Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #02: Battle in Moonlight - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Media Blasters
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Rurouni Kenshin (aka Samurai X)

Rurouni Kenshin Vol. #02: Battle in Moonlight

By David Owens     February 18, 2002
Release Date: September 26, 2000



The Review!
Sigh. Sigh sigh sigh. If you read the "What They Say" above closely, you'll see some spelling errors ("Megumi, a women", "agression") and grammar errors ("Sanosuke and Kenshin manage to ward off the of bodyguards"). That section was typed verbatim from the back of the DVD slipcase, so I guess it doesn't start things off on a good note for a DVD that was delayed almost a month.

I guess maybe I'm just being picky, but here I am typing this in ...well, a well-known word processor rhyming with "Herd", and it has no problem finding the grammar problems, as well as auto-correcting the "agression" typo. Heck, I have to go manually edit it to make it wrong! You'd figure if I can find this stuff, then a professional could find it too. So anyways, nitpicks about the outside aside, the front cover of Kenshin's second DVD follow the theme of the first. It's a cyan-blue color background with birds in the background, and Sanosuke featured prominently with the Zanbatou held behind him. Kurogasa, "the bad guy", is behind him, and in the waaaay back is Kenshin in profile. Overall, it's not a bad cover. It's definitely eye-catching.

Opening the DVD, I expected to find the disc and nothing else, since it's a MediaBlasters/AnimeWorks title and they don't seem keen on putting anything in their cases. But lo and behold! Sitting there in the left half was a reply card! Yahoo! And even better, a chapter list! Woo, high profile now! (heh) Unfortunately, upon reading the chapter list (which has the cover art matted into the blue background and looks pretty nice overall) I realized that the chapters they list have absolutely no resemblance to the chapters my DVD player plays. Maybe it's just me, but according to the list, episode 3's opening is chapter 10. Well, it came up as chapter 2 on my player...and episode 2's opening was chapter 6, and it came up as 2. Looks like at the last minute during DVD pressing, they had to go back to the first drawing board or something, who knows? Again, I guess this isn't a big deal, but it is annoying and is the reason behind the sorta low B- packaging score, even though the cover art is nice and would have garnered maybe even an A- otherwise. Oh well.

So I got 2 little goodies with the disc, oh boy! And even better, MediaBlasters put some humor on their mailing list card when they listed the rating options for "What do you think of the package design of this program?"...you got a few basic options ("Excellent!", "Good", "Just Okay", "Needs Work") but then one that struck me as really funny. "Sucks!" Not that I think it sucks, but it was sort of amusing to see it in print on a supposedly formal reply card.

Ok, packaging gripes are out of the way....can you believe that overall I liked this DVD? It doesn't show, but it's true, I swear! But first, back to more complaints...the video quality! Yikes! The first DVD wasn't too exemplary, but neither was it terrible. Unfortunately, while I can't say the second DVD regressed, it certainly didn't get any better. There's some noticeable rainbowing on the screen (and remember, I didn't see the Escaflowne rainbows which were apparently pretty noticeable), and the typical blurring/indistinct lines of older anime is there in full force. Again, maybe it's the original media, but Kenshin's only from what, 1997? Escaflowne was 1996 originally, and the transfer of that came off much cleaner. So there's another gripe I guess, and since even I can notice it and don't have much of an idea what to look for in general it would seem, this has to rate as one of the lower-tier video quality DVD's out there.

Audio? Well, there has to be something good about Kenshin's second DVD, right? There is, and it's not the audio either. The first disc dragged you off to an opening or closing theme based on your language preference, and you couldn't change it while it was playing. A nuisance? Sure thing. So what does the second DVD do? Well...it gives you the opening theme and lets you change the English and Japanese tracks, but inexplicably, the closing theme is still locked in to whatever language you start it in. Augh! As I said before, it looks like they did a back-to-the-drawing-board thing at the last minute just to rush this out the door and start working on the third DVD, due out in two weeks, the last I checked. This isn't a terrible deal I guess, because it's the closing song which is locked in, and frankly I really, really like the way Lex Lang sings it (more on that later, though), but it's just inconsistent and makes it look even more like it was rushed.

