Flame of Recca Vol. #05 - Mania.com

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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: 24.99
  • 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. #05

By Chris Beveridge     November 18, 2005
Release Date: October 04, 2005

Flame of Recca Vol. #05
© Viz Media

What They Say
It's Tournament time for Recca and the rest of the members of Team Hokage. Down in the depths of the fighting arena, they've been matched up against the awesome power of Team Ku, a band of assassins and killers led by the almighty and benevolent Captain Kukai. Do they have a shot against this killer crew or will it be a Round 1 knockout?!

The Review!
The series enters its tournament phase, which essentially goes to the end of the series, and the fun begins as the matches get underway.

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 it's fairly minor and something not unexpected considering the budget of the show. 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. The jitter is fairly visible throughout as well during scene changes but also during other scenes as well as you can see characters shifting a bit while the backgrounds stand still or vice versa.

While the actual artwork for the show continues to be fantastic, particularly this piece where Fuko once again finds her clothes being torn away while Tokiya and Domon surround her, what's new and not all that good is the large volume name along the bottom which covers up part of the artwork. I'm also surprised by the listing of it as the "Tournament Edition" since the rest of the series is essentially all tournament episodes. 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 Domon's Kuchibashio.

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.

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)
After months of training alone and in smaller groups, Recca and his team came together to show off a bit and figure out what their next move would be in order to take down Kurei. This doesn't take all that long to go through though as Kurei has sent a group his folks to provide a personal invitation to the Underground Tournament where the most powerful fighters in the world will come together to show who exactly is the best.

The opening salvo in the tournament comes as the group has take down the people Kurei sent but this turns into a fairly minor little tussle that essentially lets everyone show off a bit before formalizing their approach for the Underground Tournament. This part feels a bit forced but it's something that's actually over fairly quickly and is left with the idea of being settled more when they actually get to the tournament. While only certain people are allowed to the Tournament, Team Hakoge is allowed naturally to bring Yanagi into it but also Recca's mother, Kagehoshi. This keeps the whole team together nicely and allows for the two non-combatant women to provide commentary along the way and for Kagehoshi to reveal the nature of whatever madogu get discovered along the way. And one thing is for sure, there's a billion of these things out there.

The Tournament brings in some of the things that have become familiar such as the cute girl referee with wings wearing essentially a Playboy Bunny outfit, the hordes of overly powerful people milling about and the audience that looks like rejects for background characters from the world of Fist of the Northstar. Taking place on a secret location where Kurei's father has set about quite a line of defenses, the Tournament is well protected from any outside interference. The setup as it goes about is nicely done since we get a feel for some of the characters and the relationships that will follow, particularly between Recca and Kukai of the Team Ku. Seeing as they end up being the first group to fight against each other it's only natural that the two team leaders end up becoming friendly and respective of each other.

Once the Tournament gets rolling, the fight between Team Ku and Team Hokage works out in a fairly standard manner. One on one matches showcase the strength of each side but it's mostly to show how the Hokage folks have been training and powering themselves up while the Team Ku folks provide different and interesting challenges for them that you know they'll mostly overcome. After all, very few series actually race through tournament sequences and this series is really designed just to do a massive series of tournaments. The opening fight sequence lets Tokiya take the stage as he brings out his ice blade against Team Ku member Daikoku who uses a steel rod in a really creative manner, doing the old hundred and thousand strike kind of attack. There's something more to it of course but the fight between the two is fun to watch and seeing Tokiya keep to his calm and collected himself while everyone else freaks out is fun.

Domon gets to show off a bit as well as he goes up against Minamio whose body is nothing in comparison to Domon's even though he's obviously worked out a bit. Domon's got that unruly ugly look to him and is ready for a great but easy fight but naturally it turns against him for awhile and he's hard pressed to even get an attack in. Domon is the Kuwabara character from Yu Yu Hakusho of this series but unlike Kuwabara he doesn't have quite the same charm. He runs through a similar arc though of ending as the least powerful of the group but finding a way to become more powerful through training and madogu's that he's picked up along the way. That's one of the things I do like from this show is that some of the characters simply acquire more weapons or weapons that build upon each other as it goes along.

When Fuko hits up the stage, she goes up against Fujimaru, a rather scummy looking guy with claws attached to his gloves. Being that Fuko is the only female fighter on the Hokage team, it means she has to bear the brunt of the fanservice moments and when dealing with someone with claws, you can imagine what that means. She's beaten down fairly quickly as the attacks overwhelm her and ends up leaving her with shreds of her jeans and t-shirt outfit left. It's almost comical in how he whittles her clothes down to such skimpy remains but that's part of what Fuko's entire purpose is about. She's certainly not one to be messed with though and she has more of the Kuwabara nature to her than Domon does as she, like Recca, continually finds ways to better herself and her powers so that she grows stronger and more determined in interesting ways.

The fight scenes are fun to watch and well done. Each episode is essentially given over to one of the team members as they work along in their matches while setting up for a nice cliffhanger for the next volume. The shows animation is still fairly consistent from volume to volume which means it's just slightly average in that it swings both ways a bit at times but never really turns into an outstanding moment. They do a good job with the budget they have though and as these characters continue to be enjoyable to watch as they grow and work together, the quality of the animation is an important factor but not the overwhelming one.

In Summary:
This set of episodes gets us on the track of the Underground Tournament and has several of the first round of interesting new characters show up, particularly the enigmatic Kukai and those working for Kurei. Everyone gets a chance to shine in their matches and shows just how far they've come with their special training sessions so we can see some good growth here in that regards as well as the way the group is growing together as friends. The main disappointments that I continue to come away with about this release is the obvious and beleaguered point about the lack of song subtitles and the awful three month release schedule. The series is simply taking too long to get where it's going this way and it's easy to see why people either drop it or even forget about it entirely which is unfortunate. Viz really needs to really change their approach to releasing shows and is one of the companies that I wish would adopt the season/full series release mentality when it comes to shows that aren't hundreds of episodes in length, less they have another show that fails miserably and is quietly canceled like Corrector Yui.

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

Review Equipment
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.


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