Kyo Kara Maoh! Vol. #5 (of 9) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, January 03, 2006
What They Say
The valor dragon slayer, Alford, travels with Yuri and his group to expel his misconceptions about the Demon tribe. Thanks to Belma's plot the village is under attack by a mother dragon. After returning to Covenant Castle, "Yuri's child" visits him but she turns out to be an assassin! Later, while recuperating from an injury at a hot spring resort, Yuri manages to help Greta escape. When Yuri and his group arrive in Shildkraut, they meet a mysterious masked swordsman. Under the mask, awaits an unexpected face! At the same time, Yuri decides to save the town from illegal casino promoter Louis Vuillon. In order to succeed, Keiji the sand bear has to win the race against Hell Paradise Goala in an unusual beast race!
Rounding out the latest arc and kicking off something new, Kyo Kara Maoh! continues to be a surprisingly fun, light and very enjoyable show.
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.
This installment of the show brings a cover set for the first episode here as it lets Yuri and Alford brandish their swords while letting a good looking dragon design take up the bulk of the background. It's a fairly average cover that looks good but not the kind that really inspires you to grab it up if you haven't been watching it already. 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 dark yellow/green 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 included extra is a series of conceptual sketches in a gallery.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In a way, I'm not sure what it is about this show that keeps me enjoying it so much. As a basic fantasy adventure show it has some creative moments but is otherwise fairly minimal in that regard. One of the things that makes it so much fun I think is that it takes a lot of standard concepts and continues to mess with them. Changing the way animals are different in each world is a gimmick but one that works very well in this series.
The four episodes on this volume are a lot of fun overall even though the plot in the new storyline that starts up is pretty weak. It does allow them to move forward with one of the areas that they've been talking about elsewhere for a bit though so it does serve its purpose. The opening episode brings to conclusion the dragon hunting episode as Yuri works his na´ve style throughout it. With the capture of Alford before, Yuri's able to just be himself and as usual his manner is so off-setting from what people expect of the great Demon Tribe King that they find it easy to trust him. It doesn't come quickly but it's an easily built trust. Having seen some of Alford's past in previous episodes, we get to see some of the connections he has with the group now which give it an interesting depth and again push just how old Conrad really is. The arc does a nice job of bringing everything to a close and setting Alford on a new path that will presumably bring him back into the show later since the storyline overall hasn't done much other than to introduce dragons and expand the worldview a bit, not that that is a bad thing.
With everyone back home at the main castle, the show takes a brief bit of downtime as everyone gets back together, hangs out and simply recovers from the previous series of adventures. Some of this is the best material as the way the characters are growing and dealing with each other is a lot of fun, from Wolfram defending his choice to sleep in Yuri's bed to how Yuri himself is getting better at his training and overall fitness. The relaxed time doesn't last too long though when a very young girl arrives claiming to be the illegitimate offspring of the Demon Tribe King and tries to assassinate Yuri. She doesn’t succeed of course but it sets Yuri on the path of trying to figure out what's really going on with the girl and why she's come to such a place in her life.
While some of them are all for dealing with the child harshly, Yuri can't bring himself to do that so he, Wolfram and Conrad take the girl and head off to where they can figure things out at leisure and hit up one of the resort areas in the human realm. This starts off fun as we get to see how people have fun in what Yuri dubs a low-tech Vegas but as always, there's things going on here that they find themselves getting dragged into. While the storyline about the corrupt casino owner and district manager has its interesting elements, the more interesting area tends to fall with his bodyguard who wears a face mask and has a dark secret about who he really is. This all comes up towards the end of the arc but everything in between here is simply a lot of fun. Yuri and the little girl end up getting closer as they deal with the moral corruption of the city and get caught up with a woman who's being taken advantage of.
It's the little moments in Kyo Kara Maoh! that just make it flow so nicely. There are plenty of shows where they do humorous things and we smile at it but it's rare to have actual laughter with what's going on. This show has so many of those little moments though, from Yuri's sword and its entire personality when it "talks" to the various creatures that come into it. When there's a race between unusual beasts, it's not surprising to see Ryan there with Keiji since the Sand Bear is brought out at the most amusing moments, but it was very surprising to find the other unusual beast to be a koala of the same height show up and basically look like a really ticked off wolverine once it was kicked off of its main branch. With those kind of moments to Gunter's joining the Church or the way so many of the characters have little quirks, it's show that really has a good healthy sense of humor about itself.
Just past the halfway mark here and Kyo Kara Maoh! has covered a wide range of stories and character development areas while not losing much of its energy or appeal at all. With it's very light elements of shounen-ai included to give it some extra spice, it gives you something a bit quirky and not the norm into a premise that's been done a number of times. While it may not be completely original, the writers have done a solid job of making it enjoyable and giving it some real character and life that helps elevate it up nicely. This volume sets up some interesting possibilities as the series goes forward as it works through one of the continuing storylines. This is good stuff, very well animated and the kind of show that should be far more popular than it is here. When people claim there's nothing worth watching out there, this is the kind of show that they should be watching.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Conceptual Art Gallery
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: C+
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!