Otogi Zoshi Vol. #5 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Monday, August 13, 2007
Release Date: Monday, June 04, 2007



What They Say
The groundbreaking animated series from Production IG (Ghost in the Shell, Kill Bill, Blood) returns with the biggest plot twist in anime! Following the shocking events of episode 18, our heroes and their quest has faded long into the past. We jump forward to present day Tokyo and meet the reincarnation of Hikaru who soon learns that no-one can escape their destiny.

Episodes Comprise
18 " Ueno
19 " Shibuya
20 " Azabu
21 " Ikebukura

The Review!
Tsuna and Hikaru continue to investigate paranormal activity around Tokyo in the hope of finding a connection to Raiko's disappearance, while Hikaru's dreams become ever more vivid. There is, at least, someone who seems to know what's going on " but will they share their knowledge with Hikaru..?

Audio:
As usual for Manga's releases, there's a full range of audio options here, with both the Japanese and English tracks coming in 2.0, 5.1 & DTS versions. The DTS tracks weren't available on the US release and appear to be upconversions of the Dolby 5.1 tracks. I listened to the Japanese 5.1 track for this review " this arc of Otogi Zoshi isn't hugely action-based, so there's not a huge amount of opportunity to give the soundstage a full workout, but dialogue is neatly placed while music and effects do make use of the available channels. There were no apparent problems.

Video:
Another good transfer for this release, with both colourful daytime & darker night-time scenes coming across well. Animation is nicely-detailed, and there's nothing in the way of noticeable encoding defects, which results in one good-looking release.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
Sadamitsu features on this volume's menu, with a clip sequence playing behind him. Options are provided for Play All, episode select, setup and extras (just Manga trailers) " all very logical and easy-to-use, but the overall effect is spoiled by a transition animation that runs whenever an option is selected and slows things down a bit.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Four episodes, two more supernatural investigation episodes that follow the basic formula that the Tokyo arc has settled into, then finally two episodes that push beyond that a little " although not so far that we're any the wiser as to what's really going on. Even in the investigation, there are hints that the mystery surrounding Raiko's disappearance, and the connection between the characters in the Heian and Tokyo arcs, is coming to some sort of resolution. It's just a shame that it's taking so long to get there.

The first two episodes see Hikaru and Tsuna looking into a series of strange fires, and the appearance of a ghostly white wolf in Shibuya. These are both pretty straightforward episodes, both along the lines of the other investigations the pair have carried out since the Tokyo arc began: an unusual happening, a photo in Raiko's collection that appears to be linked to that happening, and Hikaru & Tsuna trying to figure out what's behind them. While as standalone episodes they're decent enough, by this stage in the series I'd be hoping that the "bigger picture" would be coming into play, but apart from Mansairaku's convenient appearances there's usually very little to say why the events here have anything to do with Raiko's disappearance.

The third episode on the disc is mostly a little bit of fun, as a comedy of errors leads Hikaru to believe that Tsuna's wanting to marry the beautiful Ms Ibaraki but is meeting resistance from her father. The truth of the situation is far more mundane, and ties in to Tsuna's efforts to tie together all the unusual events he's been involved in since Hikaru began searching for her brother. The final episode brings the first direct tie-inbetween the two arcs, as Tsuna is caught in a "disortion" that sees him trapped back in the Heian period, leaving Hikaru and Mansairaku to try and rescue him.

Mansairaku (who finally gives his name to Hikaru towards the end of the disc) seems to be the key to events " he clearly knows a lot more than he's letting on, as he's always on hand should Hikaru run into some sort of trouble and is the one who knows what's happened when Tsuna finds himself transported back to the Heian period. How does all this tie in with Raiko's disappearance? We're still not really told " but there are some strong hints dropped that there's more of a connection between the series' two arcs than has been apparent to now. That's a good thing " the way events shifted from past to present so quickly at the end of volume 3, and without any apparent reason, never seemed quite right to me. The two arcs needed to be tied together in some way to make that jump worthwhile " that's now beginning to happen, and hopefully the way that it's done will make sense.

I'm still not as connected with the characters this time around as I was during the Heian arc, though. I'm happy enough that Kintaro doesn't get much screentime, but Urabe and Sadamitsu are both sadly underused this time around, while modern Hikaru's lacking some of the drive and confidence that her historical counterpart had. You cared what happened to the characters in the first arc " I'm not finding that I care this time around, and that's a fairly major failing of these episodes. There's also a pacing issue, in that it's taking so long for the overall mystery to be explained and resolved that you begin to lose interest in the investigations themselves.

In summary:
This volume of Otogi Zoshi does begin to fill in some of the gaps that the shift from past to present left open, but it doesn't do it quickly enough to really keep the attention " the story just plods along, covering a lot of ground that's already been covered while letting some new information trickle out. That doesn't make for the most exciting viewing, which is a shame as the underlying idea of the story is good and the emerging links with the Heian arc look to be very interesting. Hopefully the final volume will tie both arcs of the story together in a more interesting way.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,Japanese Language 5.1,Japanese Language DTS,English Language 2.0,English Language 5.1,English Language DTS,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Manga UK
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Otogi Zoshi