The daughters of the Shinesengumi take up the name and deal with the problems of unlicensed monsters.
What They Say
Yuuko, Toshie, and Kaoru are descendants of the legendary Mobile Shinsengumi team. Carrying on the noble work of their samurai fathers is their legacy, and defending their people against hoards of outlawed and unlicensed beasts is their path to honor. But between madcap matchmaking and persistent money problems, these fearless beauties attract trouble like moths to a flame. Prepare for adventure as the latest generation of Mobile Shinsengumi presides over the dawn of a new era in supernatural mayhem!
Contains episodes 1-13.
With two audio tracks, FUNimation has the basics set for this release but nothing really provides a thrill. Providing both tracks in a 2.0 mix, the English and Japanese tracks are solid but there isn't much else to them. We listened to the show primarily in Japanese and it was solid but without much real flair to it. Dialogue was well placed and the action sequences have enough sense of directionality about them but it's a fairly typical mix for a show of this nature. On both language tracks we didn't notice any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection is not done the same as the ADV Films release as it has the thirteen episodes split in a 7/6 format across two discs. In general, the show tends to lack a lot of fine detail to it so the designs and animation is simple in that it has large areas of colors. The lack of detail isn't a problem as it works for the show and it makes for an easier authoring job with fewer problems. Colors look good throughout without much in the way of noticeable noise or compression artifacts though some backgrounds do look a touch soft and fuzzy at times. Colors are vibrant and most of the problematic areas like hair tend to maintain a solid feel. Aliasing and cross coloration are very minimal with only a touch of either showing up, often around faces during some of the mid range shots, but only very briefly.
I really disliked the previous collection from ADV Films as it was a single sized keepcase holding three DVDs inside. FUNimation has given it a bit more love with their slipcover and thinpak style applied to it. The slipcover, done in a heavy set of green shades, features Ryuunosuke which is a bit of a surprise since you’d expect them to push the women angle. It has a lot of detail to it overall in the background and looks pleasant and inviting. The back of the slipcover uses the same colors and has a decent summary of what the main premise is as well as a bunch of small shots of the cast in full color along the right. There’s a lot of empty space left here which is surprising but it fits with the kind of mellow nature it all has.
Inside the slipcover we get to clear thinpaks that are quite nice. The first volume has a good visual of Yuko as she draws her sword with it all set against a red backdrop similar to how the front slipcover is done. The second volume is done in shades of purple with Kaoru being the central figure with a flirtatious seriousness about her. The covers for both wrap around to the back when it comes to the background images and each volume lists the episode numbers and titles in the lower left corner in a simple but clear font. The reverse sides of the covers have different colors and similar backgrounds but they also feature foreground full color character artwork for Nekomaru and Toshie. No show related inserts are included but the release is really good all around in how it approaches the show.
The ADV Films releases were really stark and simple in their design, almost unappealing to some extent, and it’s a few hairs better with FUNimation’s release of the show. The menus are laid out similarly to the cover artwork with the bold colors and a piece of character artwork in full color laid over it. The logo is bright and colorful and the menu navigation uses different sizes to change things up a little bit. It’s easy to move around to be certain and the menus are generally decent. They’re certainly better than the previous collection which just used a shot of the capital in the background and had the menu navigation selections along one side. The downside is that our players’ language presets are no longer followed and it defaults to English language.
The only downside to this release is the loss of the majority of the extras that were available on the previous editions. This release contains just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences. What did we lose in the transition of the property from ADV Films to FUNimation? Storyboards, English language commentaries, a text interview with the Japanese creative staff, a music video and a nearly thirty minute roundtable with the Japanese staff. There’s a significant loss of material here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After what must have been an at least marginally successful OVA series in 2003, Moeyo Ken was resurrected as a thirteen episode series in 2005. With a fairly decent pedigree behind it with its voice cast and creative staff, it’s pretty apparent that everyone involved was hoping for the new Sakura Wars that would give them lots of work and merchandise to deal with. And if it was fifteen or twenty years earlier, they probably would have. At this point in time though, and especially with Sakura Wars having mined much of this familiar territory before, it all feels incredibly derivative and without anything that sets it apart.
Moeyo Ken revolves around an alternate world version of Kyoto that takes place during the Meiji era where everything is starting to change because of Western influences. The main difference in it is that there are numerous “monsters” that are roaming through the city as they’ve gained licenses to do so. Rather than continuing to fight and banish monsters, the government decided co-existence was better and they offered a legal way to do it. Those that don’t have licenses or cause trouble are swiftly dealt with, though often not by the Mobile Shinsengumi. This group is the second generation of the Shinsengumi which is made up of the daughters of the original.
