Otogi Zoshi Vol. #2 - 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: A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Otogi Zoshi

Otogi Zoshi Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     May 27, 2005
Release Date: May 10, 2005


Otogi Zoshi Vol. #2
© Media Blasters


What They Say
Hikaru's quest for the Magatamas of Water and Fire leads her across the sea to cursed islands. Meanwhile, the vengeful Shuten Doji has taken the Kumaso clan and plans an attack on the capital itself! Hikaru hurries home empty handed, but the ministers of the court are not likely to believe her before it's too late!

The Review!
Continuing the search for the remaining two Magatama's, power plays, pirates and mysterious foreigners make that marks as do other noteworthy historical figures.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese and in the 5.1 mix that was provided. Production I.G. shows have been quite good in recent memory for being able to provide a 5.1 mix along with the stereo one (which is included) and they've done some good work with those mixes. This series is fairly mellow however so it's not a terribly active mix throughout it but it does have some really good moments with directionality. Where this mix really shines is in the subwoofer aspect of it as dialogue, songs and action sequences all utilize it to one extent or another and make good use of it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With it being set so far back in time and during a very dark period of the country, the color palette for the series is very dark and earthy in nature, even when it uses the few vibrant colors it does. A lot of the show is a mixture of grays and blacks that's handled well and mostly maintain a very good solid feel to them. A few areas crop up here and there were you can see some blocking going on but it's rare for a large black field to really remain consistently solid from what I've seen. Colors maintain a good feel throughout this and avoid looking like it's really digitally painted and the show is free from aliasing or cross coloration as well.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release but with a darker background to it, this is a light looking cover with some really well placed shadows that keeps the focus on Sadamitsu but provides just enough of a focus on Kintaro as well without overwhelming it, mostly due to how well the logo is placed in relation to them both. The back cover is fairly subdued as well with a few shots from the show in circles as well as the brief summary of the shows premise. The discs features are clearly listed above the production information while the technical information is very handy to have here considering the language choices and more. The insert is a mostly black piece that has the series name and symbol near the top of it and it opens up to provide some liner notes and helpful word translations that covers these episodes across two panels. With there being two discs in this release, the keepcase doesn't have a flippy but each side has a place to hold the disc, though it makes it so that the insert pops about when it opens up.

Menu:
The main menu is a nice piece that has an animated version of Hikaru in her full kimono playing her brothers flute softly while the backgrounds shift colors and images between various locations, colors and text. It's a very soft and mellow piece, much like the show itself is once it gets underway, and it fits well with it. Access times are nice and fast and with nothing but the show and trailers on the main feature disc it's easy to navigate. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
Much like the first volume, a second disc is here with plenty of extras. The group discussion hits its third installment here with the discussion taking place over food and alcohol. It's just as interesting as the first two and runs about twenty three minutes. Also following up from the first volume of extras, there's another Heian Lecture from Tokyo University that covers more material that went into the making of and design of the show, and this runs about ten minutes in length. Rounding out the extras is some other new material, such as the original promotional spots for the show and a music video from Attack Haus which is the opening song in its full five minute form.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first volume of Otogi Zoshi was definitely difficult to get through since it was bringing forward so much material from a time period not often covered in anime. The Heian era is one of the richer periods in Japanese history for historical figures where there are so many conflicting stories about them and how even regular people lived that anything new on it tends to be interesting, especially if done like this series where they strive for as much accuracy as possible. I certainly don't use anime as my history lessons for Japan, but it is fascinating to see so many figures that I've now seen separately in other shows come together at the same time.

With two Magatama's left to get, this volume opens up with their continuing journey to acquire the Water one. This one moved along in a most interesting manner in the last episode with the tides and the sandbar that extends between the islands, something that is fascinating to really see happen and watch thousands of people cross over the course of the day, which allows the group to head over and to figure out what the pirates are up to. This episode closes out this particular story and it's interesting to see how long the cycle between the villagers and pirates has gone on and just how twisted the stories have become over time.

The only other Magatama that needs to be acquired in order to save the capital is the Fire one, which supposedly is in the hands of Shuten Doji in the land of Chinzei. This particular adventure starts off badly as a huge wave sends the group in all different directions and allows for some short tales for each of them to be told until they all get back together to deal with the issue of Shuten Doji himself. These kinds of things always feel forced but it is a standard way of bringing in new elements to the show or expanding on particular relationships. Urabe and Tsuna get flung together from the wreckage and their time together helps each of them understand the other more. It's interesting to see that Urabe is feeling better the more she realizes she's a part of the group and not just the next person that joined while Tsuna realizes that there may be some feelings inside of him for this woman he once thought a spy.

With Sadamitsu, I admit that I almost wanted to scream with his subplot because of my own history with it. He's tossed out alone and tries to makes his way through the various patrols he finds of the Kumaso warriors that roman the land but he loses his ability to hide when a young boy who is looking for food gets him in trouble and branded as the kids father. The kid turns out to be more than meets the eye as he's rather strong and surprisingly clever. When he's said to be as strong as a bear any hope of pretending he's not Kintaro is thrown out the window. My first introduction to this character was in the Urusei Yatsura series so my perceptions of him are skewed forever by that show. But in this series, he is treated as the stories often talk of him and he fits in well with this group.

The key story that plays out along here though is with Raikou ne Hikaru. She's discovered by the Komasu early on and found out to be a woman, which changes the situation she's in quickly as she went from someone to be captured to an object to be taken advantage of. Her fate lands in the hands of Mansairaku when he appears out of nowhere and saves her from their blades and grabby hands. It turns out he's in Chinzei for a festival but got separated from his troupe. These two have such a strange relationship where you can easily see how well tied they are to each other and the speak in such phrases and looks that approach romance but its so tinged with sadness that they can't quite voice things that far. Each of them seems to fill some need within the other and it's their relationship that I enjoy watching the most in this show.

Mansairaku does a lot for Hikaru in this and her journey is a big part of it as she continues to see more of the world and what makes things tick there. She's been so focused on saving the capital that she hasn't realized what the loss of the Magatama's to the areas she's been in will do nor how will saving the capital help save the country. She's simply blinded by her loyalty to the Emperor and wanting to save her homeland that when these other ideas do become presented to her, she realizes how hollow a lot of what she is doing really is. For the viewer, this also gets played out in watching the struggle going on quietly behind the scenes as Seimei continues to manipulate things so that things go in his favor and you get to see a lot of that coming together this time, particularly with regards to Shuten Doji.

In Summary:
Otogi Zoshi felt much smoother this time around since it didn't have the weight of introducing so much and instead got to focus on the story and expanding the setting. With each new historical drama that's done in a manner like this, it only serves to pique my curiosity more into the real histories. Otogi Zoshi is so beautifully rendered here in its squalid detail and earthy tones as well as how they manage to create such wonderful scenes of nature to complement it. The scenes when it starts to rain in particular are beautifully done. With this central part of the first arc of the series now down, I'm quickly finding Otogi Zoshi to be one of the diamonds in the rough that definitely deserves more attention and the first volume now warrants a new viewing based on how much more sense this one made. If you're a fan of historical dramas and love what Production I.G. does, snap this up and enjoy it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Group Discussion 3,Tokyo University Heian Lecture,Attack Hause Music Video,Promotional Spots

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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