The original release from ADV Films receives a bit of a face-lift with its packaging and arrives on the scene once again for new fans to discover.
What They Say
Demons and devils beware, the sexiest slayer to ever swing a soul -sword is back! Yohko Mano has just learned that she comes from a long line of professional devil hunters. And before she learns how to use her powers, her 16th birthday will turn into a domonic bloodbath and a grueling trial by hellfire!
Though we’ve heard the show in English over the years, I admit to coming back again and again to the Japanese language track. The show is a very simple stereo mix encoded at 224kbps with most everything from dialogue to music and sound effects filling the entire forward soundstage. There’s hardly any noticeable directionality, but it’s fairly well expected with a title of this age. While it is a simple track, it’s clean and clear with no noticeable distortions or dropouts.
The video here is something of a mixed bag and set up in a slightly odd way for those unfamiliar with the shows history. The first episode is presented twice; one is the original OVA release that was done subtitled. The second presentation is the Special Edition version, which has some extended footage and is presented dub only. The Special Edition was done up a few years after the release of the original and features some extended scenes but the show has nearly the same running time. But due to the layout differences in the show, it can’t be presented the same way. The second disc contains the 2nd and 3rd OVA’s.
The first OVA, the original edition, is a mixed bag, but it’s pretty much all source material related. The shows colors are fairly flat looking with only a few moments of some vibrancy. There’s some slight cross coloration in a few scenes and some aliasing during the middle length shots with characters. What’s most jarring with this episode is during various scene shifts, you’ll end up with a segment that has a long of grain going through. While the main program isn’t completely clear, these scenes go up several notches. The remaining OVA’s fare much better than the first one with none of the grain issues and even the minor cross coloration being less apparent. Colors also look much better here with more life and vibrancy to them. In spot-checking the special edition of the first OVA, it looks pretty much the same as the original OVA in terms of quality.
The previous release for this was done up as two separate collections, one of which was a double keepcase. This one is slimmed down nicely as it’s a single keepcase with a hinge inside to hold all three of the DVDs from that original release back in 2002. The cover artwork for this release gives the show a very fresh feeling as it features Yohko in an action pose with her sword out. Set against a blood red background, she’s got a firm look to her face and it feels very current and energetic. The back cover takes a piece of similar artwork for its background with a lot of dark reds and blacks to give it a good creepy feeling without being murky. There’s a number of small shots from the show brought in as well which don’t give away its age too badly. The summary runs through the basics, it’s clear about the number of discs and runs through a comprehensive listing of the extras in a very prominent way without being over the top. Toss in the technical grid and a copious amount of legal and production stuff and you have a well rounded cover.
The menus load up with the shot of Yohko wielding her sword and then moving to the static animation shot menu with the music continuing to play. The main menu is nice looking overall on both discs, with selections and features quick to access on the main page and good submenus. Access times are nice and fast and everything is laid out logically. The only thing I wish had been presented here was an explanation on why there’s two versions of the first episode without having to go and listen to the commentary, something many people won’t do in general.
Mirroring what was on the previous two editions, there’s a good mix of extras, but some won’t be for everyone as we mentioned earlier. Included is a good retrospective of artwork for the show that has some really interesting pieces. There’s a music video as well and the various trailers used to promote it. The big extra, at least to me, is the Historical commentary by Matt Greenfield, David Williams and Janice Williams that runs along the original version of the OVA. The track has the three talking about the origins of ADV with the start of the company, acquisition of Yohko and the trials getting it to market (blue tabs!) as well as a number of other topics. For those who’ve followed things about the studios with any interest over the years will be interested in it. Amusing tidbits such as learning that their first closet-office is now a “gentleman’s club” will surely spark some interesting comments.
One of the things that I’ll consider an extra but isn’t actually listed as such as during the discs opening sequence. When the ADV logo comes on, we get treated to all the logos they’ve used over the years from their first release to their 10th anniversary one. Talk about bringing back memories of that logo starting up during late night sessions of tape watching many moons ago.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Back when this show first came out, it was something that the market hadn’t really seen before, especially if all you got was commercial releases. During the early 90’s, the giant robots ruled the market as well as girls with guns in science fiction shows. And then comes this fantasy/comedy/fanservice show from a company nobody had heard of. Suffice to say, it sold extremely well and launched ADV firmly into the market as well as giving them a reputation within the industry itself and to the fans that bought the stuff.
