Kyo Kara Maoh! Season 2 Vol. #9 (of 9) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The second season draws to a close in a very strong way with lots of nods to the whole series and its very expansive cast.

What They Say
Yuri renews his determination to fight against the Great One in order to save Wolfram and bring peace to the world. Even though Gwendal and the others are bewildered that the enemy is not the Originator but the Great One, together with Yuri, they all head out again to the Tomb of the Great One on a sortie. There, the Great One's real plan and an unbelievable betrayal await them.

The Review!
Audio:
Geneon’s bilingual presentation of the series is straightforward as we get a pair of stereo mixes encoded at 192kbps. The show has a fairly standard TV action mix which provides some decent directionality during action scenes and occasionally with some of the dialogue. There's a fair amount of action so we do get to have both speakers work out nicely and the dialogue has a number of good distinct moments. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for this show is essentially problem free and looks great both at standard display level and upconverted to 1080i. The digital nature of the show comes across really well here with vivid and solid colors that are free of gradient problems, backdrops that are free of blocking and no visible cross coloration. This is simply a very smooth looking piece that's pleasing on the eyes through and through.

Packaging:
The front cover is done with a deep blue background and is framed with some intricate artwork to give it a few polished feel. Within the frame, the title is along the top (along with a Season II tag) which gives the character artwork plenty of room to look good. Closing out this season with a look at a very determined and strong Yuri is spot on, especially with the sword he’s wielding. It gives it a very powerful feel that really works well. The back cover is done in a similar style but with a different border that holds the basic summary and numerous pieces of artwork and shots from the show. The discs episode numbers and titles are clearly listed next to the discs features and extras while the bottom is filled out with the production credits and one very different change, a technical grid within which all the information is kept. The insert for the release replicates the front cover artwork with a few less logos while the reverse side lists the episodes and a look at the tentative months for the remaining volumes which is admittedly very amusing to read at this point. The reverse side artwork is a simple piece with several of the leading men watching as the Great One wraps his hands around Yuri.

Menu:
Using the much better designs for this season, the menus continue to look great as it has the image of an old worn book cover with the logo on it as the lighting flickers just above. Set to a light bit of instrumental music, it's very relaxing and mellow while looking very well done. The way the light plays on it is simple but it adds a lot to the atmosphere of it. I particularly like the way going to submenus has it paging through them. Access times are decent and getting around is easy enough though the disc keeps to its own language preferences (English only) and ignores player presets.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second season draws to a close with a lot of big epic air around it as the Great One has finally found his vessel at long last and intends to fill him completely. This season has been progressing towards this point for quite awhile now and there’s a whole lot of closure to be had as events really reach a fevered pitch. After all, the return of the Originators is a big event and having them swarming over the countryside of every nation wrecking havoc is certainly not something that anyone thought they’d see in this day and age of the world.

These last four episodes are rather good overall but they do take their time in getting to the point. This is actually kind of a standard with this series because of how long each season is. There’s a leisurely feeling to the pacing at times, even when it’s trying to be big and epic. It’s not a surprise though, given the size of the cast. Everyone has to get their bit of face time with the way the ending starts to play out and that adds a bit more of a drag to it. Well, not so much a drag but it does extend things a fair bit. With the number of countries and kingdoms that Yuri has visited, there are a lot of cameo shots throughout these episodes as they react to the events taking place. The downside to it is that they do often cheap out by providing only animation and no real vocals for it so they didn’t need to bring in the voice actors again. It’s good to see some of these characters again, but it’d be nice to have them a little more interactive.

With so much leading up to this point, there isn’t a whole lot going on here in a sense. This is the culmination of events, the final battle in a sense to settle everything. The Great One has worked his plan for thousands of years now which has led him to this point where he’s got everything he wants. The vessel he’s crafted and cultivated, which was very close when it was in the form of Julia, is now ripe with Yuri. Even knowing that he’s the end goal, everyone is intent on trying to stop the Great One in his tracks at the tomb, but that goes horribly awry when some long thought out plans by the Great One strikes again. Murata has always been a little questionable, but his alliances are made all the more clear when he suddenly turns Yuri over the Great One so he can take him over completely. It’s not a surprise by any stretch, but the way his personality pivots slightly and events play out is simply very engaging to watch. As off as Murata seems at times, I have to admit he is one of my favorite characters of the series.

Kyo Kara Maoh does play to the psychology side a bit during this as the Great One works his magic to acquire Yuri’s body. This isn’t all that deep, which is admittedly a plus since Yuri isn’t a deep character. The internal conversation that goes on while the Great One is exposed to Yuri’s world is interesting enough, but it also reminds us that we really haven’t seen much of Yuri in his Japan settings all that much during this season and that’s a loss. The balance is a bit off in this season and I miss that, especially the simple baseball pieces or him simply hanging out around town or with his family. On the plus side, his family has some good cute scenes during these last episodes and Jennifer Yokohama continues to be one of the best anime mothers ever.

Looking back at the series as a whole, it’s been a great ride. This season has had its ups and downs, but the first one did as well and that had to deal with introducing a whole lot of the basics. This second season really did a good job of bringing in more of the history of this world and covering some of the scale of the plans that the Great One had put into motion. Though they felt out of place at times, the episodes dealing with him in the past as he came to power were a lot of fun and they painted a very intricate picture with how the various family lines evolved over the centuries. What dragged the series down at times was that the search for the boxes almost felt endless. They were more a means to showcase various parts of the world and introduce Yuri to other leaders and characters that would help shape the change he brings to the land. But it simply felt too forced at times with how it played out. But that’s really a minor quibble in the end because the show was all about watching the dynamic of the core group of characters and how they interact with each other. In that regard, the series wins handily almost every episodes, especially if Morgif is involved.

In Summary:
The final volume for Kyo Kara Maoh’s second season is pretty bittersweet. On the positive side, it really does end definitively with the stories it wanted to tell and it closed out the major themes of this season as well as expanding on some of what came in the first about Yuri’s abilities to take on a leadership role. On the downside, well, there’s that third season out there with another thirty-nine episodes and there’s that OVA series. The chances of either coming over are likely pretty slim as of this writing and that’s rather disappointing because this is simply a fun and enjoyable show. While the series had its uneven moments here and there, in both seasons, these final volumes brought to culmination a number of things and really pushed the epic level of the show in the fantasy scale. Through these seventy-eight episodes, I’ve come to love and enjoy most of these characters and the settings and will have fond memories for a long time. With luck, we’ll see some really well put together properly priced collections that will get more people to check it out and increase the chances of seeing more Kyo Kara Maoh. It’s just that much fun.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

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.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kyo Kara Maoh!