The rerelease of the Blue Seed thinpak brings together the TV series and the three episode OVA series that followed it.
What They Say
For years, the supernatural forces of the Aragami have feasted on a steady diet of human sacrifices, which have allowed them to live peacefully among mankind...until now. Evil is brewing, and they're craving their next victim. Get ready for an all-out war between good versus evil!
For this viewing, I listened to the English 2.0 dub. A Japanese track is also available in 2.0. The English dub is the same used for the original 2001 VHS/DVD releases, and sounds pretty good. The sound is clear, and there is good balance between the music, effects, and dialogue, and battle scenes make use of the stereo mix by having some decent directionality. If I have any real complaint about the dub, it is that it suffers from Americanization of pronunciation for a number of names. For example, it was not until I watched the credits for the first disc that I realized that “Katie” was actually “Kaede.” Not a super big deal, but being used to modern dubs and their attempts to pronounce things as correctly as possible, this jumped out at me.
For a series that was originally released in 1994, this set looks about as nice as it possibly could. Delivered in 4:3, it still uses the same cut made for the original DVDs, which was not perfect, but any flaws seem to be more the age of the masters rather than anything with the actual transfer. This is especially surprising considering ADV has crammed seven episodes on each of the first two discs and six on the second two, but there are no instances of cross coloration, aliasing, or pixilation. Yet, as to be expected for being an older show, the colors are dull, lining is indistinct at times, and it is just not as pretty as newer titles. This will not necessarily be a problem for anybody used to older anime, but it might be a bit jarring for newer fans.
That said, the Blue Seed: Beyond OVAs look much nicer. Though they only followed the end of the TV series roughly a year later, it is obvious that more money was poured into the design of the OVAs. The coloring and lining are much crisper, and the animation is smoother. As rough as the TV show looks, the OVAs look good, especially for being twelve years old.
Interestingly, ADV took the packaging for this release in a bit of a different direction from the previous releases. The older titles all had dark motifs for their cases and boxes, with black backgrounds and dark greens and blues. The background for this set is a blue silhouette of a tree with Mitamas hanging on it against a white background. The box has a wraparound image of Kaede, Momiji, and Kusanagi, with Momiji on the spine and the other two on either side. Similar to the original releases, the thinpaks each have a montage of the characters on the front cover. The TV cases use different montages from the first releases, but the Blue Seed: Beyond disc used the same one. The backs of the cases have screen shots, episode listings, and technical details. Overall, the idea in the imagery is the same for this release, but switching from darker colors to lighter ones gives this set a completely different visual effect.
Interestingly, though the packaging now looks much different from the individual titles, the menus, which were originally designed to match the packaging, are still the same. The main menu uses the same picture that is on the cover for the individual title, with selections for extras, ADV trailers, and setup along the right hand side. Along the bottom are individual selections for each episode. Though there is no “Play All” function, selecting an episode will play the following episodes as well. The background is black, with dark green borders. Since they went with a different feel for the packaging, it would have been nice if they had updated the menus as well, but these certainly are not bad.
Unlike many ADV thinpaks, this set maintains all the extras from the previous releases. In terms of diversity, there are not a whole lot of extras to speak of. Each disc of the TV series (discs one through four) have three character bios, eventually detailing all of the main characters and members of the TAC, and the disc for the Beyond OAV series has the clean opening for those episodes.
However, most of the extras’ capital is spent on fourteen “Omake Theaters.” These are bonus 3-5 minute side “episodes” that see the characters in other situations. For the most part, these theaters are ‘wacky funny,’ but there are a few serious ones. In particular, I really like one that shows Momiji just killing time on a rainy afternoon. Short, simple, and sweet. I was doubly pleased to see that all of these, except for the one on the Beyond disc, were given dubs as well, as many times these side projects are just subtitled. I am usually not one to get excited about extras, but I particularly enjoyed these.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Blue Seed is a title that I saw roughly half of when it was first being released in 2001. A local rental store had a few of the volumes, and I picked up the first DVD with the intent to get the rest. For some reason, I never did, but it was always one that I wanted to revisit and finish. Having now done so, I can say that while I enjoyed Blue Seed, it is a title that I do not think has aged very well.