The story focuses on sixteen-year-old Yohko Mano. She’s pretty much the typical high school anime girl with the perfect figure, slightly clueless at times and lives with an interesting family. She lives with her mother and grandmother with no mention at all of the father. If you go by the ribbing the grandmother gives, you get the feeling that Yohko’s mother doesn’t even know who the father may be. Like any family, there are amusing fights at the breakfast table that breaks into pan vs. golf club fights.
Yohko is ably aided by her friend Chi and the admirer Osamu and the obligatory love interest of the beautiful boy of Hideki. All of these characters eventually fall to the side of the story as it progresses to different lengths. The story focuses on Yohko the most, with an incident at the swimming poll causing the real start of the trouble. When she falls into the shallow end of the pool, she finds herself sucked deep underneath by some creature with tentacles. We learn from here that the school principal is actually a demon of some sort and is trying to eliminate Yohko.
When she ends up with Osamu later, he’s transformed from fairly geeky boy into suave sophisticated man and takes Yohko to a love hotel for the two to finally consummate their love. Yohko finds himself under his spell pretty easily and as he’s being controlled himself, his moves work wonders on her. But fear not, for the black clad motorcycle-riding Grandma is here to save the day and stops Osamu from making Yohko less than virginal.
She reveals to Yohko that Yohko is destined to be the 108th Devil Hunter of their family line, provided she can turn sixteen and unlock the abilities in her before she has sex. Grandma, being the 107th hunter, has had to suffer with her own daughters wanton ways and had to keep up traditions until Yohko could be old enough to handle things. And it’s with this that Yohko becomes the 108th hunter and moves into the life of hunting, boys and attempts to find true love.
The show moves pretty much as you’d expect, with each episode being standalone in format. Yohko discovers a demon of some sort or some potential love interest and the two storylines intertwine in various ways. Amusingly, after the first episode all of the cast outside of Yohko and her friend Chi get discarded, with the grandmother not showing up again until the fifth episode. But the same applies, as a demon of some sort is awakened or has fiendish plans that Yohko must deal with, or her new pupil that arrives later on.
Back in 1992, Yohko seemed vibrantly fresh and new, something that hadn’t been seen here before. But ten years later, with the first episode especially, it doesn’t seem like it’s held up all that well. The formula used then was good, but it’s been so heavily built upon and reused in the time between that even though you know it was an early show, it has that been there and done that feel to it, right down to the amount of fanservice.
The second and third episodes feel a bit better and work without feeling as overly done as the first one. When watching the first episode, I had to mention to my wife just how almost shocking some of these scenes were ten years ago and that a lot of people didn’t know how to react. Yet here we were watching it in the evening with our two-year-old daughter watching and playing in the same room, barely giving things notice. Times have most definitely changed.
One thing that I found interesting after so many years of not watching the show is seeing who the voice actors were for it. I was surprised to find just how good a list of actors participated in this series, from Aya Hisakawa as the lead to such notables as Hiromi Tsuru, Chieko Honda and Kappei Yamaguchi. Heck, even my favorite, Sho Hayami of Wolfwood fame gets a brief roll here. After the first episode, I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to enjoy the show in total, but found that with the follow-up episodes, it held up a bit better. The first is still the weakest in my mind, as most first episodes tend to be, but there was a bit more life and vibrancy to the remaining episodes. The show holds a lot of nostalgia for me, but I’m not sure how well that will do for others.
With ADV Films pushing this release out again after several years, I was rather interested in checking it out again. This series was one of my earliest purchases on VHS way back in the day and there’s a certain fondness for going back to the well with it. The show is one that is certainly an early example of how many series would be made over the years but also an example of much of what ADV Films would license as well for quite some time. I can’t really say whether it holds up well or not after all this time because it is so familiar to me and I’m simply too close to it to be able to tell. What I can say is that this is a fun show, one that has a nice blend of comedy, sexy humor and action. It’s a classic for a number of reasons and one that I like going back to in order to explore some of my anime fan roots.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.