Ikki-Tosen Vol. #2 - Mania.com

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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: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Ikki-Tosen

Ikki-Tosen Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     November 10, 2004
Release Date: November 02, 2004

Ikki-Tosen Vol. #2
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
After her defeat by the honorable Taishigi, Hakufu takes it upon herself to fight even harder to reach the top. Even as the tournament?s battles rage on, the head of each school plots to defeat the others by manipulating their pawns into battling each other. Will Hakufu become an unwitting tool, or will she control the warrior spirit growing inside her?

The Review!
The Big Fighters Tournament kicks off and history attempts to repeat itself once more as the fighters show just who has the real spirit of the warrior here.

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.

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.

Geneon went all out with the packaging for this release. The clear keepcase uses the same character artwork as the Japanese DVD release with a great looking fully clothed shot of Ryofu. 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 Kanu as she practically takes her top off by running her fingers through her hair. 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 Ryofu that opens to a two-panel spread of members of the Nanyo team. The back of the insert has a cute shot of Ryumou and Hakufu sitting back to back. Included in the keepcase is a pencil board. A very sexy pencil board. One side has an image of Ryofu again falling out of her top done by Yuji Shiozaki, which looks good other than the strange facial features he's given her. The other side, also by Shiozaki, is a much better looking shot of Kanu without her skirt and laying on some sheets. This looks really good but it doesn't match the in-show character designs all that well considering how tall Kanu comes across. Regardless, it's a good looking picture in and of itself and for those who like really fanservice heavy pencilboards.

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 face to face 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.

The extras for this installment have some interesting material to it. The usual pieces are here such as the clean ending sequence and a new round of a production artwork in the gallery. The new piece this time around is an interview with the director that was done for the Japanese release that's both amusing and interesting. The piece opens with the cameras being taken into a room where the artists and the director has a young woman doing live action poses and moves that will be replicated in the show so that they can have some frame of reference (and you can see the director being close to a book on combat moves as well). It's amusing watching the young woman dressed up in the school girl outfit doing all the poses and kicks and holding them for the cameras. After that, the director goes into some bits of detail about what it took to bring the show to reality and some of the usual fluff about supporting the show and all.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first volume of Ikki Tosen left us with mixed feelings on it. On the one hand, we really liked the way they shamelessly blended together the sexual nature of the violence and of the fighters. Too many shows try to pretend that doesn't happen or just show some little bits of it but Ikki Tosen revels in it. On the downside, I really didn't care for the way they introduced the show itself and the apparent long history of the competing schools via combat and the ancient names that are "reincarnated" to fight in the present. That's something that may work better if you have some familiarity with Asian history, providing they're using real names for a lot of this.

If there ever was a series you could get a firm grip on with the first volume and realize it's the same for the rest of it, Ikki Tosen is going to be that one. The second volume, which actually feels like it flows better with one less episode to be watched in a single sitting, just focuses on the fights and some of the rivalries that are brewing up, many of which are ages old and simply being replayed. Without as much information to really impart in these episodes since I'm gambling we got the bulk of the "exposition" moments in the first volume, the flow of fights from one to the next turn out better and aren't interrupted with those watching offering up much other than a few key lines here and there.

On the fighting side of things, we get a number of really good fights here though they don't last quite as long as I'd like or get as brutal as they can be just yet. The Big Fighters Tournament, an event held every three years that determines the best of the best and the one who rules over all the others, is starting up and from the Nanyo school, Ryumou, Koukin, Hakufu and another make up the team that's entered into it. Various locations around the town are taken over for the fights, such as a parking garage at Ikebukuro that's cordoned off from regular folks or on one of the fast moving trains throughout the city. With "officials" kicking off each of the fights and reporting into to Totaku via cel phone, the tournament gets under way pretty well.

There are some good fights to be had here. Some of the initial ones with Hakufu aren't all that good, such as Kannei and his weak nature as well as the goofy way he's presented. How can you take seriously someone who can't even keep their tongue in their mouth? The introduction of the Kanu character who is her schools sole representative when you can have up to five on your team is an interesting one. With a very short top on and the usual short skirt, she's an already tall character who looks even leaner with this kind of outfit but she's also one of the most feared of the fighters. She's got a brutal style to her but she's also got a sense of honor and is in the tournament simply for the pleasure of meeting the best fighters, not necessarily to win the tournament.

The historical side of things plays out in an amusing way if you really think about it. In the level where Totaku rules and with those around him, many are the present day incarnations of the past but in their school age bodies and clothes. But they drape their surroundings in a more classical nature, so you have the mixture of the two and all the politics and intrigue of such things, but kept to the amount needed and not much more. But at the same time, they bring in a massive amount of sexual conduct to things. When Ryofu comes to visit the captured and wounded Saji, it doesn't take long before he's got her on his back and his face between her legs. And they linger on this longer than one would expect. At times, I almost expected this to break out into a full hentai scene.

And I'll fully admit that's what's slowly attracting me to this show. The way that it doesn't shy away from the sex and the violence is very refreshing and adds something new to the genre. If this had been just another fighting show, it'd be easier to just write it off and be done with it. But that it's taking the chances of being so sexual is intriguing and it's keeping me interested in how it progresses, especially when they mix the violence with it. Of course, you get plenty of goofy bits associated with it too such as whenever a woman is hit it shreds a huge chunk of her shirt so that we can get down to the bra level. Maybe cheap fabric is necessary for such outfits since they're constantly getting into fights.

In Summary:
Ikki Tosen is such a conflicting show in how it presents itself but in this second batch of episodes it feels like it's starting to hits its stride as it avoids much in the way of exposition and instead just focuses on sex and violence with a mix of political intrigue. Though the character designs sometime go off model and take on a strange look when they're getting roughed up, a lot of the show has a good flow to it and the fights have a real oomph when they really get into it. This isn't a show that I'd recommend but it's one that I'm finding has some really interesting points to it that fascinate me since they go against a number of anime traditions. While it's not a genre buster, it's one that's taking some chances in what it's doing and I think it achieves some amount of payoff.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Ending,Art Gallery,Directors Interview

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 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.


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