Rune Soldier Vol. #5 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: D
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Rune Soldier

Rune Soldier Vol. #5

By Dani Moure     February 12, 2007
Release Date: March 21, 2005

Rune Soldier Vol. #5
© ADV Films UK

What They Say
Stupid is as stupid fights!

Louie enters the ring once again! This time it's for a tournament pitting fighters against each other in true hand-to-hand combat. Conrad and Leonard join the party but the party turns to panic when it is discovered that the host is a target for assassination.

Of course, Louie still has plenty of time to practice his punches. Whether it's fighting ghosts in Merrill's new home or sparring against Genie in a wine-carrying foot race, he has more than enough to keep him busy. But a storeroom full of magical items becomes the devil's playground for busy hands and when Louie's hands latch onto an item that can change a person's shape, he learns that some things are better left untouched...

The Review!
It seems like the odd numbered volumes of Rune Soldier don't fare quite as well as the even-numbered ones, even though this volume manages to keep up the laughs.

I listened to the Japanese stereo track for my main review, and noticed no distortions or dropouts. The track itself was a fairly standard stereo mix for a television series. I really enjoyed the performances of all the actors for the main characters; they all play off each other perfectly, especially when the three girls get together to complain.

The English language stereo track is presented in the same manner as the Japanese one, and it sounded fine for the part of an episode I sampled. The dub sounded pretty good, with most of the main characters seeming to spark a similar chemistry as their Japanese counterparts.

The transfer for this volume is quite fresh and clean, looking great for the most part. A few scenes seem a little blander and less vibrant than most, but that seems to be more how they were drawn than a problem with the transfer itself. I noticed no artefacts or aliasing during regular playback, and I only spotted a few areas of very minor cross-colouration.

Subtitles are slightly larger than the ADV UK norm, and are in a yellow font as always.

Packaged in a clear keepcase, the cover looks great yet again (these covers really have been consistently good, if slightly busy), with Genie in front of Louie and Ila, swinging her sword. The show's logo and volume information are in the bottom right hand corner, and I like that it's labelled and numbered on the front here, unlike some other recent ADV shows. Disappointingly though, there's no volume numbering (or name) on the spine. The back cover is clean with a nice image of Melissa, and the usual volume and series summary with screenshots. ADV UK's info boxes list all the technical information.

The cover is also reversible, with the both the front and back opting for a more comedic look, with all the characters in their super-deformed mode.

The main menu is mostly static, with a world map on the bottom left that draws dotted travel lines as the menu loops, and the main image from the cover takes centre stage. The episodes are all selectable from the right hand side, and I was glad to see a scene selection menu present, too. The sub-menus follow the style of the first, all being static with different character images, except for the scene selection menu. Different background music plays over each menu screen. In general the menus fit well with the show and look quite nice.

Yet again all we get are the textless opening and ending, which have been on every disc so far now.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the last volume of Rune Soldier teased with a hint of an ongoing story, this volume forgets that for the most part. The laughs continue to come, but much like the third disc the episodes here don't seem to flow quite as well humour-wise.

It all starts with an episode that is pretty conventional story-wise, but nevertheless provides several laughs. Louie and the group happen across a fighting tournament in a town they're visiting, and the others think it'd be a great way to make some money. An ulterior motive happens to be that Renard shows up, as does Conrad who decides that he'll win the tournament and use its first prize as a gift for Melissa. To the shock of no one, he ends up falling at the first hurdle, though Renard fares much better and Louie goes pretty far. All the while, Merrill discovers a plot to assassinate the sponsor of the tournament, but gets herself stuck in a bit of bother.

It's all a bit "paint by numbers" in the story department, without any surprise whatsoever, but as always the characters make the episode seem much more than it really is. Louie and Renard's struggles with their opponents, right down to the final fight, provide several laughs and even Merrill's stupid sub-plot is funny in part because of how stupid she is.

The next episode takes the boundaries about as far as this show can push them, as a magic item Ila gets her hands on starts turning Louie into all kinds of things. It starts with him transforming into a woman, and he (now she) does exactly what any man would probably do in the same situation by heading to an all-women's sauna. Of course, it goes a bit pear-shaped when he's transformed into an old man while there. It doesn't stop there though, with Louie eventually becoming a frog that has to escape the wrath of Genie and Merrill.

It's at this point in the disc where you begin to wonder if things are going to plummet into absolute ridiculousness, and the next episode doesn't provide all that much to change your mind. Merrill's house gets swept away in a massive flood, so she decides to go and find a new one when she spots it at a knock-down price. The house ends up being haunted, though, and so Louie and friends provide a helping hand.

Once again it's the last episode of the volume that really makes the disc, in part because it heralds the very welcome (and long-overdue) return of High Priestess Jenny! Sure, she doesn't really have much to do other than crack jokes at Melissa and Isabel's expense, but she never fails to make me laugh. The episode itself has Louie challenging Genie to take part in a race to win some wine, with Merrill taking part as well. Conrad also turns up to be the butt of all the jokes, as you'd expect. But it's all about the final showdown between Genie and Louie, as we find out just how much he's learnt along the way.

As in every episode, it's the characters, against some of the most absurd stories you'll find, that make Rune Soldier an enjoyable watch. It's hard not to be taken in by the charm of Louie and the gang, as they always seem to be having fun and enjoying themselves (even in some rather dangerous situations). But as much fun as it is to watch and enjoy, by this point in the series I can't help but feel a need for something more substantial in the story department. No, this isn't a show that thrives on story but rather lives on the characters themselves, but as a comedy it gets a bit tiresome and some jokes feel like they're being rehashed at times. It's only natural for a series of this nature and length, but still it feels a bit empty at this point, and makes me wonder if the series may have worked a bit better being a little shorter (although then I'd probably complain it wasn't long enough).

In Summary:
Rune Soldier is such a hard series to judge. There are very few swords and sorcery type fantasy comedies around, so it's quite novel in that respect, and it is filled with some of the most enjoyable and charming characters you can find. But after this many episodes, like any comedy generally does, things start to get a bit stale and it's hard not to feel as though something different, something new, could inject some much needed variety back into things. The show is still a lot of fun to watch, and it's definitely recommended for those who really feel this cast, but if you're more keen on story and substance, you won't find what you're looking for here.

Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (2.0),English Subtitles,Clean Opening & Closing

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.


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