Mirage of Blaze Vol. #3 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Saturday, October 25, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, October 28, 2003

What They Say
To disrupt the advance of the Feudal Underworld, Takaya, Chiaki, Naoe and Yuzura search Japan for evil spirits. Confused by his relationship with Takaya, Naoe leaves to track down the Tsutsuga, a soul consuming red beast. Takaya, still unable to confront his alternate identity as Samurai Kagetora, meets Ujiteru Hojo. His former brother attempts to bring him back to the Hojo clan, and Takaya is forced to remember his disturbing past with Naoe.

The Review!
Takaya’s attempts to control himself and his powers starts to take a dark turn which leads him into the spiders web he was better off not being stuck in.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a solid stereo mix that has a good sense of forward soundstage directionality at times as well as a bit of depth to it, giving it a better feel. There’s nothing thrown to the rear speakers, but everything out of the front sound solid and free of distortions or dropouts.

Originally airing in 2002, Mirage of Blaze has a very clean looking and problem free transfer. This full frame release is quite dark at times with a lot of the segments taking place at night or darkened quarters and manages to avoid any macroblocking or breakup. Cross coloration looks pretty much absent here and only a few extremely minor areas of aliasing are visible. The show has a pretty dark color palette to it, but everything comes across solid and without any bleeding or over saturation.

The cover for this round goes back to Naoe and Haruie looking cool and composed in their usual outfits. This is a series that continues to make men in suits look fantastic. The back cover is essentially one large collage of images from the show with some minor plot points mixed in, almost basically teasing the reader to try and figure it out much like the show itself. The discs production and technical information is all clearly listed and accurate. The insert is basically a one-sheet that lists the chapter stops for each episode with only some faded artwork in the background, but otherwise looking like the front covers background.

The main menu is a nice simple static piece that has the headshots from the front cover in sketch-mode set against the grays and dark reds while the opening song plays along. The bottom of the menu has all the selections, including access to the single extra here. Access times are nice and fast and submenus load quickly with no transitional animations.

The only on-disc extra included is a series of production sketches, which is nicely placed right at the top menu for quick access.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Mirage of Blaze continues to be an intriguing series but it’s also one I really wish there was a relationship chart available for. It’s one of those titles where during the two months between releases you can easily forget who is actually who in which life and what their relationships are. Add in that a lot of them don’t use other characters names often and you can easily forget who someone is.

With this volume bringing us past the halfway mark and close to the end of the series, there’s a fair amount of movement going on in furthering the basic storyline. Some of Takaya and Yuzuru’s friends try to get the two of them to help exorcise a swimming pool at a popular recreation park, which has them bringing along Naoe and Haruie. The episode starts off feeling like it’s going to be something of a filler piece in dealing with yet another spirit who doesn’t want to move, as the pool is located over the former location of a castle that burned down ages ago, but it moves beyond that fairly quickly when Takaya loses control over his temper and powers in dealing with the spirit.

Feeling at a loss over his action, he heads off in a moody way into the city itself to try and lose himself in it for a bit. Since it’s not a familiar city, it’s easy to do and he ends up spending much of his time sitting in one of the local commons with a pack of cigarettes at his feet. After a dustup with some local guys, Takaya finds himself beaten and broken, the way he really wanted to be after trying to deal with the flush of emotions raging through him as both Takaya and Kagetora.

His weakened state made him an easy target for someone to pick up though, bringing him to his residence and cleaning him up. Once awakened, Takaya finds himself in the presence of Hojo, the man in charge of bringing the Feudal Underworld into a real position of power. The dealings between the two men play throughout the two episodes here where we also follow another storyline about an area where the Hojo are trying to gain dominance. The entire area has started losing its spiritual power, with one person having their soul separated from their body after a car accident. Naoe’s investigation leads him to dealing with a red beast that roams the area and really “stalks” the spiritual power around it, consuming it and keeping it for itself.

This plot eventually leads back into Takaya and Hojo as Naoe starts to learn about powerful mystical mirrors from the past that become quickly important in the present. The two storylines tie together nicely and unexpectedly at first but it works out nicely as it moves along. The pace of the show is very much like earlier episodes though there’s overall less action in this batch of three episodes. The dialogue is strong throughout as everyone is coming to grips with what’s going on or as they try to figure out their place in this game.

There’s just something very captivating about this show, even though I quickly lose track of who is who, especially with those who look similar. Avoiding the trap of having everyone be really cute and young looking and instead going for more normal looking and properly framed people, the show really works well in adopting the dark atmosphere and mixing the past with the present. There is just a level of pure creepiness that comes through a lot of time, especially when combined with the very subtle incidental music. With only a few episodes left, it’ll be interesting to see how it’s all resolved.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production Sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP 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: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Mirage of Blaze