Shadow Skill TV Vol. #2 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2006
What They Say
The warrior kingdom of Kuruda is home to the fircest fighters in the world, men and women who live solely the greatest in the world. Young Gau Ban dreams of becoming the warrior of his generation. Along with his adopted sister Elle and the legendary Scarface, Gau trains and battles for mastery of the Shadow Skill!
A little more of the same done a little better, but I still wonder where the series is going.
In terms of audio options, Shadow Skill Vol. I offers English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0 with subtitles. Both audio tracks are fairly standard and are certainly clear without distortion. While definitely solid, the audio doesn’t really stand out as anything spectacular. While both audio options are very solid, I feel the humor comes across a bit better in the English dub. Additionally, episodes five and seven feature some truly spectacular rain and fire sound effects respectively. I have to admit I was blown away at how nice these scenes sounded in surround.
Shadow Skill Vol. 2 is presented in the original 4:3 full frame aspect ratio. Originally airing in 1998, Shadow Skill looks clean, lacking notable scratches and dust. The blacks are primarily true and the colors, while definitely appearing muted, are consistent and solid throughout. I did note some jagged line edges and blurriness, but this was very minimal.
Shadow Skill Vol. 2 ships in a standard keep case and features Gau and Diaz set prominently against a large moon in the night sky. The Shadow Skill logo is featured across the top of the front cover, the title, “Brothers and Sisters in Arms” across the bottom. The cover image itself is a fairly standard action pose, but as both characters are dressed primarily in dark armor, only their exposed skin really stands out, making the cover appear a little too dark.
The reverse cover features a background somewhat akin to blood soaked granite and showcases a stylized version of the logo at the top of the case. Just below that is a brief synopsis of the series that, while offering insight in to the feel and creators of the series, gives no indication as to what transpires in the included episodes. A gritty horizontal montage of images from within marks the middle of the reverse cover. The four episode listings are clearly indicated just below this and disc and credits information occupies the lower quarter of the cover.
Shadow Skill Vol. 2 includes an insert featuring the cover image (sans the volume title along the bottom of the screen) on one side and some line art images on the reverse. Set against more of the blood-spattered background as found on the disc reverse, the line art features a number of the primary characters along the top, with two images (a full body and bust shot of Gau Ban) occupying the majority of the insert. While having a nice look, the line art for these images, however, is reproduced in white, which makes it a bit difficult to separate from the busy background.
Retaining the same basic and primarily monochromatic menu feel of the first volume, the Shadow Skill Vol 2 menu certainly has attitude. The menu opens with a side-scrolling effect as the logo, in text nearly as tall as the screen moves to center on the stylized image of Elle Ragu’s face. Slightly above this is the episode listing five through eight and below are options for the third volume preview, language options, and disk extras. The entire image is primarily red, the only true blacks being the image of Elle and the text. The background is a pulsing red spatter effect echoing the look of blood-spattered granite from the disc reverse cover. A brief audio clip loops throughout. The menu is very easy to navigate and all options are distinct.
The extras found on Shadow Skill Vol. 2 are a vast improvement over the first volume. While offering the standard ADV Previews and Preview of the upcoming third volume, and clean opening and closing animations, this disk also offers more value-added extras, including a commentary with Luci Christian, Monica Rial and John Swasey, as well as an interview with the additional voices or WALLA voice actors. Of these, I was most impressed with the cast commentary. It was fun to get an interesting peek behind-the-scenes at ADV’s work on the series. The “Additional Voices” extra takes the viewer in to the process of filling crowd scenes with unique and realistic background conversations and noise. Though much shorter than the episode commentary, I also found this to be an informative look at how the dubbing work is handled in what could be considered even the more insignificant aspects of a series, as well as how much this truly contributes to its feel.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shadow Skill is a martial arts fantasy based on the 1992 manga series created by Mugumu Okada and is a re-imagining of sorts of two OVAs (or four, as the last OVA was released as both a movie and three separate OVAs) from 1995 through 1996. This series, released in 1998, while retaining much the same characters and settings as the original OVAs, is a departure from what has come before in that it is distinctly more light-hearted tone.
Shadows Skill Vol. 2 follows the primary cast of Elle Ragu a.k.a. Shadow Skill, her adopted brother Gau Ban, Folli and Kyou on a four separate adventures. While seemingly unrelated, these episodes serve to further establish the primary characters, and even reveal key elements of the characters’ pasts, namely introducing Elle’s brother Diaz, as well as focusing on the relationship between Elle and Folli. Much like the first four episodes, this volume is also dedicated to further establishing the primary characters of Shadow Skill, as well as building their place in this world.
Episode five establishes a bit more of the state of Karuda and its relations with its neighbors, as it focuses on a group of men who have been stationed in an outpost in the Jura forest, a border territory for nearly thirty years. Largely forgotten by the Karudan people, the world has seemingly left them behind as they have grown old in their vigilance of the Solfan army. The four primary characters enter their part of the forest when they take on the job of delivering supplies to this band of sentries in order to pay off yet more of the debt Elle, Gau, Folli and Kyou have managed to accrue. Upon arriving at the outpost, the primary cast and the Karudan soldiers are faced with the threat of a hulem, which is apparently a magic-wielder who has been merged with a demon beast. Aside from the action in dealing with the hulem, this episode continues to deal with Kyou’s internal conflict as she struggles to come to terms with her own lack of confidence and the burden of being the last of Septia group.
