Karas Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A+
  • Video Rating: A+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 90
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Karas

Karas Vol. #2

By Brett Barkley     November 09, 2007
Release Date: October 23, 2007


Karas Vol. #2
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
Picking up right where the Prophecy ends, the new Karas, Otaha, seeks vengeance against the yakuza that murdered his brother and almost killed him. Meanwhile, the old Karas, Eko, unleashes his wrath and contempt for the pitiful humans infesting the city. Yurine, Nue, and Otahajoin forces for the final epic battle to save the city and protect the will of the people... as prophecy becomes revelation!

The Review!
A meaner, bloodier Karas.

Audio:

Karas: The Revelation has a fairly wide range of audio options, including English 6.1 and Japanese 5.1, as well as English and Japanese 2.0, all of which feature optional subtitles. Overall, I was quite impressed with the audio quality, including the solid channel separation and the powerful use of the rear speakers (watch for it in crowd scenes.) While watching Karas, the immersive quality of the audio (particularly the English 6.1) adds a great deal of excitement to the feature. Considering the power and drama of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra’s score for Karas, I was pleased to find it beautifully reproduced and detected no audio problems throughout my viewing.


Video:

Karas: The Revelation is featured here in the original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and showcases some beautiful colors and solid blacks throughout. Consisting of a mixture of incredibly detailed CGI work and traditional hand-drawn animation, the two styles are thematically integrated, with the CGI work used to great effect for the incredibly fast-paced action scenes. Considering how much the OAV relies on the power of the visuals, I was very pleased to find no issues with the transfer.


Packaging:

Karas: The Revelation ships in a standard DVD case with an embossed protective sleeve featuring a metallic-paint- enhanced image of the cover. The Revelation features bloody red lettering on the left-hand side of the cover, running up the case adjacent to the disk spine. The tone of the lettering sets it apart nicely from the largely misty blue cover. The right side of the cover is occupied by a large and gold-hued image of Karas, sword drawn. In the background, to the left of Karas and directly above the logo, a Mikura lurks. In general, the cover image is very engaging, offering viewers a look at the highly detailed and beautifully-rendered Karas character.

The disk reverse shuns the colorful background of the front cover, instead presenting the images and text against a murky blue and black backdrop. A large image of Otoha, sword drawn, is featured in the upper left of the reverse cover, the disk teaser is found in white text to the right of this. Below this, running across the middle of the case is a colorful montage of three clips from the OVA. Bonus Features and disk information is found below this in the lower half of the reverse cover, flanked on either side by an image of Yurine and Nue. The disk’s reverse cover image is nicely designed, clean and very easy to read. The disk is not shipped with an insert.


Menu:

The menu opens with simple clip of the gold burst that accompanies Otoha’s first transformation in to Karas from the film, and a still of Karas kneeling after that transformation. This image quickly morphs in to Yurine’s sacred treasure, the storehouse of the soul of the human who is Karas, slowly rotating over a black background as colorful blobs of light emanate from the center. The Karas logo is featured in the immediate center of the image, The Revelation subtitle featured just below that. The menu is broken in to four distinct categories: Play Feature; Scene Selections; Audio/Subtitles; Extra Features. The first two respectively occupy the top left and right line of options in the menu, the latter two occupying similar positions along the bottom of the screen. A brief audio clips plays throughout. Though a little flatter and lacking some of the nicer elements of the menu found in the first OVA, the cool Yurine voiceover for instance, the menu found on Karas: The Revelation is easy to read and navigate.


Extras:

