HD DVD
Rent it First
3.5 stars
Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
0 Stars
High-Def Extras
1 Stars
Bottom Line
Rent it First

Freedom: 3

Street Date:
December 11th, 2007
Reviewed by:
High-Def Digest staff
Review Date: 1
January 27th, 2008
Movie Release Year:
2006
Studio:
Bandai Visual
Length:
25 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

This disc contains several HDi-enhanced extras which may require a firmware upgrade to your HD DVD player. If you experience playback issues, consult your player's manual for instructions on how to download the latest firmware update.

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

As I’ve noted with each release in the series, "The Freedom Project" was born as a promotional endeavor by Nissin Cup Noodles in Japan. To celebrate their 35th anniversary, the corporation commissioned a six-episode anime series called 'Freedom,' which created a futuristic world of paranoia and propaganda. Rather than issuing the entire series as a single release in the US, Bandai Visual is following the Japanese release pattern, rolling out each episode individually (every few months) as an HD DVD/DVD twin format release.

The year is 2267, and the surface of the Earth is uninhabitable. After a dramatic climate shift killed a majority of the planet's population, the survivors colonized the lunar surface of the moon, banding together to create Eden, a utopia that quickly devolved into a grimy civilization of street gangs and disenchanted citizens. In the midst of this oppressive dystopia, a young dreamer named Takeru (voiced by Daisuke Namikawa) inadvertently stumbles onto a secret that threatens to destroy Eden. Takeru may very well hold the key to the future in his hands as he attempts to track down a mysterious girl.

'Freedom 3' opens right where the second episode left off. After narrowly escaping a legion of war-mechs on the outskirts of Eden's outer dome, Takeru continues to investigate everything he's ever believed. Struggling to find answers to dead-end questions, he sets his sights on Earth -- the only place where he has any hope of uncovering the truth. As it turns out, humanity's devastated homeworld isn't the barren wasteland the Administration Council claims it is. At the risk of his own life, Takeru decides to leave Eden and get to the bottom of the Council's lies.

The Freedom series’ best qualities continue to grow with each episode. The suggestion of a cover-up introduces a legitimate motivation for Takeru. Up until this point, he's simply been trying to find a girl, but his latest discoveries force him to consider more sweeping mysteries. His character comes alive in the chaos, bounding from LTD (Lunar Terrain Vehicle) chases to increasingly dangerous encounters with machines sent by the Council. In fact, fans of the series will be surprised by the sudden burst of action that takes center stage in 'Freedom 3.' In my opinion, it’s a breath of fresh air -- the series risked growing redundant if it continued in the same vein as the first two volumes, but this third episode delivers a thrilling mid-point for the story. More importantly, this episode’s ending suggests that the series will be going in a different direction than I was expecting.

The lone issue I have is that the disc only contains a single 25-minute episode. While I had grown begrudgingly accustomed to the short runtime with the first two volumes, this action-heavy episode blazes by in an instant. This sort of climactic episode only highlights what has been my biggest complaint with the 'Freedom' series thus far.

In the end, I’m glad the series continues to get better with each installment. Short runtime or no, 'Freedom 3' boasts an excellent story and style that continues to capture my imagination. I'm still reserving my ultimate judgment on the overall series until I've seen all six-episodes, but I'm exceedingly pleased with the results so far.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'Freedom 3' is the third US HD DVD release to feature a dual-layer twin-format disc (Following ‘Freedom 1’ and ‘Freedom 2’). Unlike the more common HD DVD/DVD combo discs, twin-format discs are single-sided -- one side has a printed label and the other looks like a standard HD DVD. A DVD player will automatically access the DVD-5 layer of the disc, while an HD DVD player will access the HD-15 layer. The end-user doesn't have to fidget with any confusing technical options - instead, the twin-format disc does all the thinking and eliminates the problems that some users have experienced with two-sided discs.

