Zenki Collection 1 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2001

What They Say
One thousand years ago, all manner of evil creatures beset Earth. Only the high priest, Ozuno, could control the guardian demon named Zenki and protect the world. Fearful that no one would ever be able to control the destructive Zenki, Ozuno sealed the creature in a stone monument before he passed on.

In modern day, a young priestess named Chiaki Ozuno uncovers the monument. Strange demonic objects known as the Seeds of Evil have been appearing once again, and with them come doom for all mankind. Chiaki's only chance is to summon Zenki! Will she find a way to control him, or will Earth's salvation spell her destruction?

The Review!
Originally released by another company a number of years ago, Media Blasters reacquired the rights to Zenki and have released their original episodes into one great package. Thirteen episodes for 40$ list is definitely something to take a gander at. And the show's even fun!

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Being a TV series from 1994, there's not a lot of real directionality to get from this. Just about everything is center channel based, but fills the forward soundstage nicely. Dialogue was clear and undistorted and the music comes across nicely.

Considering its age and budget, this is a pretty solid looking show. Outside of some jagged lines during camera panning movements, this is a good looking transfer. Colors are solid with a minimal amount of banding, cross coloration is practically non-existent and there were only a few scenes that looked a bit soft and out of place. While it's not a terribly vibrant show for the most part, this is much better than I expected it to be.

The front cover for this double disc set has an image of the beefed up Zenki looking cool in the center, taking up the majority of the cover. The logo runs along the left, though fairly hard to read at first, and part of the spell that binds him runs along the right. The covers pretty busy overall, and seeing the images online first didn't help as it just looked a mess. It's a bit better in person, but not by much. The back cover provides a number of screenshots and a small summary of the shows premise. There are two inserts included, the first one listing the episodes and chapters for the first disc, and the second insert for the second disc. Unfortunately the second insert got jammed into the tray for the second disc, which means it got all scrunched up. It's odds, since the back side of both inserts is blank, you'd think they'd do it double sided and only have one insert.

The menus are very basic, as there's little on the disc outside of the episodes themselves. Language selection and scene access are your major points to check out, and both are accessed fairly quickly and with a minimum of fuss. The menus suffer in the same way the front cover of the package does, with the logo/text being somewhat hard to read and just looking too busy overall. Some of the way the colors look is almost garish in nature.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Zenki Collection 1 brings the first 13 episodes of this 52 episode series to DVD, and apparently it's doing well enough that the next batch of 13 episodes is due the same way in 2002.

Zenki is pure formula in these episodes. Honestly, it's pretty interchangeable with most other shows that work in the same formula. But where it succeeds is in the execution and the characters. After all, there's not many original stories in the world, so it's all about how you tell the tale.

Zenki takes place in the current day, and focuses around one of the older shrines still in service in Japan. Chiaki Enno is the 55th generation of Ozune Enno, a great sorcerer from quite some time ago. Ozune brought about a guardian for his temple and city named Zenki. Zenki became his most trusted advisor and his strongest warrior, where he became responsible for eliminating most of the demons that plagued Japan at the time. But at some point, Ozune sealed away Zenki for a day when his descendents would need his power again, because we all know evil always comes back.

So today's the day, since we're starting the show, for evil to return to the world. While Chiaki is performing some minor incantations for some guests to the shrine/hot springs, a pair of rather mean looking monks make their way to a forbidden section of the mountain shrine, where enclosed inside a sealed area is their objective. Inside is something called a Seed of Evil. Once awakened, it combines with something nearby and begins to spread its evil around. In this case, it merges the two monks together with itself, creating a misshapen hideous thing that starts going after the shrine.

Chiaki and her grandmother begin trying a few various minor incantations to ward off the thing, but find themselves unable to. Chiaki then finds herself hearing the voice of Ozune in her head, and combined with instructions from her grandmother, she manages to acquire a special bracelet and the key to unlocking the hidden form of Zenki.

Ozune, knowing just what kind of being his most trusted advisor was, knew better than to have just one way of freeing him. When Zenki's released, he's released into a smaller almost super-deformed version of himself with hardly any powers. Only with the aid of Chiaki can he temporarily remove the final binding placed on him to become the big powerful guy that he is. Once he's fully transformed, he tends to kick most of the bad guys fairly quickly, and then promptly eats the Seed of Evil as it tastes good.

This is basically the plot for each of the episodes, much like you'll find in many other monster of the week series. The fun comes with the interactions between SD Zenki (played wonderfully by Kappei Yamaguchi) and Chiaki (the always enjoyable Chisa Yokoyama). The cast grows nicely as well, with Chiaki's grandmother being pretty useful at times in helping against the various Seeds, her brother Jukai, an abbot at a Christian temple in town, and his young ward whose got a crush on Chiaki. There's also another monk who arrives wearing sunglasses whose after the Seeds of Evil as well, but his background remains a mystery for most of this.

The cast works really well together, and the show does a good job of bringing along Chiaki and expanding upon her powers of sorcerery as she gains more control of the bracelet that keeps Zenki in hand, as well as finding new ways of working with him to take down their enemies. The trio of villains who are working towards bringing their Lord of Darkness down upon the Earth are fairly typical Sailor Moon style ones early on, but as we get to the end of the second disc, we start to get hits of something bigger for at least one of them.

As I've said, Zenki is pretty formulaic in its origins, but its execution is fun. And getting thirteen episodes for a low price makes it something worth checking out. With luck, there will be four collections priced like this, and if the show continues to build as it has here, it looks like a bit of a sleeper hit to me. Recommended.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B-
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 39.95
Running time: 325
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Zenki