Amon Saga (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2001
Release Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2001



What They Say
Set in a barbarous world of magic and mysticism this story contains character designs and story contributions by the Yoshitaka Amano.
Amon - a young man on a desperate quest to avenge the death of his mother. When his hunt leads him to the castle of the Emperor Valhiss, Amon must endure the perils of initiation and join the ranks of the Imperial army in order to gain an opportunity to take his revenge...

But once within the heart of the fortified city, Amon unexpectedly encounters the princess Lichia - the sultry daughter of King Darai Sem. It seems the Emperor hopes to exchange the princess for a map in the King's possession. But what is the Emperor's ultimate goal?

The Review!
Manga dips into the 80's titles and pulls out Amon Saga, a show originally released in 1996 and then brought onto home video in 2000 and finally DVD in 2001. With the number of people that are itching for anything fantasy related, they're likely to give this a whirl based on the cover art alone.

Audio:
For our primary review, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. About halfway through we began to lose interest in the show and started checking out the other audio tracks. The two stereo tracks (Japanese and English) both sound good, with the Japanese track filling up the forward soundstage nicely. The English 5.1 track isn't bad, as it definitely adds some directionality to things, but it does it with a loss to the fullness of the front soundstage. Things there just seem much weaker with it split off. Dialogue in the areas we checked for all the tracks sounded good and undistorted.

Video:
Time to add another authoring house to the list of ones that can't seem to get a handle on anime. Manga used the Zuma Digital authoring house this time around for the disc, and there's some very noticeable quality issues with the authoring, as well as with the source material. In the source material department, the main problem is that there's a lot of jitter in it. A straight unmoving scene, and the print is moving all over the place. It's not just during scene cuts or camera changes. The other source problem is a couple of brightness changes that show off a few less than detailed images. For the authoring house, starting with poor material isn't going to help. There's a lot of dark scenes in this show, some of them that are simply too dark, which leads to some really murky areas where the blacks start to break up a bit. The black/blue skies are a usual suspect here with some blockiness as well. Where things get particularly bad is when we have the green haired woman Lichia in the scenes. During her naked romp in the pond, her hair gets all blurry. When Amon comes in to save the day, it's also apparent that it's been happening to him as well, with jagged lines and then blocks of blurriness. The closest similarity I can describe it as is it's similar to how Wings of Honneamise looked on the Apex player, where the lines shift and blur.

Packaging:
The big draw here is the packaging, with a great beautiful front cover pencil style sketch of Amon leaping down across the white background, sword extended. It's just a very eye-catching minimal cover that really works well. The back cover provides a couple of nice screenshots and a softer background picture to go with summary of the show. The features are nicely laid out here as well, but as seems to be usual, no region coding listing. The insert provides another shot of the cover while it folds out to show a few more animation shots. The back side of it lists all the chapters.

Menus:
The menus here are quite nice, both flashy and easy to use with a nice and fast access time between them. The layout works well with the imagery in the center and the selections at the bottom. The color style looks nice too, with the deep reds and the animation. Everything's laid out in a straightforward way and works perfectly.

Extras:
The only real extra here (as we tend to not include weblinks, trailers or promotional material for the company) is a video image gallery that runs a few minutes and has some interesting shots in it. It's pretty minimal overall, but at least something was included.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While watching Amon Saga, two things really prevented us from enjoying it. The first being that the show is just plain boring and predictable. The second thing being we were just far too distracted by the video problems to even really even be able to get into it.

The show basically centers around Amon, a 20ish year old man with white hair and a dark brooding attitude. He works his way through a drunken crowd to become part of a mercenary group that ends up working for Valhiss, the big bad Emperor and man whose basically taking over the known lands. Valhiss is also personally responsible for the death of Amon's mother, which is told in flashback a few times.

During his time with the Valhiss folks, he becomes entangled with the captive princess named Lichia. Lichia's being used as a bargaining tool against another kingdom, but she's treated properly the whole time, which includes guarded trips to a secluded pool where she can bathe while big icky pond monsters live. She ends up becoming acquainted with Amon when he saves her life, and he begins working towards saving her (along with a foreign spy whose trying to do the same) while completing his vengeance against Valhiss.

At least that's what I got out of the first half, which reminded me of a poor mans Conan the Barbarian tied in with some basic 70's fantasy plots. While the animation itself doesn't bother me, as I do tend to like the simpler animation from the 80's and before, it doesn't work well here with the encoding process mentioned earlier. When things do shine through somewhat clearly, there's some nice designs there, mainly with Amon himself and his teacher, who looks a lot like a certain vampire hunter, but these few stand out design points get lost among the general mundane feeling from all the other characters. So many of them are just basic stereotypes.

Even with the show only having a real running time of 75 minutes, we cut our losses around 45 minutes into it, so we've left the content grade empty for this title. Sometimes it's just easier that way.

Features
Japanese Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Image gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.



Mania Grade: NA
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: C
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Manga Entertainment
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Amon Saga