still very much want to see where Ranga will take me next. Though most of the shows facets can be inconsistent, the good bits seem to be worth whatever else one might have to wade through. I might add, however, that the extras are very much consistent with the previous volume and are of the same content and on the same level of quality.

Video Quality: C
Audio Quality: A
Presentation: A-
Content: B
Overall: B