Kannazuki No Miko Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kannazuki No Miko

Kannazuki No Miko Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     February 17, 2006
Release Date: May 02, 2006


Kannazuki No Miko Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
The Advent of the Priestess of the Godless Month!

Shy, timid Himeko happily attends school with both the popular and beautiful Chikane and her childhood friend, Souma, blissfully unaware of what's in store for her. However, the destiny of these three changes on Himeko's 16th birthday when the mark of the sun appears on her chest. What does this solar mark represent? At the same time, why has a black aura of agony burst forth from Souma? Who is the enemy? The legend of the eight-headed beast returns to Japan!

The Review!
Prophesized to happen, an evil sealed on the moon has been freed and now intends to destroy mankind.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series features a solid stereo mix that has a fair amount of directionality across its forward soundstage with lots of dialogue and action effects being moved across it. The majority of the show is very much focused around dialogue but when the action scenes kick in with the giant robots moving around and their respective weapons, the mix is nicely dynamic and works well. In listening to both language tracks, we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Animated by TNK, the materials for this show are for the most part simply gorgeous. The show has a very rich and deep palette of colors used in it and some of the most fluid animation in a TV series that I've seen in a bit. The show has for the most part a real world set of colors used for it and they have a slight hazy and dreamlike quality to some of the backgrounds but the character animation and color design is striking and bold. There is some minor cross coloration here and there throughout the episodes on the disc such as around the edges of Himiko's hair or one or two other areas but it is extremely minimal. Where the problem in the transfer lies is in the ending sequence. It's a split scene where one side presumably had the Japanese credits scrolling over the black area and animation on the right. That black area is the problem as it's nothing but macroblocking as the black area isn't solid at all.

Packaging:
Using the original Japanese artwork with a very nicely adapted English logo that retains much of the style and design, the cover artwork here looks great even if it does push a fairly generic set of visuals. The character designs are very nicely detailed as the lead trio stand out strongly here while the giant robot is behind them, all of it set against a simple black background. The back cover goes with a simple look as it gives a good bit of space over to the eerie image of the shrine on the moon with a brief summary of the premise. There's a strip of shots from the show which are very small but show off the designs nicely followed by the discs features and production information. Geneon still disappoints me though in that they're one of the very few that doesn't use the technical grid layout that's become common with DVDs. The keepcase is clear which allows for a gorgeous full color illustration on the reverse side of the cover that has Himeko and Chikane outside the school on a sunny day. The insert uses the artwork from the second Japanese cover and opens to a two panel piece that I'll presume is from the reverse side of that Japanese cover and the back has some small character artwork and a listing of release dates for the next two volumes.

Menu:
The menu layout is very shiny here as it uses the character and robot artwork from the front cover and runs a series of panning sequences behind it of the beautiful backgrounds from the shows location set to a brief bit of the vocal piece. It's a straightforward menu design with the navigation strip down the center under the logo but the combination of the backgrounds and the great character artwork with the added flare effects works nicely. The only downside is that the music is over so quickly from the build-up that its 30 second cutout doesn't work well; this is one that needed to last longer or the length of the song itself. Access times are very fast though and navigation is quick and easy with a standard layout. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The extras for this series are minimal with only a clean version of the opening sequence here. The Japanese releases also appear to be very minimal but some of the disc appear to have commentary tracks which it looks like we're not getting here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kannazuki no Miko, also known as Kannaduki no Miko, is the latest in a long line of series that deal with the world of shrine maidens, prophecies that have been foretold for ages about the end of mankind and the giant robots that they will all duke it out with in order to stand against it. The twelve episode series starts off with the first four here and while it does play to a fair number of common themes, it does so with a gorgeous sense of style and pacing that isn't the norm.

The premise is one we've seen before. We're introduced to a somewhat sleepy village where there is a high class high school academy where lots of young women go to and live in an attached dorm. One of the women there is Himeko, a somewhat dreamy girl who isn't always quite focused on what's going on in front of her unless it's her very close friend Chikane. Chikane's family lives in the town and they're actually the biggest wealthy family there with a massive mansion in which only Chikane and her main maid Otoha seem to reside. We get some mention of her father not being there but parents aren't exactly something you'll see a lot of here. The relationship between Chikane and Himeko is interesting since, at least as its perceived here, it's a mix of adoration from Himeko's side and possibly something more from Chikane. There is very much the feel of a relationship in the brew here but with many female/female relationships being exaggerated into something more serious it's hard to say this early, but the tension is definitely there.

