Mirage of Blaze Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mirage of Blaze

Mirage of Blaze Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     July 07, 2003
Release Date: June 24, 2003


Mirage of Blaze Vol. #1
© Media Blasters


What They Say
Takaya Oogi is a street smart high school student, dedicated to protecting his best friend Yuzuru Narita. The two are wrapped up in an ancient war of darkness and tragedy, begun during Japan’s chaotic Warring States Period. The psychic powers of long ago find new life in the hearts of Takaya and Yuzuru. Rival clansmen seek to destroy them, fulfilling the wishes of the long-dead warlord, Shingen Takeda.

Mizuna Kurabara’s acclaimed novels become an animated story of possession, destiny, and the beauty of darkness.

The Review!
The feudal past comes back to haunt the present day in this rather surprisingly enjoyable series.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series sports a solid stereo mix that has a good sense of forward soundstage directionality at times as well as a bit of depth to it, giving it a better feel. There’s nothing thrown to the rear speakers, but everything out of the front sound solid and free of distortions or dropouts.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, Mirage of Blaze has a very clean looking and problem free transfer. This full frame release is quite dark at times with a lot of the segments taking place at night or darkened quarters and manages to avoid any macroblocking or breakup. Cross coloration looks pretty much absent here and only a few extremely minor areas of aliasing are visible. The show has a pretty dark color palette to it, but everything comes across solid and without any bleeding or over saturation.

Packaging:
The cover artwork here looks great and gives a definite feel of what kind of characters you’re going to get with two of the male leads in their pensive thoughtful mode set against dripping red and grays. The character designs here could almost be mistaken for a supporting cast in the X series. The back cover is essentially one large collage of images from the show with some minor plot points mixed in, almost basically teasing the reader to try and figure it out much like the show itself. The discs production and technical information is all clearly listed and accurate. The insert is basically a one-sheet that lists the chapter stops for each episode with only some faded artwork in the background, but otherwise looking like the front covers background. Also included in this first pressing is four stickers done in a brownish/gray style that has the character designs for various cast members on them.

Menu:
The main menu is a nice simple static piece that has the two male leads from the front cover in sketch-mode set against the grays and dark reds while the opening song plays along. The bottom of the menu has all the selections, including access to the single extra here. Access times are nice and fast and submenus load quickly with no transitional animations.

Extras:
The only on-disc extra included is the textless opening, which is nicely placed right at the top menu for quick access. I don’t imagine there’s a lot of extras for this short series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Prior to actually seeing this show, I knew pretty much next to nothing about Mirage of Blaze other than a lot of fangirls were excited about it, which gave me some shivers as to what it might be. With the two attractive male leads on the cover, I figured I was in for some light male bonding of some sort.

And while that may actually occur, what I ended up getting out of the first four episodes here was an extremely enjoyable tale about past lives coming back to the present, or rather, continuing to be reborn, to carry on a battle that they did not believe ended properly over four hundred years prior. Mirage of Blaze tackles that fun reincarnation storyline that can either be done well or just blows up in your face. I’ve yet to see one manage to just muddle through things.

Through the four episodes, we’re introduced to a couple of high school students named Takaya and Yuzuru. Takaya is the typical bad boy that plays within the rules, so he’s aloof but has something of a following, but few get near him. His best friend is Yuzuru, the good natured and generally happy guy who is cute and generally gets plenty of attention from the girls. Both of them are going along in their lives with nothing to really worry about, though Yuzuru has been mysteriously absent for a few days.

At the same time that this is going on, a man and a woman arrive at a shrine where the long dead Lord Shingen Takeda has been buried. Through them, we learn of a seal around the shrine that has kept Takeda within it since his death in the early 1600’s. Between the two of them though, they are able to break the seal and let loose the soul of Takeda, loose so that he may take over a vessel that one of them has prepared for him.

Naturally, this turns out to be the good natured and apparently spiritually gifted Yuzuru. Though he’s initially given a bracelet by a stranger after the appearance of dozens of feudal spirits in his bedroom, the servants of Takeda work their deceptions to get a friend of Yuzuru’s to remove it, which allows Takeda to fully take him over. With his servants now at his side, they look out over Matsumoto city and see what the world has become during his slumber. Knowing that he should have been victorious at battles past and have conquered much of the land, he sees his former castle in the distance and they set off to eradicate all the “false history” associated with it, so that they may begin their war again to gain control.

Naturally, Takaya is going to try and help his friend. He finds himself aided and guided by a slightly older man named Naoe. Naoe takes Takaya under his wing as much as he can and tries to explain to him what’s going on. Through the centuries since the last battle, a group of five men from that time have been coming back, being reborn into bodies over and over, to deal with the spirits of the dead who will not rest from those battles. Takaya himself is one of them, one of the more powerful ones and a leader in times past to whom Naoe owes complete allegiance. Takaya of course has a lot of issues believing this, but as the spirits of long dead samurai warriors keep coming back to haunt and try to kill them, he eventually succumbs to the truth and to deal with it.

The story is presented nicely in this first chapter, setting up many historical figures to reappear here in different form and genders. These opening episodes also hint nicely at a larger battle taking place as we’re given more history on the various battles and what kinds of forces are being wielded in this latest attempt of the Feudal Underworld to bring itself back into power. The show has plenty of mystery and enough confusing moments as you try to keep track of two sets of names for the various cast members, but once things get rolling it gets a lot easier to follow but still complex enough to force you to pay attention.

The show is also filled with quite a lot of pretty men. Make no bones about it, that’s definitely one of the attractions here and they work it nicely. The character designs are excellent and help provide a lot of feel for the series as the characters are definitely emotional. The few females characters are a bit more sharp and angular, but while they’re a bit less fleshed out, they do provide some key pieces to the ongoing events. There’s a good amount of near-gallows humor to the show, such as when one woman who helps Takaya in battle ends up doing so well that she ends up kicking far more ass than he does, surprising him greatly.

Mirage of Blaze proved to be quite engrossing, far more so than I had imagined based off of the few snippets I had heard previously. With each episode, more and more is revealed and my curiosity becomes stronger. This series is quite engaging almost right from the start. I generally enjoy stories like this with past lives continuing and trying to change the present, so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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jnager 3/13/2012 3:36:26 PM

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