Samurai Deeper Kyo Vol. #1 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, July 06, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2003
What They Say
You heard it too, didn?t you?
The voice of the wind.
During Tokugawa Ieyasu?s epic battle of Sekigahara, two samurai face off outside of history. In the heat of the duel between Kyoshiro and Demon Eyes Kyo, a shooting star slams into the plains, shattering the ground and engulfing both of them. Four years later, the bounty hunter Yuya finds the good natured Kyoshiro, now a traveling medicine man. Hidden deep inside Kyoshiro is the soul of his old opponent, the merciless samurai Kyo. When Yuya and Kyoshiro are thrown into battle, the medicine man?s friendly personality will recede, and the whole world will learn why Kyo is called a demon!
The latest samurai based series has arrived and has thankfully avoided the congested late 1800?s and instead goes back to the near glory days of the early 1600?s.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The show has a pretty solid stereo mix with some good moments of directionality and depth throughout. Dialogue was nice and clear and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2002, Samurai Deeper Kyo is the first anamorphic TV series for Media Blasters to undertake. The bulk of the transfer here looks great, lots of rich colors with nice depth and no visible bleeding and no noticeable edge enhancement. Cross coloration is also pretty much non-existent here, though the main problem we ended up having was a fair amount of aliasing cropping up during the camera panning sequences, both left and right as well as up and down. Other than that, this is a really nice looking transfer.
The opening volume here has a really nice piece of artwork of the dark and decidedly non-friendly Kyo taking a brief smoke. There?s lots of dark colors and wood backdrop imagery here that really gives it a great earthy and rough feel as well as the eye-catching logo. The back cover provides a number of animation stills and some collage pieces while providing the shows summary. The discs features are clearly listed though somewhat erroneous, as there is no textless opening sequence included. The features and production information is nicely listed as well, making it easy to check out the specs. The insert is a very detailed piece that has three panels worth of historical background that will definitely enrich the shows viewing as well as providing basic chapter stops. I was also glad to see some cross promotion going on here as the back panel is an advertisement for TOKYOPOP?s manga release.
The menu layout is nice with selections ring in the four corners while the central ?play all? feature is in the Kyo logo in the center. Through the center bar is various images from the show playing back. When you move to submenus, there?s a brief transitional yin/yang animation that plays as well. Access times are decent and each menu loads pretty quickly. The only downside is that on a lot of players, the main menu system simply doesn?t work well because the cursor doesn?t show up. On both my Panasonic players, nothing was there at all, though you could still make selections ? you just didn?t know what you were selecting. My Toshiba player handled it fine though. But this is the main reason for the grading.
Though we?re promised a textless ending on the back cover, all we get here is the dub outtakes. There?s just under five minutes worth of them, some of them quite good while others just generate some groans.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In the past couple of years, it seems like the bulk of samurai anime has been dealing with the Meiji restoration time period or the years just before it. Samurai Deeper Kyo thankfully avoids this increasingly crowded time period by starting its story in the year 1600.
It starts off quickly, providing the basis for all that will come. At the Battle of Sekigahara we see two powerful swordsman squaring off at each other. With his wild red hair and generally evil sounding attitude, the Demon Eyes Kyo swordsman is considerably impressive looking. With the battleground littered with both bodies and fog, it?s a dark and dangerous looking area, set up very cinematically and invoking quite a number of emotions right off the bat.
Before the battle can really be undertaken, Yukimura Sanada steps in front of Kyo and attempts to stave him off briefly so that conditions can be more properly set by his cadre. As the battle is about to begin though, something rather strange is set to happen, something that we follow from Earth orbit as a meteor of some sort come barreling down, so precise an impact as to land on the mound where Kyo is about to take his victory.
That destruction is left behind as the show then moves ahead to 1604. The time since the strange but bloody battle of Sekigahara has been strange. Sanada and his group continue to look for Demon Eyes Kyo as well as Kyoshiro Mibu. The Lady Sakuya has not given up here hopes for Kyoshiro to be found and her true love brought back to her. Sanada and his ninjas have continued to scour the land since the ill fated battle but haven?t found any sign of him until now.
Kyoshiro has shown up along one of the roads as a traveling medicine man, offering his herbs and skills to whoever needs them. And he is, of course, something of a lech. We get a good dose of this when he comes across Yuya Shiina, a female bounty hunter who thought she was tricking him into a trap so she could collect the bounty on his head. Her plans don?t go so well in general though she does continue to be somewhat in control. This lasts until something that has been searching for Kyoshiro arrives at their encampment during the night.
Since the arrival of the meteor, strange creatures have been cropping up across the land. These creatures appear almost demon like, though they have some basis in humanity as several of them are after Kyo specifically for his past offenses. So what do they want with Kyoshiro? As it turns out, the spirit of Kyo has lain dormant inside of the medicine seller since the Battle of Sekigahara and Kyoshiro has managed to keep him repressed. But when one of these demons actually shows up, it?s enough to loose his grip and Kyo manages to overtake Kyoshiro?s body, his demon red eyes shining brightly and all the skill he possessed coming through naturally.
And this is where some of the more comical aspects of the show starts to come out, as we see the way people react to the changes in his personality and as Kyoshiro and Kyo both battle for control of the body that they share. Yuya herself ends up getting involved more deeply since her bounty could be truly huge if she really does have Kyo, but she has some concerns for Kyoshiro himself. She and Kyo actually manage something of an understanding that allows the two to journey with each other for some time, as each is searching something larger than the other out.
With the time period that this show is set in, there?s a fair amount of historical characters that come into play. Such as Sanada himself, who is talked about in some detail in the liner notes. The enjoyable aspect of this particular timeframe is that we?re much closer to the glory days where Tokugawa himself ruled and much of the infighting and backstabbing that occurred. There?s lots of important historical figures who?ve been referenced in other shows that come to life here (and through the course of the series). Having one of Tokugawa?s sons as a character here also brings an interesting twist to things.
With the first five episodes of the series, I?m interested in seeing where it?s going and hoping that the somewhat choppy nature of the storytelling here settles down. The way it?s all paced just didn?t seem like it was flowing all too smoothly in a few areas, but I?m willing to chalk that up to having to tell both the important parts of the Sekigahara segment as well as setting up the two spirits/one body part of the character while trying to make it a surprise (though it never really is).
This release is really solid overall beyond some technical issues. Once into the content itself, you tend to forget all of that and that?s what really matters in the end. Kyo was an interesting two hours of anime that hints at some fun future adventures. Having a sequence where Kyo and Sanada are fighting against a current batch of faceless enemies while smiling and reveling in the carnage says a lot about the two of them and the kind of material we?re likely to see. That scene alone is enough to make me want to see more.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Outtakes
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: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: F
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Samurai Deeper Kyo