Can a story about a forty year old man in the Tenpo period appeal to fans today, even with the BONES name involved?
What They Say
All things have a name by which they are defined. Amongst the named are the many long-forgotten gods that dwell within the world brought about by the prayers, fears and desires of humanity. In the famine stricken and riot plagued city of Edo, alarming events are visited upon the populace by these other-worldly beasts. Descending from the mountain tops or rising from the earth are these old gods, the Youi.
For nearly twenty-five years Yukiatsu Ryuuda has wandered the countrysides of Japan posing as a bodyguard, living the life of a gambler and thief, all the while denying his name. Through a chance encounter with a Youi and the members of the Office of Barbarian Knowledge Enforcement, Yuki is forced to face the life he’s been running from and rediscover his long hidden power of Ayagami, the ability to find true names and use them as a weapon to exorcise these beasts plaguing the material world.
Bandai Entertainment has done something a little unusual, but welcome, with this release. The two language tracks here are both standard stereo pieces but the Japanese one is encoded at 224kbps while the English one is done at 448kbps. This isn’t the norm to be certain and there are very few times when any company has put out a stereo track in this format. The English language mix does make out a bit better because of it with some greater clarity and placement as well as a bit more depth. The show overall is fairly straightforward with plenty of dialogue taking up most of the time. The action scenes do help to raise the bar a bit as everyone flits about during the fights and as the louder sounds come crashing around. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2006 and early 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, something that BONES is very attached to. Ghost Slayers Ayashi has a very earthy feel to it with lots of dark and drab colors, both in foreground and background pieces. Some of this leads to noisy moments here and there, but the set has plenty of space to work with overall as the two discs have an episode spread of five on each volume. Colors generally look quite good, though they lack much in the way of pop which is to be expected considering the setting. When they do have those moments though, they look pretty good and stand out which is the intent. Cross coloration is essentially non-existent here and there’s only a touch of line noise here and there during various panning sequences.
Ghost Slayers Ayashi is another release from Bandai Entertainment in which they take two keepcases, put it in a slipcover and call it a day. Originally planned to have the singles released as well, this got shelved as other shows found very weak sales because of it as most went for the two disc editions. The slipcover for this is decent with an action pose of Yuki with his powers coming out of his hands with lots of speed lines around him. It provides some good color in the foreground which is needed since the background has lots of the drab colors that make up the show. The back of the slipcover has various character pieces, mostly women cowering in fear, to highlight the time period. The summary is well written and generally easy to read and they include an additional box with a clear rundown of the episodes included and their titles alongside the discs features and extras. The remainder is given over to the production credits and a solid technical grid.
Inside the slipcover are two standard black DVD keepcases. Hopefully in the future Bandai will do these kinds of releases with thinpaks to help ease the space down a bit or even a double disc keepcase. The first volume has a rather nice moody illustration piece of Yuki floating upside down with lots of dark greens to it. It’s subtle and appealing and does draw you in a bit. The second cover is brighter as it lets Saizo take over with her hair flowing outwide as she has a calm and relaxed expression about her face. Unlike the first volume, this one runs with a soft red color palette. The back covers are well done with different backgrounds for each that push the natural aspect of the series, though the second volume makes it difficult to read the text. A few shots from the show are included as well as a good breakdown of the discs episodes, features, production and technical information as we saw from the slipcover. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release uses a bit of animation to it as it uses the visuals of the Other World in the background with its red hues to provide some life. The floating balls of light move about while in the center, a static one is placed wherein we see clips from the episodes themselves. The navigation is placed on either side of there and it’s all very easy to navigate and it does stand out a bit since so many menus are basic static pieces these days. Submenus load quickly and everything works without issue. The downside is that the discs don’t read our players’ language presets as they default to the English language track with sign/song subtitles.
