Kaze no Yojimbo Vol. #2 - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: C+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Kaze No Yojimbo

Kaze no Yojimbo Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     July 03, 2004
Release Date: June 08, 2004

Kaze no Yojimbo Vol. #2
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
While George is still in Sendai searching for a man who holds the key to the 15-year-old secret, he stumbles across the dark past of the "Tiger Lady". A past that Sanae desperately attempts to conceal. After he returns to Kimujuku, George helps a college professor discover an ancient treasure, saves Ginzame from losing a whole train, and uncovers a mysterious murder. What more do they expect him to do?

The Review!
Kimujuku takes on the main role in these episodes as the city itself is given more depth and detail with its history.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a very good stereo mix that features a lot of small moments of directionality with both voices and ambient sound effects that help enhance the mood and pacing of the show. It's not terribly strong and can be difficult to discern a lot of it if there's other noise in the room, but there are some very enjoyable small moments. Dialogue throughout is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions on either track during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for Kaze no Yojimbo is very good looking throughout the bulk of the print. Colors are solid and provide a good mixture of subtle earthy tones and a number of very vibrant areas. The darks are very well done, particularly one scene where it shows the night sky in the distance but you can still make out the darker shadow of the tree and mountain line along the horizon, though the two nearly blend. There's some cross coloration showing up in a few parts of the episodes but it's pretty minor. Where it's most noticeable is in the episode title cards that are after each opening sequence where the character artwork is pretty much full of rainbows. Other than that, this is a very good looking transfer.

Paying homage to its roots, the cover here with the original series name combined with the color palette of an almost sepia feel gives an impression of an old movie poster from something quite some time ago. The foreground image of George is again the full color piece, a decent shot of him smiling from within all that hair, while the background image is the shot of the sad looking Sanae against her residence. The back cover is a bit more traditional looking with a number of screenshots set up as a collage across the middle as well as a few other places. There's a brief summary of the premise that lets everything grow from there and a rundown of the basic features, including listing the episodes by number and title. The insert replicates the front cover artwork and opens to a two-page spread that has individual summaries for each of the episodes with faded out shots from the episodes as well as a shot of George from an illustration piece. The back of the insert has the main rundown of production information including fully credited bilingual cast listings. A limited mini-cel is also included with the first round of releases, which is basically a flimsy pencil board that has an image of George with a slightly serious look.

Done in a letterbox mode using some of the animation from where it was done like that in the beginning of the series, the menus here are simple yet feel like they're missing something since the extras section isn't here. With the black and white feel combined with almost upbeat opening song playing along, it just has a weird vibe to it that doesn't quite seem to fit with the show. The menus are technically solid and have good access times. The menu also uses my players preset preferences and highlights which languages are selected as well.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
While the first five episodes of Kaze no Yojimbo were very slow paced pieces, they were quite good in introducing not only the character of George and his search for Araki in the town of Kimujuku but they also did a solid job of introducing a rather sizeable cast of characters that lived there and dealt with the strange nature of the town and the seeming split between the two sides. There was a lot of time spent in getting George around the town to various settings and having him mingle, even briefly, with a large number of people so that various motivations could be presented and hinted at.

This next set of episodes which brings us up through number ten takes on a slightly different feel by giving more focus to the town itself, its history and some of the way things work there. This certainly isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination because Kimujuku is very much an important character in the show, but it does take an already slow paced show and shifts it a gear slower in the process. The history is important though since so much goes back to that train from the past that keeps being discussed and the fact that residents from the town were involved in it. The bulk of the first episode is given over to discussing the train and how it was used all those years ago in an attempt to remove a large quantity of wealth out of Tokyo. There's a lot of verbal sparring going on between the history lesson and it's all interesting, but it is a challenge to get through.

A second episode is given over to another part of the towns' history when George returns there from Sendai after failing to find the particular Araki he's looking for. The history lesson given is a bit different from the other one as this is by a history professor who comes out to Kimujuku every few years. He's under the belief that quite some time ago in the towns past there was a community of Westerners living there that have since taken on the legend of being demons based on their differences in appearance, as the towns name is related to keeping demons away. He's been there searching for a mysterious lost treasure that they had from back then that's referred to in some of the folk tales but hasn't had any luck.

His return to the town is a bit earlier than usual and he's an assistant this time. As it turns out, he usually stays in the room George is in, so it allows George to be gracious and offer it up to them and for him to make his way into the professors' works. With his interest in the town it's only natural to learn more and the professor offers an interesting look into the past. The added advantage is that it's another way to walk around the town and look at specific things and ask questions without being taken as someone who shouldn't be asking questions. Like most everything else in this town, things aren't what they seem and the professors' assistant has his own agenda that he brings into play as the history of the town gets even muddier.

What ended up saving the disc from being a complete history lesson is the one really fun episode on this disc where George is brought by the "gang" leaders of the town, the two brothers, to a special event. Illegal casino's almost always seem to get busted rather easily or within a short enough time to make it not worthwhile to try them, but they've got an edge over the cops right now. Using the train tracks, they've got a train and a few cars together and have turned it into a mobile casino that they take out once a month and invite all the local organizations onto so they can all play and keep the peace, ease the tensions and just have fun. To try and keep George on their side or at least within their sphere of influence, they invite him onto this trip and spot him some cash to have fun.

Watching George use his usual style but mixed with gambling is amusing. He's got the laid back demeanor down but with the smile that could kill right at the edge of his lips that just makes watching him do something as simple as playing cards. Of course, just playing cards doesn't last long and he ends up being moved into some high pressure games at the request of the brothers though and we get to see a bit more of how the organizations in the area work. This is one of the more "action" oriented episodes of this volume though the action is more just in things happening between characters as opposed to physical actions. Regardless, it's a really fun episode and watching the tension rising during the high stakes game just brings a smile to my face.

In Summary:
While not as interesting as the first volume due to the pacing being even slower and mixed in with history lessons, there are still a lot of good moments here. Kaze no Yojimbo isn't a series that's going to show much of its hand early since it's building a really strong mystery story that will take some time to tell. This volume is big on backstory and giving more of what makes this town unique with its cast a chance to shine but it's not going to provide even some of the mild action of the first five episodes. Regardless, it is still rather interesting and does a solid job of expanding things. This series isn't like a lot of other ones that are brought out here so just from the pacing and style alone we're enjoying experiencing something like this but will say that it likely isn't for everyone.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, 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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