Blood Reign (Essential Anime Edition) -

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Mania Grade: C+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 17 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 80
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Blood Reign

Blood Reign (Essential Anime Edition)

By Chris Beveridge     March 02, 2004
Release Date: March 16, 2004

Blood Reign (Essential Anime Edition)
© ADV Films

What They Say
One lone warrior must seek out and destroy his former comrade in arms. But how does one slay the dead? Woven from strands of nightmarish battles in blood-soaked clay where demons await the fallen and seaside clashes with flesh-eating stallions, Blood Reign: Curse of the Yoma tells the story of two young ninja whose friendship is sundered by the chasm that separates the living from the dead.

The Review!
Blood Reign, also known as Curse of the Yoma, was originally released in Japan way back in 1989, subtitled by ADV in 1995 and then dubbed in 1998 and finally onto DVD in 2001 and re-released with some tweaks again in 2004. The show has made its trek through time and it's really starting to show.

For our primary viewing session of this re-release, we took the show in using it's new English 5.1 remix. The mix comes across pretty similar to the other shows released under this new imprint with the effects tracking providing a bit more clarity and the music score making out the best with a richer sounding recording. Dialogue itself is still very much forward soundstage based but overall the new mix is good and adds some nice touches. Dialogue was clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

With this re-release, it looks like the most that managed to get changed in the video department is some more solid colors and a touch less aliasing overall. The number of nicks and scratches on the print may have gone down but those are harder to really tell. The first of the two episodes has considerably more scratches, but the second episode isn't free of them. One of the other problems in the original release was the amount of grain, which looks like it's dropped off fairly well here but is still present. A sequence with Hikage on a mountainside with the blue sky behind him, you'll see the earth beneath him jitter. Hikage jitters himself here and other characters do at times throughout. The second episode settles down somewhat as well, but the issues are still there.

The front cover retains the shot of Hikage, Maoru and some of the Yoma wit the dark reddish feel along the top that makes it feel somewhat oppressive. It's not as oppressive as the original release since part of the top is blocked off by the Essential Anime purple stripe and the remastered stripe along the bottom. The original release just felt so red-heavy compared to this one. The back has a few animation shots as well as a couple of the menus and a good listing of the features and the technical information. They also corrected an issue with the original release that omitted the running time for the show.

The menus here are pretty straightforward and problem free. The main menu gives quick access to the individual episodes as well as the setup menus. Access times between each was very fast and everything worked as it should.

There are a few extras on the disc, but the one I like the most is actually on the insert. On the disc itself we get the original ADV trailer for the show as well as the original Japanese trailer for the show. The character information page is also included. What I really liked is the reverse side of the insert, which has the children's Ninja Counting Song and why it's used. The song is written in both English and romaji. Very nice!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This review was originally published when the first DVD edition came out.

If I had seen this show back when it first came out, or maybe even when it was first subtitled here, I may have found it more interesting than I did watching it now, almost twelve years after its original release. The show focuses on two young men, Maoru and Hikage, both ninjas. At the conclusion of what appears to have been a particularly brutal battle, Maoru seems uneasy about what's happened. Hikage convinces him to return to their place, but things twist oddly after that.

Maoru soon flees from their now dead lord and Hikage is ordered to kill him before he can tell of their lords' death. Hikage, hating to kill his childhood friend, heads off in the same direction. After all, Maoru did throw a poisoned shuriken into his eye when he left the village. You can't just let something like that go unsaid and unaccounted for.

The path that Hikage ends up on leads him to some pretty interesting places. The first episode delves into a village that's enthralled by a spider Yoma that feeds upon the people there. The villagers, who spend their days drinking and simply enjoying life, are in an escape mode and this is the best that they can hope for. Maoru came through this way though, and Hikage can sense that he has indeed been there.

The resulting battle with the Yoma leads to revelations about who Maoru is and some very little bits about the Yoma themselves, which leads to the second episode that introduces several more Yoma, some slightly more interesting fights and possibly the most incompetent female ninja out there. I mean, how many traveling ninja don't seem to carry any hidden knives or sharp objects? At least she's only in one episode, so it's not a constant running gag.

Blood Reign is definitely a serious style show, but it's been repeated many times since this came out there it feels like a retread. Adding in the problems with the print, I just couldn't get enthused about it at all.

One of the biggest problems with the show is that it feels rushed. It doesn't answer all that many questions that it does raise with the Yoma. The relationship between Maoru and Hikage is reflected via flashbacks, but always the same set of flashbacks of them racing through the tall fields. And the relationship in the second episode between Hikage and Aya is heavily forced. There's no real connection between the two and things just don't click between them. When the crunch time comes and the relationship becomes central, it rings very hollow.

The animation for the show isn't bad, though the somewhat flat coloring of it may turn off newer fans. There are precious few really fluid sequences, but the action moments are fairly well done and pretty much in the traditional style of ninja anime. This show reminded me a lot of the Wrath of the Ninja show. While I'm not a big fan of the genre, Blood Reign seems like a competent entry that fans of feudal Japan and the bloody violent monsters that face ninja and samurai will enjoy.

In Summary:
This re-release makes out fairly well in that the audio is nicely tweaked and it looks like some of the video issues were cleared up just by having a more experienced team on the encoding side of things. Add in a ten dollar price drop and this isn't a bad way to fill in a gap in your collection if you've wanted this, but there's not much here to get people to upgrade from existing versions.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Cast of Characters,Original Japanese Video Trailer

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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