Tsukikage Ran Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Release Date: Tuesday, November 05, 2002



What They Say
Famed director, Akitaroh Daichi (Jubei-Chan the Ninja Girl) reveals a different side of life in feudal Japan! From MADHOUSE studios (Ninja Scroll) comes a

martial arts comedy like none you’ve ever seen! Carried by the Wind is a story of Ran, a young ronin samurai on a journey across Japan. She’s a master swordsman with a strong sense of honor combined with the courage to fight injustices. Along with Neko martial artist, Meow – the two will seek good food and good drink!



Our heroine Ran is still saddled with her erstwhile sidekick, Meow. Together, they continue traveling the countryside looking for wrongs to right, and of course, a good drink! When Meow is scouted by a "modeling" agent, things don't seem quite right and its up to Ran to figure out what it is. When a string of robberies are committed, all fingers point towards our heroic heroines! Can the two clear their names and help a poor inventor on the verge of discovering electricity?!

The Review!
The second installment of Carried by the Wind manages to raise my opinion of it a bit, though it still seems week for Daichi.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The show features a rather good stereo mix that makes good use of the forward soundstage to give the viewer some good moments of directionality, mostly in terms of the swordplay. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and there were no noticeable distortions or dropouts in either language track.

Video:
Tsukikage Ran features some very fresh looking animation and sports a transfer that does it justice. While it’s not a very vibrant or heavily shiny looking, it’s a solid transfer that conveys the animation as you want it. Colors are nice and solid, flesh tones look great, cross coloration and aliasing are pretty much non-existent. There’s pretty much nothing I can find fault with here with how this transfer is done.

Packaging:
The weakest part of this release is once again the front cover. The main image is of Ran drinking her sake against the painted image of some rising waves while Meow and another are bright red and shocked above her. The logo works good, giving both of them plenty of space and easy to read, as well as volume numbering right there on the front. The back cover makes out a bit better with a few more screenshots and some nice designs, though the blue text is hard to read on the white and gray backgrounds. The discs episode numbers and titles as well as technical features are all clearly listed here. The insert provides another look at the front cover while the interior opens up to a great piece that goes over the various periods in history of Japan. The back of the insert provides full credits for the show.

Menu:
The menu layout is pretty nice, going for the general theme of the show with the shoji borders surrounding animation playing in the center while the selections are laid out along the bottom with crests used for the menu selector. Moving to the submenus is pretty good though there were a few slowdowns at some places in moving back and forth.

Extras:
There’s a couple of nice extras included with this release. The first is a good multipage piece of liner notes that goes into surprising detail on one of the cultural references, but overall does a good job of explaining some of the more unique aspects. The other is a couple of pages of production artwork with translated text about the people the art is of.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As we went through these episodes, I found them to be not quite as annoying as I found the first volume. Maybe just a mental thing, with time between and possibly a different mood, but my desire to fast forward through the episodes wasn’t as strong. And with one less episode, it went by faster.

The opening episode proved to be pleasantly amusing, as Meow takes center stage for the most part as she eyes some ukiyo, or beauty portraits. While checking those out, one of the artisans spies her and insists that she must become a model for him. She’s naturally all a tizzy over it and readily accepts. All goes well until he spies Ran, and then insists she must be done first as he beauty is so striking. This all works as the top level “plot”, as it is, while underneath it there’s a evil merchant kind of plot going on with women being kidnapped.

The episode that did work well for us was the middle one, where Meow and Ran get mistaken for a pair of women who have been causing trouble in the area. They get suspected right from the start, with some constabulary insisting they look similar to the duo they’re looking for. The manage to leave them and head into the town itself, but the townsfolk are already aware of the mischievous duo and think Meow and Ran are them as well. They take a different approach though and befriend them and invite them in, trying to lull them while figuring out if they truly are.

Considering the number of samurai women in existence, their chances of being right are pretty high.

The last episode, which I’ll guess is an homage to Benjamin Franklin in a sense since it deals with a sensei whose trying to capture lightning with a kite, was very weak all told. The main plot has a group of generally bad people who are trying to extort said learned man into providing them with some inventions and high-tech toys so they can exert more merchant-like power. The local fisherman, who’ve had poor catches lately, are trying to fund the learned man so he can do stuff for them. So when Meow and Ran arrive, they try to get Ran to help them defend against attacks by some Masked Marauders who are hurting the local area. Gee, I wonder who they could be.

For the most part, Tsukikage Ran continues to be pretty darn predictable with a few moments of humor and at least one good fluid action sequence per episode. With it being a strictly episodic series with no overlong plot, it’s easy to pick up any volume and watch a couple of episodes. Whether its’ enough to inspire someone to want the entire series, that’s a different matter.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Liner notes,Production art gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 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: A-
Packaging Rating: C+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tsukikage Ran