The Ayashi group deals with more threats here and there while some of the cast gets fleshed out along the way.
What They Say
During the spring of 1847 a procession of shogunate forces was dispatched to patrol the road leading to the Nikko shrine, final resting place of Ieyasu Tokugawa. Officially, the purpose of the patrols was to clear the roads of all bandits and vagrants in time for the Shogun's annual visit to the shrine. In reality the operation was a cover for the large scale Youi eradication undertaken by the Office of Barbarian Knowledge Enforcement.
While traveling the Nikko road, Yukiatsu and Hozaburo encounter a strange group of monks in possession of a mysterious object known only as The Killing Stone. Using this artifact these monks, the Western Ones, are now in command of a massive Youi army. When Yukiatsu's Ayagami fails to quell the monsters assault, how will the Ayashi overcome this torrent of malignancy?
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 Yukiatsu as the large looming character with a slight blur to it to give it an interesting old looking effect. 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 Genbatsu looking off to the side with a serious look to his face. The second cover is darker with a shot of Abi looking positively furious in an action poses. 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 pushes 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 a line artwork gallery and the second volume contains the new clean opening. 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)
The second part of the series brings us another ten episodes, which also reveals that the license does include the five episode OVA follow-up that will be in the third part release. Watching these ten episodes, which takes us from episode eleven through twenty, I’m still seeing a show that was really hoping to run the original fifty episode allotment but wasn’t doing it in a way that was going to be compelling. So much of these first twenty episodes for the most part feels like fluff, done at too leisurely of a pace and without the kind of push to it that will make it engaging on a weekly basis, never mind watching ten in a row. It’s generally not a good sign when you’re just waiting for an episode to end.
Even after just finishing the set of episodes, I’m hard pressed to really find a lot to say about that’s really engaging. With the belief at this stage that they had another forty episodes to work through, the stories are almost filler-ish in their feeling at times as they deal with single episode stories revolving around Youi that pop up here and there. They’re decent enough but in the end they’re unmemorable after you watch them. Thankfully, there are some episodes that focus on bigger things, mostly dealing with character back stories and motivation, and that helps to give the show a little more oomph as they try to flesh out the cast. But at this stage of the game, I find myself having a hard time caring about any of them, never mind really wanting to know their stories. It’s a show like this that makes me wonder if I’m burnt out on the quasi-historical supernatural genre.
Of the stories, only a couple are truly interesting. The storyline centering around Abi and his lineage as one of the Mountain People of the Ancient People, was rather enjoyable since Abi has had the least attention so far. The larger storyline revolving around him involves someone that’s trying to kill a person of note by using a gun but it’s a mystery how it happened since nobody can find the gun. This brings in the People of Craft and a really interesting idea of paper guns, but it was too reminiscent of the Clockwork Fighters series with their mechanical dolls and the way everything can be done so easily by the true genius’ of the Craft. Though that area does make me laugh, seeing Abi’s views on himself in relation to his people was welcome as was the general concepts being brought out about the Ancient People and their role in society compared to those who live in the cities and villages and how they all look at each other.
Yukiatsu gets a bit of additional fleshing out in this set as well towards the end as he’s found his way back home after the last twenty-five years. The circumstances are awkward as the adopted son of his mother’s has left suddenly without and reason and Yukiatsu’s arrival is very welcome since he can take over the role again. As it turns out, when he left and the other son was adopted, the new son was given the same name and there’s a belief that his mother is simply forgetful at her advanced age now and doesn’t realize that her real son has come back. With the family household and its holdings inching closer to the state of transition because of her health, having the adopted son gone puts Yukiatsu in the position of having to come back and deal with things. He’s naturally conflicted with his desire to deal with the Other World and to deal with his mother and familial obligations. It’s a relatively nice mellow segment overall and one that lets Yukiatsu show another side of his personality as he confronts his past once again.
Of the other stories, the only one that really sticks out as decently enjoyable revolves around a Youi that’s been discover to use a chrysalis like effect on people. Taking the form of a butterfly tattoo on women who work in brothels, it feeds on them from the inside out and seeks out more after that in order to continue on living. There’s a certain creepiness to it, which is in a lot of these stories dealing with the Youi, but this one feels a bit different as it takes place after the stories involving the shogunate making the trip outside the city for awhile to pay respects to his ancestors. There’s a bit more life given to the city at this point which is nice, even if it is the more risqué side of it. Beyond that though, very little strikes any resonance and I imagine that much of the audience likely felt the same way when they were watching this on a week to week basis.
After twenty episodes, I’m still not quite sure what the intent of this series really is. With it originally intended to be longer, I imagine they were intending to spread out the larger plot pieces along the way to build to something more. Unfortunately, they ended up cutting themselves off because there wasn’t anything really compelling early on. The series has decent enough production values and a solid core set of characters that they’re slowly fleshing out, but it really lacks that extra bit of magic to set it apart from other things and that thing that will get you to come back week after week. It’s not a bad show and I’m sure it has its fans, but it doesn’t really seem to offer much. It’s a show that makes you wonder why Bandai got it and why they put the effort into an elaborate box for the first set since the series had practically no positive buzz before it came out.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Art Gallery, Clean Opening
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.