Mania Grade: B-
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- Audio Rating: B
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: B+
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: C+
- Age Rating: 18 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Adult Source Media
- MSRP: 24.95
- Running time: 30
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Last Kunoichi
Last Kunoichi Vol. #1
By Chris Beveridge
September 18, 2006
Release Date: September 12, 2006
Last Kunoichi Vol. #1
What They Say
© Adult Source Media
The winds of revolution howl through Kyoto as the Tokugawa era comes to a violent close. Will Kaede, Kikyoo, and Ayame follow the ninja code of honor and face their vicious destiny, or escape to another world? Will their love for each other and the men they are destined to betray effect their fate? But now, a secret command forces them to risk their lives. Their passions will ignite as our story begins...The Review!
During one of the key moments at the end of the Tokugawa era, a group of female ninjas work to gain information and solidify their own plans.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Though there is a good bit of action in the show, the bulk of the episode is dialogue and it's kept to a fairly center channel based mix. The stereo channels do get some use though but it's minimal overall outside of a quick fight or two and the end music sequence. Dialogue throughout it is clean and clear however and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.Video:
Originally released in 2003, the transfer for this single OVA episode is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this look decent and overall it's relatively problem free but it's design is one that doesn't look all that good in certain ways. What bothered me the most with it was how light the blacks look as many of them looked far too gray, but it's hard to tell if this intentional or not. There is a touch of softness to a few scenes but otherwise everything looks decent. Cross coloration and aliasing are pretty much absent but there is some occasional blocking in some background solid colors but it varies fairly well between equipment and viewing distance.Packaging:
The artwork for this release looks quite good and almost a throwback to some of the darker violent type releases we used to get in the early nineties. The three kunochi that make up the cast are all here in their attractive outfits and wielding either swords or their sexual prowess against the dark red skyline with the hazy moon casting a light on it. It's pretty attractive overall and nicely detailed. The back cover is nicely laid out as it has a series of stitched together images with red borders that take up a good chunk of space as well as a sexy shot of Kaede. The summary covers the basics and the bottom quarter lists out the technical and production information as we've seen from previous ASM releases. The cover for this release is dual sided but only the back cover has different artwork; one side has shots that include nudity while the other doesn't. The front cover artwork is the same between versions.Menu:
The menu layout uses some of the artwork from the main cover of the two older kunoichi along with the dark red design. It looks quite good overall and they use the background material of the moon to good effect by playing clips from the show through it. Add in the slow vocal song from the end credits to it and it sets the mood perfectly. The music clip is a touch short though and the loop transition is somewhat jarring. This is more so due to me being spoiled by next generation menus which have looked flawless and seamless. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is easy to navigate. With only one language, our player presets weren't much of an issue here.Extras:
The only extra included on the disc for the show itself is the photo gallery. There is also a bonus video that are often included that has subtitles.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Over the last ten years or so there've been a lot of shows that have dealt with this particular area of history for Japan. We've gone from ultra popular shows like Rurouni Kenshin to Peacemaker while also bringing in a different kind of take like Shura no Toki. Even the adult world gets in on the game once in awhile and the Last Kunoichi takes us to the time of the Shinsengumi once more. They're almost like a bad penny when it comes to anime now as they always seem to turn up in the strangest areas.
This series starts off around the critical time where events have led to the big meeting at the Ikedaya and change is most definitely in the air. While the two sides are continuing their march towards changing history, a trio of female ninjas under the command of an elderly man are instructed to ferret out whatever information they can about the meeting. One of those methods, one that the kunoichi are able to really use well, is that of sex. Ayame, the newest member of the group, has the mission of seducing one of the men going to the meeting and acquiring the information they need from him in the middle of sex. Unfortunately, she gets a bit too involved with the guy and her sexual needs dominate her duties as a kunoichi.
While she's getting what she can, Kaede and Kikyoo trail other men that are going to be involved in all of this and do their best to get information as well. Kikyoo ends up on the trail of a real demon of a swordsman and that leads to a different kind of fight while Kaede tails some of the legendary members of the Shinsengumi like Okita. We eventually see a few others as well during the important Ikedaya fight and mentions of Sakamoto and others come up throughout the show. It's kept fairly close to some of the basic storylines we've seen of past tales of these events so there isn't anything terribly fresh or new here in the plot. The additional view of it through the eyes of the Kunoichi doesn't add much either but it does add in a nice helping of sex and the appealing aspects of the female ninjas.
The first episode isn't exactly light on the sex scenes but they're a bit more subdued and kept a bit short. They needed to cover three or four sex scenes throughout it so there isn't a lot of foreplay or general playing around. The actual sex is fairly decent though the best scene is the early one with Ayame as she really gets into things. Later scenes have a bit of non-consensual material but such is the way of bad men when dealing with attractive women in fishnets that are trying to kill them. The sex scenes are pretty well animated overall which is what counts but some of the other scenes are fairly weak and show some shortcuts. During one sequence where Okita is walking along with Hijikata and they end up in battle, there are some obvious shortcuts in movements and some of the panning sequences feel a bit jerky.In Summary:
The Last Kunoichi has some promise to it at its start as there are some good sex sequences and I like seeing alternate takes on this part of history. This era in particular has had very little in the way of real female interaction in mainstream shows we've seen outside of fictional characters so having a trio that insert themselves into the situation provides a bit of a different angle. The release itself overall is pretty good and the subtitle track is similar to other recent releases in that it's far less problematic than early ASM titles. Fans of ninja shows will definitely enjoy this as well as those that enjoy this era and its various interpretations.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.