The series ends early and shifts to an OVA format to finish out its run.
What They Say
Throughout Edo many fiends walk the shadows brought about by twilight but few truly understand their origins. What are the Youi and where do they come from? With the sudden appearance of these beasts at the recent construction projects within the Inba swamp an answer to this question is realized. Using Atl's powers the Western One's begin their campaign against the Shogunate and the Emporer himself. Yukiatsu must once again trust in the power of the Other World and assume his draconic form to defend a government that has viewed the Ayashi as little more than a band of vagrants.
A battle rages in the skies over Japan as two great beasts attempt to wrest the fate of the nation from each others dire claws, but just as victory seems apparent one of the Ayashi steps forward, sword drawn and prepared to betray his friends. With this traitors attack are the Ayashi defeated and what of the fate of the nation?
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. The slipcover for this is decent with Yukiatsu as the large looming character in the foreground while Atl is in the background with a sort of relaxed angelic look to her. 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 Ogaswara with his blade in front of him while the second volume features Atl curled up into herself which looks particularly good with the blue shading used. The back covers are well done with dark backgrounds for each that pushes the natural aspect of the series. 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. It’s worth noting that the runtimes on volume six are off as they use standard OVA runtimes for the five episodes, listing it as 150 minutes. It really runs just 120 minutes like the fifth volume does. The slipcover accurately lists the runtime of the two discs combined. 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 fifth volume contains a clean version of the ending while the second volume contains a twelve minute video interview with Toshiro Kawamoto, the man behind the character designs for the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the final ten episodes of the series, five of which were broadcast and the other five which were released as OVAs because of low ratings and a series cancelation, Ghost Slayers Ayashi finally draws to a close. I halfway expected the DVD release to get canceled towards the end considering how often it was pushed back as well. Bandai Entertainment really put wrong money into this show, first trying to release it both as a two-pack and singles as well as putting out a fairly strong and unique box package for the entire show. Nothing in this series warrants it and few shows that have been canceled in Japan (if any!) have done well over here. How this series continued to receive a dub and finish out when other more worthy properties did not is hard to fathom.
Suffice to say, with the delays between releases combined with an already bland and mediocre story, Ghost Slayers Ayashi did not impress in the slightest. The series offered some interesting potential at the start, dealing with older men in general and having a lead character that’s pushing forty. The whole aspect of Youi from the Other World that cause trouble in ours isn’t new, but they had some creative pieces to it and used the whole secret arm of the government approach, fractious as it may be within the government, to come up with some interesting settings and locales to play out of. With a predictable but solid cast that can be built upon, they could have only gone upwards and stood out from the pack. Unfortunately, something never really clicked within the show and it quickly lost steam. Part of me suspects that the length of the series caused them to not push forward seriously enough with the core storyline to engage the viewers.
The last ten episodes that are here do convey more of a story, which is a definite plus. But the show has ended up feeling weighed down by what has come before. After a brief standalone story of sorts, the show moves firmly into dealing with the Western Ones who are making their move against the Shogunate. Through manipulation and deception, they start to push forward their campaign to utilize the Youi and control them, which is something they claim to be able to do because they’re descended from the gods based on a relation to a past Emperor who, of course, is descended from the gods himself. As it turns out, if you believe the Western Ones, the Youi are little more than pieces of armor left behind by the gods which can be controlled by those who are gods, or are descended from them. So it’s little surprise to see some of the Western Ones manipulate them and push Yukiatsu to his limits.
The culmination of this storyline pushes the Ayashi group into the underground as the politics of various lords and such are now working against them. With Ogasawara in prison and the rest quietly doing their job of vanquishing Youi, the show shifts into its next big arc by introducing a man named Choei who has big plans to deal with the Youi of the world through the Bible that’s been translated into Japanese. With Saizo being taken advantage of, the group is in disarray as they deal with the situation, only to have a nameless Divine Maiden thrown into the mix who has some larger purpose. While the storyline is admittedly decent, it suffers in the same way that the previous one did as well. The flow of the series simply has not been there and moments like this come across as too chaotic and poorly told. Perhaps it’s the historical setting where things are implied or you’re supposed to know it if you had proper history classes and that would influence your opinion of it, but from my perspective the show manages to do everything in its power to lose my attention. And very few shows really do achieve that with me.
Ghost Slayers Ayashi was a show that felt like it had potential but its execution fell apart rather early on. With the show planned for almost double the episodes that made it out, they ended up not captivating and holding the viewer early on. This kind of show once had a good sized following, but like other genres that rise and fall with the times, this one has fallen out of fashion I think, perhaps on both sides of the Pacific. There are intriguing ideas here, but in the end it left me feeling uninterested and bored. I liked the characters, and I liked the animation, but the pacing and the lack of a cohesion of sorts was off-putting. And what didn’t help was the constant delays for the series which just stretched it out much longer than it needed to be and kept the story from being as smooth as it should. Perhaps this will work better as a collection, but in this form it lost me along the way.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Ending, Kawamoto Interview
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.