Eight Clouds Rising (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, August 16, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, August 17, 2004



What They Say
Two young men are bound by a sword that can cleave souls. Fuzuchi Kuraki is a quiet young high school student blessed with immense psychic powers and an ancient sword. He is searching for other magical artifacts with the help of Nanachi Takeo, a college student with latent powers of his own. They delve deep into the dark magic of Izumo, only to discover the secrets buried within the birthplace of all Japanese mythology!

The Review!
Tradition, succession and purity combine the past and present in a show that feels much more like a compressed prologue than anything else.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series features a fairly basic stereo mix that's mostly balanced out through the center channel. Dialogue is clean and clear on both language tracks and we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback. There are some decent action moments throughout the two episodes, particularly when the rain hits and uses the entire soundstage, but overall there aren't any moments that are really outstanding.

Video:
Originally released to video in 1997, the two OVAs for this show look good and are pretty much the standard quality you'd get from most mid range OVA releases from this time. Coming in before the big switch to the digital era, the artwork looks really good and the overall look and feel is basically at a really good level so that it stands up well against more recent material. The shows colors remain very solid and is free of both blocking and cross coloration. There is some minor aliasing here and there throughout the show but nothing out of the ordinary. While the show won't stand out against a lot of things out there today, it's a solid looking piece.

Packaging:
Showcasing the two lead characters in their previous life versions, the mixture of traditional garb and the minimalist backgrounds look really appealing here with the kind of colors used. It's a fairly simple cover really but it has some fine detail to it and is overall visually appealing. The back cover mixes in various character artwork from the show itself and several shots with a very brief summary paragraph of the shows premise. The usual array of production information and the useful technical grid fill out the bottom half of it. The insert uses the same artwork as the back cover and provides the chapter listings for the two episodes on one side while showing boxart for other shows on the reverse side.

Menu:
Using the same artwork as the front cover but expanded a bit, the well detailed artwork looks good here for the static menu that has some of the instrumental music playing along to it. With nothing on the disc but the show and some trailers, it's pretty minimal and easy to navigate. Access times are fast and submenus quick to load. The disc correctly read our players preset for language and subtitles as well.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Eight Clouds Rising, originally serialized as Yakumo Tatsu in Hana to Yume, kicked off back in 1992 and is apparently still running. Created by Itsuki Natsumi, the OVA series has the feel of something of a gift made for fans of the manga but also as something of a prologue. The story within here is almost fairly well self-contained but sets it up so that you believe that the real story is just about to begin with how they launch it. So in its own way, you do get an interesting if a bit brief and rushed tale that is complete but also sets the stage for more. Like a lot of OVAs, there is always the hope that a series will be done based on it or followed-up from it, but with this having come out in 1997 that possibility seems to be pretty much dead at this point.

The story alternately focuses between a college student named Nanachi and the song of a temple master named Kuraki. Nanachi finds himself, along with three friends, coming to the out of the way temple area where Kuraki lives. Nanachi's family has had a sword in his families possession for a number of years and he's learned that there is a chance of getting it purified at the special grounds that they're going to. The grounds are a place where Nanachi's friend who is putting on a play is going to use for inspiration and background, so he's come along with his girlfriend and a fellow mutual friend from college. It's a mixture of a small road trip and a chance for friends to get back together once more.

It turns out to be much more when they arrive and Nanachi finds himself feeling some kind of connection to Kuraki. Kuraki's life has been spoken for though and there is the weight of history on him as he's apparently been designated as the savior of their clan who will be able to purge the valley of the evil that the long dead Susanoo has laid upon it. Kuraki's ascent to become the new shaman of the village is plagued with a trial he was unaware of though and it's something that's more challenging for him than he ever thought it could be. With his strong psychic abilities and the power to conjure up the evil nen spirits, he fancied himself something of an evil shaman and figured he could do whatever was necessary. The secret ceremony, watched in the darkness by Nanachi, sets the stage for what Kuraki is to really become and the intertwined pasts of both men and the traditions of each family become something that alternately binds them together and sets them on opposite sides of a battle that has been swinging back and forth for almost seventeen hundred years.

Within the two episodes, we do get to know the lead characters fairly well and there is much time given over to the traditions and rituals of the clan that Kuraki is a part of. The weight of history becomes very apparent as it progresses on and what family really means. This is even more important to Kuraki due to his own relationship with the family. Mixing in the psychic abilities Kuraki has and the powers of the sword that Nanachi has provides for some interesting fight sequences as the nen begin to gain more power over the valley. The episodes do take some odd turns when we go through the flashback sequences and see the two leads in their prior forms since it's not too clear at times exactly what's going on, but as it all moves forward it becomes clearer and clearer.

The show has some really nice character designs and manages to include some amusing gender bending for a few minutes just to mess with some of the other characters. The designs and feel of the way they interact is very warm towards each other, which will undeniably give the show a shounen-ai feel to it, but that's not really here in any tangible form but more of just something that it exudes to some viewers like myself. It's surprisingly violent at times as well, bringing in a lot of blood and death that's almost casual on a few occasions. There is a great feeling of drama to the show, especially once Kuraki meets the challenge.

I generally try to avoid referencing other shows when doing a review, but a lot of what this feels like is one of the side stories or separate layers that makes up CLAMP's "X" universe. With the way this ends, it'd be easy to see the characters from here show up in that show when all is said and done instead of going on for however many volumes in another direction. The characters look and feel like they belong there and there are plenty of other little similarities at times as well.

In Summary:
Eight Clouds Rising is a moody and atmospheric little two part prologue tale based on something much larger. The feeling that much is missing is there as this is a more compressed version of what probably made up several volumes of the manga. It's an interesting tale that when all is said and done you look at and wish that it would either be properly expanded or it piqued your curiosity enough to seek out the actual manga series itself. By itself, it's a cheap way to pass an hour but not something that you'll go back and repeatedly watch.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, 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: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 19.95
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Eight Clouds Rising