Demon Prince Enma Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Visual USA, Inc.
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 98
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Demon Prince Enma

Demon Prince Enma Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     April 24, 2007
Release Date: May 22, 2007


Demon Prince Enma Vol. #1
© Bandai Visual USA, Inc.


What They Say
Contains episodes 1-2. Enma is the Demon Prince of the Underworld, a demon "Born of Fire." His mission is to take back or destroy demons that have escaped to the human world from the Underworld. Along with his partner, Princess Yukihime, "Born of Ice," and the monster, Kapaeru, Enma sets up "Enma's Detective Agency." Tonight, like any other night, they will roam the sleepless city. Horrific incidents that could not possibly be human acts occur one after another. The stench of evil lingers at the scene... Enma's fire rips through the darkness!

The Review!
Intent on either destroying or bringing back demons to the Underworld, Enma sets up a detective agency in order to conduct his mission.

Audio:
A pair of Japanese language tracks makes up this release with a 5.1 and 2.0 mix that are both encoded at 448 kbps which comes across pretty well. The show has its moments of action but it is for the most part a very dialogue driven one so there isn't a lot of time to shine. There is a good bit of directionality across both the forward and rear soundstages with small ambient sounds to create the mood however and the music works very well. Though not an in your face mix, it's one that serves the material well to create a sense of atmosphere. We didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 2006, the transfer for this two episode OVA release is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. With a dark palette of covers for the most part, the transfer holds up pretty well on our system though not perfectly. While character animation is generally free of problems outside of some noticeable color gradients once in awhile, the backgrounds maintain a mostly solid feel. Where they tend to have some problems comes in the form of certain kinds of walls that are shaded in gray and black as they tend to exhibit some noise there. It's very minimal even on the 70" set and hardly an issue at all on smaller sets. Beyond that, the usual problems we see such as cross coloration or aliasing are non-existent, resulting in a surprisingly smooth yet not too digital looking transfer.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but with the title in English instead, it's a very dark and murky looking piece. The background is done with some very dark reds and blacks which when combined with Enma's design done in the same make it all the creepier. The only burst of color comes in the small form of one of the women from the show who is consequently covered in blood yet still shadowed. The cover screams that it's a dark horror show and one that's adult in nature, not something for the younger set. The back cover is pretty text heavy as it covers the basics of the show as well as its origins. Between those areas are a pair of strips that have shots from the show that highlight the violence and characters. The discs episodes and titles are clearly listed as are the extras and the discs features in a great looking technical grid.

The enclosed booklet is a great piece that provides what was presumably in the two booklets in the Japanese release. The covers for each DVD make up the front and back covers of the booklet while inside it has a red section for the first booklet and a blue one for the second. Each of them has character designs, notes, a short story and a couple of strips by Go Nagai about the show. The credits section in particular looks really good with the layout and artwork. If there is anything that Bandai Visual is missing with the design of their releases right now, particularly those that are combining the original OVAs, is a reversible cover. For the price that they're asking, they should have a reverse side that has the full design of the second Japanese cover there instead of relegating it to the back of the booklet.

Menu:
While I had thought that Gunbuster 2's menus were simple, that was nothing compared to Enma. After a quick bit of bloody animation leading into it, the main menu has the titles for the two episodes and the scene selection right underneath it. The bottom has the setup and a lead-in to the special features (where each volume's extras have their own page). The backgrounds for them are just static pieces of dark and murky stills from the show which when combined with the red used for the logo just feels poorly done. There isn't any music or animation to the menus but they do have some dripping sounds coming across once in awhile. Surprisingly, if you leave the main menu on for a couple of it minutes it eventually stops. Access times are nice and fast however and we had no issues in getting around the menus.

