Real Bout High School Vol. #1 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, May 21, 2002



What They Say
From Studio Gonzo comes a 13 episode series based on the manga by Reiji Saiga and Sora Inoue.

Meet Ryoko Mitsurugi, high-school girl and the champion of ‘K fights,’ a school recognized system of dueling to resolve disputes. When Ryoko comes across a mysterious pendant, she’s called upon to champion more than just school conflicts – she must defend an entire world!

The Review!
Real Bout High School does something I'm normally not prone to do - like a "fighting" anime.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Even with it being a very recent release, scarcely six month from the series end in Japan to my looking at this disc, the audio is your basic stereo mix with nothing being thrown to the rear speakers at all. But it's quite a good stereo mix with a nice flair for directionality across the forward soundstage both in the fighting sequences and with normal dialogue and sound effects.

Video:
If more shows start looking like this, I'd be able to eliminate the video section of reviews because there's absolutely nothing bad to say at all. Vibrant colors, zero cross coloration, no jaggies, no line noise, solid beautiful backgrounds. Gorgeous picture all around.

Packaging:
Presented in a clear keepcase, this is one shiny looking package. The front cover has the big full cast shot with a lot of the characters, all of which we meet in the first volume. It's bright, shiny and busy, but it works well. The back cover provides a number of snapshots of the animation and a very brief summary of the show. Episode numbers and titles are clearly listed as well as the discs features and extras. The insert provides another shot of the front cover and the remaining three panels are all done up with the translators notes which definitely provide some interesting tidbits that come up during the show. The package also features a dual sided cover, which isn't the same as a reverse cover. Since this is a clear keepcase, when you open it you get another gorgeous full color image of three of the series women.

Menus:
While I'm always a sucker for the menus done by the folks at Nightjar, they've truly outdone themselves this time. While Real Bout isn't based on a video game, they've done up the menu so the top is like most fighting games and in the middle you have a match between two of the characters playing out. As the match plays out, the timer counts down and the points accrue for "player 1" as they continue to kick butt. It's done up perfectly, from the sounds to the images. Submenus are also done in the same way, such as the extras menu where the selections have different button combinations below them (though you just have to select enter). It's a great layout and an excellent meshing of the shows theme into the menu.

Extras:
There's a nice selection of extras included on the disc here. The first is the four "Special End Corner" segments that appeared at the end of each episode presumably and are generally hosted by two of the lead voice actresses. They show us a variety of things, such as some of their live action footage for the show, the gent whose in charge of their website, some of the photography sessions and so forth. They're brief, usually just over a minute or so, but entertaining. We also get a few of the Japanese TV ads which tell people about the show moving into that time slot and what the shows about, and we also get a bunch of English dub outtakes, some of which are funnier than others.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back when anime DVDs were first starting to roll out, there was a high percentage of anime fighting shows. These shows were invariably bad bad bad. Mostly because they were being adapted from video games to anime with little thought of making a coherent story, since the games often had little story or little to adapt, and the need to introduce a lot of characters. Thankfully, those titles have dried up for the most part over the years, but now something fairly close has arrived. But thankfully, it's quite different.

Real Bout High School isn't based off of a video, which one of the biggest things in its favor. The production team behind it is the current fan favorite known as Gonzo, whose designs and overall look is some of the flashiest out there, though they generally avoid using much in the way of out of place CG in this series so far. And to cap things off, the show features character designs by Keiji Gotoh, a man whose designs inspire nothing but pure lust among many of his fans.

The show takes place in present day, with the lead being the attractive Ryoko Mitsurugi. Ryoko's the current champion of the K-Fight, a form of dispute resolution at Daimon High School where students battle each other to determine the outcome of various issues. Ryoko's now 22 wins and 0 losses, so she's constantly being challenged by various groups. Early on, while she's carrying on a normal conversation with a friend, a bunch of ninjas from the Amateur Ninja Club pop out of nowhere and begin to attack. Ryoko of course easily defeats them, as they're nothing but nuisances. In fact, they've all been of that level since she took out Shizuma previously, who was the undefeated champion before her. But he's been traveling and improving his skills around the country since then.

Later on at the school, Ryoko comes across a mysterious pendant with a gem in the girls locker room and tries it on. Things shift oddly around her for a moment, but then everything settles back to normal. At least until the announcement comes out of another K-Fight happening between her and Azumi, her senpai and supposed rival for the affections of one of the kendo club boys. Azumi's probably the only other truly talented individual in the school and unlike Ryoko and her wooden sword, she uses a naginata to attack.

The bout between the two is very well done, with excellent editing that keeps the pace fast but actually lets you see many of the blows from beginning to end of the movement without many cuts or stills. The pacing and choreography for this and the other fights are definitely an impressive part of this series. When the fight ends though, things take a definitely twisted turn as Ryoko's newly found pendant glows blue and she's suddenly shifted. She's still in the gymnasium, but the entire world has taken on a purple hue, Ryoko included. A mysterious blueish girl appears, calling her the Demon Lord of Yenen and tells her she must eliminate the dragon that just then appears.

In the "real world", there's lots going on there as well. With the return of the originator of the K-Fights making some noise, a mysterious group of black suited men trying to capture him and one of the last men to know the true ways of the samurai residing in a local shrine, there's a lot of things going on that definitely haven't been explained, but there's a ton of things to really pique your interest.

The characters are definitely engaging and have their own personalities, even those that get little screentime. Ryoko's definitely a good lead character and provides something more than an airhead lead or someone trying to do everything just for a guy. And to me, I don't think she's the most attractive character in the set either, as I think Azumi gets that nod. But she's definitely an attractive character, but avoids using it to gain advantage. And amusingly, Ryoko's a big fan of samurai dramas, enough to call herself an otaku. Is this the start of a cultural shift for the Japanese to adopt the term as US fans have been using it?

Real Bout High School is definitely leaps and bouds above the previous fighting crap anime I've forced myself to sit through in the past. There's a lot going on here, combined with gorgeous animation and designs, that's only giving hints as to what the real storyline is going to be. I think this is going to be one of those titles that people are just going to have to take a chance on, as it doesn't fit expectations. Recommended.

Check out our Sneak Peeks section to see screenshots and more information on this title.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,"Special End Corner" Making Of Featurettes,Original TV Promotional Commercials from Japan,Translator's Notes,Dual-sided Cover

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: A
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: A+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Real Bout High School