Samurai 7 Vol. #2 (of 7) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, June 01, 2006
Release Date: Monday, April 10, 2006
What They Say
The Legendary Epic Reborn.
After the mysterious murder of the Imperial Envoy in the Magistrate's home " with a bloody sword as the only clue " a citywide hunt for all samurai begins. With a high price suddenly on their heads, the band of samurai must quickly escape the city fast.
Kikuchiyo seizes the moment to prove himself to the team. Their race from the city leads them into the watchful gaze of the Shikimoribito. Who are these mysterious "Guardians"? Man or machine? Ally or Enemy? A new friend tries to explain but she is hiding something too.
The search for seven samurai to protect Kanna continues with a couple more samurai recruited to the task.
I stuck with the Japanese track again this time round, and did a spot check of the English 5.1 track. Both tracks use good use of the surrounds, especially during the more kinetic action sequences. I found the English 5.1 track to be much louder than the Japanese track, so you may have to be prepared to turn your amp down a bit if you choose the English track.
With Samurai 7 being a Gonzo show, there is a fair amount of GCI blended into the animation, this comes across really well, and is blended in with the 2d animation very skilfully. The show uses a broad range of colours, with a nice distinction between light and dark scenes. This allows for a nice distinction between the two settings. For the most part the episodes on disk 2 continue the high animation standards of the first volume apart from episode 7. The beginning of this episode (and at a couple of points during it) sees quite a drop in the animation quality, especially during the dance sequences. I'm not sure whether this was a deliberate decision (after all these scenes are set in an inn, where the patrons may well be feeling the effects of the sake they've consumed), or a cost cutting exercise. Either way it is a little jarring especially given the usual lush animation. The animation is back to high standards during the next episode so hopefully episode 7 was just a one off.
Review copy only, no packaging supplied.
The menu for the second disk is similar in design to the first volume's menu. This time we have a blue background with a picture of Katsushiro on the right hand side. The menu options are on the left hand side and it's easy to see which option you have selected as the cursor is nice and visible. While music from the series plays over the main menu all the submenus are silent. All access times are fast and no dead ends were encountered.
Once again the extras include the clean opening and ending animation for the series, although on the episodes on this disk the opening animation has changed and the clean version is the same as the opening on volume 1. Character profiles are also included, and once again I feel it's necessary to point out that the text used for these profiles is quite small and is slightly hard to read (even on my 42" screen). The final extra is the trailer for Seven Samurai which looks like it has seen much better days. I'm not sure how faithful the anime is going to be to the film, but the trailer potentially gives a couple of things away. This is a nice addition though and might get a few people who like the anime more interested in Kurosawa's work. Also included on the disk are trailers for Gantz and Samurai Champloo.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
At the end of the first disk Kirara had managed to find 2 samurai to help protect her village, Kambei and Gorobe, although Kikuchiyo the mechanical samurai and Katsushiro have also indicated their desire to help Kirara. Unfortunately for them Kambei has decided that they do not have enough experience to help defend Kanna, and while Katsushiro has kind-of come to terms with Kambei's decision, Kikuchiyo sees it as an affront to his skills and takes every opportunity he can to make digs at Kambei, and tries to prove his worth as a samurai.
With 5 more samurai to find, Kirara and the others spend most of their days trawling the city looking for more samurai who will meet Kambei's exacting standards. In the first episode of this disk they have more luck than usual as they hear of a 'woodcutting' samurai who may be just what they need. Unfortunately their attempts to track this samurai down are fruitless, but it just so happens that the samurai they are looking for has been chopping wood for Gorobe and Mesamune in exchange for a winch while the others have been looking for him.
Heihachi readily agrees to join with Kambei and the others to defend Kanna although his actual battle experience is limited, due to him being more of a mechanic during the war. Heihachi has a love of all things mechanical and has the ability to put things he finds to good use. He's also almost constantly cheerful and even manages to get Kikuchiyo to like him after he refers to him as a samurai. Heihachi also has another skill that endears him to Rikichi, a love of rice, and he has the ability to tell which village rice came from just by tasting it! At the end of this episode things start to take a turn for the worse in the city, as the Imperial Envoy is found assassinated in the magistrates home. With the only clue being a bloody sword left behind the magistrate decides that the culprit has to be a samurai and orders all samurai in the city to be arrested.
