Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: A
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: A+
- Menus Rating: A+
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 199.98
- Running time: 650
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Fushigi Yugi - The Mysterious Play
Fushigi Yugi Suzaku Box Set
By Chris Beveridge
November 26, 1999
Release Date: November 26, 1999
Fushigi Yugi Suzaku Box Set
What They Say
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
This is the story of a girl, who made her dreams come true after she came to possess the seven stars of Suzaku, and many powers were bestowed upon her. The story itself is a spell. The one who reads it through will be given the powers and granted a wish like the girl in the story. Because... the story begins and becomes real... The moment the first page is turned. -The Universe of the Four Gods.The Review!
Ah, Fushigi Yugi, one of the big titles that everyone's been waiting for and something new in the domestic DVD market; a 26 episode box set on 4 discs. With anime still in its infancy in the DVD game, doing a box set like this could be seen as a risk, but with the numbers slowly coming in, it looks like it's a gamble that may pay off for Pioneer.
But with the size of a set like this, it's hard to review. So we're going to do this in stages, going through each disc and adding onto this review here as we go. The ratings above will reflect each disc where appropriate and we'll mark each section below when we get into content and specific issues, if any.
For the overall package, let's talk about how it's put together. Similar to the Tenchi Ultimate Edition, it's a box with a frosted style slipcase that slides easily over it to hold it all snug. When I had originally seen the cover artwork and then gotten an early sample of the box itself, I was in love with the colors and design and still am. This package definitely exudes a uniqueness to it and definitely feels like something special.
When opened fully, you have the four discs spread across with each of the four corners that are described in the show itself. There isn't much in the way of real silkscreened artwork on the disc, but everything works well in the design and looks wonderful.
Also included in the inside front opposite of some great artwork is a sixteen page booklet that contains some great pictures along with the full cast lists, episode indexes and individual episode name breakdowns. This is really a gorgeous booklet and has a great look to it. Ok, I'm just loving how the entire set is put together.
Disc 1: The menus on this disc are very stylistic for the show and work well. Selections are quick and easy to access. The chapter index is set up very well, with four episodes listed on the first page and the breakdown for each episodes (opening, part a, part b, ending and preview). While not as many chapter marks as some previous series, it's definitely better than how some others have been done.
The first disc also includes a brief footnote section describing a few key things in both episode one and episode seven. None are really spoilers per se, but you might be better off waiting until you've seen the first seven episodes before checking it out.
The language/subtitle selection works well, though it does have the same problem as many releases do these days in that your selection doesn't keep a highlight or something else to indicate that the change actually took place. But let's put it this way, this is the only minor thing I've had an issue with on this disc so far.
The audio and video are outstanding on this first disc so far. As with any show, the opening sequence generally gets done in a higher fashion than that rest of the series, and it looks simply stunning with many vibrant colors throughout it. From what we've seen so far, the video quality is very crisp and clear, and I've only noticed one small portion of line noise during a complex draw sequence. Otherwise it looks and sounds like a champ.
As for the show itself, I've heard varying opinions about it. The first disc, containing the first seven episodes, presents what is likely a good feel for the rest of the series, though I can already see some of the evolution that it will take. I've managed to avoid most spoilers and such for the show up to now, so I won't spoil much here.
The story opens with Miaka and Yui, two fifteen year old middle school girls who are cramming for entrance exams. While in the National Library, they accidentally discover a somewhat off-limits document room where they stumble across what turns into quite a powerful book.
From there the two end up in ancient China, though Yui ends up returning quickly. The rest of the first disc is exploring who Miaka is and her gathering of the Seven Celestial Warriors who will help save the empire.
As with any TV series, the opening episodes set the tone and the pace as well as introducing the characters. The main ones introduced here beyond Yui and Miaka are Tamahome, Hotohori and Nuriko. I have to admit, I enjoyed each one of them quite a bit for varying reasons that would tend into spoilers.
One thing I've heard frequently about the Fushigi Yugi series, in a negative tone, is the super deformed/outtakes style that the characters slip into. It is definitely more prevalent here than in many other series brought over today, but in some weird fashion it reminded me a lot of Urusei Yatsura, and with that being a true classic in my mind, made me feel quite comfortable within the shows structure. But I can also see why some people may not like it.
Disc 2: With almost a week between viewing the first and second discs, I've once again immersed myself into the Universe of the Four Gods. And the second disc definitely makes for some compelling viewing, but not without a few issues.
On the audio side, the disc is just as good as the first one. The front soundstage, while not terribly deep, is well used. Dialogue is clean and clear without any distortion that I could detect. And let's face it, this show has some great music and it sounds wonderful coming out of my speakers!
The video on the other hand, doesn't hold up as well on this volume as it did in the first. Throughout the disc I noticed several glaring sections of jitter and line noise that were terribly distracting to me. There was one scene, I believe around 133 minutes into the disc, where one of the thugs was on screen and the camera was panning left, and his entire body jittered back and forth. Of course, you can take into account that my wife didn't notice this or anything else at all. Overall the disc looks very good and the colors are very well balanced, but these bits just stuck out to me. In future viewings they'll bother me less since I won't be looking for them as I am now, but they are there.
