Shrine of the Morning Mist Vol. #1 (of 3) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, December 14, 2004
What They Say
Yuzu Hieda was just an average High School student and part time Shinto priestess. But then she was given a mission in the form of her classmate, Tadahiro Amatsu. Tadahiro has a secret buried behind his left eye, a secret that has attracted the attention of an evil sorcerer and his army of demons! To fight the evil, Yuzu assembles a team of five powerful priestesses and prepares to master the magic arts.
While his body seems to attract all sorts of evil spirits, Tadahiro makes out for the better by having a number of beautiful women who help to fend them off.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The show sports a fairly standard stereo mix for a TV broadcast which means we do get some decent moments of directionality and some depth as well but nothing that really stands out too strongly. The music makes out rather well here and sounds quite warm and full. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This show tends to go into a couple of different styles depending on what it's trying to get across and just about all of them look really good here. Some of the scenes with the soft backgrounds and the mist look really beautiful and avoid pixellation or blocking going on while some of the more vibrant action sequences are just great to look at with solid colors and no gradient issues with the digital painting. A touch of aliasing shows up in a few scenes but is otherwise negligible as is cross coloration.
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but adding in a more stylized border around it and a really great looking English language logo along with keeping the Japanese logo, this cover just looks great with its light illustration look and the soft colors used in it. The back cover is cleverly designed to show a number of shots from the show itself and provides a brief but good summary of the premise along with some of the basics of the production. The technical information is filled out in the always useful grid along the bottom. Like a lot of other recent releases from Media Blasters, there is no insert included in this release and we continue to look at this as a good thing since most inserts just rehash the cover information anyways.
The main menu is a good looking but simple static piece that has the headshot of Yuzu from the front cover that's more a pencil sketch than full artwork with a bit of a blue filter applied to it, which looks really good against the indistinct back drop and the logo next to her. Selections rae lined along the bottom and are quick and easy to navigate and access. The music from the show plays in a lengthy loop unlike the usual 30 second piece. With little to the disc other than the show itself, the menu does the job well though the disc didn't read our players' language presets properly and defaulted to English with no subtitles.
The only extras included in this release are a clean version of the opening and ending sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shrine of the Morning Mist, also known as Asagiri no Miko, originally aired on TV Tokyo as the second half of Nekketsu Denpa Club, which means what we have here are half-length episodes. Running about twelve minutes each with opening and ending sequences fully intact, the series takes place in the modern day but with a bit of tradition and history attached to it while adding in plenty of demon hunting fun and a touch of romance.
Until the end of the first episode, I hadn't realized that this was a half-length show and it was pretty surprising when you expect an eye-catch and then see the end credits roll. The show makes decent use of the format and the pacing is certainly much better than a lot of shows that were trying out this format a few years ago, but there's still something slightly off about how it plays out and roughly half of the episodes feel like they're either a bit rushed or they don't end in what you'd consider an appropriate place. But this can be fixed fairly well with a quick finger on the skip chapter button and you're back into the show pretty quickly.
Taking place in the present day, we're introduced to three women who work at the shrine. The elder, Kuzako, is the one that appears to be the full fledged priestess. She's aided by her two sisters as part-timers, the middle daughter Yuzu and the youngest named Tama. All of them are excited on one level or another about the imminent arrival of Tadahiro, a "cousin" of the family who has returned to the town so that he can attend high school there. As we see through flashbacks, there's a time when Hiro and Yuzu were together four years prior looking at the mists over the mountains and making promises about Hiro protecting her and other meaningful gazes and quite moments.
Hiro's actual arrival in the town doesn't go all that well as at the train station he's confronted by a sinister looking man in what almost look like a hobo's outfit but with a mask that disguises who he is. While Kurako and Tama deal with him from a distance, Hiro is threatened by the man's sword and warns the priestess' to keep their distance as both of them need him and his powers which means they need him alive. Everything goes out the window though when Yuzu arrives on her bicycle and smacks her wheel headfirst into the villain, sending him spiraling out of the scene. Yuzu fights off the embarrassment of doing that and ends up dealing with a spate of demons that are summoned to allow the villain victory but in the end, we get what we expected, a tender moment of Yuzu meeting Hiro again and learning that yes, the lead male is indeed clueless.
To complicate things, Hiro ends up living with the three sisters and their father and attends the same school. For reasons unexplained early on, Hiro is the source of attraction for a number of demonic type creatures and this is seen through the masked villains' attempts over the course of the first ten episodes in trying to capture him. You know there's something off about Hiro since one eye is different than the other though and just his attitude about everything shows that he's gotten used to being chased after over the years because of it. But now that he's in school near people who are good at taking care of the threats and they're watching over them he's a bit more relaxed but he's still clueless about some things, particularly Yuzu's interest in him.
While this could go in a few standard directions that you could write out easily enough, they do things a bit differently here. As Kurako apparently is also a teacher at the school, she decides to come up with a Priestess' Club for those who are interested and assigns Yuzu to it while seeking candidates from other classes. Nobody applies which leaves things just to Yuzu at first and she does her best to try and protect Hiro when the strange things start showing up to attack him. Eventually though, a couple of her friends named Seiko and Chika end up joining with Yuzu in the club and they're given their own items that should be used in fighting off the spirits. Eventually another classmate named Izumi joins in the fun as well, but as with the other two, they're unsure how to actually protect Hiro since their items don't really do anything.
Part of the fun of the show is watching how the trio that help Yuzu start learning what their true capabilities are as Kurako teaches them that they're not powerful themselves but their abilities to act as conduits from the other side allows them to wield powers that can help Yuzu. Their gradual learning is put to the test fairly frequently and the girls reactions to learning what kinds of powers they can channel as well as different ways of doing so proves to be a lot of fun. There aren't too many shows that go in this kind of direction, especially for something dealing with priestesses like this, so it's a pleasant change of pace and all of the girls are interesting to watch. But as seems to be standard, the leads themselves haven't really provided too much of a character hook and seem fairly bland.
While the animation is terribly fluid throughout each of the episodes, there's a really attractive look to a lot of it based on the styles used at the various times. I really liked the backgrounds that went with the haunting look of the mists over the mountains and the way they almost seem like they were sponge-painted at times. The comedy moments are well done too, such as the really fast moving section when Yuzu's bike goes wildly off course and she gets all squiggly circled in the eyes and the grass races by. The action moments tend to get the better parts of the animation but the series manages to avoid looking like a series of stills being moved around with internal monologues going on. With so many of the girls being active there's generally something interesting going on and the animation here captures it well.
While Shrine of the Morning Mist hasn't captured me fully, mostly due to some awkward pacing of the half-length episodes, there is enough material done in here that's intriguing and has me curious to see more to see how it's going to play out. Essentially being a thirteen episode series because of the length, it's hard to gauge what will work and what won't work as the focus at the moment is more on the secondary characters and battling some of the demons but the next set of episodes should reveal a lot more of the background and motivations of what's going on. The show has a really good look to it and a sense of style in a number of areas that's very attractive and is combined with some snappy writing and a couple of clever ideas that could be well fleshed out as it progresses. It's interesting and we're cautiously optimistic about it.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitlies,Clean Opening,Clean Closing
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 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: 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
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Shrine of the Morning Mist