Extras:
The extras included in this release mirror the Japanese releases pretty well. The first episode's extras are a pair of video interviews with the voice actors for Enma and Lola which run just about four minutes each. The extras for the second episode include the video interviews of the voice actors for Yukihime and Nanami, both of which also run just under fourteen minutes combined.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the short run manga by Go Nagai from back in 1973, Demon Prince Enma is the latest creation of his to make the transition to anime. After the surprisingly enjoyable Devil Lady release a few years back, I was keen to see how this show would stack up as it was intending to go the adult horror route. I've had mixed luck with Go Nagai's works over the years with very few of them being enjoyable.

Demon Prince Enma, a four part OVA series, centers on the idea that Enma has come to the human world in order to bring back escaped demons. This is something that appears to happen once every great while as he and his companions have been to the human realm before to capture those who escaped from the Underworld. Enma, a demon prince "born of fire," is aided by Yukihime, a demon princess "born of ice." Along with his companion Chapeauji, a creature that looks like a witches hat, and a kappa-like creature named Kapaeru, they deal with the demons that have crossed over and cause trouble. Enma offers them a chance to return or face complete destruction.

The human world has changed a lot since their last time here but humanity itself hasn't changed much. The darkness within every person's heart continues to be easy fodder for manipulation by demons. Of the group, Kapaeru has adjusted the most as he's quick to use technology such as cel phones in order to track down the demons. Along with the help of a friend who sends him emails about stories she hears, the group is able to perform its mission. They've also taken the unusual route of setting up a detective agency so that people with supernatural problems can come to them and they can determine if it's an actual demon that they're looking for.

Each episode stands alone in the tale it is telling but there are threads across them that form a larger storyline that's slowly being laid clear. The individual tales are interesting though as they take traditional folklore demons and manipulate them into the modern setting. The initial tale deals with a young woman who stands out because her father is German. She's leading a double life because of her father but it's become more difficult because of the unsettling deaths and visions she's now having. The second tale is a bit more traditional as it takes a doll as its central focus of evil. Owned by a school student, the doll wreaks havoc and death wherever it goes based on the desires of its owner. The bloody path it creates is quite creepy, particularly when you see over a dozen of the dolls clawing a body and leaving tiny little bloody footprints.

Demon Prince Enma is all about style and atmosphere. With something of a traditional storytelling method that's similar to OVAs like Vampire Princess Miyu, there isn't exactly anything original here. Where it succeeds in is in execution as the buildup of atmosphere and tension is very well done. The show has a very dark nature with practically all of it taking place at night, either inside cramped locations, host bars or dank alleyways that have some perfect lighting to them. The characters aren't really fleshed out that much because of the length of the show but they're not here to grow and change, they're here to be part of a story that has some rather good creepy moments to it.

It's also a show that, like many Go Nagai creations, have a fair bit of nudity to it. While there are the obvious fun moments where Yukihime's kimono is torn across the top or Enma goes into "boy mode" and fondles some hostesses, there is also a healthy dose of creepy nudity. Be it Lola relaxing in the tub only to have a stream of blood invade her or seeing a body torn apart elsewhere, they've tried to use the nudity in order to seem mature. Sometimes it works because it allows for some scenes to be more realistic. Instead of using steam to cover the naughty bits like you would in a TV series, you see it all here. It's also obviously gratuitous and unnecessary but it's a hallmark of Go Nagai's works. It's similar to the kind of nudity seen in Devil Lady except that it's slicker in its visual presentation.

In Summary:
As a short run OVA series, Demon Prince Enma fills a void that's currently existing here in terms of adult oriented horror. There are some shows that play in the same field but rarely do any work the same kind of effect that Go Nagai creations do. With each episode running about forty minutes each, they're able to create a good sense of atmosphere and tension while building up something larger with the subplots. This isn't a show with a lot of character growth or even exposition but rather something that's designed to be creepy, tense and engaging to watch. It succeeds on those counts and others. Demon Prince Enma is the least known of the latest round of titles from Bandai Visual USA but it's a solid show and its presentation is top-notch.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,20 minutes of bonus footage included, Voice Actor Interviews, 16-page booklet with four-panel manga by Go Nagai and short story by Ritsuko Hayasaka

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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