Mirage of Blaze Vol. #4 - 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: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Mirage of Blaze

Mirage of Blaze Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     December 17, 2003
Release Date: December 16, 2003


Mirage of Blaze Vol. #4
© Media Blasters


What They Say
The Hojo clan begins a cataclysmic plan to take over Nikko. They've kidnapped Yuzuru and plan to burn him alive in order to receive a burst of spiritual energy. Chiaki stages a desperate rescue, while Naoe searches for the Tsutsuga mirror that has trapped Takaya's soul. But when he finds it, will he free Takaya only to reject him again?

The Review!
The series comes to an action packed finale, but feels more like the end of the first act than of the overall storyline.

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 final cover goes for the more classic look with a shot of Saburo in the background while the foreground gets Naoe in full dress with the bow looking quite serious. 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.

Menu:
The main menu is a nice simple static piece that has the headshots 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 a series of production sketches, which is nicely placed right at the top menu for quick access.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Each volume of this series was a challenge unto itself, though more so as the show progressed even at three episodes a disc. At the beginning of the series, you had a small set of characters and the doubling of names since the leads were all people who had existed before. So in getting to know the cast in the present, we also got to learn of their past and all the relationships that are entailed there.

As the show progressed however, and we got to see more and more of the Feudal Underworld, the villains cast grew considerably and numerous clans began to become involved. This may be something that’s a bit more on the tip of the tongue of your Japanese viewer than your Western viewer, but on a bi-monthly basis it made it difficult getting back into each volume and trying to remember exactly who is who and what they’re doing. This is a series that will benefit from marathon viewing over the course of a day or a couple of close sessions. As we get into each volume and the cast is moved about, the show does begin to make sense again and it gets easier to remember past bits.

With these final three episodes, we get the closing act on the opening storyline. Yuzuru is captive of the Hojo clan and Saburo is practically dead from events in the previous episodes. While one group goes to try and free Yuzuru before the Hojo clan can use him for whatever nefarious plans they have, Naoe finds himself helping Saburo on to the next work, but ends up with a plan that will let the two of them live in an eternal prison under the water.

The Lord of the clan has some mysterious other plans at work though and gives Naoe a reason to continue on as well as a way to bring Saburo back. Using the mirrors that they have, Saburo returns to the land of the living and reveals how the Hojo clan is intent on solidifying their power base in the Feudal Underworld by using Yuzuru to become a powerful focal point of sorts within a tree that will create the proper symbol over the Kanto region. There’s numerous people on the Hojo clan side that we seen, including various brothers from Saburo/Kagetora’s past, which only makes things more confusing. With Saburo having seven brothers and a couple of them bouncing around these episodes, the family tree is quite full.

Though there were certainly enough scenes where I started wondering who was who, the overall plotline once past the first episode is very clear and engaging to watch. Though at times it seems like people are pulling powers out of nowhere, there’s a sense of internal continuity that works well with the spiritualism and mystical powers that isn’t terribly out of line with other shows in the same genre. I would have preferred a more focused view on the characters, but as things shifted back to Saburo and his relationship with Naoe as they deal with the problem of the Hojo clan, I got more and more involved in the story, much like previous volumes.

If there’s any sort of real downside is that this is just the end of the first act, though nicely wrapped up. It does set the stage for the next storyline but that’s left to the novels instead.

In Summary:
Mirage of Blaze overall was a rather engaging series that plays well with the hint of male/male relationships over time and the bonds that tie them together over several lifetimes. It’s not terribly overt except in a few places and never reaches any sort of real hentai level, but there’s enough that it’s not something that can be glossed over. There’s a great sense of style to the show and the designs are all quite attractive, resulting in an enjoyable viewing experience, even if the end leaves you somewhat unsatisfied.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery

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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