Kaze no Yojimbo Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, December 14, 2004
What They Say
George fights back with his keen instinct! Becoming more desperate, Ginzame attempts to take a dramatic step to get what they want. But as mysterious murders threaten everyone in Kimujuku, certain people direct their blame on George. George is the toughest guy around, but will he stand a chance against a threat at gunpoint?
As the promise of a hidden treasure becomes more widely known and less than scrupulous elements head into town, George figures it's time to high-tail it out of there.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a very good stereo mix that features a lot of small moments of directionality with both voices and ambient sound effects that help enhance the mood and pacing of the show. It's not terribly strong and can be difficult to discern a lot of it if there's other noise in the room, but there are some very enjoyable small moments. Dialogue throughout is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions on either track during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for Kaze no Yojimbo is very good looking throughout the bulk of the print. Colors are solid and provide a good mixture of subtle earthy tones and a number of very vibrant areas. Dark colors maintain a very solid feel and avoid coming across as a blue tinted black. One of the areas in previous volumes we had a problem with was with cross coloration showing up in a few designs but more noticeably in the opening title card. This is the second volume we've seen the show with our new player and connections and were very surprised and pleased to see that it eliminated it during regular playback. Now, if you pause during the title card you'll see the rainbows throughout it, but when it plays normally it doesn't even shimmer to give a hint of it.
Paying homage to its roots, the cover here with the original series name combined with the color palette of an almost sepia feel gives an impression of an old movie poster from something quite some time ago. Though George is again the only one in color, it's so minimal that he blends in the black and gray character artwork for the supporting characters that get a shot on the cover this time. The back cover is a bit more traditional looking with a number of screenshots set up as a collage across the middle as well as a few other places. There's a brief summary of the premise that lets everything grow from there and a rundown of the basic features, including listing the episodes by number and title. The insert replicates the front cover artwork and opens to a two-page spread that has individual summaries for each of the episodes with faded out shots from the episodes as well as a shot of George from an illustration piece. The back of the insert has the main rundown of production information including fully credited bilingual cast listings. A limited mini-cel is also included with the first round of releases, which is basically a flimsy pencil board that has an image of George facing down a pistol.
Done in a letterbox mode using some of the animation from where it was done like that in the beginning of the series, the menus here are simple yet feel like they're missing something since the extras section isn't here. With the black and white feel combined with almost upbeat opening song playing along, it just has a weird vibe to it that doesn't quite seem to fit with the show. The menus are technically solid and have good access times. The menu also uses my players preset preferences and highlights which languages are selected as well.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this being the second to last volume of the series, the show decides that it's now a good time to start pulling the various threads together and actually bring about some new and useful information. Though it's taken quite awhile and a bit too long in my opinion now, we're finally getting to see how some of these pieces fit together. But even as it all starts to make sense, the situation is giving George enough second thoughts to consider skipping town and just letting it all play out without him.
Though they were originally looking like they were going to come out on top, Tanokura and his side of the story is starting to suffer under a new wave of attacks and violence from the Ginzame group. Making their way throughout the town and attacking anyone suspected of being associated with Tanokura, the town is turning into a small battlefield. Tanokura's keeping to his mansion and his daughter's questioning of him and the talk of the hidden treasure are rebuffed. He's keeping his council and letting his men handle the problems outside. But even as it escalates, Ginzame's guys end up intimidating the sole police officer in town by taking over his police box and ensuring that he won't try anything heroic, particularly since his pension is at risk and he'd like to actually retire someday soon.
Thankfully he proves to not be a complete coward though and makes his way to headquarters. His trip there is pretty enlightening in a couple of ways since it shows why they haven't acted yet and what's held them back from doing so. The mention of George still being in town raises some hackles there as well since there's something about him that just grates on some of these officers. With the town supposedly being quiet until he showed up there, it seems easy enough to place blame but there's most definitely more going on than that. With plans set in motion to quell the new gang war that's taken over Kimujuku, the police get ready to head back down there and put a stop to all of this once and for all.
The actual attacks end up serving as a catalyst for the next round of changes as nothing goes as it should. And though it's taken twenty episodes, the truth starts to come filtering out as George explains in full about what he knows of the train heist from all those years ago as do others who have both first hand and second hand knowledge of it. They're able to piece together the story fairly well and their motivations get clearer as new pieces are added but with it having taken as long as it has to reveal so much, it seems to come without much of an oomph to it. This is given an greater feel when you have George talking about just giving it all up at this point and heading back to whatever life he was leading before he came here and letting his brother's past be just that. It's an understandable reaction but it takes some of the wind out of the sails here, which is dangerous since there isn't a lot of wind to begin with.
Though it's made sense that the series has taken as long as it has to tell its tale, and even though you could cut plenty of it to get it all to happen faster, it's following the rules of shows and movies of this genre pretty faithfully. With this set of episodes we get a lot of the revelations about why things happened as they did, but not all of it. We get a better idea of just what it is George is looking for and his connection to everything and how he got manipulated into it as a youth but his attitude as things hit a dangerous point end up causing the show to sort of pull up short as his decision, which is obvious, will set the tone for the last few episodes.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
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: N/A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kaze No Yojimbo