'Freedom 3' features a striking 1080p/VC-1 transfer that continues the visual tour-de-force established by the series' first two HD DVD releases. Otomo's colorful designs really lend themselves to high-def. Linework is crisp, detail reveals every brush stroke in the hand painted backgrounds, and color fills attach to edges without a hitch. Better still, there isn't a hint of transfer noise and the picture is extremely clean. The overall effect is incredibly precise and makes for an impressive anime demo disc. Just make a quick comparison to the transfer used for the DVD version and you'll instantly notice how gorgeous the high-def image actually is.

Consistent with the first two volumes, 'Freedom 3' has a few blemishes that hold it back from perfection. There are a handful of instances where static artifacts and banding appear in the background. However, the fact that these discrepancies don't fluctuate when a shot pans, suggests that they were present on the original graphic files used on the animation cels. It may be a bit distracting, but it shouldn't be attributed to the transfer. The only problem I had with the transfer itself is that fine linework tends to pixelate at times (particularly around detailed shots of eyes and lips).

Luckily, these hiccups are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. 'Freedom 3' looks great and makes me even more excited to get ahold of the remaining episodes in the coming months.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

'Freedom 3' features an engaging Japanese language Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 surround track (1.5 Mbps) that makes the most of every scene. Whereas the first two volumes of the series had a few standout moments, the aggressive audio for 'Freedom 3' barrels along from beginning to end.

A healthy LFE presence steps out of the shadows to become a key component in the mix -- bass tones pulse across the floor, and the roar of engines flood the soundfield. Dialogue is crisp, and a collection of intricate sound effects prove particularly realistic for an anime series. The surround channels kick in to support the on-screen action, while the ambience of quieter scenes often erupts with sound at the slightest suggestion of movement. Thankfully, the sudden cacophony never feels unwieldy, and the track never relies on sheer volume to replace smart design. Instead, transparent pans and shifting dynamics make the soundfield feel organic in spite of the bombastic chaos. The attention to detail is really remarkable for an anime series.

If I have any complaint, it's that the track is still a tad front-heavy for my liking. As much as I appreciate the rear speaker support, I don't recall any moments where I was fooled into believing an effect was occurring in my home theater. If future episodes can pull me deeper into the soundfield, I'll be ready to dish out five stars. For now, this one will definitely please fans of the series, but ultimately falls just short of my full expectations.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The only bonus that appears on both the HD DVD and DVD layers of 'Freedom 3' is a trailer for the next episode of the series.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Like previous HD DVD installments of the series, the exclusive supplements on this release are presented in a slick fashion, but could seriously benefit from additional content. More thorough behind-the-scenes featurettes would definitely help offset the sting of the disc's high cost.

  • Picture-in-Picture Computer Graphics Simulation -- This quick look at the design work and production sketches that went into the third volume's creation is fairly interesting. Unfortunately, the PiP video is merely presented in standard definition.
  • HDi Interactivity -- As the PiP video plays, the placement, size, and transparency of the overlay window can be adjusted on the fly. It's also possible to access English credits and other storyboards via buttons on your remote, but the extra options fail to hide the fact that there isn't a lot of content on the disc to dig through.
  • Web Enabled Content -- If your player is connected to the internet, it's possible to access downloadable content including additional trailers and TV spots.

Final Thoughts

These single-episode releases are far from ideal, but the Freedom series continues to prove an exciting sci-fi adventure for anime fans of all ages. This HD DVD includes another excellent transfer from Bandai Visual, and the Dolby Digital Plus track sounds even better than it has before. Alas, a thin collection of supplements and a disappointing price point are holding this on back. With a list price of $39.99 for a single 25-minute episode, 'Freedom 3' is tough to recommend. Uber anime fans who've already invested in the series will find more to love here -- everyone else should give it a rent first.

Technical Specs

  • HD DVD/DVD Twin-Format Disc
  • HD-15 Single-Layer/DVD 5 Single-Layer

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/VC-1

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • Japanese Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround (1.5mbps)
  • Japanese PCM 2.0 Stereo

Subtitles/Captions

  • English Subtitles

Supplements

  • Theatrical Trailer

Exclusive HD Content

  • PiP Featurette
  • HDi Enhanced Content
  • Web-Enabled Content

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