Soultaker Vol. #1 (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: -
What They Say
The Soul Taker' is the new hero for the 21st century by Tatsunoko Productions known for 'Gatchaman' and 'Casshan.' This series that started airing this spring is already on DVD. Bonus footage included.
First Press : The box features newly illustrated artwork(s) by the character designer Akio Watanabe.. The box can house all 5 volumes.
Special Features : Music clips of opening theme song by JAM Project, materials
I'll say it proud: I'm a sucker for a shiny box. While this title was an early and obviously bound for a region 1 release, the minute I saw that the first volume in Japan was not only anamorphic, but it would have a box to house five discs, I just had to have it. It'll give my region 1 copies a good comfy home, as Pioneer tends to release boxes only AFTER I buy all the discs, leaving me in the cold.
It also doesn't hurt that this show kicks ass.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in the only language available on it, Japanese. This is a very slick sounding stereo presentation. There's a fair amount of directionality throughout the two episodes and the music comes across fantastic. There's no dropouts or other audio issues at all, essentially a solid stereo audio mix that fits the material nicely.
This is just an absolute treat. There's so much style and flair to the animation that this anamorphic transfer really brings it to life. The vibrancy of the colors is practically reference material. The numerous blacks and darker colors are very solid, and the swaths of straight colors shows no color banding or breakup at all. There were maybe two areas where I noticed some jaggies which could be attributed to my chroma bug issue and only one really brief rainbow. Otherwise, this is just gorgeous.
The keepcase packaging has a great picture of Kyosuke in his older form with the Soultaker version behind him. It's nicely laid out and very dark looking, with numerous German on the bottom (which is also on a lot of the official Japanese site for this show, www.soultaker.net). The back cover has a couple of summaries and numerous smaller pictures, as well as a larger picture of the main cute girl in the series. As with just about every Japanese release, the information grid on the bottom is the absolute best there is, giving a quick and easy reference to what's contained inside.
In the past, the only Pioneer discs I had gotten were reissues of material they had done previously on laserdisc, where it was essentially "just put something out on DVD". So this is my first new Pioneer discs, and the insert is just fantastic. The nice stock paper folds out to six pages, with the top side colored having information on the show and on a couple of the characters, including artwork and a special one-page DVD color manga. The back side is black and white full-out conceptual artwork, very similar to the large booklets I used to get with the laserdisc releases. Great stuff.
Much like most Japanese menus, this is pretty simple with a static image of the Soultaker off to the left and the menu selections on the right. Selections are quickly accessed, until you go into the individual episodes for chapter selections. If you can believe it, there are 25 chapters per episode, or one chapter per minute. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, or just a way to get me to replace my remote more quickly. The menus in general are the essence of simplicity and function over style. But my mind gets excited by the idea of the Nightjar folks doing the menus for the region 1 release, especially after seeing all of their Trigun menus for Pioneer USA.
On the disc itself, there are a couple of nice extras. The first one is the image gallery that has a lot of great black and white conceptual artwork to look over. The second extra is a nearly 5 minute long version of the opening song. The video is a mix of animation from the show (of lower quality than the actual presentation) and shots of the members singing. For some reason, this five person group reminded me a lot of some 70's bands. It's amusing, but it's also a lot of fun. It's a catchy song in its way, and this video definitely made it memorable. Besides, everyone gets to wear great costumes!
For those who bought the first pressing of this release, you get a great solid cardboard box designed to hold five keepcases. The front cover has a great darkened picture of Kyosuke half human and half in Soultaker mode while the back side has a picture of the purple haired girl holding a flower. The spine part has the great English logo displayed there with the Japanese version underneath, so it'll be really easy to slip this box set into my region 1 releases and have something sweet.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I'll admit it, I have no clue what's going on here. My Japanese vocabulary is probably no more than 500 words or so, and my comprehension, while decent, is nowhere near good enough to handle figuring out an entire show I know nothing about it.
But I will say, that having watched the first two episodes, Pioneer USA has an absolute hit on their hands. This is like nothing else in their catalog, with only Lain coming close to it in being dark. This is a richly designed show, with a stunning use of color and atmosphere. There's numerous religious/Christian symbols and churches used in the first episode, and things such as the windows are used as moving backgrounds in other sequences, adding a great feel to the show.
It's very dark, it's rather bloody, fairly violent and extremely engaging. I had intended to pop the disc in to check out the first couple of minutes, and ended up watching both episodes enraptured. With so little known about this show to most western anime fans, Pioneer has its work cut out for them to get the word out on what a slick piece of anime they have here. There's been no show in the past where I've seen two episodes raw, know that there are no scripts available, and am still contemplating paying around 250$ total to get the series before Pioneer can release the first one in the US.
It's shiny. It's addictive. I want more. I hope Pioneer USA pushes this one hard, as it's going to be a real highlight in their collection. Check out the official Japanese site to see more pictures and tidbits about the show at www.soultaker.net.
Japanese Language,Image Gallery,Music Video
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: NA
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Japan
Released By: Geneon Entertainment, Japan
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Soul Taker