Karas: The Revelation features a decent range of extras as follows: In the Voiceover Booth, Rough Cut Excerpt, Trailer, and Still Gallery. In the Voiceover Booth features video of Matthew Lillard, Jay Hernandez, and Cree Summer in their roles for the OVA. This featurette noticeably skewed as less than a minute of the nearly twenty-two and a half minute runtime is dedicated to Matthew Lillard and Jay Hernandez (actually, about forty-seven seconds), with the overwhelming majority being occupied by what is apparently an impromptu interview with Cree Summer. Obviously, fans of Ms. Summer’s work will enjoy the interview. Others will likely find the questions, which occasionally touch on the real and candid, but typically stay fairly close to the expected. The Rough Cut Excerpt is fairly self explanatory, featuring scenes from the OVA is different stages of the development process. It’s great to see how this impressive work progressed, but the original Japanese voicetrack featured seems a little awkward without other sound or music tracks, as it utilizes a lot of grunting and growling. Fans of the OVA and those with more than a passing interesting in the art of animation will definitely find this to be a value-added extra feature, and at over twenty-seven and a half minutes there’s a lot to enjoy. The Trailer features a fantastic theater-worthy, English-dubbed trailer that nicely captures the feel of The Revelation. As the name implies, the Still Gallery features still from the OVA. Viewer can scroll through the still at their leisure by thumbing the ‘back’ or ‘forward’ buttons. I really missed the audio accompaniment throughout this feature. Particularly when considering just how powerful the music featured in the Karas OVAs is, it is easy to imagine just how easily the iconic images chosen for the Still Gallery could have popped off the screen with the right musical accompaniment.


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

Karas: The Revelation is the highly-anticipated conclusion of the story begun in Karas: The Prophecy. The original OVA explored a world in which men and demons have lived side-by-side since the beginning of time. Occasionally, though the modern, enlightened man could not fathom it, these separate realities overlap, and often with horrific results. A being in the form of a young woman named Yurine serves as the guardian of the tenuous balance between these realities. Throughout time, she has enlisted the aid of a number of different individuals to battle on her behalf. These individuals have been known as the Karas. However, after one of these chosen, a man named Eko, decided to turn his back on Yurine and all she represents, the balance of power that separates these realities becomes threatened. As Eko rises in power, seemingly incapable of being defeated, he enlists the aid of a select group of demons which have undergone a unique mechanization process, known as the Mikura, to destroy Yurine and her Karas champions, all the while intent on destroying humankind. Detectives Kue and Sagisaka also make a return in this OVA, though this time the role they play is surprisingly secondary to the far larger scale of events that transpire as a result of Eko’s actions.

Opening almost immediately after The Prophecy’s stunning conclusion, Karas: The Revelation, viewers of the previous OVA will immediately recognize the characters and understand their current plights (though for other viewers, I’d highly recommend catching the first film before embarking here.) After Eko’s shocking victory over Yurine in the previous film’s finale, little stands in his way to conquering the city (the city in question being Shinjuku.) Nue lies broken, in hiding, while Otoha, having been awakened from his coma from the previous OVA, and without Yurine, unable to transform into Karas, wanders the streets with only his sword.

True to its name, Karas: The Revelation will likely answer every question viewers from the first film will have regarding the world of the Karas, and probably then some. From the true purpose of the Mikura, to Eko’s motivations and true desires, to the code that binds all the supernatural beings, there are many revelations found here. Early on, Nue reveals that each city typically has a single Yurine, but due to Eko’s drive to overpower his Yurine and gain control over the city’s human and demon, or fiend, population, thereby shaping the city in his own twisted image, the city has birthed a second Yurine. However, due to the rules these beings must observe, the second Yurine cannot intervene on the behalf of the city or its populace, human or otherwise, thereby solidifying the very negative plight of the characters and the city. In other words, things don’t look good for our heroes, or the city, or the citizens caught in the middle.

The story also delves in to Otoha’s past, giving the viewers a good idea of the man behind the Karas mask, and it’s not a pretty picture. A week prior to the events of Karas: The Prophecy, Otoha, revealed here to be a vicious and violent yakuza enforcer, is gunned down while trying to flee the country with his companion and a load of stolen yakuza money. Otoha’s past is significant to both his being selected to serve as the new Karas, as well as further substantiation for Eko’s claims that the city has become so corrupt, so unscrupulous that it must be destroyed. Otoha’s brother, who is also his father, the result of an incestuous affair with their mother, employs Otoha as a murderous enforcer, because of Otoha’s gift of not feeling pain or fear. Now that he’s back on his feet, after the close of the first OVA, Otoha goes to rescue this friend from the yakuza’s clutches. But, like many plot lines in Karas: The Revelation, things go from bad to worse very quickly, and often with a very definite sense of finality, oh yes, and with a great deal of bloodshed.