The sixth episode is one of my very favorite to date, as it manages to offer a tremendous amount of humorous insight in to the characters of both Gau and Elle, while introducing Lohengreen, the “White Lighting”, a Valle, or would-be master, in the White Light techniques (as opposed to the Shadow Skills techniques) and a genuine contender for the position of Sevalle who just happens to be hopelessly in love with Kyou. After a chance encounter between the two, White Lightning becomes determined to woo the young Septia. He does so by bombarding her with poetic love letters. Kyou, upon finally recognizing these overly florid notes are indeed love letters, seeks to make Gau jealous and gain his interest in her, showing him the letters. Inevitably, Elle becomes involved, and as she reads the letters a sentence such as, “I will snatch away your heart” is misinterpreted as a death threat. Completely misunderstanding every aspect of the letters, though confident she and Gau have stumbled upon an assassin intent on killing Kyou, the two set off to track down the supposed villain and prevent Kyou falling in to harm. This results in the inevitable and very humorous confrontation between the incredibly well-matched Lohengreen, who represents the white flash, and Gau, representing the black flash. This episode really worked, as it continued to utilize all the action-oriented hallmarks of the series, while expanding on the humor and genuinely exploring the characters in a way the viewer has not yet seen.
Episode seven reveals a great deal of the back story in the relationship between Elle and Folli. When the entire village of Talpa is mysteriously and inexplicably frozen solid in the middle of the summer, the fifty-ninth Sevalle is quick to investigate. Both Elle and Folli, with a seemingly greater understanding of the threat responsible for this devastation leave without consulting Gau of Kyou. When these two finally arrive on the scene in Talpa, they discover the unthinkable; Elle and Folli have engaged one another in a fight to the death. Louie Frasneel, the villain in this episode, while apparently quite formidable and playing a very large role in the past of both these characters is really little more than a plot device to introduce the surprising reason these two very different individuals became friends. And what this villain with the power to freeze an entire town in place reveals to Folli forces the Plasmatizer to enact a blood feud with Elle. As the two fight it out with Louie Frasneel looking on gleefully, Gau and Kyou must quickly discover the truth of his identity and motivations, while somehow managing to end the fight that will most certainly result in the death of at least one of their friends. While this episode does offer some great insights in to the mutual past of Elle and Folli, it feels far too easily and cleanly resolved.
Episode eight, the final on the disk, finds Elle and Gau, followed by Folli and Kyou, in turn followed by Lohengreen on the road to Julianess. It seems the Ceremony of the Four Devas is to be shortly underway. And as the 59th Sevalle, Elle must be in attendance. This ceremony will feature the greatest warriors from the four kingdoms brought together as a display of peace between them. Reluctantly, Elle and Gau set off for Julianess. Recognizing what sort of trouble an unsupervised Elle could present in such an elegant city as Julianess, Folli and Kyou secretly follow shortly behind. When Lohengreen realizes his true love Kyou, is heading for Julianess, he quickly sets off to follow her so he may serve to protect her if necessary. Through a series of pratfalls and detours, Elle inadvertently destroys an inn, Lohengreen manages to actually pass Kyou without even knowing it, a group of three assassins botch an attempt to kill Elle and set her against the other three Devas (which would apparently spell doom for Ashlianna), and Elle visits her older brother Diaz. While offering some humorous moments, particularly anything dealing with Lohengreen, the episode offers some nice insight into Elle’s character through her brother. The focus of this episode lies in the trip to Julianess and though the viewer does not see the group reach that city, it is the journey that is most important and what the viewer learns about the characters, most particularly Elle, in turn.
For the most part, while in terms of intent and their role in the larger overall plot of the series these episodes aren’t truly much of a departure from the four of the previous volume. However, I found this volume slightly more enjoyable than the prior, as the characters, now better established for the viewer, begin to act and react in ways one would expect based on their development thus far. The viewer gains greater insight in to the characters and their world in this volume. But while I enjoyed these episodes and the insight in to the characters they offer, I still don’t have much of an idea where this series is going. I recognize there’s a fair amount of potential, particularly regarding the tenuous balance of peace in Ashlianna, but I’d like to see that explored a little further. To this point, the series feels like little more than a group of un-related episodes patched together.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Commentary with Luci Christian (Elle); Monica Rial (Feolina) & John Swasey (Director),Interview with the “additional voices” from the series,Original Japanese opening animation,Clean closing animation
34” Sony FD Trinitron Wega HDTV KD-34XBR910 and Sony Dav-FR9 progressive scan Home Theatre System with 114 watts per channel to each speaker and 115 watts to each of the subwoofer's two woofers.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A
Age Rating: All
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Shadow Skill