First released in Japan in 1994, Blue Seed plays on the myth of the Shinto Sea God, Susano’o. Susano’o was rivals with his sister, Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, and after a particularly nasty fight, Amaterasu went into hiding in Ama-no-Iwato and Susano’o was banished from Heaven. Upon descending from Heaven, Susano’o arrives in Izumo and meets and elderly couple who were tormented by Yamata-no-Orochi, an eight headed serpent. The couple had once had eight daughters, but each of the previous seven years, Yamata-no-Orochi had ritualistically eaten a daughter, and now was nearing the time for the final daughter, Kushinada. Upon hearing this, Susano’o offered his help in return for their last daughter, with whom he had fallen in love. The elderly couple agreed, and Susano’o defeated Yamata-no-Orochi, reconciled with Amaterasu, and lived happily ever after with Kushinada.
Blue Seed uses this myth to build its story. According to Blue Seed, Yamata-no-Orochi (or Orochi for short) is the king of the Aragami, a species of demon-like plant monsters who bear a hatred of all humans, and whose souls are contained within blue seeds known as Mitama. After Orochi’s defeat, the Aragami are sealed with power bestowed on Kushinada-hime. Kushinada’s power is transferred to her descendents, settling in the youngest female of her line. According to legend, the Aragami will remain sealed while the Kushinada line is intact.
In modern times, the Aragami are starting to break through and are actively hunting the Kushinada, who are still located in Izumo. The youngest Kushinda are a set of twins, Kaede and Momiji Fujimiya. After their birth, Kaede was given over to the Terrestrial Administration Center for protection. The TAC is a government agency given the task of researching the Aragami and the Kushinada legend. When this series starts, a fifteen year old Kaede is willingly giving over her life to try and end the Aragami threat, against the wishes of the TAC.
This leave Momiji as the sole inheritor of the Kushinada powers, and she becomes the new Aragami target. Unfortunately, unlike Kaede, she knows nothing of this, and so when she is randomly attacked, it all comes as a surprise to her. Upon this attack, she is formally introduced to Kusinagi. Kusinagi has been fused with seven mitama, giving him the powers of an Aragami, however he is charged with protecting the Kushinada at all costs. Between he and the newly refocused TAC, Momiji has plenty of protection, but the Aragami are persistent, and when a new enemy with Kusanagi’s powers enters the fray, Momiji’s life gets much more difficult.
Following the TV series is a set of three OVAs, released as a collection called Blue Seed: Beyond, which is the fifth disc in this set. The first two OVAs are a two part story that have the same feel as the TV show and center around a fight with some artificially created Aragami. These episodes are fairly fun, though do not add a whole lot other than offering the chance to revisit the characters. The final OVA is imaginatively titled “Six Babes Bathing in a Killer Hot Spring”. Though a bomb threat is given as a plot device, this OVA is little more than an excuse to have extensive coverage of the various females bathing in a remote location. That is not a complaint, just an observation.
The most interesting aspect of the plot of Blue Seed is its grounding in mythology. Virtually every aspect of the Susano’o myth has significance in this title. Though Amaterasu never shows up, the Ama-no-Iwato, located on the grounds of the Fujimiya Shrine, plays an important role late in the development of the plot, and Susano’o’s role in Heaven is the force driving the plot forward. What I particularly liked about it is how they just build on the mythology rather than change parts to suit their needs. Many times a myth is altered so that it fits the story the author has in mind; in Blue Seed the story is designed to fit the legend.
That said, there were quite a few instances of clunky writing in this one, which brings it down a little bit. For example, when Kaede is getting ready to disappear, she tells the TAC not to worry, because they still have her sister to rely on. The TAC react to this news as if they had no idea that Kaede had a sister, despite the fact that they are dedicated to the Kushinada line and it was their decision to separate the siblings. I also found times when explanations for characters’ motives were either vague or nonexistent. In particular, the villain for the two part OVA is notably closed mouthed as to why he is recreating the Aragami.
Even with that, I think the biggest problem this series has now is just age. Many of the themes and ideas this show plays on have since been done better. There is plenty of action, but for such a dark theme, the action is pretty tame compared to modern standards. It has a decent amount of “misunderstanding” humor and panty shots, but it stops short of being truly humorous when put up against later series. The environmentalist theme is understated when matched with other ‘environmental’ titles. For its time, Blue Seed would have been a stand out title, and it is still fun to watch, but it is also one that will probably struggle to find a new audience at this point.
Blue Seed has a pretty decent mix of dark themes and lighthearted elements. The story, though stilted at times, is interesting if for no other reason than its basis in Shinto mythology. However, it is also a series that might not match up well with a modern audience. Old school fans will probably find a lot to like with this title, but people reared on newer titles might not. Recommended for people who enjoy older titles, but others might want to give it a rental first.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System