Mania Grade: C
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: A
- Menus Rating: B-
- Extras Rating: B
- Age Rating: 16 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 100
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Ikki-Tosen
Ikki-Tosen Vol. #1 (also w/box)
By Chris Beveridge
August 17, 2004
Release Date: August 10, 2004
Ikki-Tosen Vol. #1 (also w/box)
What They Say
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Once again blood flows in the streets of Kanto. The eternal fate that has been handed down for over 1800 years is now being fought by ancient warriors who have been reincarnated into the students of the seven top schools.
One such student, Hakufu Sonsaku, arrives on the scene and is rumored to be the legendary Shou-Haou (The one who is said to be the one to defeat many in battle). But can this blonde air-head with the overly-endowed assets actually be the legendary Shou-Haou?The Review!
Ancient grudges and fights resurface in the present in the Kanto region as schools vie for dominance.Audio:
For our primary viewing session we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese, but then we ended up listening to it in English about three times while getting caught up in other things. Both tracks feature a solid stereo mix that makes good use of the left and right channels for both dialogue and action effects. There's some good placement for both of them there while the music comes across solidly in both. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.Video:
Originally airing in 2003, Ikki Tousen is presented in its original full frame format and a very good looking transfer. While the show goes for the traditional color palette used for a school based series, there's a mixture of some very vibrant pieces for the backgrounds, such as setting sun scenes that go beyond the norm a bit. The characters tend to go with the normal almost drab uniforms but even in those there are some real flashes of vibrancy or outright competing uniforms. The series maintains a very solid feel for the backgrounds and avoids any noticeable blocking. There is some noticeable aliasing throughout though and that gets to be very visible in a few scenes where otherwise smooth curved lines instead look like a series of stairs.Packaging:
Geneon went all out with the packaging for this release, both the regular and the box edition. The clear keepcase uses the same character artwork as the first Japanese DVD release with a great looking fully clothed shot of Hakufu. The background material looks to be the same as the Japanese box with the flame-like imagery for the borders and the Chinese dragons as light background sketches. The back cover provides a few shots from the show and gives a brief summary of the premise of the series along with the discs features and extras. The reverse cover has a shot of Ryumou that wasn't used in the Japanese front covers in her purple and white outfit against the same kind of backdrop. The back side of it matches the other with the exception of different pictures. The insert has a less busy version of the front cover with Hakufu that opens to a two-panel spread of her and Ryumou that's used for the menu artwork. The back of the insert has a very attractive image of Hakufu squatting down in a Chinese outfit. Included in the keepcase is a pencil board. A very sexy pencil board. One side has Hakufu reaching out while her clothes are pulled away and you even get a nipple shot there. The other side has Ryumou leaning over and holding onto her knees while wearing just her socks and shoes.
Also available with the first volume is the disc + box release. The box uses the same design layout as the limited edition Japanese box but uses different character artwork. The backgrounds are identical while one panel has a very luscious shot of Ryumou waving a pair of handcuffs and the other has Hakufu wielding a pipe or some metal pole while wearing her standard schoolgirl uniform. The box is of the solid chipboard variety and it simply looks and feels great. The spine is free of artwork and has the series logo in large type. Inside the box is a holder box that uses more character artwork from the Japanese DVD covers and it has two limited edition items. One of them is an earring like the one Hakufu wears with the green bead and the other is a small towel that has three of the girls in their swimsuits fighting each other.Menu:
The menu layout is nicely done but suffers from too many transitional animations. The main menu is a decent looking piece that has Hakufu and Ryumou leaning back to back while clips play of the various action sequences under a cloudy filter as the opening song plays along. The menus load fairly quickly but there's transitional pieces going to each of them and they don't look too good since there are a lot of broken lines in the animation. The disc read our player presets correctly but since the sign and song subtitle track is the first English subtitle track it selected that instead of the full translation track.Extras:
The extras are pretty minimal for the first volume with just a clean ending sequence and a production artwork gallery.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Ikki Tousen is one of the latest fighting series to come out and try to recapture some of that lost ground that the genre has suffered over the years as more science fiction, comedy and girls oriented shows have started to come over. To stand out against what else is out there, the violence is upped more than usual and combined with a lot of fan service.
The plot is fairly simple but can get very confusing depending on your linguistic skills and memory. The Kanto region of Japan is home to many schools and academies and all of them are locked into a battle for domination. Much of it is reflected through the heritage of bloodlines and sacred beads that go back upwards of eighteen hundred years. The youths of today are fighting some of the same grudge matches fought both in Japan and China over the course of hundreds of years. The sacred beads are often the embodiment of the power and life force of some of these ancient warriors and they also signify that the person wearing it is indeed a Fighter, someone who can be challenged.
