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 Justin Emerson
February 16, 2002
Release Date: November 26, 1999
After a grueling 650 minutes of watching, I have to say that this DVD is a must-have for every Anime DVD collector. While it does have it's flaws, this is one of the best collections out there, hands-down, bar-none.
The story (as is hinted to in the quote from "The Universe of the Four Gods") is about how Yuki Miaka, your average 15 year old Middle-School student studying for her High School entrance exams, ends up getting sucked into a story that takes place in ancient China along with her friend Yui. Miaka ends up being chosen to be Suzaku no Miko, the Priestess of Suzaku, whose destiny is to awaken Suzaku, the flaming bird-god of the southern province. To do this she must gather the Seven Stars of Suzaku, seven gifted individuals who each carry a Chinese character inscribed on their body.
The Audio quality on this disc is top-notch. The audio tracks are two channel Dolby Digital, but encoded in Dolby Pro-Logic (at least, that's what my AC-3 decoder is telling me). This means that ambient sounds and such come from the surround speakers and speech comes from the center channel. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to do directional sound, such as dialog moving from one speaker to another as the character moves on screen, because it's all coming from the center speaker. However, the audio is perfectly done, and the lack of directional sounds does nothing to take away from the total experience.
The Video is done in a very high bitrate, as one can guess when Pioneer put a maximum of 7 episodes per dual-layered disc (considering the Lodoss War box set had 7 episodes on single-layered disc, shows the production values, ne?). I actually found that, with Bus-Mastering off, my DVD-ROM drive had trouble keeping up! ^_^ The Video quality is truly excellent, my only complaint being the interlacing which can cause a "shimmering" effect on regular TVs. There are no instances of the dreaded "rainbow" effect anywhere that I could see, although there were a few points on Disc 3 where I saw glitching and one scene (where you hear the boy playing the flute while the camera pans over the swamp) where the black areas looked far too bright and you could see blocky dark-greys instead of black. Also during the first episode of Disc 4 there are some scenes that look like they weren't remastered, because their color balance is not consistent with the rest of the scenes. Absolutely no complaints, otherwise.
The packaging on this disc is definitely the best I've seen, period. The shimmering reds of the cover is so beautiful to look at, and the included color booklet of drawings, character bios, and chapter stops also has the same artistic quality. I also just love the gold writing on the back (as well as the gold picture of Suzaku on the front). The discs themselves look very cool, a direct opposite to almost every other Pioneer release (at least every one I own except the Tenchi OVA Box Set) which are just grey discs with slight engravings or drawings on them. My only complaint is the same one I had with the Tenchi OVA Box Set: they're using the same retention mechanism as their previous box set, so unless you know just how to get the discs out, it feels like you're prying them off of the packaging and end up fearing that you might snap the discs! I found the best way to remove them is to hold it on the outside from both the top and the bottom outer edges, then (if you have it laying flat on the table) rotate the disc back and forth while gently pulling it up and towards you. Pulling towards you makes it slide up the inner pop-up and then it comes off fairly easily. Other than that minor quibble, I can only say that I wish every DVD packaging had this kind of time, effort, and concern put into it. It's truly the nicest looking packaging of any DVD I own.
The Menus are a little sub-par, as they don't tell you what language you have selected or whether subtitles is on or not, and there's no motion going on or music playing. However, there's a wealth of information, including very helpful footnotes on all the discs and lots of cool stuff on the fourth disc like interviews (sweet!), an image gallery (super sweet!), and creditless Openings and Endings (kickass!). The backgrounds for each disc are the same as the pictures that are behind them in the packaging (nice touch!). I just wish the font size they used was a little bigger, since I couldn't read it very easily on my TV, but it looked quite legible on my computer monitor.
The Content itself is just fabulous. I really love shoujo anime, and Fushigi Yugi is a series that I had heard so many good things about (a bunch of people in the local Anime club I run are huge fans) but I had only seen bits and pieces. The voice acting (on the Japanese track) is fabulous (Araki Kae's voice is so Kawaii!) and the dub isn't that bad either. The subtitles are in the most recent Pioneer font (that has since appeared on later BAV volumes and the last 1 or 2 Lain volumes, as well as El-Hazard TAW, I think) with a much thicker black border around yellow letters. It looks great on both my TV and PC. The only minor quibble was that when they subtitled the songs (except the ending song, I don't know why they didn't sub that) and there were characters talking, they did a very good job of displaying both at once, except that they were in the same font and color! I wish more companies would do what M2K did with the Bubblegum Crisis collection and have different colors and font styles (like italics) for lyrics. Other than that, all I can say is that I love this series!
One thing I found annoying was that they didn't have chapter stops after the "previous episode recaps" that take place at the beginning of each episode, because I always would skip them since I had to keep watching!!! The series was totally enthralling and the only disappointment to me was that there wasn't more of it (rather cliché, I know). I can't wait until the next box set comes out, and you bet I'll have my pre-order in the minute there's a date set for it. I may have to go scrounge around my local club to see if anyone has the later tapes, because I must have more! I bet they'll only have the dub tapes, though, but just to see the rest of it I'd listen to the dub. For those of you who don't know my usual stance on dubs, I find dubs to generally be unwatchable after I've seen even a bit of the Japanese version, and me actually resorting to watching the dub is an enormous endorsement for the plot of the series. I enjoyed every minute of this DVD, and I'm sure that most of you will, too.
I cannot recommend this box set enough. While the price tag may be steep (I paid $123 after tax & shipping) it's well worth it for the simply massive amounts of content in this set. This collection had me watching it every chance I got for four days! I even considered skipping work, but realized I needed the hours to make up for the splurge on DVDs I had made! ^_^ If you want something as a reference title, something that you can show someone to really take their breath away, from the packaging to the artistic and technical quality of this collection, then this set is it. Forget the Tenchi OVA Box Set - this is now my most prized Anime possession. I can only hope that the rest of Pioneer's Box Sets are of the same quality. Because if they are, take my money now and count me in!