Founded by the wife of Ryoma Sakamoto, Mrs. Oryou has kept up some of the traditions of the original but with the obvious divergences of monsters, magic and technology. Though she’s the leader, she doesn’t get involved much and tends to be the business end more than anything else. To do the dirty work, she’s got Yuuko Kondo, a fiery redheaded young woman she found that was in trouble. Kondo is somewhat self centered, often poor and buys cheap imitations thinking they’re the real things, something that gets her in trouble when it comes to her swords. Ably aiding her is Kaoru Okita, a young woman who was born of the pairing of a monster and a human. She’s the most directly magical of the them all as she has control over four Summoned Gods who are really just pint-sized distractions that help out only when they’re exactly needed.
The strangest one of them is Toshie Hijikata, a cool and collected young woman who wears elegant dresses and is the master sharpshooter. Kondo is convinced she’s really a robot and there are numerous incidents where this is pushed, though sometimes it seems to be more of Kondo’s imagination than others. Of course, the resident mechanical guru of the group is able to build an authentic replica of Hijikata which doesn’t help to quash this belief. What cements this group in the series however is the introduction of Mrs. Oryou’s son, Ryuunosuke, who has returned from Shanghai to help out his mother. He’s a bit of a daft young man but is earnest about things and only wants to make his mother happy. He dies pretty regularly though and is brought back to life due to the help of his own personal monster, Nekomaru, a cat monster that can re-tie his soul back to him afterwards.
Moeyo Ken is a monster of the week show where wacky stuff happens and the girls try to make sure nothing goes catastrophically wrong, often while making it worse themselves. They’re all very basic stereotypes of this genre and there’s no real growth for any of them. In fact, their origin moments and back story pieces are pretty short in general if they’re given any real time at all. The only changes that are mildly introduced in the main part of the series is that Okita finds herself falling in love with Ryuunosuke, but that’s only because someone impersonating him says he’s in love with her. She spends much of her time trying to figure out how to get closer to him and whether he’d even like her considering her split ancestry. At the same time, the group in general is trying to get Ryuunosuke involved with a waitress named Sayoko since the idea is that if they date, he’ll stay there instead of going back to Shanghai. And his staying there will make his mother happy, which makes them happy.
The series does start to introduce some larger plot elements during the last few episodes where Team Rocket, er, I mean, the Tsubame Group brings in their new leader in the form of Count Montague, a European vampire who wants to dominate China through something that Ryuunosuke has. The Tsubame Group is a basic foil for the Shinsengumi throughout the series but they’re even less defined than they are and almost entirely forgettable one-note characters. Even worse than that is the obvious hook into the Ranma ½ world by the introduction of Lan Lan, the daughter a Chinese mafia boss who Ryuunosuke is accidentally engaged to from his time in Shanghai. She’s come to find him and she brings along her combat trained giant panda with her as well.
This would have been bad enough in and of itself, but with the show boasting its main character designs being done by Rumiko Takahashi, it feels like an incredibly bad homage/rip-off to her. And that’s what much of the series feels like since you can see plenty of similar elements to Sakura Wars of which the creator also was involved with. The main difference is that this is more comedy oriented but that doesn’t help to set it apart. If anything, it might have played out a bit better if it wasn’t. But then you wouldn’t want someone like Takahashi involved and you’d have an even more obvious parallel to Sakura Wars. I truly expected more from Junki Takegami considering the shows he’s worked on, and even those with related elements such as Shura no Toki. Unfortunately, he’s simply hamstrung by what the game creators came up with and it feels like he’s just collecting a paycheck by regurgitating things we saw in the early 90’s.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that tastes can certainly change, both for the better and for the worse. When the OVA first came out, it left me feeling cold. When the TV series came out, seeing it in single disc form was an exercise in torture. So after some time, I was curious as to whether it would play out better in a collection taken in over a day or two. Unfortunately, it feels even worse as the repetitive nature and lack of anything more to it shines through all the more. Moeyo Ken is an ideal show for someone new to anime, someone who hasn’t been exposed to all of it before. Done before and done better at that. It has a great look to it as I love Takahashi’s character designs and the lighter nature of it all, but the stories are just dull as watching paint dry and longer than most other shows are by a couple of minutes at that.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.