In order to get in Kambei's good books, Kikuchiyo decides that he can use this 'samurai sweep' to his advantage and let's himself be arrested by the city's police. Once incarcerated with a whole bunch of samurai he breaks out of jail taking all the samurai with him, thinking that at least one of them will be good enough to help defend Kanna. Unfortunately Kambei doesn't think much of his efforts and effortlessly defeats all the men Kikuchiyo freed.
The magistrate's decision to apprehend all samurai also leaves our small group being hunted yet again, and as their whereabouts are known they decide to flee the city using the underground railway. Their escape from the city using this railway, leads to one of the most exciting action sequences of the series so far, as they have to battle with the magistrates minions as well as trying to control their descent into the depths of the city. Heihachi is in his element here as his mechanical skills are put to good use and he works well with Kambei. Kikuchiyo also takes the opportunity to once again prove to Kambei that he is a samurai, and his dedication to helping the team out despite their differences is quite touching.
After managing to escape from the magistrate's men yet again, the team make their way to the Village of Healing and the Firefly Inn. Here they find Kambei's former partner (or 'wife'), Shichiroji, the more eagle eyed among you may recognise him from the opening sequence of the very first episode where he made a brief appearance along with Kambei. He fought with Kambei during the war, but has since made a living at the Firefly Inn along with his partner. Although at first he seems reluctant to go along with Kambei to help Kanna, in the end he agrees to join the growing band of samurai. Whilst at the Inn there is also an unexpected reunion with Kikuchiyo, who unfortunately has brought the magistrates men with him (even though they are theoretically not allowed within the Village of Healing).
So although Kikuchiyo's bravery helped save the band during their last escape he unfortunately gets them into yet another standoff with the magistrate's men " and this time Ukyo is along for the ride, hoping to get his dirty paws on Kirara yet again. This time their escape takes them into the underground river, using a trap door that Shichiroji had built into the Inn, just in case. This river in turn brings them into the territory of the Shikimori, an underground tribe who are the focus of many a gory folktale.
With Ukyo and his henchman in close pursuit (I'm not sure where they got the speed boat from, but hey it's not really important), the only thing that makes them turn back is the fact that our hero's are straying into Shikimori territory. Although they fire a parting shot from a crossbow that unfortunately wounds Katsushiro. Not having any choice, the others continue to travel into the land of the Shikimori, not knowing what they will find.
What they do find seems to be very surprising as the Shikimori seem to be quite peaceful, and not at all like the folktales would lead you to believe. They are however a strange people, living as they do on the roofs of the caves hanging upside down much like bats. They live off a sap that is harvested from huge mushrooms that are grown from rice. As a race they also appear to be quite advanced and skilled. During their stay in the Shikimori village they shoot Katsushiro with a dart filled with antibiotics that help him recover from his injury. They have also developed energy cells that they sell on to anyone who can meet their price (usually in rice), no matter who they are or what they do. From this it's hard to judge the motivation of the Shikimori, initially they appear quite peaceful, but is this really the case?
During their stay in the village, Kambei 'promotes' Katsushiro to be a member of the seven, meaning the he is the fifth official samurai to be recruited. It seemed obvious from the start that Katsushiro would be allowed to join, and I still feel that Kikuchiyo will also be asked to become an 'official' member of the party as well.
There's a lot going on in the second disk of Samurai 7, not only with all the action and heartfelt tales of our group, but also the political machinations of the magistrate are again hinted at. Although the focus on this volume tends more to the action oriented side with the numerous escapes from the magistrates men. With 5 samurai now recruited, our small group have started the journey back to Kanna even though they are theoretically 2 samurai short. So whom will they find to fill the remaining 2 places? Based on the new opening sequence I've got my own ideas about that, but I'm looking forward to seeing how they potentially get one character to change his allegiances.
The second volume is just as strong as the first with a good mix of action, pathos and emotional tales, and of course you can always rely on Nunky to provide the much needed comic relief. I'm growing to like this band of characters with their little nuances, although at the moment I'm finding the 'baddies' of the piece (the magistrate and Ukyo) a bit two dimensional and not really that much of a threat, at least for now. Samurai 7 has enough to keep even the most jaded anime fan interested and comes as a highly recommended series.
Japanese Language 5.1,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Clean Opening ,Clean Closing,Character Profiles,Seven Samurai Trailer
Panasonic 42" Plasma, Arcam 88+ Prog Scan DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Samurai 7