Vanilla Series: Slaves to Passion (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, November 27, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, November 30, 2004
What They Say
With character designs by Naomi Hayakawa (LOVE DOLL) and produced by Shiyuuta Biwajima and Chikara Niki (DARK / SLAVE SISTERS / PRIVATE SESSIONS), SLAVES TO PASSION follows the meek Kaoru and the gorgeous Reika as they tread the dangerous line between sexual pleasure and erotic insanity...
Juichiro is a painter who seeks perfection in all things ? his artwork, his household, and most of all, his women. His artistic talent flows forth from an insatiable lust for S&M, bondage, and pleasure mingled with pain. Juichiro's apprentice, Kaoru, envies his master - not just for his artistic skills, but also for the source of their inspiration: Juichiro's beautiful wife Reika, whom Kaoru fantasizes about constantly.
When Juichiro dies unexpectedly, Kaoru suddenly realizes that Reika is now free for the taking, and all of his erotic fantasies become very, very real. Will Reika?s sadistic desires be the key to Kaoru?s artistic renewal...or will he become nothing more than a slave to passion?
What's life going to be like when your artistic muse requires you to dominate and rape before it'll speak to you?
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. While there are some good directional moments throughout the show in the form of whips or other sexual sounds being thrown here and there, the bulk of the show is center channel based with its dialogue. It's not a big talking set of episodes but there are a lot of quiet discussions going on in between the various sex scenes. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2003, the transfer for this two part OVA series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. While the animation quality of the show suffers a bit here and there, the transfer comes across very good here with a very clean look to it. The two episodes are pretty much free from any issues such as color gradation, aliasing, cross coloration or grain. Each episode is presented in its original form with the English translated credits following after each episode. While the show itself may not be the most vibrant out there or the best animated, the transfer helps it look better than it probably should.
Going with a very detailed illustration for the front cover, Reika takes the entire stage here with her traditional kimono falling off to reveal the rope bonds as it's all set against an orange moon in the sky. There's a lot of detail to this piece and it looks really good though some of Reika's design isn't the best. The way the background looks with it, while a touch darker than it should be, adds a lot to the look and feel of it. The back cover takes the rope bondage piece and runs with it as a way of separating out various shots from the show and the premise. The discs features and production information are all clear and easy to read. No insert is included with this release nor is one needed in my opinion.
The main menu takes the rope bondage theme and works it just like the back cover does with a center piece for the Play All while other sections around it have stills from the show and selections to choose from within them. It's a simple static menu with a bit of traditional style music playing from the show but it works well and is in theme with the mood of it. Access times are nice and fast and submenus loaded quickly. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets which is always a nice plus.
While there's the usual things to be found in the extras section from Critical Mass such as the trailer made for this show, we've also got a slideshow of images from this release. There's also an all too brief series of dub outtakes, all done by the voice actress for Karen, which raunch up the show a few notches in an amusing way. I'm still waiting for a hentai series to do a behind the scenes recording session with the actors.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Right from the title and the cover, it's pretty easy to see that this is the latest bondage/domination and rape show from the fine folks behind the Vanilla Series. As is the norm for their releases, they swing back and forth between a number of genres and styles and this one is the one that while they can be done well technically, they'll rarely get me interested in parts of the content just because I don't care for that particular style much.
Slaves to Passion follows a fairly straightforward plot when it comes to hentai series. We're introduced to Ayamoto, a young man who lives with a very talented painter as his apprentice. Ayamoto's quite skilled but he just lacks that certain something that gives his works that amazing feel that his mentors does. Ayamoto is also quite convinced that his master gets a lot of his inspiration from his wife, Reika, a very attractive and reserved raven haired beauty. He's quite certain of this as he's been watching how his master takes his wife into bondage moments, bringing her into moments of pain and pleasure that seem to inspire him to make even more amazing works.
Everything changes though when his master dies of a sudden heart attack and the household gets thrown for a curve. Reika lets Ayamoto stay as long as he likes due to the help he's been over the years. Her sister Karen continues to try to and seduce Ayamoto herself while taking on a wide variety of nasty men and the maid, Kayuki, simply does as she's instructed and keeps the sizeable household running smoothly. The household doesn't last long once the funeral happens and the typically meek Ayamoto realizes that the only way to properly fulfill his masters wishes to become a great painter is to do what he did for inspiration. And so begins his somewhat reckless takeover of the position of Reika's bondage master, bringing her to new heights of pain and pleasure while ensuring she doesn't speak as he's convinced her he can get her convicted as the one who murdered her husband.
From there, it's everyone for them selves in a manner of speaking as they all connive to take the top position in the household and not get taken down for the murder of the former master. Lots of sex, bondage, more murder and the police get involved in trying to figure out what's going on inside this residence. It plays out fairly typically and those who've seen a lot of shows along these lines can already guess much of the plot and probably some of the nuances of it as well. The real draw is the sex itself but even that just doesn't feel too up to snuff. The bondage material is ok, but Reika's design suffers a bit during it since the way she's drawn just doesn't look all that good. Karen in particular isn't attractive at all which makes her scenes all the more fun to get through. Ayamoto makes an amusing change in his facial appearance from being a fairly calm and meek young man to someone you'd think of as pure evil based on the way his lip now curls once he starts playing this game.
Slaves to Passion isn't a bad title but it's one that runs with some already very overdone situations and doesn't bring anything new to it. It looks good sometimes and others you can tell where they did things on the cheap. The character designs are a bit of a mixed bag and the plot fairly obvious almost from the start, but there are a couple of decent sex scenes mixed into the bondage material. For those that enjoy this genre, they may get more out of it than I did but I basically put this in "the been there, seen that done better" category.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Dub Outtakes
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: C-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Critical Mass Video
Running time: 60
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Vanilla Series Collection