Chinese Ghost Story, A -

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Mania Grade: D+

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  • Audio Rating: A+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: F
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 84
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Chinese Ghost Story

Chinese Ghost Story, A

By Chris Beveridge     February 08, 2000
Release Date: February 08, 2000

Chinese Ghost Story, A
© Viz Media

What They Say
Based on the well-known, live-action films of the same name, A Chinese Ghost Story: The Tsui Hark Animation is the fantastic tale of strange demons, hungry ghosts and timeless love. Tsui Hark is internationally well-know for his iconoclastic style, solid storytelling, and tightly maintained pace. Among his many famous Hong Kong films are A Better Tomorrow, A Chinese Ghost Story (Live-Action), as well as Once Upon A Time In China.

The Review!
After being mysteriously delayed late last year, Viz has finally gotten a new DVD out. It's been almost a year since their last non Pokemon release though.

Thankfully, the DVD contains three audio tracks. A Cantonese DD 5.1, a Mandarin DD 5.1 and an English DD 2.0 track. From what I've been told, the Cantonese track is considered the "primary" audio track. This is an extremely dynamic soundtrack. The front soundstage is used greatly during many of the action sequences with the rears getting ample usage as well. The rear speakers probably got more of a workout with this disc than they have in awhile. We did check out the other two tracks, but did not watch them all the way through. The only thing we found was that the English track definitely sounds very flat and poor in comparison to the two 5.1 soundtracks.

The video transfer is quite nice, though there are a few scratches here and there early on, stemming mostly from the master source. This is pretty much to be expected, since the Chinese are even more well known for not properly preserving their film elements. Any viewing of most of the import Chinese DVD's will show much worse wear and tear. The master for this is very good overall however. The transfer is not anamorphic however.

The packaging contains the artwork we've seen for this release for quite some time, so there's little new there. It is very striking artwork in terms of the colors and will definitely get some notice on the shelf or in a display. The reason for the failing grade? In the special features section, the disc is listed as Full Frame. The disc is actually widescreen. Many people will pass up a release if they turn to the back and see full frame when they know it should be a widescreen theatrical print. There's also no mention of the multiple soundtracks or that two of them are in Dolby 5.1 channel. Folks, these are selling points. If you've got a 5.1 soundtrack, you whoop it up and tell the world. The error and the omissions are easily justify the grade, never mind the lack of a region coding on it. It basically looks like they took a VHS cover and just throw the DVD logo on it.

The menus is a solid non animated style. Selections are accessed quickly and without issue.

As for the show itself? We didn't care for it much. This animated version of the live action Hong Kong series isn't intended to be a direct adaptation, but rather a variant way of the storyline. We weren't expecting it to be like the live action ones at all, but there's little redeeming in here.

When the back cover of a package doesn't tell you about the story and just gives raves, you have to wonder some. The story follows Ning on his quest to... well, just his quest. After being denied his true love due to his wanderlust while trying to make money, Ning sets off into the world. He's accosted by some foul smelling demons early on, which are dispatched with much cinematic presence by Ten Miles and his teacher.

Not long after that he ends up in a ghost city, where a particular ghost wants the living Ning to help her stay young. That's not the focus of the story. There's no real focus of the story. Events sort of just glide from one to another. If it was a comedy, it would be similar to a series of skits with very little holding it all together.

The action sequences are very well animated and the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack really gives the whole thing an intense punch. The computer graphics tend to stray between extremely obvious (such as some of the poor sequences in Nazca) to very well integrated (such as some sequences in Macross Plus). The animation and character designs are very anime-ish, but those who've spent close to their entire lives watching anime will see the differences right away. This isn't to say it's bad, just different.

If you've already got the import version, there's absolutely nothing here worth "upgrading" for. This disc can be used for a great demonstration of the soundtrack and the multiple languages, but the story isn't one you'll watch over and over. Or at least, I won't.

Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1,Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1,English Dolby Digital 2.0,English Subtitles,Trailer,Text interview with Tsui Hark

Review Equipment
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.


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