Kyo Kara Maoh! Vol. #4 (also w/book) (of 9) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, October 21, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 01, 2005
What They Say
Exhausted from his training to become the next King, Yuri is looking for any distraction he can find. Celi, meanwhile, unexpectedly announces that she is getting married. Later, Yuri devises a plan to stop Wolfram from trespassing into the King's room... sounds easy enough, but it requires some monster slaying! As if Yuri hasn't taken on enough adventures, he organizes a group and leads them through treacherous terrain to see a dragon up close and personal.
Stepping back from character exploration and just having a bit more fun with the world before the next arc starts, this volume covers a lot of different areas.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The show has a fairly standard TV action mix which provides some decent directionality during action scenes and occasionally with some of the dialogue. There's a fair amount of action so we do get to have both speakers work out nicely and the dialogue has a number of good distinct moments. 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 aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for this show is essentially problem free and looks great both at standard display level and upconverted to 1080i. The digital nature of the show comes across really well here with vivid and solid colors that are free of gradient problems, backdrops that are free of blocking and no visible cross coloration. This is simply a very smooth looking piece that's pleasing on the eyes through and through.
While the Japanese retail releases went for a single character on the cover, this cover goes with a fun shot of Gunter getting too close to Yuri while Conrad looks on from behind. The designs look good on this release with the lighter color background compared to the last cover that felt too murky. The back cover is done in a similar style but with a different border that holds the basic summary and numerous pieces of artwork and shots from the show. The discs episode numbers and titles are clearly listed next to the discs features and extras while the bottom is filled out with the production credits and the spread out technical information. The insert for the release replicates the front cover artwork with a few less logos while the reverse side lists the episodes and future volume release dates along with a few shots from the show, which means this is a fairly useless insert. With the keepcase being clear, the cover is full color on both sides and the reverse side is just a dusty red background with a shield and crest underneath where the disc itself resides.
The menu layout for this series is nicely done with a central image that goes towards a fantasy/kingdom theme with the symbols of the demon kingdom set in the center against a purple backdrop while each of the four corners of the symbols lead to different menu selections, all set to a brief bit of instrumental music. It's a nicely designed menu that fits into the theme of the show and provides for quick and easy navigation that's free of transitional animations. The only downside to the menus is that it doesn't play our presets properly since they put the sign/song subtitle track as the first English track instead of the second one.
The only extras included in this volume are a new promo trailer that was used to push the show and a new round of character artwork in a gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With this installment of episodes, Kyo Kara Maoh! now reaches its halfway mark and the show finishes out a new round of standalone type episodes and kicks in with a new multi-part arc that looks to be rather fun and expansive on the world at large. Even though these episodes don't have any major impact on the series in general until the new storyline starts in at the end, the show continues to be fun to watch just in how all of these characters interact with each other.
The first pair of episodes are a bit light and almost forgettable if not for a few parts in particular. The stories move between a piece where Yuri sets out to avoid learning more about the history and studies for the Demon Kingdom that Gunter is putting him through to find a thief whose stole a devil stone that has some slick magical powers. Yuri wants to know more about the country but he's typically more interested in the field trips aspect of it rather than the classroom portion. He does manage to get out though when they all find out that Lady Celi is looking to get married again and it takes them to where Raven is and the uncle that had been vying for power before. This episode is fun for how it shows some of the strange relations within the family and the politics, as well some of the past histories, but I thought it was simply more fun just because they brought Keiji and the sand panda back into it and he got to cause a lot of chaos.
Things like the sand panda's have been amusing since they're taking normal things in Yuri's world and really rearranging them in strange ways for this world. This comes up again in the third episode on here that starts of by having Yuri wanting to find a room for Wolfram to have. There are so many soldiers that have been at the castle lately that Wolfram gave up his place and shacks up with Yuri now and Yuri simply wants some free time. Learning that the guest house is empty but nobody is using it because of there being monsters there, Yuri and Wolfram head off to deal with it so that he can shove Wolfram in there afterwards. The downside is that they don't tell anyone so everyone else is going nuts trying to find them. The monsters turn out to be something far different than expected and for vastly different reasons than imagined but it all just screams insanely cute and extremely merchandisable. But anytime you do mix-ups with creatures like they did with the sand panda's, you're going to do it in an adorable way.
The new storyline of a multi-part adventure starts at the end of the volume and it looks to be really interesting. Yuri's realization of how things here really are fantasy-like inspires him to ask if there really are dragons and he's happy to learn that they do exist and that they are a protected species that lives in a particular valley in the Demon Kingdom. Taking this as an educational experience, he sets off to see them with Wolfram, Gunter and Conrard in tow. Paralleling this story, we go back several years to see a young boy listening to his father talking of his tales of defeating dragons and being a hero, particularly since he's carrying a Holy sword. The stories inspire his son but he's saddened to know that dragon's won't be an issue when he's older. But through the logic of children, he changes his focus to defeating the more powerful Demon King instead when he comes of age.
Is it surprising that the two end up meeting up in the Valley of the Dragons? Not really, but it is fun to watch as Yuri's good cheerful nature makes for a fun encounter. Prior to that though, we get to see the group dealing with finding and observing the dragon's as well as preparing for the trip. The trip preparations are priceless as the Demon sword comes into play and does its whining and complaining. The dragon hunt is fun as well, such as when they find one and it swoops down to stand in front of Yuri to protect its young and look menacing. When it gobbles up Yuri for food for its young, Gunter's expression is positively hilarious. This episode is mostly setup and introduces a number of characters and secondary agendas that will come into play and it's fun to have Gunter along for the ride as well.
The series really found its groove early on and has been maintaining it well ever since. I'd like to see more of Yuri back in his home world setting though as the last time we got to see how his time spent as the Demon King has changed how he handles the normal daily life drudgery. Getting to see more of this world and the Realm has been good though and having the concept of dragons introduced only makes me more than happy since it appeals to my old RPG days, much like how Yuri likens it to his own RPG experiences as they go through the suit-up and weapon selection phase. And any episode that brings Morgrif back to the forefront cannot be bad.
This volume has several good fun stories to it and continues to push the idea that I can do both the multi episode arcs and the standalone stories equally well. The cuteness factor goes up with some of the creatures introduced this time around and we get a good helping of fanservice from Lady Ciel, never mind more history of the relations that people have had prior to Yuri's arrival. While less focused on character growth, the fun factor of the show and the way those who surround Yuri all interact with each other continues to be a real highlight.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Concept Art Gallery,Promo Trailer
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, 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: 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: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kyo Kara Maoh!