Ki-Gai (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:John Rose
Review Date: Friday, May 28, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Life can be difficult for a girl who believes in the supernatural when the world around her by and large doesn't. Of course even the supernatural world can be surprised at finding a human who can communicate with them as well.

What They Say
When Miki Takenotori starts talking about ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night, most people dismiss her stories as just the fantasies of a rather weird teenager. Unfortunately for Miki, the things she's talking about are real, and most of them don't like being talked about!

When Miki joins forces with beautiful archaeologist Reiko Kaguya to investigate the latest mysterious apparition, they usually find themselves in imminent danger of being eaten by giant birds, water demons or some other equally horrific fate! And then there's the strangely androgynous being that calls itself Hekiru: is "he" a friend or foe? And why is "he" somehow linked to almost every supernatural event they investigate? The answers will be unveiled as two young women do their best to keep aliens, demon mirrors and even giant dragons from destroying Japan!

Contains episodes 1-4.

The Review!
Audio:
The feature only contains Japanese 2.0 but the mix is decent with main dialogue coming from the center speaker. The sides and back are used to convey music and effects to help create an atmosphere for the feature. There were no distortions or dropouts noticed during the playing of the feature.

Video:
Created in 2008 it is hard to tell what media they used to record the feature as at times there is usually a large presence of grain but different digital shots and effects stand out when they occur and the colors seem muted somewhat.The film has some instances-particularly in the monster scenes in the fourth episode where it suffers from some heavy line aliasing and noise.

Packaging:
The front cover features the three main characters for the film-Miki in her school uniform, Reiko in the sleepwear she usually wears at home and bright white almost silhouette of Hekiro who has the features blurred out lending a visual representation of the mystery surrounding the character. Behind them near the top is the back of an item that is the focus of the second story. The front and back both have the standard red Switchblade boarder. The back has a large shot of Miki standing, a smaller shot of Reiko as well as a very dark shot of one of the supernatural creatures found in the film. The back also features a spaceship at the top and 6 stills from the film.

Menus:
The menu features a close up of Miki as found on the back of the cover on the right and the left has the supernatural creature from the second episode on the left. Behind Miki is a ball with what looks to be circuitry the paths of which are illuminated in bright blue. A simple but effective track creating a sort of supernatural atmosphere from the feature plays in the background at a fairly low volume. The menu itself is a rather simple affair that is quick to respond with no real lag when choosing an option.

Extras:
This feature contains no extras.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Episode one begins with two men from a construction company going to break down a small stone shrine with unique writing carved on it in an otherwise vacant lot in the middle of the city. The tall employee is a bit afraid of doing it because of what some others who had been sent out before had claimed to have sene but the boss dismisses it saying he only believes what he sees. As the boss is about to strike the shrine the tall employee sees a bird on the building which is also dismissed until a giant feather floats down by them. Then a large shadow looms over them and the men scream. The scene then shifts and we see a young woman (Miki) trying to carefully walk her way through a room cluttered with books, boxes and statues with talisman seals on them as well as no small amount of clothes strewn across the floor. It turns out this is Reiko's place and Miki is there to wake her friend up and investigate the rumored sighting of a creature in the city. Reiko has a large collection of books and scrolls dealing with supernatural events. As Miki is trying to find answers back at the lot a strange white haired youth is seen looking at the stone shrine and the giant bird prints and claw mark on the sign near it. Miki tells Reiko how she offered her card as a mystery solver to the construction workers earlier but was rejected by them. She finds a scroll which shows an odd bird in Reiko's room and with Reiko visits professor Toritani, man who studies the occult. He also dismisses her inquries. Miki goes to the site anyway dragging Reiko behind her only to discover the giant bird creature is real and that Miki can understand its feelings.

The second story starts with a thief who steals one of Japan's National Treasures-a small round mirror-finding out the mirror has its own secret as a hand reaches out to strangle him. As the mirror falls to the ground an ominous figure tries to pick it up only to be repelled by Hekiru. Miki discovers that the mirror exists through seeing an article in the newspaper and was stolen as she is over at Reiko's place The article also mentions that the mirror is one of a pair but the second one has been missing for many years and is presumed lost to the ages. Miki thinks for a minute and realizes she has seen the mirror before which should be impossible. Some time later Miki is still obsessed with the idea she has seen the mirror and then both she and Reiko spontaneously remember having seen it at Professor Toritani's place when they visited. Miki is sent there alone as Reiko has no clean laundry. Reiko calls the National Museum curator to tell him they think they found the second mirror but unbeknown to her she is actually speaking with the ominous figure from the beginning who turns out to be a supernatural creature capable of possession and voice mimicry. As Reiko is doing more research her lights flicker. A phone call from Reiko convinces Miki to take the mirror from a sleeping Toritani, but it is shown that Miki is actually talking with the creature who has captured Reiko. What will Miki do when she confronts Hekiru and a possessed Reiko who both want the mirror? And what if the creature isn't all he seems to be?

The third episode episode deals with a green goo monster that comes out of plumbing to attack people. As this is happening a man in black is pursuing a fleeing Hekiru. The next day Miki is visiting Reiko and reveals she has been thinking of Hekiru and discovers Reiko has been doing some research on Hekiru as well. Miki then visits professor Toritani to see if he thinks that there might be something supernatural behind the cities sudden surge in sleepwalkers though he shoots her down saying it is just coincidence. As Miki is leaving the professor she discovers a man lying on the sidewalk convulsing with a green ooze coming out of his mouth and runs into Hekiru. At the same time Reiko is being attacked in the shower by a man made out of green goo. Just as he is about to posses her Hekiru destroys the slime near him causing the creature to feel it and back off from Reiko. After dispelling the creature Hekiru collapses as the creature and its possessed victims who look to be sleepwalking start to converge on Hekiru who Miki refuses to leave.

As episode four begins Heikiru has transformed into a giant green monster having used the last of his powers defending Miki. Now out of control the giant monster stomps its way through the city despite Miki's pleas for him to stop. Having been unable to stop Miki, Reiko goes to Toritani's place to gain his help so she can help Miki. As the feature climaxes the question becomes can Reiko help Miki save Hekiru from being destroyed as the man in black planned out. And might any help have to come from beyond the stars?

The feature has some decently constructed characters that seem like they could be expanded into a bigger story. It also does a very good job of turning the tables on what appears to be the impressions first made with some of the supernatural beings found within. The down sides are that the feature feels like an idol project designed to focus on three characters who are not always the best actors. It also has some generalizations in the characterizations perhaps to make up for the lack of time spent really developing them along the way. At times it feels like the story is starting with parts 3-7 and there is a larger depth not explored in the characters or world.

In Summary:
Ki-gai is a nice little four part feature that has heart and could have some depth behind its storytelling but ultimately it falls short in the storytelling department. There are some interesting characters and scenes but with so much left for the audience to project a number of things onto the characters it ends up being just a middle of the road fare that is not likely to either astound or offend most people.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, JVC DVD player XV-FA95GD



Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: C+
Extras Rating: NA
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Switchblade Pictures
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 130
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: