Peacemaker Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Peacemaker

Peacemaker Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     October 01, 2004
Release Date: October 12, 2004


Peacemaker Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© ADV Films


What They Say
For 15-year-old Tetsunosuke Ichimura, childhood innocence has given way to a blinding thirst for revenge. Haunted by the vicious slaying of his parents, Tetsu decides to seek out the Shinsengumi, an elite group of swordsmen sworn to protect the capital. The Shinsengumi are engaged in a brutal conflict with the Choshu rebels, the same ruthless killers who murdered Tetsu's parents. In the name of justice ? and against the will of his older brother ? Tetsu desperately hopes to join the Shinsengumi.

But an incident late one night forces him to face reality. The Shinsengumi show themselves capable of the same brutality as his parents' murderers. Wading through a sea of espionage, intrigue, and flowing blood, the young boy must decide whether to shed his humanity and become a demon of the Shinsengumi, or to relinquish his hatred and become a Peacemaker in the spirit of his father. Revenge is sweet, but is it worth losing your soul?

The Review!
Gonzo heads back to Kyoto in the days of the Shinsengumi and brings their talents to the realm of swordplay while mixing in a large dose of comedy.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The Japanese side of the show contains a straightforward and solid sounding stereo mix. The series has a good sense of directionality across the forward soundstage with lots of wind style sounds being used for the swordplay moments as well as things such as leaves moving around during the stylish moments. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and there's some good placement to it. The English track has a 5.1 mix to it which comes across a bit louder and sharper but is essentially the same as the stereo mix from what we heard.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this show is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. With the show taking place in older times, there's the standard color palette used for it and the colors in general are fairly muted and earthy. There aren't a lot of really vibrant moments and even things like the bloody scenes are done with dark reds and not bright shades. Some of the night time backgrounds, which use a bit of a softer set of blues to it, showed a bit of blocking in a couple of scenes but not too much that was distracting. The main problem that comes across with the transfer is inherent in the source with the amount of color gradation that's visible. It's not in every scene but there are a number of sequences where it shows strongly, particularly with the darkly colored kimono's. Colors in general look really good and cross coloration is blissfully absent as well as being very minimal in regards to aliasing.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork and even the same logo as the first Japanese release, the cover features a good looking shot of Tetsunosuke in his Shinsengumi garb with the sowrd in the ground in front of him set against an all white background. It's a very slick looking cover with the colors used and the way it gets to stand out even more strongly due to the white itself. While I would have preferred the entire series named being used, I'm glad that they kept the logo the same and just went with the Peacemaker name to make it easier. The back cover continues to the white feel but is a bit darker and has a bloodied strip collage of shots from the show along the top. There's a couple paragraphs of a decent summary next to the list of the discs extras. The rest is filled out by the thick section of production credits and the very lovely technical grid that holds all the important information. The cover is also reversible with that side providing the Japanese cover art that has Souji on it. Souji's artwork is also the front of the included booklet. The booklet folds out into several pages and has quite a bit of information, from text interviews with the staff, two side stories and a few full color character design sketches.

In addition to the regular release, a disc + box release was also done. The box is of the solid chipboard variety to hold all seven volumes of the series. Going with the off-white look from the back cover of the keepcase cover, each of the main panels has various bits of Japanese text floating around on them while the center has a strip done in shades of red that brings three of the characters into focus. The series logo is used both on the top and the main panels of the box while the spine goes for the look of simple beauty; The logo down sideways from the front cover and also using the sword image from there with blood splotches around it. This is definitely a very good looking and in-theme box. The box also includes one extra item and that's the first volume of the manga. I'm not too terribly keen on manga inclusions since I'm either already reading it myself or won't read it since I want to watch the anime but it probably works well for cross marketing purposes and puts some manga in the hands of people who wouldn't touch it otherwise.

Menu:
The menu layout is nicely done for the most part and definitely sets it up right for the show. Using the same kind of look as the box artwork with the mix of off-whites and blood trails, the foreground gets set with the sword from the first volume cover and adds in some falling cherry blossoms while underneath the splotches you get some very obscured bits of animation playing through. The only downside to the menu is that it feels like the clip of music used is so short and abrupt when it ends that it's going faster than it should. It's not a menu you can leave on for any length of time without getting frustrated by it. The menus are very easy to navigate and easy to access with quick load times. I still wish there was a way to return directly to the main menu from the trailers though. The disc also correctly read our players language presets properly which is always a big plus.

Extras:
A small selection of extras is included on the first volumes release. The standard (and always welcome) clean opening and ending sequences are here and we also get a series of artwork in the gallery that range from character design pieces to backgrounds and to actual shots from the show. Also included is a series of short commercials from just before the show first aired and when it hit its regular slot on two different networks.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Being a big fan of a number of Gonzo's properties, we've been looking forward to seeing what Peacemaker is all about since we've not read anything about it previously or even seen anything other than the trailer that ADV put out for it.

