Requiem from the Darkness Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 24.98/34.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Requiem from the Darkness

Requiem from the Darkness Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     September 18, 2004
Release Date: September 21, 2004


Requiem from the Darkness Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
The stage for the story is the close of the Edo period, as the power of the Tokugawa Shogunate is beginning to crumble. In a time when darkness brings with it the fear of living monsters, an aspiring author, Momosuke Yamaoka, wanders the country with the hopes of one day unveiling his work "The 100 Stories" to the world. In his travels, he meets up with three minor scoundrels known as Mataichi the Tricker/Ongyo Master, Ogin the Puppeteer, and Nagamimi the Bird Caller. The task of this mysterious trio is to settle cases consigned to the darkness. They root out criminals and use various tricks to judge karmic debts. Their arrival is usually heralded by the sound of a mysterious bell and the words "In the name of the Ongyo?"

The Review!
Japanese horror stories meet Vertigo style anime to produce some truly chilling and creepy episodes.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for this series is just completely creepy at times with a great use of sound to help convey the mood of the show, to help build up the suspense and in general to really accentuate the atmosphere. Dialogue is well placed here also with some good depth during a few key scenes. During regular playback, we had no issues with dropouts or distortions on either language track.

Video:
Originally airing in late 2003, this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This show really shined in our setup and in the 1080i upconverted setting at that. The visuals in this series are crucial to the mood and the varying styles used are represented beautifully here. The backgrounds and dark colors are completely solid all the way through, cross coloration was a complete non issue and I'm hard pressed to really even consider what minimal aliasing I saw as any sort of problem. The colors are really mixed here with some very earthy tones and the heavy dark colors but there are some extremely vibrant parts, such as the blatant (on purpose) green color of the Willow Woman tree. Visually, the transfer here really brings it all home.

Packaging:
As the Japanese release was just one big box set, I don't know if the artwork here was used inside that box. The front cover to the release here has a decent illustration shot of the four lead characters set against a dark purple sky filled with one giant eyeball partially obscured by the series English language logo. It's not a bad cover and it certainly gives the creepy/horror impression, but it's not too eye-catching. The back cover is heavy on the blacks and mixes in a couple of shots from the show as well as one large illustration that's very creepy looking. The episode numbers and titles are clearly listed as are the discs features and basic technical information. The summary for the show sort of gives away too much of the plot for my tastes but there's no other way to really explain things without giving things away. The insert is done with a 50/50 split with one half doing a close-up of one of the lead characters while the other half lists the chapter stops for each episode. The reverse side just shows the boxart for upcoming volumes in the series with month of release dates.

Menu:
After a brief load, the menu settles down into a nice in-theme bit of animation where it focuses on an eye that then changes to rotating various clips from the show on it. The surrounding area is given to a indistinct background while selections are lined along the bottom. A brief bit of eerie instrumental music plays along to it. Access times are nice and fast here and the sub menus load quickly. The disc correctly read our players language presets which was a really nice plus since Geneon discs are a mixed bag.

Extras:
For the first volume there's a couple of extras included and probably what we'll see on the remaining volumes as well. The opening and ending sequences are done in a clean format which is definitely nice since there's so much interesting artwork used. The line art gallery is the usual array of production pieces and we also get a brief "art setting" gallery that has various locations done in full color.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Requiem from the Darkness, originally known as Kousetsu Hyaku Monogatari and sometimes called 100 Stories, is one of the more interesting shows we've seen recently from a visual perspective. Running for thirteen episodes in the fourth quarter of 2003 in Japan, the relatively episodic nature of the story caught the attention of a small group of fans that really fell in love with it. Seeing the first four episodes here, it's very easy to see why.

Visually, the opening episode is just unlike a lot of other things you see these days. In a way, you'd almost call it experimental since I can't think of anyone else that's done a show with this particular style outside of shorts like Animatrix and the like. The style is similar to what you'd expect from some of the more creative artists that drew the famous Sandman series for DC Comics under its Vertigo imprint. There's simply something that's not mainstream and on the straight and narrow in the approach used, from the multiple layers to the paper thin feel of some of the characters. Even the way the rain is used is fascinating and gives it a chance to shine as its own element instead of just another standard set piece. Watching the character run through the fog of the first few minutes of the first episode gave me a feeling I don't often get when watching shows.