Kenshin does have a few standard extras. Similar to the first DVD, you have the liner notes (informative, and in my opinion an awesome addition...but typo-riddled, too :), and this time you get the closing theme without the credits, in Japanese only. The art gallery has about a dozen pictures, but of those, only 2 look really good...the others look like VHS still image captures. Blech. About the best part of the DVD is the outtakes: MediaBlasters did this on the third (maybe fourth) Rayearth DVD in the boxset, and it's pretty amusing. For dub haters, this isn't for you, as the outtakes are of the dub voice actors. But some of them are pretty funny, particularly some of Lang's messed up lines as Sanosuke, and also Kaoru's explanation of her indigo ribbon (not navy, not cobalt, it's indigo!). Yup, I'm easily amused.

The menu, at least the main one, is identical to the first Kenshin DVD...except they did remember to change the episode names. It's nothing spectacular, and non-animated, but I guess it's a harmless menu. No harm done here, but no brownie points either.

One of the saving graces of Kenshin's second installment is (dub haters, again, turn away, because it's the dub report section!) the dub voice acting crew does a really good job. As has been said, Kenshin's one of those series where nothing will satisfy some people, but the choices are good. Dorothy Melendez as Kaoru does as good a job as I've seen her do (that's not a knock, she's one of my favorites actually, from the first time I heard her say "Oh, my darling, are you hurt? Stupid bug!" in El Hazard). Kenshin's actor, Richard Hayworth, serves up a nice growling voice at the point where Kenshin gets angry, while still staying soft-spoken. In other words, he doesn't run off, wave his magic ring, and turn into Testosterone Man...his pitch stays roughly the same, but just adds an edge to it. I like it! The other high point about the voice acting crew is the closing theme. As some people know, MediaBlasters translates the theme songs of their series for the dubs. I'm still undecided about whether or not I like that in general because a lot of times the words get really goofy in order to fit into the beat. But if the subtitles for Tactics are an accurate translation, then the dub lyrics are extremely well-planned because they mirror the translation very well. And I have to say Lex Lang sings the closing theme really well. Yes, Lex Lang...yes, Sanosuke. He sings it, and very well. I guess there might be some hope for those horrible and terrible dub voice actors, no? ;)

Anyone still reading by this point is probably wondering how on earth I could find anything redeeming about Kenshin other than the voice acting (and for the people who wilt when they hear a dub, they're probably still wondering where the first redeeming quality is). The single sole reason to not lose hope on Rurouni Kenshin is the story and action. So far it's a little predictable I suppose, and these four episodes here are still exposition and background it would seem. I'm not familiar with the story, but I'm assuming the bad guy from the 6th and 7th episodes doesn't return and was a one-shot deal, similar to some of the first episodes of Tenchi Universe, but they're still good quality. They have a good blend of action, apparent budding romance, personal struggles, and humor...and frankly, there's nothing better than seeing Kaoru turn into a cartoon shark and beat up Yahiko...or seeing her throw something at Kenshin while his eyes bug out like Pac-Man.

Sanosuke figures prominently in the fifth episode, and we learn about his past and why he hates Kenshin, or more importantly, Imperialists. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll see it again and again...the standard fare. Hey, like I said, it's exposition, so deal with it. Episodes 7 and 8 are where the action lies, as Kenshin prepares to fight another manslayer, Kurogasa. Some of the emotional issues here are very nicely done, with Kenshin wrestling over whether or not to unleash the murderous rage inside him in order to save a kidnapped Kaoru. Neat stuff, and Kenshin looks really menacing when he finally arrives to rescue her...I especially liked the thing with his eyes. Nice.

Anyways, it's Kenshin's second disc. There's what, six billion to go? It's an awesome series so far, story-wise, and you figure with how many DVD's there'll be, MediaBlasters is bound to get the hang of it. :) If you have the first and like the series, this is a no-brainer must-buy, but if you're looking to get into it, don't be turned off by the video and other little quirks...the story vastly makes up for them!



Review Equipment
Pioneer Elite 610 HDTV, Pioneer DV-434 Prog-Scan DVD, Pioneer VSX-D509S DD/DTS Receiver, Pioneer ISO-drive speaker setup, Monster component cables

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