Flame of Recca Vol. #09 (of 10) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, October 09, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2006



What They Say
The semifinals are underway and Team Hokage have their work cut out for them against Team Uruha Ma! Recca gets set to take on the insidious Kashamara, whose special powers allow him to use Recca's fire dragons against him.

Next up is the quick-footed Fuko, who must use all her strength to take on the awesome power of Gashakura. Can she keep her winning streak alive or will she get sucked into a mysterious void?

Contains episodes 33-37:
Two Fire Dragons! - A Stolen Technique!!
Fuko Fights! - A Thin Skin Covered with Wounds!!
A Girl's Prayer - The Awakening of the Fujin!!
Fire Dragon Combo - The Opponent Beyond the Ring!!
Escape from the Majigen - Battle in the Evil Dimension!!

The Review!
The semifinals bring about some of the strongest fighters yet for Team Hokage to take on.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is decent but like a number of other shows from around this time the bulk of it is pretty much a full sounding mix that doesn't have too much in the way of strong directionality across the forward soundstage. It's a good sounding mix overall but it doesn't have any huge punch or oomph to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems during regular playback with either language track.

Video:
Originally airing in 1997, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The print and materials for this show are decent but there are some things to note. First, there's some noticeable print damage throughout but it's fairly minor and something not unexpected considering the budget of the show. The second is that this isn't a high quality show to begin with. The series has always looked like it was done on a budget and it's visible during a lot of scenes, particularly mid-range character shots where there's practically no detail to their faces; some shots even have completely blank faces. The coloring style used, especially for the blacks that shade things like Recca's school uniform, are just drenched on and without detail. This is the kind of show where they never expected it to have to show as much detail as it is now and it doesn't translate well a lot of times. It's definitely accurate to the source materials however but this is a show that in some ways probably looked better on VHS. The jitter is fairly visible throughout as well during scene changes but also during other scenes as well as you can see characters shifting a bit while the backgrounds stand still or vice versa.

Packaging:
Continuing with the Tournament Edition layout which has a clear listing of the volume number and its title, the artwork here looks great as it features the lead trio of Recca, Domon and Fuko. You'd almost wish they'd reanimate the show using these kinds of designs. The artwork for this is much more reminiscent of something newer than a show from the late 90's. The back cover provides a fiery backdrop and more black that has a very brief premise of the series. The discs features and episode numbers and titles are listed as well. Viz releases typically have very little in the way of technical information and this release isn't much different, especially since what little there is is spread out. The insert lists the episode numbers and titles as well as the chapter sections and a list of the extras. The reverse side has a piece of production artwork showing off the madogu Homashin.

Menu:
The menu layout for this release has its pluses and negatives. The main menu is nicely done with a close-up shot of Recca from the front cover while a mixture of flame animation and other artwork from the show plays behind him. This is set to some of the instrumental music from the show. The selections are all the basic ones and easy to navigate about. On the plus side, the chapter selection menu has to be one of the best I've seen as it gives you instant access to any chapter on the disc for any episode without having to go through numerous submenus. The menus are pretty good here overall even if they didn't read our players' language presets correctly.

Extras:
The only included extra with this release is a series of production sketches in a single gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Bumping up an episode to a total of five, something this series should have done from the start, Flame of Recca moves fast towards its conclusion as there are only five more episodes left after this set. While the bump of a single episode may not seem like much, when it comes to tournament shows like this it can make the entire show feel a bit more hefty and meaty. Far too often the show feels like it's just getting its groove going and it's already over.

The semifinals have us watching Hokage against the latest Uruha group and there are three fights that play out across this volume. With it moving through as many as that, it allows the Hokage side to get in a good number of their team on the fun and the variety is welcome. Too often you can end up in a sequence where it's just the same two fighting on for what seems like forever. Here, the first two episodes are quick fights that lead to a much more problematic third fight. The opening one has Recca taking on a goofy looking ninja wannabe but the guy has the ability to replicate Recca's powers, using his flame against him in a way that he hadn't expected outside of someone like Kurei. As short and gimmicky as it is, it does introduce us to a new flame dragon and that alone is worthwhile since each dragon has its own attitude and style. This one seems to be the most lighthearted of the group so far.

Fuko gets in some nice time as she takes on Gashakura, a really interesting looking opponent who is essentially faceless. This is something we've seen in a couple of previous villains and it's something that I like even though it takes away any real sense of emotion from them. Fuko's gotten increasingly better as the matches have gone on and this one brings us to something that every show needs, something cute and fuzzy. The madogu are basically open ended devices that have no real limit on them as we've seen but few of them have had anything that's alive outside of Recca's dragons. But even that has a somewhat different feel to it. Fuko's madogu gets a bit of life here and while it does allow for something easy to be done to get her out of a tough situation, I have a hard time really grousing about it since the wind spirit is both cute and a nice twist.

The more interesting fight, one that's got a gimmick to it that's been used in other fight series like Yu Yu Hakusho, is with Gashakura's older brother Magensha. Hard to see what he's like because of the big mask and overflowing cloak that he wears, he's creepy personified since your imagination runs wild with what he could really be like. What's worse is that he seems to have a couple of madogu under his control, from one that sends his opponents off permanently to another dimension where there is no food or water to a demon cannon that we've seen used earlier. That particular flashback is gruesome since it had his opponents body being torn to shreds like old paint curling under heat. While Domon takes on Magensha, there are other things going on with him that cause Recca and a couple of the others to deal with an aspect that is after Yanagi. Domon's scenes are good and he finally shows some growth in his strength that's been long hinted at but the real strength of the episodes is that it's not just a one on one fight.

In Summary:
This volume manages to feel a lot more enjoyable partially because of the additional episode, causing the groove to be extended nicely, but also because the fights are a lot of fun. The show is definitely a guilty pleasure that's being made all the more so because I'm enjoying the manga. Seeing how close the two are up through this point is reassuring though since I had always wondered how far this might have strayed. This volume gets us close to the end of where the anime goes and sets things up in the final minutes for the final fights with Kurei, something that's been long in coming and very much anticipated. Good stuff but definitely not for everyone.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and 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: C+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 24.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Flame of Recca