The extras are pretty minimal as the first volume contains the clean opening and the second volume contains the clean closing. I continue to prefer companies that include both of those on each volume throughout the course of the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally titled Ayakashi Ayashi, Ghost Slayers Ayashi is a twenty-five episode series from the folks at BONES. An original creation by Sho Aikawa, it was originally planned to run for fifty two episodes but ended up being reduced when the show had rather low ratings overall. The series takes place during the Tenpo era, which was between 1830 and 1844. The story suggests at one point that it could be taking place in the last year of Tenpo as Tenpo 14 is mentioned, but the dating within the show is hazy at times. With the series taking place during the age of the Shogun and have cruel reforms played out upon many in the country, it’s a dark and depressing show in a lot of ways.
Ghost Slayers Ayashi is a curious series in its design. You don’t find many series that take place during this time – I can’t think of any that have been licensed off hand – nor do you on average have one with a lead character that appears to be forty years old going by the dialogue. Set in Edo, the series introduces us to Yukiatsu, or Yuki as he’s better known by. He’s a vagrant who left home some twenty-five years earlier after an incident and has ended up in the camps in the city at least twice which is why he bears the tattoos from it now. If he’s thrown in there again, he’ll likely be executed. The country is in such bad shape that hordes of people continue to come to Edo to find work, but there is none and they get shunted into the row houses and slums that the shogun has ordered made so they don’t add problems to the city proper.
While Yuki does try to lay low, he ends up getting involved with a widow and her son who is caught up in some trouble themselves as they’re on the run. They’re not on the run in the same way that Yuki is though, but the son has something going on that’s very similar. Yuki has had an incident in his past where he saw the Other World, a place of gods and demons of sorts where all manner of strange and unusual creatures reside. Those creatures, known as Youi, are in this world as well and they’re generally very peaceful. But sometimes they cause a whole lot of trouble as they try to suck people into them and cause problems that drastically affect an area. Yuki’s realization of this comes at a time when a group is actively seeking him out and they all come together at once.
That group is known as the Ayashi, a special branch created from the Barbarian Knowledge Enforcement that’s designed to deal with the problem of Youi. The small group is made up of people who are similar gifted as Yuki which allows them to combat the Youi that they come across. Yuki is naturally resistant to the idea since he’s not wanted to look upon the Other World since the first time he did because of how dramatically it affected him. But he’s unable to look away from this as he’s almost being called to service in a way as his powers and his conscience are needed to deal with the growing threat. Reluctantly, Yuki becomes a part of this lightly quirky group of people and finds their strange tastes (they eat the flesh of the Youi they kill) appalling at times. His presence is decidedly needed however as he brings more of a grounding to the group and more faith in others than the existing members have had.
Ghost Slayers Ayashi runs through a few stories in these first ten episodes, some of which cover a few episodes at a time once the basic introductions are done. The stories tend to focus a bit on a particular character in order to flesh them out, but there are smaller moments scattered about that help to work on other characters as well. Yuki gets the most attention and there’s a really good series of events that detail his past with his best friend Shichji that he’s known for so many years. This ties nicely into another storyline that delves into a god of sorts that has come over from Mexico along with a young girl who had to flee from Texas after persecution from others. The one that was the most appealing involved the young girl Saizo and her past in the theater with a father who was very ambiguous with her about her role in the world. All these stories weave an entertaining enough show, but nothing that really leaps out and demands your attention on a weekly basis.
Ghost Slayers Ayashi is a decent show, but shows in this kind of setting and era seem to have fallen out of favor for the most part in recent years. There are some neat ideas in here and some different things than we usually get. An older protagonist, an era that’s gotten little attention and some creative creatures and settings at times. But the drab and depressing locales and the downtrodden nature of everyone just feels too oppressive at times, leaving you to not want to participate in the world any more than you have to. There are uplifting moments to be sure, but something about it just feels like it’s too much without enough of a hook to really keep your attention to see where it will go. There’s nothing wrong with the show, but it may just be the wrong kind of show at the wrong time.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, Textless Ending
Limted Edition: Collector's Art Box, Ghost Slayers Ayashi Vol. 1 Manga, Ghost Slayers Guidebook I
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.