New Fist of the North Star Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 17 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 55
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: New Fist of the North Star

New Fist of the North Star Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     December 08, 2004
Release Date: December 14, 2004


New Fist of the North Star Vol. #3
© ADV Films


What They Say
After escaping from the tower where Seiji imprisoned them, Tobi rallies the townspeople against Seiji, calling them to a holy war in the name of Lord Doha. When Kenshiro finally returns, he finds that the entire city has been thrown into a maelstrom of blood and agony. The war of attrition which Tobi initiated has eaten away at his soul. In a deft and devious act of betrayal, Tobi confines Kenshiro before setting off to launch his final all-out assault against Seiji and his guard. Can Kenshiro summon the power to break free from his prison? Will the justice of the North Star prevail?

The Review!
After a middle section that could have been much more streamlined, the new Fist of the North Star series comes to an end with lots of violence.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. This series is one of a few recent OVA series in Japan that actually did a 5.1 mix for the native language and it plays out well here in a lot of scenes. From the explosive sequences in the prologue and including the vocals for Gackt's songs, there's some solid usage of the 5.1 mix here in both terms of directionality and usage of the rear channels. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback. We had heard this show previously in a PCM 2.0 mix and while that mix definitely had a good solid feel to it, I really like how the directionality in this one turned out.

Video:
Originally released in 2003, this hour long OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 but like its Japanese counterpart, it is not enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for this show really shines by showing off much of what the current batch of OVAs are doing in terms of mixing CG, cel shaded and standard animation together. Particularly with the cel shaded areas, such as the bikers we see at the beginning again in a repeat clip, there are large areas of solid colors that look really great and avoid any really noticeable blocking going on. Cross coloration throughout it essentially non-existent other than once or twice noticeable when the show was paused. Even aliasing is very minimal, giving the series a very nice smooth look to it.

Packaging:
Going again for the pairing of Kenshiro and Seiji, Kenshiro takes the foreground in full color with his usual grim look while Seiji is rising from below the water in a show behind him that has him with just grays and blues. The back cover has a number of shots from the show along with a very small print summary of what to expect. The various information sections for the production, features and extras are all done along the center in very small type. Everything is quick and easy to find in the technical box which is a real plus. The insert is a logo-less version of the front cover while the reverse side just has some softened eyes mixed into the blue background and lists the extras on the disc.

Menu:
The menu layout is better than the first volume in navigating and the artwork design is decent if uninspiring. Using the same piece of Kenshiro artwork from the cover, the selections are listed next to him in the standard straight down list. Access times are nice and fast and the submenus load quickly with no transitional animations. The disc also properly read our players language presets and ran it accordingly.

Extras:
Much like the earlier volumes, there's a good chunk of extra material here for the US side of the production. With this being a studio at ADV that typically doesn't produce these kinds of materials, it's often the first time to see a lot of these folks doing what they do as well as the setting and it's interesting from that alone for fans of the English language production. There's a good length ADR session that covers a lot of the actors performing their roles. A trio of interview sections are also available. One of them is with various martial artists at one of the US academies for it, another is Japanese wrestler Magnum Tokyo. They show some of his in-ring material as well as him talking about the role he took in the series and what it was like going for it since it's his first voice acting role. The final interview is with Yasuharu Takanashi, the man behind the music for the series. A round of character bios are included for those that find some use in them and there's a small collection of Italian made trailers for this series release there. The last big extra is the commentary track which has a four of the voice actors along with the director together talking about the show and their work on it, usually punctuated with jokes and the like.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Coming in just under and hour for the final part of the trilogy, the third episode of the new OVA series manages to pull everything together in a solid way so as to provide the fights you expect and want from a show that has this name attached to it. While there are things I didn't particularly care for with this volume, it is overall a satisfying end to the side story of the main series.

The second episode was something that I thought had some interesting pieces to it but it went on far too long and essentially made the setup for this episode really too long, which results in this volume feeling like it should have half-happened already. With Kenshiro off traveling for most of it, he returns in this volume to a far changed place where Seiji has taken over the main fortress completely. Tobi has escaped with Bista and kept him in a secured location while everyone who has come to love and adore Lord Doha are now willingly giving their lives to protect him and do his bidding. Tobi, feeling that he can take advantage of this to ensure a peaceful future for everyone, has shifted positions into someone who speaks for his brother and even wears a cloak of gold now. His rise and fall is one of the more interesting aspects of the show.

Before he reveals that to Kenshiro though he takes advantage of what Kenshiro has brought with the medicine for his brother but he's just as quick to cast Kenshiro into the prison so that he won't interfere with his plans to launch a massive attack on the fortress so they can reclaim the water and eliminate Seiji. With the loss of Sara, the near loss of his brother and the way the world continues to collapse around him, Tobi's breakdown into power and madness is well done. You can see it in his eyes as he makes decisions he doesn't want to make but follows through on them regardless.

While this provides a great little arc for Tobi, especially over the course of the series, what it does in this volume is ensure that we really don't see Kenshiro for roughly half of the final volume. It's not until Sara has a change of conscience and help from some mysterious hooded woman that she comes down to where Kenshiro is and helps to free him from his cell and sends him on his way to do what he must. With Seiji not only being a potentially brutal dictator, he's also using a variant form of his own style and that cannot be allowed into the world and must be dealt with.

One really unfortunate part of this volume is the awful outfit that they put on the otherwise very attractive Sara. Talk about wearing something that doesn't accentuate the right things and hides the bad things. While it's a decent outfit overall, the style of character designs just isn't the best here for it. Some of it is decent, such as when she's first introduced and the camera basically turns into a camera that follows just her ass, but later scenes just look really bad for her. The other unfortunate area is the final fight between Seiji and Kenshiro. Having been built up since we first saw him at the end of the first episode and with all that's learned, the fight is simply over far too quick. While it does play, it's a great fluid piece with lots of motion, violence and a certain beauty to it. But it gets finished far too quickly and then shifts into some territory that really didn't need to be brought in since it diminishes the character in my mind.

In Summary:
New Fist of the North Star is an OVA series that ended up suffering by having an episode too many and could have been a lot tighter with a bit more streamlining of the script. With the combined three episodes running about just over two and a half hours, it runs long by almost half an hour if they wanted to do something far more tension filled and with a few less characters. What they did was enjoyable for the most part, but they provided a middle to the series that just felt like it was dragging things out because they had the space and time to do it instead of having a real reason for doing it. With the end coming far too fast and Kenshiro being off-screen for practically half of this episode, it's a mixed bag of enjoyment because a lot of things are done right here, but it just took too long to get here.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Behind the Scenes: ADR, Interview with Sifu Moy Saup Tung; Aaron Vyvial & the American Ving Tsun Kung Fu Academy,Commentary with the English voice actors,Character bios,Trailers for the Italian release of New Fist of the North Star

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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