Soul Hunter Vol. #6 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Sunday, August 04, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, July 30, 2002



What They Say
It seems as if Taikoubou's job is done. Dakki has been slain, and a new Empire has been forged that will last a thousand years. Unfortunately, Dakki's soul isn't co-operating with being dead, close allies are betrayed as spies, and doubts surround the entire nature of Project Soul Hunt. Finally, the truth stands revealed as Taikoubou confronts his master about the real objectives of his mission - and the horrible truth inscribed in the unabridged Book of Souls shakes his loyalties to the core. Our unlikely hero must now overcome his doubts and face the most momentous decision of his life. Will Taikoubou stand up for what he believes is right - even at risk of starting a final conflict that could result in the extermination of mankind?

The Review!
Soul Hunter comes to its conclusion with the real final battle to settle things once and for all.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. Throughout this stereo track we heard some nice directionality across the forward soundstage but nothing thrown to the rear speakers. Dialogue was nice and clear and the overall feel of the track is what you'd expect from a late 90's TV soundtrack. We listened to a good amount of the English track and noted no issues there either.

Video:
The transfer is relatively on par with earlier releases. The show has progressed a fair bit since the early volumes with the bright clean CG look and shifted more and more towards the traditional animation, so things here look rather consistent throughout the episodes. There’s some cross coloration in a few places, noticeably where the line artwork is tighter, and some noticeable aliasing during some simple camera panning sequences, but it looks decent overall.

Packaging:
A less busy cover this time, with an almost reflective image having one of them high on the rocks fishing while Taikoubou is sort of centered and holding up a scroll for others to read. The back cover is considerably brighter with a couple of animation shots and a good summary of where things stand. The discs features and production credits are clearly listed though no mention of the episode number or titles. This is forgivable since the spine and front cover list the volume number. The insert provides another look at the front cover while the reverse side has a number of new glossary terms and translations.

Menu:
The menus are rather nicely animated this time around, with the opening one being of a fish swimming under the water while some relaxing and enjoyable music plays. Submenus feature static animation pages but music as well. With no transition animations, moving about is pretty fast and access times are solid.

Extras:
In the extras department, we get a mix of some of the same and some new. The relationship tree and glossary of terms keeps things rolling as we’ve seen in the past but in the voice actor department we get several new entries as we get new characters introduced into the story here. Also in the new department is a historical background text section on the Zhou Dynasty. This section is rather extensive and goes into fascinating detail about the time of the Dynasty from its rise to its fall, from the importance of the emperors to the architecture. The big extra continues to be the very in-depth translators notes that spans quite a few pages. Good stuff all around here that’s definitely helped flesh the show out more than I expected it to be.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the extensive fight sequences in the previous volume, as well as the removal of Dakki and her comrades as the primary threat, most of the characters are all set to just get everything on the human world resolved between the large standing armies and settle into some form of peace. Taikoubou knows however that things are far from done, and that while Dakki was an important opponent, she was merely a pawn to the larger force.

And that larger force is finally revealed as the Guides, three beings who deal with those of Mount Kunlun to keep balance and order in the world. They were the ones who initiated the Project Soul Hunt to achieve that goal of order, and with the failure of Taikoubou to really follow through on it, they’re quite upset with Genshitenson. His attempts to win favor with them through this project hasn’t worked out at all, as Taikoubou has done things that were completely unexpected.

Giving up his broken paopei, Taikoubou takes it upon himself to head to Mount Kunlun and face what waits for him there and to try and stop the Immortal World from interfering with the Human World. He’s firmly decided, some time ago in fact when he became the War Minister, that his lot in life would be better suited to live this way rather than as one of the Immortal World. Though his intent is to go it alone, he knows better than to refuse his friends help. After all, that was part of the whole series, these people who started as enemies and untrustworthy, becoming strong allies and friends.

Well, except for the spy that’s revealed to be in the group, which leads to a rather personal battle for Taikoubou when they finally arrive near Mount Kunlun and have to deal with the superior paopei forces. Never mind that those in control there also know every aspect of these warriors paopei and how to work things to their advantage. In some respects, these episodes are much like the previous volume, where a good portion of them cover the lengthy battles between the characters as they try to get deep inside Mount Kunlun.

Probably the most enjoyable moments of the series were the moments of verbal sparring between Taikoubou and Youzen as Youzen tries to figure out what has caused Taikoubou to change the way he has since he first met him. While Taikoubou’s changes are close to the heart of the series, such changes are difficult for Youzen to understand, even though he’s asked the question previously. This aspect of the battle allowed things to get nice and personal though, adding a bit more drama to it.

In the end though, I found the closure to the series to be fairly predictable and fairly lackluster. The shows journey has definitely been more interesting than the destination, especially with the seeming last minute entry of the Guides into the series. Much like aspects of earlier episodes, this may just be entirely cultural since I’m in no way familiar with three thousand year old Chinese history, and things that many will take for granted, I simply don’t register. I’ve enjoyed a good number of parts of this series, but as a whole I’ve found it fairly weak and overly filled with characters that don’t get enough real development time. It definitely improved as it progressed, but it took quite a bit of effort to get through those rough early moments.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Historical Background of the Zhou Dynasty,Voice Actor Profiles,Relationship Tree,Translator Notes,Lingua Franca

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: A-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.95
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Soul Hunter