Tokyo Underground Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 01, 2005
What They Say
The fighting escalates as Rumina plans to rescue Ruri. New assassins are unleashed, and Rumina and Chelsea are separated from Ginnosuke and the others, trying to find a way out of the slums. When he stumbles upon an underground tournament, will he participate?
Just as Rumina is close to rescuing Ruri, he's held at bay and basically sent back to start without passing go.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series is fairly action based at a lot of times so there are a fair amount of audio moments where directionality comes into play, such as the movements of the wind and blade fights. The dialogue doesn't get spread too far across the forward soundstage though but comes across well and is clean and clear throughout. In listening to both language tracks, we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Tokyo Underground is one of those series of the past few years that really stands out as being a digitally painted show in that the characters tend to stand out more against the backgrounds and not blend into their settings quite as well, sometimes almost looking like they're really on top of things and not part of things. The transfer captures this feeling from the source material and overall it's a very good looking transfer. The series has a lot of bold vibrant colors and a couple of visual tricks that could play havoc with an encoding but it's well handled here. Gradient and blocking issues within the colors are virtually non-existent, aliasing and cross coloration isn't an issue and the black and white filtered scenes look good without any noticeable break-up. While the show itself may not look the best, the transfer does a great job of representing the source materials.
The core cast of characters gets the front cover this time with a decent red explosion style background to it. The layout for it is nice with Rumina and Chelsea back to back while Ruri and Ginnosuke have cute looks to them just below the others. The back cover is well laid out with a strip of action shots from the show along the left while the right side provides a good summary of the premise and goes into detail listing the episode numbers and titles as well as the discs extras. The basic features and production information are mixed into smaller type below though and gets a bit hard to read in some places but isn't too bad. The insert replicates the front cover artwork while the reverse side lists the episode numbers and titles on this volume and release dates for the remainder of the series.
The menu layout is nicely done and kept in tune with how some of the animation plays out in the show. Using a black and white line filter that appears behind the characters at key moments during the show, it plays havoc with the animation running underneath it in full screen mode here where we get both bits of animation from the show and its opening sequence, all set to some really creepy music when tied to this kind of look. The selections also "warble" in and out along the bottom except for whatever is actually highlighted which is left easy to read in a bold and brighter white. This is a neat looking menu that's designed with an interesting twist to it. The layout is easy to figure out and navigation is problem free. The disc also correctly read our players language presets and played accordingly.
The extras mirror the previous volume as we get an illustration artwork gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I held out as long as I could with this series but now in the fifth volume of things I'm fully aware that it really is just one big action set piece and nothing more. There's a fair bit of character material that goes into the series since it can't rely on just action alone, but any real depth to this series that takes place so far underground just really isn't here and it won't be with only one volume of episodes left.
The battle at the bridge and the surrounding areas has made up a good set of episodes so far and while some of the villains have been cheesy to say the least, it's been fun overall and a good set piece with which to play out the action. But this all comes to a close as Rumina is just about to rescue Ruri but Pairon gets to push him completely over the edge in a literal sense and he's plummeting to his death, if not for Ruri finally using her powers in a very strong manner in order to save him at the last minute. Amusingly, as much as she cushions his impact, he still crashes right through a roof pretty hard. But now he's back at square one essentially as Pairon has Ruri in his clutches once more and he might as well be on the surface for as close as he is now.
Everyone eventually comes back together to try and hash out their next plan of attack since the goal of rescuing Ruri is still very much valid and they've got more help now from the few people who've come alongside them since getting deeper into the Underground. All's not happy though as both Rumina and Chelsea are furious at how things have played out for similar but different reasons. Rumina is upset at himself for failing to save her when he was so close and it just gnaws hard at hime. For Chelsea though her angst is much more interesting since she's dealing with the way that ever since she and Ruri hit the road to escape the Underground, any time there's been trouble since she met Rumina it's Rumina that she turns to and calls out for help from. They're both angry at themselves for not being able to protect her but in different ways.
Once past this, or at least accepting it, the group moves on to a new area in order to try and get inside the area that Ruri is being held only to be met by a pair of brothers who use magnetic powers and yo-yo's in order to fight, which as corny as it sounds leads to some interesting visuals at the least. Like most fights in this series, it just leads to more problems than they're worth and with Pairon finally losing his cool over what's been happening with his warriors going off to face these guys, he sets things so that the entire group gets dropped down into an even lower section of the Underground called the Slums. Introducing a new area this far in and one that's even slummier than the standard grungy areas we've already seen, just doesn't feel right. Even worse, not far into it once the group is separated and dealing with things, they're either getting ready for a tournament or enjoying some hot spring baths…
While the characters are in new locations and the core group has a decent secondary cast working alongside them for a good bit now, the show continues to really just push the entire action aspect and very little else. There are the moments of humor and fooling around, such as the hot spring stuff and the way one of the warriors keeps screwing up, but there just doesn't feel like there's any real meat to the show. It's just thin on things and doesn't even try to aspire to be more than what it is.
Before you even realize it, we're on the fifth volume of six in the series and just four episodes away from it being over. That realization alone makes you look at the series more closely since it becomes much more obvious that there isn't going to be anything really big or interesting in the show as most of what they could do has already been done. The introduction of an even slummier area deeper below ground in this volume just pushes the series a bit further down and has you rolling your eyes as the group gets separated up for a bit and now have to deal with that on top of everything else. As a straightforward action show, Tokyo Underground is decent and the action keeps on coming, but as anything more than that it's a real challenge to find it inside.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Illustration Gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster 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: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Tokyo Underground