Peacemaker Vol. #2 (of 7) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, December 07, 2004

What They Say
To kill or not to kill? That is the burning question for vengeful young Tetsunosuke Ichimura. Could he actually bring himself to take a life? On top of that, although he's been accepted into the tight-knit ranks of the Shinsengumi swordsmen (sort of), they still won't let him carry a sword. Things start to get ugly when a band of rebel ninjas shows up in Kyoto to kick some Shinsengumi butt! Is Tetsu any closer to finding the elusive strength he longs for? What's the real story behind those peculiar young girls he befriends? And will he ever take a sword in hand?

The Review!
Tetsu continues to grapple with the hard choices he needs to make in order to accomplish his goals and we get to see the lighter side of the Shinsengumi. It's almost like a Sears commercial: Come See the Lighter Side...

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The Japanese side of the show contains a straightforward and solid sounding stereo mix. The series has a good sense of directionality across the forward soundstage with lots of wind style sounds being used for the swordplay moments as well as things such as leaves moving around during the stylish moments. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and there's some good placement to it. The English track has a 5.1 mix to it which comes across a bit louder and sharper but is essentially the same as the stereo mix from what we heard.

Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this show is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With the show taking place in older times, there's the standard color palette used for it and the colors in general are fairly muted and earthy. There aren't a lot of really vibrant moments and even things like the bloody scenes are done with dark reds and not bright shades. Some of the night time backgrounds, which use a bit of a softer set of blues to it, showed a bit of blocking in a couple of scenes but not too much that was distracting. The main problem that comes across with the transfer is inherent in the source with the amount of color gradation that's visible. It's not in every scene but there are a number of sequences where it shows strongly, particularly with the darkly colored kimono's. Colors in general look really good and cross coloration is blissfully absent as well as being very minimal in regards to aliasing.

Using the same artwork and even the same logo as the Japanese release, the cover features a very strong shot of Yoshida that's only accentuated by the pure white background in giving his icy stare an even colder feel. This is a really good looking piece where less is definitely better as a different background would have changed this completely. While I would have preferred the entire series named being used, I'm glad that they kept the logo the same and just went with the Peacemaker name to make it easier. The back cover continues to the white feel but is a bit darker and has a bloodied strip collage of shots from the show along the top. There are a couple paragraphs of a decent summary next to the list of the discs extras. The rest is filled out by the thick section of production credits and the very lovely technical grid that holds all the important information. The cover is also reversible with that side providing the Japanese cover art that has Saya on it with her pink kimono looking even more striking than it does in the show. This artwork is also the front of the included booklet. The booklet folds out into several pages and has quite a bit of information, from text interviews with the staff, two side stories and a few full color character design sketches.

The menu layout is nicely done for the most part and definitely sets it up right for the show. Using the same kind of look as the box artwork with the mix of off-whites and blood trails, the foreground gets set with the sword from the first volume cover and adds in some falling cherry blossoms while underneath the splotches you get some very obscured bits of animation playing through. The only downside to the menu is that it feels like the clip of music used is so short and abrupt when it ends that it's going faster than it should. It's not a menu you can leave on for any length of time without getting frustrated by it. The menus are very easy to navigate and easy to access with quick load times. I still wish there was a way to return directly to the main menu from the trailers though. The disc also correctly read our players language presets properly which is always a big plus.

There's a good selection of extras here that should please both sides of the fence. The opening and ending sequence are presented again in their clean format and a new array of production sketches are available. The original spots used to advertise the release on DVD in Japan are available here as well. A new piece is here called the Character Collection and the first one is for Tetsu. It's a video piece that runs just under two minutes or so and sort of gives you a quick feel for the character. It's in Japanese only but it is subtitled. For English voice actor fans, a commentary track is provided for episode seven with Luci Christian, Kira Vincent-Davis and Julie Knapp handling the duties here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When it comes to Gonzo shows, a lot of what they put out is typically material we end up enjoying with only a few exceptions. With Peacemaker, the first volume wasn't something that we outright didn't like but it was done with some elements that made it difficult to like in whole. When you get a series where you want to strangle the lead character, you may have some problems getting into the whole thing. Tetsu managed to give me that vibe not too long into the first episode there.

Settling into the second volume, Tetsu's character settles down a bit more but still maintains a lot of what I guess people consider his charm. A bit more meat is given to his character and there's some small growth made during the course of this volume but he's still not quite grown on me. For Tetsu, a lot of his problems early on here is that he's still very frustrated about his role as a page and the way he keeps having to do things such as the cleaning and small errands. Much of what's come before is still haunting him though, from the death of his father to the fight he had with Soji that put him in his place. It doesn't get easier for him as he starts to meet more of the wandering members of the Shinsengumi either, such as the other Vice Commander, a gentle bespectacled man named Keisuke Yamanami.

Affectionately called Sannan, he's the supposed polar opposite of Hijikita and is the angel of the group compared to the devil. He's got a really mild manner about him and his amusing quirk is that he's always carrying an abacus or something similar around with him. As he puts it, thinking about numbers allows him to keep his boiling rage in control during certain times so playing with numbers keeps him mellow in general. When he first meets Tetsu he goes on about how cute he is and agrees with the puppy phrasing that's being used and then goes so far as to guess his age to be ten or eleven. When Tetsu utters that he's fifteen and then proceeds to try and beat the snot out of him, those around him are flailing in fear but Sannan has a good sense of humor about his mistake. Tatsu on the other hand continues to be the master of the art of apologizing.

Though there isn't a lot of action going on here since they're working on getting you familiar with the Shinsengumi and the new angle of them being on the side of good, there is some movement with the larger plot that you can see with the other group, led by Yoshida, that is set to deal with righting the path of the country and getting rid of all the foreigners. There isn't a huge movement here but they're brought into nearly every episode to be slowly expanded upon in different ways. Getting familiar with them is nicely paralleled with Tetsu explaining to Saya about his past and why his parents were killed. The political situation in the country is serving well as the backdrop to the storyline here and providing some good motivational areas for some of the characters to work with.

But in general, they seem to just be having fun playing in two particular areas. One of them is the continual events that get you more familiar with the Shinsengumi, such as the episode where Kondo throws some strange form of a festival while Hijikata's away. There are some fun moments throughout here where you really get that sense of camaraderie from some of the characters and just how much on the outside Tetsu is. And just how much on the outside Tetsu almost wants to be at times due to it. The other area that gets played with a lot is the choice that Tetsu has to make. He wants his revenge, he wants his parent's killers to pay, but he doesn't think he can bring himself to actually do that without losing himself. Though he got into the Shinsengumi with his force of will and his pleading to Soji to teach him how to be a demon, the realization of what it means is weighing more heavily on him and it comes across throughout all these episodes here as he's forced to really confront it. These are the quiet moments with him that allow him to be an interesting character as opposed to his frantic and frenetic outward moments.

In Summary:
Though not quite as wild and all over the map as the first volume felt, this one has only made a few small gains in getting me to like the lead character more. The overall setting and the slow paced nature of the show continues to be a nice change when it comes to shows from this era and we're given plenty of time to get to know the cast as they given more time to wander into the show. Though there is a driving arc to the storyline, it's not doing the actual pushing yet and we're soft of just wafting along the breeze and getting to know various parts of this period and these people. If Tetsu was a bit more interesting an less over the top, we'd probably be a good deal more interested in it.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation,Production sketches, Character Collection 1, Voice actor commentary, Original Japanese DVD spots

Review Equipment
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: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Peacemaker