As can probably be gleaned from much of what it is stated above, this OVA is much darker than the first. In fact, few really emerge from Karas: The Revelation unscathed, or without literally losing buckets of blood. Many characters viewers became familiar with from the first film will make their final stand here. Often, I found their deaths to be sacrifices made in vain, as everyone, the Mikura, the humans, even the Karas are caught in something much larger; the conflicting wills of a city and the powerful madman seeking to control it all. Needless to say, the sense of powerlessness and hopelessness this creates for the viewer permeates every aspect of the film until Otoha’s Karas makes his appearance late in the OVA (about 55 minutes in to the film.)

Visually, Karas: The Revelation retains much of The Prophecy’s power and eye-blistering detail and beauty. However, it is difficult to recapture the magic of that awe-inspiring opening scene that so deftly set the tone of the first film. Here, when they do come late in the film, I found the aerial fight sequences to be lacking something. I’m not certain if it was the fact these scenes took place in daylight, or if it was the fact they were battling throughout the ruins of a city, or if it was the annoying new face overlay technique the creators employed in this film to show the viewers Eko and Otoha’s faces while in the armor, but for the most part, the aerial fight sequences lacked the newness found in the first film, feeling more like ground already covered and having been done better earlier. This hurt the film, particularly as the viewer waits so long, enduring the senseless deaths of so many characters they’d become familiar with, only to have Otoha’s triumphant return to the mantle of Karas feel somewhat lacking in power. Considering the versatility shown by the Karas characters in the first film, from death-defying aerial battles throughout the city, to a tire-screaming ground chase, there’s so much that could have been done that would have felt new to viewers. In this regard, the Karas battle scenes found here just don’t capture the beauty of those found in The Prophecy.

Artistically, the choice of employing the face overlay technique mentioned above hurt the visuals, by continually breaking the flow of action. I’m confused by the decision to use this technique, as the armor Eko and Otoha wear while in the form of Karas are different enough in color and style to distinguish them from one another (and even the other Karas’ observing the battle). Considering this technique was not employed in the first film makes it stand out a bit more now. The Karas armor is beautiful, and the battle sequences between Eko and Otoha could have been much more powerful without this visual interruption.

Viewers of the first film will note that Piper Perabo is missing in The Revelation’s cast lineup this time around. While I found Cree Summer did an excellent job as fill-in for the role of Yurine, I found it a little confusing considering the number of Yurines featured throughout this film (I counted as many as six or seven). With a new voice actor filling the role, I initially thought the different voices were intended to allow for separate personalities between the Yurine, but it becomes clear later on that this is not the case. While having Piper Perabo reprise her role would have likely avoided any confusion, Cree Summers adds a nuance and subtlety of personality and mood to the character(s) of Yurine that strikes me as more powerful

While Karas: The Revelation provides answers for most, if not all viewer questions from the first film, it creates a few questions of its own it does not address. What of Eko’s other body in the chamber, much like the captured Yurine? Why, after his return is Otoha’s Karas described as “Doctor Karas?” Why after all that happened, after all the destruction, after so many of the city’s people were slaughtered by Eko, did the city wait so long to bring forth a new Yurine, if it could have done so at any point? These questions certainly won’t derail an otherwise enjoyable film, though they may give the viewer pause.


In Summary:

Building off the first film, Karas: The Revelation is a far more violent and bloody affair. While featuring a very ambitious story that literally shakes the earth and retains much if not all of the beauty found in the original OVA’s visuals and sound, Karas: The Revelation unfortunately suffers from a number of smaller issues that keep it from reaching the lofty standards set by the preceding OVA. Karas the Revelation is a good story, with great visuals and sound. It’s also a big story with huge ramifications for the city, its people, and even the denizens of the supernatural world. It has all the potential of a great story, featuring plenty of tragedy, sacrifice, action and loss. However, Karas: The Revelation struggles to recapture the magic and ingenuity of the first film.

Features
Japanese 6.1 DD EX Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English 6.1 DD EX Language,English 2.0 Language,Textless Opening, Voiceover Talent Interviews, Bloopers, Draft Pencil Sketch Alternate Angle, Image Gallery

Review Equipment
34"� Sony FD Trinitron Wega HDTV KD-34XBR910 and Sony Dav-FR9 progressive scan Home Theatre System with 114 watts per channel to each speaker and 115 watts to each of the subwoofer's two woofers.

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