Rune Soldier Vol. #4: Monsters & Mayhem (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, September 13, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, September 23, 2003
What They Say
Strange deeds are afoot in the country of Ohfun. On the western border, an army has begun to gather in secret. Whispers of names from an old conflict keep getting louder, not to mention rumors of monsters... and of a magician who may be growing them in secret.
But between Merrill's impending marriage to a rich heir and a vacation spoiled by a giant lake serpent, there's no time to spare for justice. Still, when the adventurers come across an actual monster farm in the ruins of an old estate, they decide a little house cleaning is in order-even if it means making a mess!
Moving into the second half of the series, the show continues with mostly standalone episodes but starts at hinting at a larger arc to come.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix provided here is a decent one with some minor directionality across the forward soundstage and a touch of depth to the action. Through regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions.
The materials here for the transfer continue to look very good. While a number of recent fantasy shows have been darker in color and tone, Rune Soldier goes much brighter and vibrant with its colors. There’s some slight edge cross coloration going on in character hair, but is very dependent on the system you watch it on. It was invisible on our Panasonic player via component cables but the TV/DVD combo shows it more clearly. Colors are solid throughout and aliasing was pretty much non-existent.
The clear keepcases and reversible covers continue here. This particular cover comes across beautifully with the women ganging up on Louie using the same very detailed and lush art style. The back cover shows off a bit more artwork and a few shots from the show while surrounding the summary of what to expect with these episodes. The discs features are clearly listed though no mention is given to extras. Episode numbers are listed and the volume numbering is only on the front cover, nothing on the spine for it. The reverse cover is much like the past volumes, where one side has the super deformed versions of some characters in the circle while the back cover does a reworking of the other sides back cover. The insert has some more great detailed artwork, with this cover showing the women in their swimsuits while it opens to have episode summaries surrounded by character design artwork. Two pieces of a larger puzzle are also included here as well as two small stickers of character artwork.
The menus here are very nicely laid out with each screen featuring a different character. The main menu has the cover artwork image with some small bits of the screen doing some in-show styled animated movements while some instrumental music plays. The layout is pretty simple and straightforward but with some very vibrant looking artwork. Access times are nice and fast and with a very minimal transitional animation, load times are swift.
The extras for this volume are pretty much the same as before, a clean opening and ending segment. There’s also this mysterious “Gunning for the Guardian” extra where you move the cursor out into the water and select the various ships. Each one I selected came back with the same piece of animation, so I’m not sure what the purpose of it is.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Now past the halfway mark, the series provides a few more standalone episodes that continue to provide fun and enjoyable episodes, but one of them also starts hinting at something bigger coming down the road.
The opening story is a pretty basic one that has the group traveling to their next location to search out some ruins and hopefully find some treasure. On the way, they run into some of the Ohfun’s military folks, one of who knew Genie from when she was part of it. From him, they learn of some particularly bad folks roaming the areas lately and warn them to not go off in a certain direction. Since they weren’t going that way, they figure it’ll be a non-issue. Of course, the bad guys never listen to things like this and end up in the same area as our band of travelers, which causes Genie to go out and try to deal with it herself. As an episode dedicated to her, it felt fairly weak, and didn’t add all that much to her.
One of the better episodes involved Merrill, a character that’s fairly underused but has some good moments based on her general greed and avarice. While selling some fruit to make a few extra bucks, she ends up being quickly courted by an attractive and well-dressed man. Before she realizes what’s happening, she’s engaged to get married to him and whisked to his huge mansion. Her every wish is granted by his staff after William assigns a handful of maids to her. When she finds herself literally in a bath of gold coins, she realizes just how deep she is in here. Of course, there’s something more going on in regards to Merrill being picked that ties everything together nicely, but until all of that comes out it’s a lot of fun watching Merrill getting whisked all over and treated so well.
The one episode that had me really pleased has the group taking a vacation of sorts on their trip and the end up by a massive lake. It’s here they learn of a big old beastie that lives underneath its calm exterior and that it’s been hunted for quite a long time. The promise of fame and riches in capturing/killing it pushes them to be a bit more interested in it, though they find themselves in competition with a worn and wiry old man who has been hunting this creature for a long time now. What makes a lot of this fun, and I’ll admit it’s the male in me, is that the women are wearing their skimpy bathing suits for a good part of the episode, Ila included. Watching Louie going fishing and yanking off Melissa’s top this way is a cheap laugh, but it made me laugh repeatedly.
While Rune Soldier continues to play the standalone episodes and doesn’t really seem to want to move into something much more serious for the most part, I’m very content and happy with how it’s playing out. There are some darker moments introduced in the final episode as we get a hint of a possible actual multi-episode plot, but until that arrives I can’t really say as to whether it’ll change the feel of the show for better or for worse. I’ve enjoyed the first half of the series as it’s been so far and hope for more.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Interactive "Gunning for the Guardian" game,Clean opening and closing animation
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: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Rune Soldier