The series goes back to the older days in Kyoto when the Shinsengumi were the rising stars of sorts. Though the show opens with a quick bit of flashy animation that shows events later on in the series as our lead character is a full member there, it quickly changes direction. We're instead following young Tetsunosuke and his older brother Tatsunosuke as the younger heads towards the headquarters of the Shinsengumi on Kyoto. His brother has just been accepted into the ranks and he wants in himself and goes to extremes to try and get in. His demands meet nothing but laughter and then quickly meets the rushing footsteps of one of the groups units as they head out for an assignment. But his being trampled gets him noticed by an effeminate young man holding a pig.

Yeah, a pig.

Before Tetsu knows it, he's being shown around the compound and he talks a bit about wanting to join up and show a couple of people just how good he is. There's some fun little bits throughout this as Tetsu suddenly finds himself having to back up his words and we get to see some of what he's made of and the spunky/scrappy nature that's going to be the defining characteristic about him as he tries to get into this group. It's not any shocker that he makes it in of course, since the cover has him wearing the outfit, and through his own ways of dealing with things and putting all of himself out there, Tetsu reaches through to the right people and gets accepted into the Shinsengumi.

But not quite as he wanted for now since he's brought in as a page to the group's commander and finds himself doing things like serving tea, doing the laundry and so forth. This isn't too unexpected and Tatsu is glad to see that he's not only joined but that he's being forced to do the things that any new recruit would have to do at that level. Tetsu bristles against much of it though and attempts to use as much time as possible there to get to know what's really going on. Him and his brother both have their own agenda in the form of wanting vengeance on the man that killed their parents not that long ago. Their only course of action was to be able to get stronger and learn the skills they need to do it, hence their joining up here. Of course, the Shinsengumi are dealing with their own agendas and everyone has their own way to things so much conflict is ready to ensue.

With the first four episodes of the series, we get some of the basics introduced and just a hint of a larger plot dealing with a group of extremists called the Choshu that are causing trouble in the city and in the country in general. It doesn't make up much of things early on but there are enough seeds planted to start getting the interest of those wanting to see what the shows going to be about. A good amount of the focus early on here is the personality of Tetsu and the way he just gets into literally everything. While this is a bad trait since it causes him to hear things he shouldn't and annoy others, it's a typical way of getting him to meet a variety of characters. It's got the trademarked moments of the young pup meeting up with some of the groups more notorious fighters and through just his personality he's able to befriend them, such as Hajime Saito, Souji Okita and others.

Tetsu can be a bit much to take at times though and his personality, which is a draw at times, works against him as well. The number of things he gets away with in these first episodes make you wonder why Hijikata hasn't simply sliced his head off. Sneaking around, listening in on reports from their spies and so forth just isn't the kind of thing that you get away with. These scenes work well enough within themselves but when you then shift to some of these gorgeously animated and disturbing fight sequences where the bodies are cut in half and the blood flies, the show doesn't take on two lives but there's a disparity that they're trying to play a middle of the road style with that doesn't always work. When Tetsu sees firsthand a really bloody moment and is shaken by it, it doesn't really change anything with him at all in the long run. This may change later on when he's actively getting into the fights and has to draw blood himself and based on his mock fights with others he should have an interesting approach to it, but right now it just seems a bit off.

The character designs for the show, which is definitely very male heavy and actually surprising because of that, look great. Though most of them wear little more than the traditional outfits with dark solid colors, there's a roughness and angular nature to many of their faces and hair designs that pushes the older age of many of these characters. Tetsu is obviously the youngest and there's one or two others that come young as well in design, a lot of these guys look like they've actually lived some hardness in their lives but haven't let it overtake them. There are so many shows today where they're filled with young pups running around that even a shift like this is a welcome change. Okita's probably the most amusing of the bunch since he's so effeminate at times but that's a standard character type that always gets played up and he works it well here both when he's flighty and serious.

And the pig. The pig is genius. Simplicity in design, comical in nature and with an attitude to be a Shinsengumi as well.

In Summary:
There's a lot to like about Peacemaker with these first four episodes. The show carries a dark tone to it and has some great action sequences that give plenty of payoff. A larger story is looming about the extremists and there's a few whiffs of supernatural elements about them that are slowly revealed as we learn about the Shinsengumi make-up and the couple of new recruits. The lead character in Tetsu can be a bit of a challenge to watch at times but he's the standard lead in a series that wants to mix character comedy with a serious samurai style show as well. These opening episodes provided plenty to be interested in and has a great sense of style about itself.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animation,Production sketches,Original Japanese television spots,Reversible cover,LE Box Edition also contains volume one of the manga

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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