Entering into this area is a young woman named Sonsaku Hakufu. Her mother has decided that it's time for her to leave the school she's been at where she has had to restrain herself and to enter into the Kanto region where she has to take on this new turbulent era. Her mother takes her and moves in with her brother, who happens to be out in the country so she takes over the parenting of her nephew, Koukin. Koukin, a somewhat introverted and studious young man, has been set to be Hakufu's guardian for years gone by now. His looks belie his actual strength and power. His cousin is someone that he must protect at all costs.
So naturally he screws up when she first comes to town and she gets to the school before he realizes what time it is and she proceeds to introduce herself by taking down close to thirty of the fighters there. She ends up in some good fights and meets some interesting people as it goes on and through Koukin she learns the make-up of the school. A group known as the Big Four are the ones who are the strongest in this particular school and she sees them as obstacles she has to take down so that she can take over the country as her mother wants her to.
Hakufu isn't exactly the brightest bulb in the box. She's constantly losing her sacred bead and she's getting into fights without realizing it half the time. She's simply not a terribly smart girl but she's got an infectious energy and, well, she's got huge breasts. Everyone is trying to get to know her initially due to them and they're referred to throughout the show as Booby Bombs. While not actually weapons, they do get revealed throughout a number of the fights since clothes are easily ripped and whatever outfit she has on will get torn quickly and with the right kind of placement to ensure lots of service.
With her name being what it is, there's fear that she's the "warrior from the west" who will come to the Kanto region and take over everything, so she's continually challenged. Her techniques aren't the best but she manages to hold her own surprisingly often. And she picks up on others techniques just as fast and can practically master something new with only having seen it once in action. She's a natural fighter in many respects but there's something deep inside her that's even more feral and primal that shows through at times.
With the opening volume, there are a number of challenges issued to Hakufu as not only the Big Four are trying to establish who she is but there are those above them in power that want to find out exactly what's come into the area. A lot of time is really spent on the fights or having Koukin racing to try and save Hakufu from being caught up in something she's not ready for. Ikki Tousen is surprisingly violent at times. Well, the violence isn't too much of a surprise but the combination of it and the copious amounts of blood being spilled is. Many shows often go with the flow of lots of violence and hitting but not showing much if any blood. In this one, it takes it and revels in it at times as the blood literally flies all over the place.
Another aspect to the show, one that I think gets explored a bit more later on, is Hakufu's excitement about fighting. She loves to fight, she loves to be freed of the restrictions she's had placed on her and she loves a challenge. The fighting gets to her so much so that during one fight with Ryumou where Hakufu has been placed into a hold around her head by Ryumou, she literally climaxes right there as she alternates between passing out and trying to get free. The new sensations of someone having taken her down even a little just does her in and sets free something deep inside her.
While it certainly won't appeal to everyone, I find it very refreshing to find a series that not only revels in the violence of its cast but has no hesitations about including the raw sexual nature of it as well. A lot of it is just played out as fan service with clothes being ripped, lots of panty shots and plenty of skin showing all around, but the upping of it to the point where you see one of the girls visible climax while fighting is definitely not the norm. The show has some balls in going this route and really matching up the passion that comes from sex and violence. The two are sometimes so intertwined that it seems unnatural to have them continually split apart.
With a heavy emphasis on fan service, it's not a surprise that most of the female characters here are rather well designed and heavy on the assets side of things. After all, the lead is nicknamed Booby Bombs, but they don't stand out as something completely unnatural either. The men tend to not come across all that well as they are much more angular and roughly drawn. There are a few pretty boys and Koukin comes across well, but half the time I expect to see most of the men looking like Mari from Project-Ako or other Road Warrior rejects wandering in. Combined with the generally good looking character designs, the series has some good production values but has a few shortcuts here and there to be sure. The fight scenes are where most of the energy is poured and it shows on the screen.
In listening to both language tracks, I'm rather impressed with how well varied the English performances came out. Without going too far over the top, the actors really played it well in providing the right amount of menace to a number of the characters. Hakufu herself was a role that could be killed easily but the actress pulled it off well in making her somewhat spacey and unobservant about things without coming across as a complete airhead. There's a good energy to this dub and I think they managed to get just about all of the characters right. It's a show that I think works well in both languages, especially considering just how well they get the pronunciation of the various Chinese names.In Summary:
Ikki Tousen definitely gets some props from us for having the guts to play up the sexual side of violence and not dismiss it outright. The violence and sex are both very well done and have a certain rawness to it. But the plot itself is fairly mediocre and the use of a numerous Chinese based historical names and building upon things having been in the works for as many years as it has, it just doesn't click all that well. There's plenty of dialogue scenes throughout here where those who have been fighting all this time are vying for power and dealing with stronger powers from other schools but it all just feels to bland and common. This is almost the kind of show where I'd almost treat it like porn; skip the dialogue and watch the fight sequences. There's a lot of flash and fanservice here but the substance just isn't keeping me interested.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending,Art Gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.