Both of them are about to turn sixteen and that day has long held a prophecy apparently of something very dark happening. As it turns, we learn of an evil that was sealed within a single shrine on the moon where the Orochi was kept. It's now managed to break free as the shrine has broken down over the years and its intent is to come back to Earth and destroy mankind. With its ties to the village we're introduced to, it's no surprise that the sky turns black there and the land starts to turn as the Orochi reaches out to its eight "necks", the pieces by which it will deal with the two priestesses that can potentially return it to its slumber. We see many of these Neck's as they feel the compulsion to do its bidding. The main one we see at first comes from another student, the popular young man Soma. He's compelled to go and hunt down Himeko who he feels is the priestess and he's able to draw upon a sword and, surprisingly, a giant robot from under the earth in order to do this.

His unspoken love for Himeko though gives him the willpower to resist the Orochi which surprised the other Necks as they all huddle about in a strange mystical place watching what's going on. Soma has a difficult time keeping in control at times from the power and compulsion of the Orochi but with his pledge to defend Himeko he's able to handle it for the most part. This sets up an interesting conflict as the two women try to deal with their newfound position as priestesses. Soma's family, the Ohgami's, are actually very aware of what's going on as they were apparently involved in the original sealing some time ago and know what's going on with the seal being broken. The head of the family does his best to explain the complex situation to the young women who now find themselves branded as the Solar and Lunar Priestesses. The Orochi cannot proceed to deal with eradicating mankind until it can deal with these two and so the remaining Neck's come down one by one to deal with them and now the added thread of Soma.

So what we have is a show that plays to a fairly straightforward plot that's been seen numerous times. That's not unusual since there are only so many stories to be told. Where Kannazuki no Miko shines is in its style and substance. The relationship angle alone gives this a nice twist since it puts Himeko and Chikane right into something different though Himeko is unsure about it and Chikane is being cautious, particularly since Soma has an interest in Himeko as well. It's not incredibly overt, you don't have Chikane jumping up and down on her, oogling her or making risqué comments. What you have is a very refined young woman who has very strong feelings for Himeko and doesn't quite know how to act on it. It's interesting to see how it plays out when the school starts up again after the initial attack and everyone learns how Himeko is now staying at Chikane's mansion. Watching the way Chikane's head maid deals with watching Chikane becoming interested in Himeko gives it a nice angle as well. Anytime Soma is thrown into the mix the emotions are all over the place.

The opening four episodes here do work through a standard plot but they do it with a real sense of style and substance to it. Stylistically, the character designs and color palette along with the backgrounds are just gorgeous here. The visual design of the show is just so striking and fluid that just the simple moments of watching the two leads walk through the school halls with their uniforms moving along with them is engaging to watch. It's such a beautifully realized version of the real world in this little village town. The pacing of the show is also a real treat. Most shows of this nature, once the events start happening, it tends to move rather fast as they throw more and more action moments at you with the giant robots. It's a fair bit slower paced and a lot of the moments with Chikane and Himeko are a bit dreamlike, owing partially to the slightly disconnected feeling that Himeko exhibits at times. This pacing lets the plot, as revealed by the Ohgami's, sink in more since it's being revealed and thought about across the episodes.

For as much as I enjoyed these episodes though, the one thing that disappointed me the most is that the giant robots are just that, giant robots. Maybe it'll all make more sense as we learn more about the Orochi and the Neck's themselves. The interior of the machines don't look machine like in that there aren't any massive control panels or something, but the exteriors are standard giant robot designs. It's unfortunate that they couldn't work with something more organic looking for these since based on what we know, what are the chances of such things being designed as far back as all of this was likely to happen when the Orochi was first sealed?

In Summary:
Kannazuki no Miko starts off in a very interesting way and with a lot of promise. Though we have plenty of standard material it's very beautifully orchestrated through its pacing and animation. The promise of what's to come in the remaining eight episodes is where the real deal will be since the opening of any series has its standard story elements and it's hard to really judge it because where it's really going to go isn't fully revealed. What is here though is very enticing on a number of levels and has me interested to see where it's going to go. Providing a different than usual romantic triangle, gorgeous designs and an epic scale backstory, Kannazuki no Miko has all the right ingredients and the mix starts of very strong here. I'm definitely looking forward to more to see if they can pull it off.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening,Limited Edition Pencil Board

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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