Even with the rest of the episodes, there's an interesting mix of animation styles. An almost 3D style image is used with digital camera panning through it to give it a feeling of a large active town with people milling about. The willow tree that's such a rich vibrant green that sways constantly stands out so strongly against the drag background that at first you'd think it was done poorly until you realize just what it's representing. Even when you hit the normal animation areas, the show carries such a sense of style and atmosphere to it that it draws you in so completely. Even the character designs are accentuated in such a way, some going for the traditional imagery of ugliness and beauty while many are just the mix of average – not the average cute boys and girls we see in most shows, but plain old average faces, some with a hint of beauty and some with a hint of ugliness.

The premise of the show is an interesting one. We're introduced to Momosuke during the Edo period, a young man who has left the family business in the hands of the head clerk for it and set off to do what he really wants to do in life instead of being chained to something he'd fail at and disappoint his family with. At the moment, he's writing silly puzzles for children to solve for someone but what he really wants to write is something he's called his "100 Stories", a compilation of unique and engaging scary tales dealing with the dark underside of the world. He's got a small collection of them going so far but he's constantly on the lookout for more of them. Momosuke ends up getting more than he expected though after meeting an elderly pint sized man on the side of a mountain though.

Over the course of the four tales presented in this volume, Momosuke finds himself becoming acquainted with a trio of people who are at the center of quite a lot of supernatural mysteries. The pint sized guy is Mataichi, a supposed peddler of charms and trinkets who is the one that seems most capable of ensuring a soul passage onto the next realm. The beautiful green haired women is Ogin, who we see is something of a puppeteer who uses her abilities to weave some very interesting deceptions. Rounding them out is the tall and truly strange Nagamimi, a man whose appearances are definitely not kept to just one form. Between the three of them, they track down errant specters and other things that go bump in the night and help them make their journey from this world to the next. Of course, there's a lot of interesting things to learn along the way that help reflect what's really going on.

What's the secret behind the murder of a young boy who could count the number of beans in a box in the blink of an eye? What truths lie in the story of a tree that supposedly has killed four brides so far of a man she herself is in love with. What kind of insanity does a young woman who has sacrificed herself and more undergo as she tries to cope with it while still providing for her own sister. Momosuke ends up wandering into these kinds of tales at the same time as the Mata-ichi trio do as well. The combination of the two allow the tales to be told in different ways but still providing the real sense of horror, atmosphere and general creepiness to them. Each of the tales is self-contained and there are some small threads that travel through each of them, such as Momosuke trying to understand what these three are while the true leader of the three is deciding whether Momosuke should even continue to live. It's all quite fascinating material with such a strong sense of atmosphere and style along with substance and beauty that it's extremely engaging.

With this series being produced by TMS in Japan, I'm once again left wondering just what kind of strange directives they may have made in getting this DVD put together. There isn't much wrong with it in a sense, but there's something that's been done that Geneon in general does not do but is consistent with the TMS properties they've put out, which links it to being a TMS issue. While a lot of people are not, I'm a self-admitted credits whore. I love knowing who did what on a show, from foley artist to the voice actor. In both languages at that. What the TMS releases do is omit a good chunk of the production credits from the actual end sequences. This includes all of the voice actor credits for both languages. At the end of the fourth episode, there's an extra chapter where the translated credits are provided. The downside is that we barely get the top three or four actors for the Japanese side. The English side gets a bit more but they're still not making out properly in my mind either. The bulk of the voice credits lost here are of the characters that appear in just the one episode their tale is told and that's it, which makes end-of-disc credit listings hard to do. Personally, I find it disrespectful to not include the credits and it's not something I think Geneon themselves is guilty of. The producer for this disc to my knowledge hasn't had the issue before, but it's worth noting there's a few extra names listed as producer here. While I can give leeway with older shows where materials are lost and it's difficult to figure out who did what, a show that just finished nine months ago should be fully credited. I'm mildly disappointed in Geneon once more but I'm more leery of TMS more than anything else at this point.

In Summary:
Requiem from the Darkness disturbed my wife right from the start with the overt violence towards kids that's in it but once past that I found a show that tells some really great horror stories in the Japanese style but with gorgeous animation done in a non-traditional way but not in a way to completely alienate people. The core stories are very enjoyable, the characters and their quirky senses of humor are great and the way this show creates such a strong atmosphere just made it all highly enjoyable. It'll definitely not be for everyone, but I hope as many as people as possible get to check out at least the first episode, if not the first five minutes of it, just to see something very beautifully animated.


Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Texltess Opening,Textless Closing,Line Art Gallery,Background Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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