Pioneer also chose to take an interesting route during one section of the show. During a sequence with Tamahome and Miaka being close, there's a wonderful song playing in the background that they chose to sub via DVD subtitles as opposed to hard subtitles. Of course, most of us would like to see songs subtitled via DVD subs all the time (and would be forced up during English Language playback when the undubbed song is on), but the problem with how it was done here was that they kept it the same yellow color. Odds are this was done to avoid the dreaded 1 blank frame software bug that was evident during the Bubblegum Crisis DVD's. However, this method isn't perfect either, as when the new set of subtitles appeared on the screen, they tended to shift slightly to the left or right. Better than the BGC way, but still something that will throw people off. And add in the fact that sometimes you're not sure what's a lyric and what the characters are saying... well, you get the picture.
But other than those few problems, where this disc really comes through and shines is in terms of the content itself. The six episodes on this disc are really all over the map with a lot going on with several of the characters, as well as the introduction of the "infamous" Chichiri, no da? Personally, after hearing about his speech affection (and reading the footnote about it on the disc extra), I think Pioneer handled it fairly well in the sub without it becoming overwhelmingly annoying. Of course, if you're listening to the language as it's being spoken in addition to reading the subs, it may bother you more hearing it and not seeing it translated, but it'll vary from person to person, no da?
Sorry! Anyway, these episodes were a lot of fun and definitely begin the new slant as we learn more about the Seiryu and the kingdom of Kutou. The expansion of Yui as a character is also well done and should prove to be more interesting as time goes on, though I'm surprised that they did as much with her as they did on screen. I thought she might be more in the background for several more episodes at least.
Disc 3: Unfortunately, the third disc took quite a bit more time between viewings as a result of several issues. Other than the time factor, one crucial thing happened with this disc.
It didn't work in my player. Upon loading it into my Pioneer 414 player, the disc "churned" as it read, unlike most other DVD's. It took awhile for it to actually load and go into the menu, but it eventually did. But it got worse. The first four episodes played fine, but once it hit the 4th episode, which is where the layer change was, it started getting jerky. It then started locking up. We ended up with a 10 minute section that was pretty much unplayable. After deciding to just skip to the next episode, we found that it continued through the rest of the disc.
Let's just say I was put off by this for a short bit. I tried several different tactics to see if it work (starting the player cold, running it for a couple of hours first, etc) but to no avail. I then tried it on my Panasonic A110 in the computer room that's hooked up to a 19" TV/VCR combo, and it worked without issue.
So some happiness came there, knowing that there was at least some way to watch it. We then tried it on the Sony 3000 player in the main living room and it worked flawlessly there as well. No hints of any kinds of issues on either player.
Removing the thought of the playback on the Pioneer machine, the video on the third disc looks very good. No problems at all throughout the seven episodes. The audio was the same way. Essentially, everything looked good and better than on the second disc where things weren't as good as they could be.
Disc 4: The final volume in this box set thankfully was completely error free. After the third disc, I had some worries about it, but it played without any issue on the Pioneer player. The video quality was much improved in general beyond a few shimmering pieces here and there, mostly during camera pans. The audio quality continues to be consistent for the TV series and sounded good.
Concluding thoughts: Having now watched the first half of this series of 52 episodes, I must say I'm really glad that Pioneer brought it over and finally got it into DVD. While the debate may go on whether or not a box set or individual releases would have been better, in the end it's here and it's available.
I enjoyed the show a great deal, though many moments are "obvious" to long time anime viewers or those who read a lot of novels (especially romance novels), they were nonetheless enjoyable to watch. The primary viewership of the series is mostly young girls, but there's enough elements to draw in a wide variety of people from all ages to enjoy it.
Many hate the large amount of super deformed sequences and wild takes, but I found them to be a lot of fun and laughed at almost all of them. While not as hated as Jar Jar, there are scores of people who hate the sound of Miaka's voice. I again have to admit I enjoyed the character and the way she was presented. If anything, my only real "complaint" about the series is the lack of feeling that it's going anywhere.
While the majority of the first half is setting up the introductions and then them setting out to find the rest of the Suzaku Seven, places just seemed to drag here and there. This may fall into something where it sets up the second half of the series well, but to me I had wished at times that they would just get on with the story.
And frankly, they should put a leash on Miaka. She wanders away much too often.
Regardless, it's still a good series and one I'm enjoying a great deal. The last episode was definitely not the best place to end with its rather evil cliffhanger, but it's not as "bad" as many may lead others to believe. We've got probably seven months as of this writing until the next box set sees the light of day, maybe a bit longer. It'll be worth the wait.
English Language,Japanese Language,English Subtitles,This deluxe DVD box set contains the entire first season--26 episodes--on four dual-layer DVD discs in a multi-fold package with a protective plastic slipcase,Image gallery,Character information,16 page booklet
Toshiba CF36H50 36" TV, Pioneer 414 codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Monster S-Video cable and Sony speakers.