Flame of Recca Vol. #02 - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: C+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Flame of Recca

Flame of Recca Vol. #02

By Chris Beveridge     January 28, 2005
Release Date: January 25, 2005

Flame of Recca Vol. #02
© Viz Media

What They Say
ust as Recca is about to learn about the legendary Hokage from Ninja expert Mr. Tatesako, a cocksure kid named Koganei and Mokuren, a maniacal plant expert, interrupt Recca's tutorial and kidnap Yanagi. With laser-packing statues and possessed puppets attacking him, can Recca teach these mysterious foes a lesson they'll never forget?

Features Four Episodes:
The Shadow Ninja Clan " The Mystery of the Hokage
Fearful Fire Sorcerer, Kurei
Stone Guardian " The Game of Death
The Room of Dolls " Fuko's Desperate Struggle

The Review!
It's a bit of fun and hanging out for the gang before Yanagi gets kidnapped by one of the most powerful men in the world.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix is decent but like a number of other shows from around this time the bulk of it is pretty much a full sounding mix that doesn't have too much in the way of strong directionality across the forward soundstage. It's a good sounding mix overall but it doesn't have any huge punch or oomph to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems during regular playback with either language track.

Originally airing in 1997, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The print and materials for this show are decent but there are some things to note. First, there's some noticeable print damage throughout but much more noticeable during the first two episodes where you can see some dirt, dust and scratches. The second is that this isn't a high quality show to begin with. The series has always looked like it was done on a budget and it's visible during a lot of scenes, particularly mid-range character shots where there's practically no detail to their faces; some shots even have completely blank faces. The coloring style used, especially for the blacks that shade things like Recca's school uniform, are just drenched on and without detail. This is the kind of show where they never expected it to have to show as much detail as it is now and it doesn't translate well a lot of times. It's definitely accurate to the source materials however but this is a show that in some ways probably looked better on VHS.

If the first two covers are anything to go by, this series should have some great looking artwork throughout it. This volume is a great detailed piece that has the core trio together ready to save Yanagi and has Recca in his best ninja outfit. The back cover provides a fiery backdrop and more black that has a very brief premise of the series. The discs features and episode numbers and titles are listed as well. Viz releases typically have very little in the way of technical information and this release isn't much different, especially since what little there is is spread out. The insert lists the episode numbers and titles as well as the chapter sections and a list of the extras. The reverse side has a piece of production artwork showing off Fuko's Fujin.

The menu layout for this release has its pluses and negatives. The main menu is nicely done with a close-up shot of Recca in his full ninja garb but with his face exposed while a mixture of flame animation and other artwork from the show plays behind him. This is set to some of the instrumental music from the show. The selections are all the basic ones and easy to navigate about. On the plus side, the chapter selection menu has to be one of the best I've seen as it gives you instant access to any chapter on the disc for any episode without having to go through numerous submenus. The downside to the menus is that there's a bit of transitional animation of both a bit of the flame as well as piece from the show itself, which has Recca pouring out some of his flame. We're no fans of transitional animations in general but this one even uses a bit of the English version of Recca grunting to produce his flame. Otherwise, the menus are pretty good here overall even if they didn't read our players' language presets correctly.

The only included extra with this release is a series of production sketches in a single gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Recca's opening volume throws a lot of information out at the viewer and introduces not only the core cast of characters but several others that haven't fully joined in yet but have had some impact, such as Mikigami. With bits of history provided by Kagehoshi and the looming threat of Kurei, there's plenty of material that comes quickly and gives you an idea of any number of ways the show could actually go, which is a nice change of pace from some shows where halfway through them you're still wondering where they'll be going.

This set of episodes is a good bit of fun as well, though things both slow down and pick up at the same time. The plot for the next minor arc kicks in but it's not as chaotic in a sense as the first couple of episodes of the show. Things start up rather nicely though as it's settled down from the last incident at the amusement park and that seems to have been treated as some kind of freak accident. Recca's even upbeat and awake for school but that's mostly due to a substitute teacher that's there and he's his favorite of them all since he's a specialist in ninja history. This works out well Recca since he needs to get some information and the group gets invited to his house after school.

With the name Hokage, the teacher explains that they're ones not to be mentioned much because they've managed to avoid most mention in history books or other noteworthy documents. The Hokage clan have been known to be a ninja's ninja in that they're even more mysterious and in the dark than every other known ninja clan. They've also got a wide variety of special powers attributed to them, partially due to some interesting tools in their employ, but as the teacher rattles off things like the power of water, flame and time control, Recca realizes everything that Kagehoshi has been telling him has been true. This settles into his mind easily enough and makes it easier to accept what's going on.

Their time is cut short though as Kurei has sent two of his underlings to the residence, which is actually a temple, in order to take Yanagi and bring her back for study as her powers are confirmed now. To Recca's surprise though, the attacks are quite unexpected. One of them is a young kid named Koganei but he's wielding a really powerful mogodus and knows how to use it. To complement him, a darkly clad older man who looks pretty scummy introduces himself as Mokuren and his own mogodus is related to plants and he's actually ingested it so that he can grow plants out from his body and control them almost like tentacles. He's also got a nasty distaste for women and within a few minutes of both of them arriving on the scene, they've got everyone down for the count and Yanagi in hand.

This sets things for where they'll be for the next ten episodes or so as Yanagi is whisked away to a mountain mansion that's little known so that she can be examined in order to extend Kurei's fathers life into immortality. Recca's determined to get her so after shaking Kagehoshi down for information now that he's come to accept much of what she's said as truth and he figures she's got a lead on where this mansion is. Though he doesn't want Fuko and Domon to go with him, both have their own grudges after being taken down by Mokuren so easily and they head off with him to the mansion. This is where things start taking on something of a tournament feel as Kurei welcomes them inside and sets them on a gauntlet in order to see just how much trouble they're going to be as well as how intelligent they are.

In a way, this is where it can get to be a challenge to watch for some people since it's laid out in order to help Recca and the others to learn to work together and to expand the powers of their tools and themselves. It's fairly forced and linear so you can see how it's going to go but what I've always found fun with it, since this is probably my fourth time watching this series, is that it's just well done for the most part and the growth of the characters is enjoyable. The parallels to Yu Yu Hakusho continue to be very evident here though, particularly between the Domon and Kuwabara comparisons, but the characters here are a real draw all around. One of the things that continues to be a difference that works in its favor is have Fuko on the team and there being other key women involved that are actually involved and not side players like in Hakusho.

In Summary:
Though more than half of this volume is just fight sequences, they've got a bit of creativity to them and an intellectual challenge for the team as well as a physical one. With the leads having spent most of their years fighting against each other now they have to learn to start working with each other and newer people as well all while dealing with gaining new powers and tools. This volume sets them on the path of finally understanding just what kind of forces are being aligned against them in Mori's quest for immortality. Things are slowly falling into place and everything is coming together nicely both in story and in characters. I love this shows sense of style and the way it handles things in such a loose way.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Sketches

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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