Kaidohmaru - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kaidohmaru


By Andrew Tei     July 16, 2003
Release Date: June 24, 2003

© Manga Entertainment

What They Say
The battle for the Capital City of Kyo rages as warring political factions vie for power against hereditary rulers. After the murder of her parents at the hands of her seditious uncle, a young girl named Kintoki flees to the mountains to lead a harsh life; she is named Kai Doh Maru by the local villagers. Rescued by Raiko, the Captain of "The Four Knights"-honorable defenders who protect the peace of the city, she is raised within their group as a boy. Living among the Knights, she learns the practices of martial arts and develops into a skillful samurai, becoming a permanent member of the team. Now, as a young woman of seventeen, she begins to discover new feelings of passion and love for Raiko...but she also discovers that these new emotions cause a storm of jealousy and rage in another woman linked to her past. Set in feudal Japan's Heian Era (794 to 1185 AD), the animation team created a unique color scheme reminiscent of Japanese artwork from the period focusing on the seasons, virtues, and elements of the Earth as they related to spirits of nature. Kai Doh Maru mysteriously opens in stark black & white, then resolves into a breathtaking and skillfully produced watercolor palate of luminous and soft pastel imagery. As the drama unfolds, deep, full colorization is used to highlight key scenes. If you play close attention, you can witness seasonal transformation of plants and trees as well as see how the film changes in appearance as time progresses through the tonality of the colors. Detailed 3D modeling of temples, gardens and landscapes take the viewer into another world, back in time, a distant past world of lavish luxury, political intrigue and bloody conflict. "The artistic look and feel of this film separates it from all other anime productions. Its unique creative approach takes anime into a whole new dimension that we know fans of Japanese animation and art films will certainly appreciate," says Marvin Gleicher, Manga CEO.

The Review!
On the heels of their release of Blood: The Last Vampire, Production I.G. delivers another fully digital production. There’s a unique visual style to the show, so does that carry over to a great show also?


I listened to Kaidohmaru in Japanese DD 5.1 for my review. The sounds were superb. There was excellent use of directionality which made the fight scenes very exciting. The sound track was clear and distortion free. Dialogue was very easy to understand. Flawless in execution.


When you first see Kaidohmaru, you’re first thought will be “what’s wrong with my picture?” Don’t worry though, it’s intentional. The picture through out the show is over saturated, and is meant to be like that. In fact, the coloring style resembles the artwork of Japan during the Heian Era (794 to 1184 AD) in Japan, which incidentally is the time period our story takes place. Kaidohmaru was an all digital production, and I can’t see a single sign of a scratch on the print. You can’t judge the black levels very well due to the stylized coloring techniques used here, but I didn’t notice any signs of mpeg induced artifacts at all.


The front cover pictures a close up of Kintoki, the young warrior girl who is at the heart of the story, and the Kaidohmaru. The coloring used for the cover is exactly the same style that is used in the show. The cover’s artwork continues onto the back cover as a back ground. Manga provides a large amount of text into order to describe the setting of the show for the viewing, since it is very complicated. Inside the DVD case there’s a poster that features a clear version of the cover.


The main menu features BGM playing while several scenes from the show are displayed with the Kaidohmaru logo over it. The rest of the menus are static and songless. From the main menu you can select play, chapters, setup, and extra. There are only seven chapters in this 45 minute OVA. Setup allows you to choose from four audio options and turn on English subs. There is no indicator as to what sound option you’ve chosen. The menus were very responsive.


A Round Table Discussion featuring the director, character designer, and the animation director is the main extra. It features an interview while the three are eating and use 3 different camera shots at one time to show what’s going on. First the question is displayed on a splash screen, then we go the people being interviewed, which is subbed on screen. Another great extra is a character section explaining each person and some of their motivations. I don’t suggest reading this until after watching the show. Some best scenes are included with each character. Fifty six story board images are provided. Lastly, we get the CG models that were used for the production of the show. The view is taken on a tour of the 3D scenes created with some commentary.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

In the year 889, Japan is going through several feudal wars. A young girl named Kintoki is being chased by a squad led by Kintoki’s uncle, who just killed his own brother in order to take over his lands. During this flash back scene, where everything is colored in black and white shades, Kintoki is rescued by a man named Raiko, who is the captain of the Four Knights who serve to protect the city of Kyo. After this bloody conflict, Raiko takes the girl in and trains her as a swordswoman to join the Knights.

After a number of years, Kintoki is now seventeen and Japan is filled with as much political intrigue as ever. Plus a series of disasters like a smallpox epidemic that has killed a large portion of the population and there is a group of magicians named the Oheyama causing trouble that the Four Knights are hunting down. The Four Knights finally catch up to the group which is led by someone named the Shuten Dohji. The Oheyama end up causing a bloodbath for the Four Knights who can’t handle their ferocity.

This is when our twist comes in, as Shuten Dohji turns out to be Kintoki’s cousion Princess Ohni. To add a bit of soap opera into the tale, Kintoki was raised as a boy when she was younger, and Ohni is completely in love with Kintoki and wants to marry him/her. Kintoki is in love with someone else though, and this drives Ohni further into insanity. Ohni launches her forces to take down the government and get Kintoki back for herself.

Through this, there are a series of very bloody battles, people in love with people who don’t return their feelings, and a lot of confuzzled dialogue as Production I.G. tries to make a story come together from this wonderfully animated piece. Yes, that’s the problem here. About 80 minutes of story are being crammed into about 40 minutes of animation here. The viewer is jumping from scene to scene being filled into a tiny bit of the story but never being fully satisfied into what’s going on.

I had to read all the character backgrounds, the back cover, and the interview in order to put together the story. It’s insanely complicated, and not presented clearly.

The selling point here though is the animation. You could use the show as a demo reel. It is highly stylized and the animation flows beautifully from frame to frame. The colors in the show change to fit the scene, similar to adding a filter to change how a scene feels. It’s experimental in nature making this piece of anime feel a bit like those student films that are always made fun of.

One of the great things I guess about a confusing story is to force the viewer to watch it several times in order to figure out what’s going on. Kaidohmaru’s fight scenes will be reason enough for a lot of people to buy this, and enjoy the absolutely beautiful artwork in the series. With enough viewings, someone actually might be able to figure out what the hell is going on, too.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Character design boards, Character biographies, Photo gallery, Director and Crew interviews, Original Japanese trailer, Free poster, "Kai Doh Maru: Production Report

Review Equipment
Toshiba 3109 player, Toshiba 36” Cinema Series via component, Pioneer VSX-810S receiver via optical, Cerwin Vega front speakers, Pinnacle center and rears


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