Kyo Kara Maoh! Season 2 Vol. #3 (of 9) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, April 03, 2007
What They Say
Due to the return of Morgif, Van da Via Island has turned into an inferno with the restarting of volcanic activity. With this sudden occurrence, the Big Cimaron army withdraws as quickly as it can. However, the children of royal families, who are being held as hostages by Belar, are left behind amidst falling rocks. Yuri and his group head out to rescue them, but the rescue efforts, hampered by flying sparks and burning, falling trees, prove to be extremely difficult!
That night, Adalbert calls Conrad out to find out the true story about Julia. Why did Julia die without saying anything to him? What did she entrust Conrad with? And did Yuri really inherit Julia's soul? Not being able to accept the forthcoming answers, Adalbert levels a sword at Conrad...!
Providing bookends to a number of standalone tales, this volume does a bit more world and character building between the major arcs.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The show has a fairly standard TV action mix which provides some decent directionality during action scenes and occasionally with some of the dialogue. There's a fair amount of action so we do get to have both speakers work out nicely and the dialogue has a number of good distinct moments. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for this show is essentially problem free and looks great both at standard display level and upconverted to 1080i. The digital nature of the show comes across really well here with vivid and solid colors that are free of gradient problems, backdrops that are free of blocking and no visible cross coloration. This is simply a very smooth looking piece that's pleasing on the eyes through and through.
The front cover is done with a light purple background and is framed with some intricate artwork to give it a few polished feel. Within the frame, the title is along the top (along with a Season II tag) which gives the character artwork plenty of room to look good. This one provides a look at some Adalbert and Julia which has an interesting feel to it; Julia feels almost out of place in comparison to other character designs in the series. The back cover is done in a similar style but with a different border that holds the basic summary and numerous pieces of artwork and shots from the show. The discs episode numbers and titles are clearly listed next to the discs features and extras while the bottom is filled out with the production credits and one very different change, a technical grid within which all the information is kept. It's great to see yet another title finally adopt this format. The insert for the release replicates the front cover artwork with a few less logos while the reverse side lists the episodes and a look at the tentative months for the remaining volumes (through March 2008!).
Eschewing the design from the previous season, this volume takes a very different and almost somber turn as a bit of flickering light plays over a very worn down book that has the series logo and navigation strip on it. Set to a light bit of instrumental music, it's very relaxing and mellow while looking very well done. The way the light plays on it is simple but it adds a lot to the atmosphere of it. I particularly like the way going to submenus has it paging through them. Access times are decent and getting around is easy enough though the disc keeps to its own language preferences (English only) and ignores player presets.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The up and down nature of this series hits once more as the five episodes here have a hard time working in the overall scheme of things. This set of episodes has one episode that closes out the previous arc, three episodes that stand alone and then one episode that kicks off a new arc. Thankfully though, the strong point of the series is the characters and its interaction so after the weak start it gets into some good material.
The close of the previous arc feels awkward here at first, particularly with the wait between volumes. Watching this in quick succession will lessen this, but coming into this episode without that leaves you jumping into a very quick action episode as the battle against Big Cimarron is the main event. That isn't what's best about it though as the real focus is between Adalbert and Conrart. The two have finally found their time to settle things from the previous competition that was interrupted and they have a rather good go at it. What's important about it though is not the fight itself but the words spoken between the two as Conrart is able to say the right things to get Adalbert to understand what really happened in the past with Julia. These small but powerful words have changed that character quite a good deal since we first met him way back in the first episode.
In some ways the stand alone episodes for this series are the best yet most frustrating. They're fully expected between the major arcs but they tend to be just one too many when they do them. The three stand alone tales here have some very good material to them at times but by the third one you start to feel worn down. The third one here in particular is a bad one as Gunter has headed off for some vacation which means Yuri has to take over the work that he normally does. That's all light and fun but Gunter's story is the bulk of it which is bad. Gunter writes back to Yuri via carrier pigeon about his journey which seems to lead him to a section of the Great Demon Kingdom that's hardly ever visited. One that looks like it fell out of the Wild West as you have pseudo-cowboys with swords. The mingling of different cultures and regions isn't new to the series but this one feels very forced in comparison to the others. It's essentially filler of the worst caliber when it focuses on Gunter's tale.
A completely opposite feeling is what you get with the episode before it when Yuri finds himself checking out one of the many items that he has as the Great Demon King. The bowl is one that is bound to cause trouble as it deals with allowing the person who uses it to see into the past or future. Before you know it, Yuri's sent off to the past where he sees a more "primitive" version of the Kingdom. It's also at the time when Julia was alive and dealing with the sacrifice that Julia was being asked to make by the Great Demon King. Yuri initially believes nobody can see him but he finds that Julia and the other women there can see him. Julia gets a lot of time here and we really get to see what motivated her to do what she did as well as following-up on things we learned in the first episode of this volume with Adalbert. It's not filler at all but rather a very nicely crafted episode using an easy trick. Even better, we get to see how everything is once again manipulated by the old Great Demon King.
The new arc that kicks off on this volume at the end looks to be a lot of fun as it deals with the Holy Swords that are out there. Morgif has continually been one of my favorite things about the show and even in his weakened state without his jewel he's just priceless to watch. With the Demon Sword being content with its master, the focus shifts to the Holy Sword that's out there and now making the rounds with someone. It's early yet in the storyline so the focus isn't clear on exactly where it will go but with any amount of luck it won't involve Cimarron for once and we can get an interesting new adventure. Yuri's the kind of character that's ready to just go and do which is exactly what happens here.
Kyo Kara Maoh continues to be a good bit of fun here but it's not without its faults. While only one episode on here made me cringe, it's a show that can be difficult to marathon at times. It's a pure guilty pleasure overall though because it has such a fun cast that's generally happy. The small character moments are the best though, be it Gwendal doing some baking or Murata's quiet conversations with the former Demon King. Add in the very amusing women and the relationships between them all and it's just great fun. Sometimes best in small doses though, particularly when it's between major arcs.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Running time: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Kyo Kara Maoh!