Shura no Toki Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, March 18, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2005
What They Say
Yakumo Mutsu's relationship with Musashi Miyamoto is getting strained and emotions are running high. It's only a matter of time before these two icons of the martial arts meet in a spectacular brawl!
Fast forward to the next generation of the Mutsu family. The Shogun is in power and the Yagyu family are the ones that teach the Shogun how to fight. Jubei Yagyu, the youngest son of the family is destined to meet Takato Mutsu, and just what will this great swordsmen think of the Mutsu Enmei Style?
With few series focusing on this kind of material, Shura no Toki not only handles itself well but it excels and surprises several times along the way.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is nicely done for it with some noticeable directionality across the forward soundstage in some of the fight scenes, particularly where you can hear the kicks moving across it. Though there is some directionality here it isn't the bulk of the show and it goes by pretty fast but the dialogue and ambient effects come across well and the musical pieces are solid. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Being a very new show, the transfer is clean and pretty free of problems. The usual minor issues such as some cross coloration or aliasing aren't noticeable at all and the authoring is void of any noteworthy moments of blocking. Colors look good and are solid throughout while not being overly vibrant or problematic with gradient issues.
Using the same artwork as the Japanese cover but with a bit of modification to make it a bit darker looking, this cover has a good rough look to it that stands out well without looking comical. The dark blue/green from the waves in the background help push the other natural colors and the general pose of Yakumo really becomes easy to center on. The back cover continues the dark look and provides a number of shots from the show surrounding the shows premise summary. The discs features are clearly listed and the usual production information takes up some decent space. The technical information grid provides all the very useful information that makes a purchase even easier with its clear listings. The insert uses some of the artwork from the front cover and provides the chapter listings for all of the episodes while the reverse side is just boxart advertisements for other shows.
The menu uses the same artwork from the cover with the series logo taking up most of the screen while a small split along the left side allows for the actual selections. With not many extras expected for this series based off of the Japanese release, the extras are listed along the top level of the menu and quickly available. As is normal with most Media Blasters releases, language selection is accurate via presets but the menus don't indicate which language is chosen when you view it.
Following up from what was on the first volume, this installment gets a clean ending sequence and another art gallery. Also added here is a series of dub outtakes which are some flubs and some intentional gags thrown in to have a bit of fun.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In watching Shura no Toki, it's hard not to come up with comparison to Rurouni Kenshin throughout it since it hits upon many of the same kinds of themes, just in a different setting. In a way, both Kenshin and Yakumo are the same but there are still the vast differences. Whereas Kenshin has put his swords to use in defending the peace of the people, Yakumo continues his search for the right person who can provide him with the challenge he needs to help sharpen his skills even more. Both still will fight for right and there are personality similarities but each does have different end goals.
This set of episodes picks up quickly where things left off with Shiroi leaving after feeling she'd lost any chance with Yakumo at all. Of course, she ends up in the hands of those wanting to challenge Yakumo so she plays right into things as a hostage to ensure that he does show up to the challenge the next day. While Yakumo and the others deal with this, the princess puts her own plans into motion to ensure her marriage to Yakumo while also making sure he takes over as the Sword Instructor there. And the Kuki Clan itself is making its own preparations to ensure their victory tomorrow as the sneaky brother utilizes his beliefs about what the art of war is really about and lays his traps.
Yakumo's arrival and the ensuing fight is quite engaging and fun to watch, seeing how he manages to deal with a group of skilled men armed with swords as well as muskets while just using his own hands is a good change of pace from the basic sword against sword material. But what really makes this entire thing worthwhile is the arrival of Miyamoto who has come at last to face Yakumo. The show shifts into providing more than half an episode dedicated to the fight and it's a great fight sequence. While the animation dips a bit as it does throughout the show, this fight just has a lot of oomph and power to it, so much that I had to crank the sound up considerably to really feel it, and it just was one of the best fight sequences I've seen in awhile.
The series also decides that it really wants to bring in more of the most powerful fighters of a nearby time period, so it shifts the storyline ahead twenty years by taking the focus off of Yakumo for a bit and placing it on Iori, Miyamoto's young pupil. With Miyamoto retiring from the swords and focusing on his painting, things have moved along to a point where Iori is considered his near equal now and is ready to be set loose on the world. The time is appropriate as the Shogun, who has gained much power in recent years, has decided upon a new tournament where even his own sword schools must participate. This goes against heavy tradition but the Shogun is intent on eliminating one of the schools and is doing it through this backhanded method.
The series really takes on a different feel than the first seven episodes did as it now goes with some we know that are older and definitely different while also bringing in all sorts of new characters for the tournament. There's a generational issue that comes in as we wonder who is related to someone from before but I actually enjoy things like that and this series doesn't overdo it. With its focus now moving to the problem of the two schools with the Yagyu and Izu it also brings a very familiar group of people to the table in yet another interpretation.
Shura no Toki is managing to fill the niche void that a series like Kenshin and even Samurai Deeper Kyo left when they ended. A fairly straightforward period action show that's got a bit of testosterone to it but with just enough material and emotion to it to hook in the women viewers as well. The series makes some dramatic changes in this volume and I like that it's not just playing in one particular area and repeating itself but moving around both in location and in time. Shura no Toki's not a top tier title but it's one that's doing a good job of providing an entertaining viewing experience and filling a niche that it seems like nobody else is.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Closing,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: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
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: Shura no Toki