Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok Vol. #5 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, January 18, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2006
What They Say
They are the Norns, governesses of fate and impartial chaperones to the dance of the living. But now, with Ragnarok on the horizon, Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld have abandoned their posts in Asgard to join in the fun with the mortals of Earth. Will these new arrivals find allies among the horde of gods living on Earth, or just pesky little deities constantly underfoot? Can this ethereal (and lethal) trio of sisters finally claim the bounty on Loki's head? And don't forget the mystery! With the gods themselves as threads on their loom, what reasons could the Norns possibly have for allying themselves with Odin? What chance does Loki stand against assassins who know the future? And when all is said and done, and the tapestry of fate finally unravels, who will be left holding the thread?
Retaining the series' brand of humor throughout, some of these episodes also feature surprising and refreshingly new perspectives and backgrounds on several of the characters.
Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok is presented in Dolby 5.1 in English and Dolby 2.0 in Japanese with English subtitles. I greatly enjoyed the English track and felt the actors really did a great job in bringing personality to their respective characters. Considering the large amount of dialogue in this series, this was actually a necessity. That the audio was reproduced well only served to do the actors justice. Understandably, the same can be said for the actors on the Japanese Dolby 2.0 track, though it comes across much flatter in comparison. On an issue of personal preference, I actually prefer Ms. Fuchizaki's rendition of Loki on the Japanese track, though again you just don't get the same impact with the 2.0 audio. As always, there are trade-offs between the two audio options, but this feels like a solid release all the way around.
Having an original Japanese air date of 2003, Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok clearly shows in its production values and relative freshness. Video is crisp and clear with colors represented very nicely. This series appears to really rely on moody and striking color schemes, which are all done to great effect throughout the episodes on this disk. From the opening itself to episode twenty's beautifully rendered and emotionally-charged rooftop battle scene between Loki and Skuld. I found overall quality of the presentation to be very strong, finding no instances of cross coloration or pixilation. This is a great looking piece of work.
Volume five ships in a clear keepcase and features an image of the Freya coming to Loki's aid amidst a nicely designed cover. The cover also features some intricate designs that give it a very unique look unlike any other anime cover I'm immediately familiar with. The back cover continues the black and dark gray background pattern, featuring an easy-to-read volume summary and features included on the disk, as well as several images from the episodes, which also read nicely against this dark background. The spine clearly displays the title (though not the logo) and has a very classy feel. While there is no insert included with this volume, the clear keepcase does feature a vibrantly-colored reversible cover candid dinner party image of the bulk of the cast to this point (though with no Freya).
The disk menu is nicely designed and very easy to use. Featuring some of the Victorian-inspired border design work from the rear cover of the disk itself, the primary background image is Heidrun in the form of the giant peach-spotted king squid featured in episode seventeen. As with the menus from the previous disks, ghostly feathers float over the entire menu as a moody music clip plays throughout. While this image is probably the least engaging and is least directly related to any of those that have come before, it still works toward a nice, clean menu.
In terms of navigation, the menu is also successful. A breeze to use and easy to instantly understand, all navigation is featured against a gold band along the lower edge of the screen. The Mythical Detective seal is featured boldly in the lowermost left of the screen, and the episodes are listed in order seventeen through twenty, with Preview Volume 6, Extras and Language options in the rightmost corner. By pressing the down key on the remote, the viewer can quickly move through the listing of disk options.
The fifth volume of Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok features a preview of volume 6, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, another Interview with Seiyuu (Part 1 of a session with Japanese voice actors Rika Komatsu, who plays Reiya, and Yui Horie, the voice of Mayura), Original Japanese Artwork, the welcome inclusion of Norse Mythology Notes and ADV Preview and DVD Credits. I actually really liked the Clean Opening Animation, simply because the mood and design of the opening is just that good. The Original Japanese Artwork gallery is pretty nice, offering some nice reproductions of the original Japanese cover art. I was slightly disappointed the art included was limited to cover art, and would have really appreciated more in the way of concept sketches and unfinished pieces, just to get a better idea of the behind-the-scenes artistic energy brought to the series. The video interview was again fun and playful, though slightly more goofy than informative, but enjoyable nonetheless. I was very pleased with the inclusion of the notes on Norse Mythology. This in-depth examination of the source material is very enlightening, though only marginally beneficial to enjoy the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok began its life as a serialized manga published in Shonen Gangan under the name, Mythical Detective Loki. The title was lengthened to the final Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok after the property was relocated to Comic Blade magazine. The television series based on the original manga ran for 26 episodes in 2003.
