Legend of Himiko Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, July 14, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, July 09, 2002

What They Say
From the creator of Sakura Wars! In a world where the dead walk, where good and evil exist as palpable forces, a darkness is stirring. The undead march against the cities of light, to capture the sacred fire that is the source of their power. But one hope remains. Called into this world by the magical flame, a young girl named Himiko is thrust into the maelstrom of danger, betrayal, and war. For she is heir to the sacred fire, and holds a power that could save its Guardians… if she survives!

The Review!
Legend of Himiko asks the question, can a truly fantastic opening save an entire series?

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. A fairly recent show, it sports a decent sounding stereo mix that deals with the minimal forward directionality nicely. Dialogue is clean and clear and there were no noticeable dropouts or distortions. I did play around briefly with the English 5.1 mix, but didn’t notice much in the way of differences in the areas I hit.

Originally airing back in 1999, Himiko appears to have been something of a budget release series after they paid for the opening animation. The transfer for the show is decent, but appears to be dealing with the source elements as well as possible. The main area where things fail in the transfer is during a number of the night blue sky sequences, where things are just very grainy looking. Where the transfer doesn’t fail but the source material does is in the very inconsistent coloring, such as faces that go from normal to red and back. The animation also tends to be rather inconsistent in quality.

The front cover features a nice shot of the two women we get to know most in these first four episodes while a variety of headshots are blended into the background. The back cover has a brief summary of what to expect and a nice clar listing of the discs features and technical information. There’s some more artwork throughout here as well. Since this is in a clear keepcase, the reverse side has some nice black and white character artwork displayed as well as the main credits for the production team and the voice credits for both languages.

The menu for this release is pretty nice, with some animation playing through the center opening with reddish almost firelike imagery playing around it. Selections are quick to access and moving around is pretty easy. My only dislike is the lack of episode numbering in the chapter selection area.

There’s a good selection of extras included on this first volume of the series. We get a nice art gallery showcasing scenes from these four episodes and we get a segment of meet the cast to get character profiles. The original Japanese trailers for the home video release are included as well as character and background sketches. The big plus to me is having the textless opening and ending here though.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Legend of Himiko, originally titled Himiko-den, is one of those series that just feels very unoriginal and has that been-there kind of effect on the viewer. But it also has its little moments that set it apart and draws the viewer in more. While I thought a good portion of this was simply a minor reinvention of what’s come before and started to lose interest, my wife found it very enjoyable and well done. Outside of the animation inconsistencies that is.

The story starts in one world, jumps to the next, and then returns to the original for the remainder. We’re introduced to a country at war with another, and a group of priests who are working towards bringing their queen about to rule the land by using the candidate process with something mysteriously known as Bokka. Bokka is an energy source/mystical energy with a life of its own. We’re shown the eight candidates gathering in the palace at what seems to be the source of the Bokka. As the ceremony goes forth, things turn into chaos when the invading army makes their way here. Attending this ceremony is a couple with a small baby, presumably attendant to those who rule. When the Bokka begins to get into gear, we notice that the baby also appears to be glowing.

As the invaders screw up the ceremony, the baby becomes part of it, appearing over the fountain of energy with flames surrounding it. And then all eight candidates are thrown all over the world while the baby gets sent to another world/time altogether. It’s here we see the Bokka energy appear on Earth in a set of ruins, where it passes up through the ground, through a young boy, and then leaving the form of the baby.

In this segment, time moves forward and we get reacquainted with the baby as teenager Himiko, one of the smart and attractive girls in her high school. She’s also very friendly with her friend Kutani, the boy we’d seen previously hit by the Bokka. The two have grown up together and are almost like brother and sister, though Kutani at least realizes how good looking Himiko is. We learn some of the past from when she arrived in the ruins and her foster parentage, but this is all set up for when they return to the ruins for more excavation.

While idly talking where she first appeared, the Bokka energy comes to life and engulfs Himiko. Quick thinking allows Kutani to reach for her and he ends up getting dragged back to the other world. Their arrival is predicted though. Things have changed in this world since they left, though only three years have passed here compared to the fifteen or so on Earth. The invaders have taken over the kingdom, the candidate queens are all working as resistance fighters except for one that has switched sides. The premonition of their arrival had sent some of the resistance fighters into the palace to free them.

This allows them to meet up with the good guys quickly, but also allows the good guys to find out just how bad the governor general has been. When the candidate queens were dispersed, the fountain of Bokka become a fountain of darkness. And the governor general has lost no time in trying to create an army of the undead for his schemes to take over more land, kill his father and become the ultimate ruler.

From here it moves fast into a typical adventure story as Kutani and Himiko get separated and end up on separate sides, both trying to get back together. This lets them both learn different aspects of the new world their in and lets each get more familiar with the side they find themselves on. There’s also lots of background movement with characters because, well, there’s a hell of a lot of characters here. With eight queen candidates alone, it becomes very easy to lose track of who is who here.

The animation also suffers in the second half of the disc, where it looks like budget constraints seemed to kick in. Things don’t look as good as early on, but even early on there’s just some plain bad designs. The story has an overall feel to me of something I’ve seen several times. But even then, the predictable stuff can be fun. When Kutani and the swordmistress Imari become separated from the others, it serves to let Kutani get familiar with the resistance. It’s a standard practice, but it works well between these two characters.

There are some interesting ideas to it though. I love the armor that the invaders wear, giving them an inhuman and non-identifiable feel. The costumes for the candidate queens are slick looking. But I don’t like the asian architectural designs showing up on a supposedly alien world. The thing that does work the best though is the opening, with truly stunning looking character animation sequences and quite possibly one of the most addictive songs with Pure Snow.

Legend of Himiko isn’t something that’s really grabbing me, but from what I’m seeing, it’s something that women are really getting into quite easily. Outside of a few video issues, fans of the show should be really pleased with this release.

Japanese Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Textless Ending,Production Sketches,Japanse Advertisements,Art Gallery,Meet the Cast

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: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Central Park Media
MSRP: 29.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Legend of Himiko