Blade of the Immortal Vol. #3 - Mania.com



DVD Review

Mania Grade: C

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 24.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Blade of the Immortal

Blade of the Immortal Vol. #3

Blade of the Immortal Vol. #3 DVD Review

By Chris Beveridge     March 05, 2010
Release Date: January 26, 2010


Blade of the Immortal Vol. #3
© Media Blasters

Rin has to face putting another in her situation as well as finally confronting Kagehisa as the series draws to a close.

What They Say

Where is the meaning in survival if you cannot hate?
 
The pinwheel of fate turns, as Rin rescues a boy who turns out to be the son of Kawakami. Kawakami was the man who raped her mother as she was forced to listen from only a few feet away. A lot has happened to Kawakami, and now he is a family man. Rin will either wear the signature face-paint of Kawakami's victims, or kill him and doom his son to grow up just like she did: living only for vengeance against the man who killed his father.
 
For Rin that man is Antotsu, but this youthful leader of the Ittou-Ryuu has no desire to strike down his would-be assassin. When he and Rin finally face each other, he tests her resolve by explaining what really happened between him and her father in the past.
 
Contains episodes 10-13.
 
The Review!

Audio:
Blade of the Immortal makes out well with its release by being a series from Media Blasters that earns and English Language adaptation. The bilingual release is pretty good all around with a standard stereo mix encoded at 192kbps, though you imagine that with an uncompressed track it would shine even more. The sword fighting scenes make out the best with the way they clang against each other, but dialogue is pretty solid as well with a good mix of loud moments and quiet moments that build the atmosphere. It's not a huge standout piece, but it's a solid sound design overall. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of the Japanese language track.
 
Video:
Originally airing in the second half of 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The five episodes on this volume look quite good, bolstered by some solid animation from Bee Train and Production I.G, to give it a very slick look. The animation quality is shown off quite nicely by the transfer here which captures the earthy tones just right without devolving into a lot of blockiness or noise. There are some soft moments to be had here and there, and some darker scenes may not be as strong as they could be, but by and large it's a very good looking release. Colors are strong, reds are appropriately vibrant and there's no cross coloration and hardly any noticeable line noise during panning sequences.
 
Packaging
Blade of the Immortal gets a nice bump up to stand out as the single disc keepcase has a slipcover to go with it. The slipcover is really nice as it has a full illustration shot of Kagehisa from these episodes with his axe in hand as he swings it while wearing a very serious look to his face. The pencil rough style of it is really striking here with the use of the manga logo that has a bit of red through it to add some color. The use of the bloody red along the left side also draws your attention in more as well, as it adds a good dash of color while also containing the volume number. The back of the slipcover uses the same design, reversed, but brings in the visual of Rin resting her head against Manji’s chest for the character artwork in illustration style. Rin makes out a bit worse as there are shots from the show overlaid on part of her and the summary takes up a bit of space as well. She's not quite as dynamic either, though they try and offset it with a bit more material in the background.
 
The keepcase inside is actually designed different than the slipcover which is unusual but welcome. The same logo is used, kept to the middle section, while the character artwork is more anime style which is appropriate. The cover here uses Rin all painted up after what Araya does to her and it’s quite striking even if the angle seems a little off at first. Once you turn it to the side it all flows much better. The back of the keepcases uses the same kind of layout as the back of the slipcover and even uses the same shots from the show but scattered around differently as there is no character artwork included here. The summary is spread out a bit better, broken apart as well, and there's a clear listing of the discs extras. The technical grid is here as well, something that is sadly absent from the slipcover for the casual consumer to check out, and well represents what is on the disc itself. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover. 
 
Menu:
The menu design for Blade of the Immortal is pretty nice as it uses a number of good elements from the packaging, but mostly it's the use of the illustration work of Kagehisa that works the best. The detail here looks really nice when placed against the reds and paper yellows that provide contrast for it. The menu navigation is straightforward, which means I dislike the episode navigation, but overall it's relatively easy to use and navigate. Media Blasters continues to be an odd company that provides four different language setup selections with each language having an option for subtitles or not. Everything loads quickly and it's very easy to navigate which continues to be the big plus overall.
 
Extras:
Though there are only two extras, they’re pretty significant ones. The first is a forty-one minute video interview piece with the director, Mashimo, as he talks about the series at length and what went into it. Also as interesting and almost as length is the twenty-nine minute interview with the screenwriter who delves into what they had to adapt and the choices that had to make about it.
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Blade of the Immortal was essentially doomed to a poor ending since the manga is ongoing and this series ran only thirteen episodes. There's so much material to cover and nowhere near enough time to do it, never mind that Bee Train really does seem an inappropriate choice to handle the show. While it's been competent, this is a show that needed to be treated differently in its approach both in style and substance. These last four episodes essentially bring the show to a slow conclusion, as much of one as you can have, and that almost lazy nature doesn't give it the best of feelings.
 
This volume splits its stories to a two parter and two single stories. The opening two part story is pretty decent, arguably the best of this volume, as it has Manji and Rin closing in on another member of the group that she wants her vengeance on. The man in question is Araya, a skilled samurai who has changed his life completely in the two years since Rin's parents were murdered. Araya took on that job as his last, he reveals to Rin when she confronts him peacefully after learning that he's taking care of his son after his wife died, and he's spent his time since then eking out a life as a mask maker and decorator for festivals. Rin's understanding of his position isn't what puts her to simply asking for an apology but rather understanding what his son Renzo's life would be like and she doesn't want him to be like her. There's a good deal of action added into this towards the end, but it's the tense moments earlier in the episode with the encounters, including Manji's meeting of the man, that makes this two part storyline work so well.
 
Less satisfying is the third episode here as it revolves around Tai and Kagehisa as well as Rin. Kagehisa coming to visit Tai while he's with Oren is nicely done as we get to see some very comfortable dialogue between the two men that are moving in different directions in their lives. Kagehisa has no issues with what he's doing with his life, but his path takes him directly to confronting Rin about it when she's separated from Manji. Keeping Manji out of most of the episode is a good thing since Rin has to deal with him directly, and she starts to understand more of why he is like he is, and why he killed her parents. It doesn't explain the cruelty of it, and the things done to her mother, but it adds a new wrinkle to things that has Rin maturing and growing a little more as it's not quite as black and white as she thought.
 
The last episode serves more as an epilogue of sorts, with Rin reaffirming her position that she has chosen her own path and wants to learn more from Manji so she can stand tall in the world. They do touch on a few other areas, such as another group of swordsmen who have their own plan, but it's really hard to take this last episode seriously in most any way with anything that deals with the larger scope of the world. It doesn't feel like a conclusive ending episode nor even an episode that feels like it's closing out a particular chapter of a larger story. It's just a very awkward piece that's only salvaged by the time spent between Rin and Manji as they clarify their relationship a little bit more.
 
In Summary:
At the end of the series, I'm really not sure what to think of it. The overall thought that comes to mind is that it was not able to capture what makes the manga so good and translate it to the small screen. This was a show that needed to be done either with a very different studio or a series of OVAs. Doing it as a theatrical feature would only capture a fraction of what would need to be done in order to tell a good story. As much as I wanted to like this show, it's one that needed more the sensibilities of a production like Berserk than what we got here. There are good moments throughout it, but looking at it as a whole, it doesn't reach anywhere near where it should.
 
Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Interviews

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
 

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