Very loosely based on Norse mythology (in which Loki finds himself exiled to Midgard "our human realm, or Japan in this case "in the body of a child, and a number of other famous Norse characters are recreated here as well, as teenagers), this series is a sort of fusion between those mythological characters and the boy detective genre. The plot follows Loki, who has established the Enjaku Detective agency, which appears to handle more occult-oriented cases. Loki has been judged by Odin and exiled to this realm and placed in the somewhat limiting form of a child. He is accompanied by his faithful servant Yamino (who has a penchant for sending away for mail-order junk and seems genuinely surprised when it breaks) and Mayura Daidoji, an energetic, if somewhat clumsy high school girl who manages to force her way in to Loki's life. Additional characters from Norse mythology are introduced play a vital role in the plot. Each of these Norse transplants also has special abilities, though theirs do not seem as limited by their youthful exteriors as Loki.
Volume five of Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok opens on the Norns as they discuss Verdandi's failure to kill Loki last episode. Skuld assumes her turn in attacking Loki and summons Heidrun the ram as an ally in her quest to destroy Loki. Meanwhile, Yamino wins a spot on Kitchen Sanctuary, a knock-off of Iron Chef-type culinary shows. Naturally, Mayura and Narugami stiff-arm their way onto Yamino's team, and as the three arrive at the television studio to prepare for the culinary challenge, a model's somewhat inappropriate flirtation with Loki (I mean, he is just a kid), prompts Reya's transformation into the adult Freya. As Loki and Fenrir watch from the studio audience, it is revealed the Yamino's opponents are actually none other than Heimdall and Frey. And if the viewers have not yet figured it out, it is soon revealed this Kitchen Sanctuary show has been completely staged by the Norns. Skuld, not yet recognizable to Loki, serves as the hostess, and Loki is asked to serve as a special, honorary judge for this evening's show. As the culinary "mastery" begins, so too does the hilarity. It is at this point the show's magic begins to work, as Loki (the only somewhat sane character) takes second stage, while the rest of the gang goes about their business, of course making a mess of the studio. Throughout the series, this formula has been an extremely good and consistent way of maintaining the show's wacky humor, while also exploring the individual characters. Plus, it's a great deal of fun to watch. As the viewer will anticipate, Loki catches on (while everyone else is still in the dark) and handily bests Heidrun in combat, while even managing to save Skuld's own life in the process (tying in to a later episode). While this is really more of what we've seen before throughout the series, it still works, and I found the episode quite enjoyable.
Episode eighteen opens with Loki, Fenrir, and Narugami reflect on having lost all the evil energy they've collected. Still insisting he'll be once again allowed in to the land of the gods once he collects all the evil energy that has come over (though again, nothing we've seen to this point suggests this is anything other than Loki's optimism). Once again, the Norns set a trap for the group; this time sending the group on a mission to a supposedly haunted house. Once there, Loki has a curse placed upon him, and begins acting very strangely. Apparently, his personality is completely subjugated by that of anyone in his immediate vicinity. As Loki's curse allows the otherwise stiff character to explore a huge range of humorous personalities, often poking fun at the show's staple characters (as Loki somehow manages to run into every person they know), Fenrir and Narugami do their best to revert him to his true self. When the Norns finally reveal themselves and their plan to wipe away Loki's personality for all time, they enlist the aid of Midgardsormr to attack him. This plan, however, has one major flaw in that Loki absorbs the personality (and apparently power) of anyone he's near. Absoring the giant's personality and power, Loki quickly sets about repelling it and the Norns. As the battle reaches its climax, Loki briefly transforms to his older self, repelling his attackers. The episode concludes with a prelude for what is to come, as the Norns continue scheming, this time to take out those Loki holds most dear.
