Shura no Toki Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, April 10, 2005
Release Date: Friday, April 22, 2005
What They Say
Both Tsubura and Takato are rumored to be descendants of the Mutsu Clan. Along with Sasuke and Iori, they're preparing to compete in the Shogun's Tournament. Will there be a showdown between the man with one eye and the man who fights with one eye closed?
While those in power make their ploys and plans, it all comes down to fist against sword as the tournament is about to begin.
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. Takato's pose is a bit awkward with his leg so high but it's in character for him and given the speed lines and murky background to the illustration, it doesn't stand out all that much. 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 only gets 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)
Over the first two volumes of this series it really surprised me as one of those rough gems that nobody seems to have heard of but ends up being something really engaging and fun to watch. What's more, they took the unusual approach in the second volume of moving ahead twenty-odd years and retiring the main lead character and introducing his look-a-like son Takato to take over the Mutsu family line of finding the ultimate challenge and honing of ones skills. It's rarely done but it allows the characters to engage in actions with more historical figures.
With events leading up to the tournament, we get to see some of the machinations that the various political people are trying to work so as to increase their value and position with the shogun. The Yagyu clan always seems to have a good number of supporters and detractors that are actively working their agendas so it's little surprise to see that kept here as Jubei is slated to fight in the tournament that forces are working to ensure both his victory and defeat and that his participation, consensual or not, is actively affecting those much higher in power. The Yagyu clan is always interesting when it shows up in series since there are so many interpretations and liberalizations taken with it but there are usually some core pieces that are the same across the board.
Takato's entrance into the tournament is something that's causing a bit of trouble but the shogun himself has stepped in to make sure that things go as he wants for his first tournament. Since Takato is listed with no family name and no background of skills that he's expected to show, the decision is made to bring in someone who wasn't able to attend the tournament as someone from their clan was already attending and have him give Takato a trial that they can observe. This leads to a rather engaging spear fight against the unarmed Takato and gets the juices flowing in watching how he performs and simply moves. It also shifts forward the overall arc here as it all leads quickly into Tsubura being able to get into the fight and to set her and Sasuke's plan into motion to kill the shogun.
Though it's fairly a given that it won't work, it does lead into Takato being used as a protector of Tsubura again as she's pretty much lost in her tears when the plan fails. Takato's intent of being able to maneuver things so they can at least walk out of their alive stumbles when Jubei himself steps forward and demands to fight. While I don't think this fight was as powerful and edge of the seat in nature as the Musashi fight was, it is still quite engaging and being able to see the slight differences in how Takato and Yakumo fight is worthwhile. The shift of both men from revealing their secrets with the one-eye and simply living for the challenge of a real fight provides for some really good entertainment here and a fight sequence that really doesn't cut corners and uses the shows style to its advantage.
Shura no Toki has really surprised me at how much fun it is and it's the kind of show whose energy can really get you just from the opening sequence. As soon as the guitar kicks in with that and it just barrels forward, I must get a silly grin on my face because the opening just pumps me up for the show. While in the show itself it's easy to see the shortcuts they take with the animation during the regular scenes, it's interesting to see how they adopt that into part of the shows style so it doesn't stand out too strongly. They also make sure they put the money into animating the big fight sequences and I have to say that they don't disappoint there as they are definitely very well animated and quite fluid in motion.
Shura no Toki provides some good action tales from an era that's not touched upon all that much. This installment brings us forward in another arc and almost seems to close it up nicely and sets the stage for the next thing to come. While I'd love to see the fights last longer I'm glad they don't cross over multiple episodes or spend a tremendous amount of time with pans and stills to get across the characters feelings. It knows when to play things quiet but it also knows that it has a number of payoff moments along the way and they keep hitting them right on the head. If you liked what you've seen before, you get more of it here and some plot advancement at the same time. Good stuff and probably pretty underrated at the moment and deserving of more attention.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,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: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Shura no Toki