Shura no Toki Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, July 12, 2005



What They Say
Throughout the ages, the Mutsu clan has always fought for one reason: it's fun. They live for the challenge of dueling the greatest fighters of their era. But Izumi Mutsu lives during the time of the Meiji Revolution, when the streets of Kyoto ran red with blood. The murder of his closest friend by the loyalists means it's time for Izumi to stop having fun. The legendary Mutsu martial arts come head to head with history as Izumi charges toward revenge against the Shinsen Gumi!

The Review!
The Bakufu and Sakamoto arc continues on as the changes in history sweep more people towards a new way of life.

Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. While this is a new show and previous volumes have looked good, this volume exhibits much more blocking throughout the solid colors than before. It's very noticeable in the gray areas but it does show up in other areas of single colors. The usual minor issues such as some cross coloration or aliasing aren't noticeable at all. Colors look good and while not being overly vibrant or problematic with gradient issues.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese cover but with a bit of modification to make it a bit darker looking, the covers for this series continue to be quite striking and attractive. This volume provides the showdown between Okita and Mutsu against some mountains and has some really interesting hues to it. 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.

Menu:
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.

Extras:
Continuing with what came before, 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)
The Age of Chaos continues to play about at length in one of the more chaotic times in Japan's history as the struggle over the future direction of the country really comes of age. With the focus on Sakamoto while Mutsu stands at his side as opposed to fighting him, it has a very different feel compared to the previous arcs. While some may consider this the weakest of the arcs, it provides an interesting view on familiar characters from a different angle – and one that focuses on the actual Bakufu itself instead of the time afterwards like many others.

With Sakamoto and Mutsu working together after Mutsu bested him beautifully in the last volume, it's interesting to see just how far Mutsu goes to defend him. The relationship looks strange to those who aren't familiar with them but as Sakamoto manages to have victory after victory and "rides the sky" like a dragon during these changes, it's something that's easily overlooked. One of the areas that's very enjoyable to watch with this particular arc is the new fascination with sea battles, something not covered in a lot of anime series and not to this level either. The war that rages provides for some good sea battles and this volume has one nice set of maneuvers as Sakamoto plans a way to defeat the massive fleet that's gathering in the nearby bay.

Much like earlier volumes, time does move fast in this show and we get to move ahead further past the Bakufu and the period where a new round of assassinations started taking place in order to solidify the new government. This forward movement in time allows for a change in the relationship that Mutsu has and we finally get to see something that we haven't seen in any of his ancestors; outright anger. Having him actually have emotions other than wanting a challenge from his opponent is a real change for him and when he starts going to town on the group that he's focused on, it's much more powerful than it would be otherwise because of how we've seen the restraint he's placed on himself before as well as his ancestors. When he starts smashing heads forcibly against a wall, it has such oomph behind it because of what we know of the character. This is one of those scenes where the violence is chilling even if you are desensitized to it.

In Summary:
The progression in this arc has been a bit slower since it's tied more to a larger historical movement as opposed to the individuals of the previous arcs but I'm finding it just as enjoyable. Mutsu and Sakamoto are well paired here, though his cha-cha-cha's can get a touch on your nerves during a flashback sequence, but it's interesting to watch someone who knows they're riding the currents of history and trying to do all that he can to master it while remaining calm and collected about it. Between the naval maneuvers, the shinsengumi moments and the culmination of the arc in the second set of episodes, this is a solid volume through and through that only continues to reinforce my enjoyment of this show.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Dub Outtakes

Review Equipment
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: B-
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Media Blasters
MSRP: 29.95
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Shura no Toki