To this point, with the exception of the first episode, the series has consistently maintained a lighter, more fun feel. Based on the Norn sisters' plans to destroy Loki by first destroying those he cares for, with episode nineteen and twenty, the series explores deeper and more mature themes, particularly those of love and loss. Episode nineteen focuses nearly entirely on Narugami. Exploring his daily routine, which humorously details how his regular exuberance affects his life and interaction with others, and goes a great distance in explaining why he has such a long string of varied part-time jobs (unable to keep any for very long). Losing his job at a fast food job after an on-site outburst, Narugami signs on as an assistant instructor at a local dojo. In time, he falls in love with the head instructor's daughter, Yayoi. The scene introducing Yayoi and the couple's blossoming interests is beautifully done, probably handled with more depth than any scene yet in the series. Everything seems right about the relationship. Naturally, however, when Loki meets Yayoi while she and Narugami are out on a date, his suspicions about the girl are confirmed, particularly in lieu of Verdandi's prophetic riddle. As their relationship continues to grow (with yet another romantic scene on the steps of the dojo at night), the Norn's influence becomes more apparent. Soon, speaking through Yayoi, who is also under her influence, Verdandi uses a spell to convince Narugami the only way the two will know happiness together is if he will defeat Loki in battle. Of course the episode exhibits plenty of the mayhem the series is known for, featuring the entire cast in a wacky chase through the city, as a possessed Narugami tries to hunt down Loki to challenge him to a duel. The final fight scene between Loki and Narugami is extremely well done. Set in a darkened field, with thunder and lightning adding to the ambience, the fighting even more intense, this is truly the best action scene yet in the series. The ending is truly brilliant, as the truth of the Norn sisters' plan is revealed, and the complexity of their evil plot is foiled by something as simple as love. Beautiful and bittersweet, this is one of the best episodes in the series.
Episode twenty, the last on this disk, continues the more mature feel of the previous episode. Opening with a revealing, and somewhat romantic glimpse into the daydream recollections of Skuld, the viewer instantly recognizes all is not as it seems between Loki and the Norn sisters. From this point, the episode explores what must have been a romantic connection between Skuld and Loki. As Skuld struggles, torn between her connection with Loki and her mission to destroy him, the Norns set out to attack him through Reya. As with last episode's mysterious serendipity (Narugami finding someone who would actually love him), this time it is Reya who receives a surprise gift of beautiful red shoes. Of course, once she wears the shoes, she sets about trying to kill Loki and those around him, baking cakes and cookies with some truly bizarre (and hilarious) side affects. Loki safely neutralizes Reya's threat, but in the ensuing chaos (again involving more members of the cast), Freya ermerges. Typically, this wouldn't be an issue, but the red shoes drive her to continue Reya's attack on Loki. As Loki vanquishes the demonic shoes, so too is Skuld's newest plan to Loki vanquished. As Loki begins to put the pressure on her in a most unexpected way, Skuld's feelings for Loki begin to emerge, culminating in a scene that feels more like a cross between a Victoria's secret commercial and a nineties rock ballad music video than it does previous episodes of the series. After Skuld's scene of pouty, lingerie-wearing, romantic daydreaming for Loki, she sets about attempting to eliminate him all over again, this time luring him to a rooftop battleground for the final scene of the piece. This scene is incredibly well done. Visually engaging, looking like nothing that has come before it, the scene is captured in a nice juxtaposition of cool and passionate colors that capture the ambience of what is truly at play here as Skuld struggles with her feelings for the man she has been sent to kill. While Skuld shows herself to be surprisingly capable at defeating Loki, the outcome of the battle raises questions about a past relationship between Loki and Skuld, and the future success of the Norn sisters' mission to destroy him.
While the core elements of the majority of plots featured throughout the series have been something most likely seen somewhere before, the Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok manages to pull them off without feeling cliché or repetitive. Much like the very best sitcom, the storylines in this series revolve around these often common plot elements, finding interesting ways to work the entirety of the main cast in before the conclusion. To this point, each episode the characters have been explored in their element and returned to the status quo. For instance, Heimdall may have a humorous scene or two in the course of a given episode, but will return to the state of somewhat-threat by the show's end. However, this disk features some creative change-ups, as the viewer has the opportunity to catch some of the series mainstays in vastly different and more-rounding lights. What I most appreciated most is how the creators managed this slight creative re-focus, while at once retaining the humor and charm this series has worked so hard to produce over the course of the last twenty episodes.
The Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok vol. 5 maintains the series' humor and charm in these episodes, though the final two episodes present an undertone of a slightly darker, more mature nature. Rather than stick with what has worked for the largest part of the series-to-date, it was refreshing to see the creators change gears and expand our understanding of the series and its characters. In the latter two episodes, Loki, Yamino, and Skuld (though particularly the latter two) are explored in a different light than what we've come to expect. This depth of feeling, personal struggle, and even loss, while not at all expected, was certainly a welcome addition to the more slapstick feel we've grown accustomed.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Video extras include the first half of a two part Actors Talk with Rika Komatsu (Reiya) and Yui Horie (Mayura),Character Art Gallery, Background notes on Norse Mythology,Clean 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: A-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: TV PG
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: Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok