Legend of the Mystical Ninja Vol. #5 (of 5) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, June 17, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2004



What They Say
They've crossed dimensional bridges to defeat evil. They've fought bad guys of all shapes and sizes, in the city, in the country, even in a time warp. But when Mudanashi hijacks a shuttle and launches himself into outer space, Goemon and his friends know the game has jumped way up to the next level. And if they're not up to speed, the final round will spell doom for everyone on earth!

The Review!
Goemon comes to an end with a pair of standalone episodes and a two-part storyline that takes him where no video game character has gone before?. Space!

Audio:
With this being such a straightforward kids aimed TV series, the audio tracks for both languages are standard stereo mixes that are pretty heavy for center channel use but have some occasional fuller sounds throughout them. We listened to the English language track and had no problems during regular playback with distortions or dropouts. This is a pretty simple mix and not much to it.

Video:
Originally airing in 1997, the transfer is quite solid and clean looking, free of dirt and other elements. Cross coloration is almost non-existent and even aliasing is very minimal. The only noticeable problem with the transfer is inherent in the source material and that's some frame jitter during various scene transitions. It's not on the same level as some older Gainax shows or anything, but once you get attuned to the jitter you see it whenever it crops up. The colors for the show aren't terribly vibrant for the most part; sort of a muted level but not quite down to the real-world color palette used in a number of shows. The color palette used helps make the show feel older than it actually is, pushing it back to late 80's or early 90's.

Packaging:
The front lets you know exactly what to expect once more with a collage of images based around the two part episode, notably Goemon with Impact mimicking his movements and the oversized creature that Mudanashi creates. The back cover provides more accurate color shots from the show itself along with a small paragraph of basic plot summary. The discs features are nicely listed along the bottom in my favorite grid style along with several production credits. The insert has an action pose of Goemon and friends done up against a bland green backdrop. The reverse side is mostly just a listing of what's on the disc and the previews.

Menu:
The main menu has a red tinted close-up of Goemon along the right while the left has a long list of selections as you can episode jump right from the top. With little on the disc outside of the show, there's not a lot of real options here to mess with, resulting in fast menu loads and quick access times.

Extras:
The extras continue to be good for the fans of the dub. There's another nineteen minute cast interview piece (though it's deceptive since they re-use the same "introduction" segments, so you may think that it's the same as previous installments). There's also a commentary track for one of the episodes with a few of the actors and the director. Both pieces really just show the sheer love and enjoyment they all got out of this experience and it comes through very much in their performances as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With only twenty three episodes, Goemon comes to a close in just five volumes, but what a fun set of volumes they turned out to be. From the first time I saw the trailer months before the show came out I figured this was going to be one of the worst show experiences of the year to deal with. While it's certainly not the most amazing thing I've ever seen, it's an entertaining kids series that I think for the most part ends up working even better in English. The cast for this show just so go into their roles, regardless of size, and really just had a blast. Their energy and enthusiasm is definitely infectious.

The last volume does a solid job of finishing things out as much as a series like this can. From a continuity standpoint, there's some movement with the characters, notably with Mudanashi finally overcoming his crush over Tsukasa's mother and throwing himself headlong into his work. This is compounded by the fact that Makuamuuge is starting to get annoyed at him for not opening a cyber tunnel yet and he has flashbacks to what happened to his predecessor. So with a renewed sense of purpose, he gets some new things rolling that try to get the rage gauge rising. One of them is an amusing bit where a new super express train is being sent out on its inaugural run, one that achieves speeds of 600 km an hour and can circle the entire country in just about ten hours. Of course, since Noboru's family was involved in some way, strings are pulled and his entire class gets to ride the train as well. Mudanashi takes over the train and sets it to run closer to its 1200 km maximum and cause lots of fear that will raise the gauge.

But the real meat of this volume comes in the form of Japan's first space shuttle launch, a launch that will take its crew up to the large space station that's orbiting the planet. There are all sorts of fun and hijinks ensuing here as Mudanashi and his little gang try to sneak into the base so that they can slip into the ship and take it over. It of course times out with Tsukasa's class coming to the expansive base to see the shuttle a few days prior to its launch and learn all about it. There's some heartache involved for poor Tsukasa though as his romantic nature about getting a star fragment for Asuka only gets him ridiculed by Noboru for his lack of scientific knowledge. How Asuka can continue to fall for the toupee wearing bowlhaircut kid is beyond me, but she continues to do so and this is no exception.

While he's dispirited, Tsukasa ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and is lifted into the loading section of the space shuttle just a few paces ahead of Mudanashi and his gang. Before anyone knows what's going on, Mudanashi has launched the shuttle and is blasting his way into space to take over the station. Now this is where the series gets very silly but also surprisingly interesting at the same time. The silly factor comes in that Mudanashi gets the space station to transform into a weird gooey version of Grimlock from the Transformers series, only massively huge and orbiting the planet. This is just a set up for Impact to have something really big to fight and give things an epic feel.

What makes it interesting is in how Mudanashi ends up raising the rage gauge. While people around the world are shocked by the events and feeding the energy, it's what the good old American's do. They launch up a set of missiles to attack him but he's able to catch them. He even goes so far as to throw one back down to the planet (which amusingly makes it through) and it causes a massive explosion on the pacific side of the ocean of Japan. When that happens, the entire world is in shock and filled with emotions, emotions that completely hit the rage gauge and sets a portal opening nearby where the massive huge clawed hands of Makuamuuge starts coming through. And he's got more missiles to go, so you can envision how that works. This is surprisingly, well, dark and mean considering the way the show has played out in general but also a logical step. These last two episodes vary wildly between completely goofy and surprisingly serious, causing an odd balance that really makes you wonder what they're going to do.

In Summary:
Goemon is a kids show that looks like it came from the 80's in so many ways but plays with some designs and concepts that would only be done in the US by "mature" rated animated series. It's definitely a kids show through and through, but with characters like Protein and the girl chasing Monoshiri and the humor that they present, it's not something I'd expect to show up on a Y7 rating by any stretch. The humor doesn't quite work to the same effect as the old Looney Tunes shows, but within its own context here it's a lot of fun and a very enjoyable series. It's got its repetition and things that it falls back on to make the episodes as simple as can be at times, but I found that the English voice actor performances helped elevate an otherwise very average kids series. Those who've found it to be amusing in the same vein I have know what I'm talking about and will get a kick out of these last episodes. Goemon certainly isn't for everyone, but it amused me pretty well and it had my kids laughing.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,English cast interviews and commentaries

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 Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C+
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Legend of the Mystical Ninja