Black Lion: Fear the Black Lion -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 50
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Black Lion: Fear the Black

Black Lion: Fear the Black Lion

By Chris Beveridge     February 07, 2003
Release Date: March 04, 2003

Black Lion: Fear the Black Lion
© ADV Films

What They Say
From Go Nagai, creator of Devilman and Cutey Honey, comes a savage tale of betrayal, vengeance and other-worldly forces. The year is 1580 and Nobunaga Oda is working to consolidate his power over Japan. In his army are weapons of great destructive power: rapid fire machine guns, lasers, missiles and, most frightening of all, the reputedly immortal ninja Ginnai Doma. Like a sentence of divine wrath he hunts down and destroys dissident monks, ninjas and others, wherever they may be. With the clans on the brink of destruction, a single ninja accepts the impossible task: kill the immortal Ginnai.

The Review!
ADV dips into the catalog and pulls out a Go Nagai ninja OVA but one that has a twist.

We kicked off this viewing session on the main theater listening to the Japanese language track, which is a pretty simple stereo mix. Most of the dialogue is through the center channel with only music and effects really taking advantage of the stereo channels. We didn’t notice and dropouts or distortions during playback of this track, nor did we on the English track when we listened to that while working on the review.

This OVA was originally released back in 1989 and shows it for the most part, but generally in terms of color and design as opposed to actual problems. There’s some aliasing here and there during some of the faster action sequences and some light cross coloration in some of the more tightly drawn areas, but otherwise this is a decent looking transfer and a general reminder of just how good some OVA releases really were back in the 80’s.

The front cover goes with the flaming darkness look that’s fairly standard of the ninja genre with both the hero and the villain filling the central image while the flames fill the background. There’s lots of red and yellows here that mix well with the blacks. The back cover has a lot of shots from the show and provides a good look at the characters and the unique twist to the story. There’s a bit of hard to read summary that’s red on black in specialized text as well as an easy to ready production and technical credits section. The insert provides another look at the front cover while the reverse just shows off boxart of other similarly themed shows.

The menu system here is pretty minimal, which isn’t surprising since this is pretty much a show-only release. The main menu features a nice static piece of animation with a vibrantly colored image of the lead set against red flames while the music plays along. Submenus are quick and easy to load, but the text is really awkward to make out on first, second and third viewings, particularly the “play” one. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is simple and logical.

None, unless you count the ADV promotional trailer for this show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The story of Black Lion takes place in the fun period of 1580 Japan. The country is being ravaged by the master warlord Nobunaga Oda. He’s conquered a huge amount of the country in the past thirty years and is getting closer day by day to unifying it all under his evil iron fist. Much like we’ve seen of other anime and manga where Nobunaga is causing pain, he’s causing massive amounts of it here, and on both sides no less.

We’re introduced to the bloodbath pretty quickly as we watch Shishimaru and his clan deal with the invading force that’s lead by Ginnai, the most powerful person under Nobunaga’s command. It’s a brutal battle as the ninja simply find themselves overpowered and cut down at every instance. At the end, several try to escape alongside Shishimaru to try and regroup, but they end up going directly against Ginnai. Shishimaru is nearly dead, but ends up being saved by his fellow ninja, a woman named Oyu whom he has affection for. Before all is said and done, Shishimaru loses consciousness and Ginnai simply moves on.

Shishmaru eventually finds himself in the care of a small group of Koga ninja who found him on the battlefield. His distaste of the Koga doesn’t help his situation, though he does opt to work with most of them to try and figure out a way to kill Ginnai. That pretty much leads the remainder of the plot as they all work together and against each other to take down the big bad guy.

What gives the show a unique twist is the technology used. We learn fairly early on that there is computer technology hidden in areas, such as the Koga group’s leaders possession, as he has a scanner and some massive setup hidden away in the house. We also see just what kind of things make up the internal and external aspects of Ginnai, and how he came to be part of Nobunaga’s plans to take over Japan. Of course, it’s never explained in the anime why all of this technology and space ships exist here, but is likely left for the manga. It provides something neat to the show, but a lack of any kind of explanation lessens its overall impact, as well as provides some amusingly bad banter in places.

Black Lion won’t create any new Go Nagai fans, but for those who absorb all he does, they’ll be really pleased with the way this volume turned out. It’s a bloody little romp for about forty five minutes with some nice twists but little on actual exposition, so if you just want action, this may be a good trip to take.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Black Lion trailers

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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