Unresolved hatred from Japan's feudal wars radically alters the life of an otherwise typical high school student, bringing him into conflict with his emotions from both his past and his present.
What They Say
Includes the OVA: Rebels of the Rivers Edge, for a total of 5 discs.
Takaya Oogi is a street smart high school student, dedicated to protecting his best friend Yuzuru Narita. The two are wrapped up in an ancient war of darkness and tragedy, begun during Japan's chaotic Warring States Period. The psychic powers of long ago find new life in the hearts of Takaya and Yuzuru, but rival clansmen seek to destroy them.
Japanese 2.0 is clear, with no fuzziness in the background noise. The English 2.0 language track is clear, and really quite good.
The video quality is excellent. This series has old-school animation - characters look older, with heavy shadowing and more muted colors, which show up dramatically. The picture is sharp and clear. Special effects are not spectacular, but hold up well.
A single large jewel case box set with five discs. The complete TV series is found on the first four of the discs; the remaining disc has the OVA and extras. There are no physical extras packaged with the discs.
Simple art, with choices arranged horizontally across the bottom for the series, and vertically on the OVA. The control was a little easier on the OVA - the TV series disk menus occasionally "stuck" and made it hard to find one's spot. Navigating was also simpler using the OVA menu.
Extas on the first 4 disk are sparse - trailers, a few production sketches. The OVA disk includes interviews with Toshihiko Seki (Ougi,) which was very amusing, Show Hayami (Naoe,) which was very serious, and a group interview (Show, Toshihiko and Sakiko Tamagawa who played Haruie,) as well as textless Opening and Ending sequences.
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Disk One: A spiritual seal is broken, an old battle is rejoined. Yuzuru and Ougi, high school students and best friends, learn that they are part of the battle. Yuzuru belongs to the Takeda clan and Ougi to the Uesugi clan, families that are deadly enemies and are still fighting in the Feudal Underworld.
Yuzuru is approached by members of the Takeda clan, whereupon his powers as the ancient leader of the Takeda are awakened. Ougi meets Naoe, another Uesagi warrior, and is told that he is Kagetora of the Uesugi clan. This is followed by the arrival of a woman, another of Kagetora's companions, Haruie. Haruie defeats Yuzuru. With the support of Naoe and Haruie, Ougi "exorcises" Takeda from Yuzuru.
Upon returning to school, Ougi is approached by a new classmate who claims to be his best friend. Although everyone says that they have always been friends, Ougi has no memory of him.
Disk Two: Ougi ponders his new 'best friend" Chiaki. Naoe and Haruie recognize Chiaki as a Possessor, a reborn spirit from the Feudal Underworld. In the meantime, there are rumors of students seeing ghosts in the hallways.
An expository history lesson explains the ghost is trying the gain revenge for a wrongful death due to his protest of unreasonable taxes. Someone has unbound his and other ghosts from where the bodies were buried and sent them to the school as vengeful spirits.
In the midst of battle, Naoe is struck down, but Chiaki turns out to be another ally from the past. Kaegtora's best friend, after all. Yuzuru placates the spirits with his tears, releasing them from their bond. Ougi confronts Naoe about memories he has from Kagetora's past, and Naoe reveals his desire for Ougi.
Ougi self-destructs, picking pointless fights, railing against his fate - and against his confused feelings about Naoe. He is rescued after a beating and wakes in an older man's house. Not knowing his rescuer, Ougi confesses his conflicted feelings for Naoe, and his concern that Naoe only loves Kagetora within him.
We learn that the Hojo clan has resurrected an ancient beast that eats souls and binds them into trees.
The older man who saved Ougi confesses that he is actually Hojo Kojiro, Kagetora's older adopted brother from when Kagetora was fostered out as a hostage. Kojiro asks Ougi to return with him to the Hojo family. Ougi rejects him. Naoe is permitted to visit Ougi. Kagetora, now awake in Ougi, yells at Naoe for transplanting his soul into his former lover, Minako's, body - then sleeping with the girl, because Kagetora was in there. Kagetora swears to never forgive Naoe. Naoe offers the Hojo his allegiance, even if he is asked to kill Ougi - which he immediately is.
Disk Four: Chiaki arrives to attack the Hojo clan stronghold to stop their nefarious plot of binding Kagetora's soul to a tree in the Nikko shrine then borrowing Yuzuru's spiritual power to set the mountain on fire and absorb the souls, thus turning neutral territory in the Feudal Underworld into Hojo territory. (And thank heavens Chiaki explained all that, because I sure had no idea.) Chiaki fights the Tsutsuga beast, but is attacked by another, more powerful beast. Suddenly, there is a blast -Chiaki and beast collapse. Yuzuru has awoken to his power.
Naoe fakes Ougi's death, then defeats the beast and runs away with the mirror in which Kagetora's soul has been bound, to stop Kagetora's soul from being bound to the tree. Naoe is pursued down the mountain, but his power annihilates the enemy. Naoe vows to bury himself and Kagetora's souls eternally but, when confronted with a choice, releases Kagetora's soul back into Ougi's body. Kagetora and Naoe make their way back to the shrine, where Kagetora swears to stop the Hojo. They seal the four directions so the Hojo can't do whatever it was that they wanted to do. But the wily Hojo have a Plan B up their sleeves.
Chiaki searches for and finds Ieyasu's skull shrine, but cannot get in. He calls on Kagetora, who responds by bringing a great warrior's spirit from a previous episode back to call on everyone to preserve the land and the peace. With the power of Ieyasu's skull, Chiaki is able to break the Hojo's spell and stop the fire. Ougi and the others defeat the Hojo clan utterly.
Ougi wakes up, Yuzuru at his side. Yuzuru tells Ougi that Naoe brought him there, he's been asleep for a whole day. Naoe goes to take his leave of Ougi, praising him for his will, but Ougi asks why he was released from the mirror. Naoe admits that he wanted to join him in the mirror for eternity, but he couldn't do it, because he couldn't take Ougi's life. He confesses his love, puts his jacket over Ougi's shoulders. Ougi lets him leave.
Ougi wonders if he becomes Kagetora fully, will he be worthy of considering Naoe, as the sun sets dramatically.
OVA Disk: Ougi and Naoe take on the evil Ikko sect, who are building a psychic cannon, to send the souls of vengeful spirits into the heart of a major industrial area, where they will wreak havoc and harm many lives.
We also follow Haruie as she seeks a former lover with whom she hopes to be reunited. She believes she has found him, but in reality, he is the one survivor of the massacre that created the vengeful spirits and is now their target.
Ougi is forced to call down Bishamonten and absorb his power and use the tengu of the mountain to defeat the Ikko sect and free the spirits.
We learn how Haruie and her lover met and fell in love and how she lost him. Haruie swears to keep living until she meets him again.
Before they part, Ougi, speaking as Kagetora, tells Naoe that if Naoe can beat him, he'll submit to him.
Based on a series of novels, this was a very complex story that, I feel, did not translate well to anime. I did learn that, as in opera, tenors are good, baritones are psychopomps, basses are evil. This was the least fun I've had watching an anime since the TV dub of Yu-Gi-Oh. If you like pretty boys standing around talking earnestly about fictitious ancient history, then no doubt you will love Mirage of Blaze.
Japanese 2.0 Language, Japanese 5.1 Language, English 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Slates, 3 discs of Extras Textless Opening/Ending, Tokyo University Heian Lectures, "Zen" Music Video, Original Promotion Trailers. Behind the Scenes, "Wish Upon A Star" Discussion.
RCA F32648 33" TV, Phillips DVP140/37 DIVx Ultra DVD player, no additional sound system.