Mania Grade: B+
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B-
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: C+
- Age Rating: 16 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Viz Media
- MSRP: 24.95
- 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. #04
By Chris Beveridge
June 30, 2005
Release Date: July 05, 2005
Flame of Recca Vol. #04
What They SayThe Review!
© Viz Media
As the Kurei arc takes a short break, we get a massive history lesson and learn the true nature of events.Audio:
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.Video:
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.Packaging:
The artwork for this series continues to be solid overall and this time we get a really great looking piece that takes us back into the past with a shot of a ninja family surrounded by the trees and leaves. It's really very strikingly done when you look at the detail and design, particularly of the woman. 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 Koganei's Kogonanki.Menu:
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 menus are pretty good here overall even if they didn't read our players' language presets correctly.Extras:
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)
With the fourth volume of the series, the initial arc comes to a close and we get the setup for the next one that will pretty much run the rest of the series. What we do get in between there though are a couple of episodes that bring the series really into focus and provides all the hooks that got a lot of people really interested in this show.
The end of the arc inside Kurei's mansion is one of the more interesting aspects of the show as it takes the focus away from Kurei again and what he's trying to accomplish and instead keeps the focus on Recca. With Kurei having Yanagi in his grasp and the possibility of her being hurt now, Recca's gone all out by removing the armguard that he has and lets all of his dragons free. This is a huge moment as we learn from Kagehoshi about the various totem style fire elementals there have been over time and how the eight headed hydra dragon is the most powerful of all of them. Seeing this immense power flow from Recca's hand uncontrolled is very well done as is how it plays out. The dragons, as we've learned, are ornery bastards and don't like doing what they're told. But Recca's force of will impresses them and a deal is struck, though it's one that could cost Recca his life depending on how it goes. Recca's mastery of the dragons truly begins here and to me this is one of the best aspects of the show since it's not simply training, training and more training that gains his mastery but his force of will over them.
The series hits its quiet time at last though and for a couple of episodes the cast is allowed to settle down and just talk. Heading off to Kagehoshi's secret house which is really well designed and amusing as it's in the middle of a cliffside, she starts in on the tale of what's really going on, who she really is and why all of this is happening. The story goes back four hundred years when Kagehoshi was the wife of the clan leader and gave birth to Recca. Due to his not being a flame wielder like his father he was presumed to not be able to take over the clan when he came of age, due to his father having sired a boy before who could named Kurei. But Recca displays the ability himself eventually and sets into motion a power struggle that should not have happened which plays right into a war that was cutting down many of the ninja clans at the time.
Kagehoshi does all that she can to ensure her sons survival and casts a spell that will separate them for all time but send him to some place safe in the future. The negative effect on her is that it makes her immortal but also that the two can never actually touch until the spell is broken, which will mean her death. The tale is much more detailed and interconnected to things as it's told and we get some commentary on it from those listening to Kagehoshi, even the disbelieving Recca. This is one of those origin sequences that really wowed us over and had us become all the more interested in the show than we already were. It just doesn't feel like most other shows with this kind of tale woven into it.
The threat of Kurei is still out there though and with all this new information, the group has decided to not just wait for him but rather to take the time to train and get themselves prepared for what's to come. With all that they know now plus the way they've grown with their weapons, the downtime where they split up to train in different areas is much needed and helps to individualize all of them more and to give them some screen time to be away from each other and comment on all that's happened. It's a good break from what we've seen across the first three discs and is the necessary amount of exposition and set-up for the next arc. In Summary:
While the show has flaws and some of the animation just doesn't cut it sometimes such as the third episode here in some areas, the show's writing and characters have just such a strong appeal to me and even crosses over to my wife that it's admittedly easy to overlook that. When this show is on, it does exactly what it intends to do and it entertains us. This volume goes a long way in clearing up some of the mysteries from before and setting the stage for what's to happen next. Very good stuff and very enjoyable.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production Sketches
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.