Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B+
- 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. #03: Shadow Elite
By David Owens
February 18, 2002
Release Date: October 31, 2000
Third time's a charm, I guess. The third disc of Rurouni Kenshin fixes many of the issues from the past two, and is still the good old Kenshin that everyone needs. I mean, come on...you've got an intense three-part arc here, Wolverine from the X-Men makes a cameo appearance (well, sort of...), and Yahiko hits puberty. What more could you really ask for in a four-episode DVD?
Video-wise, Kenshin v3 really fixes some of the problems of the past two. The video quality is definitely a few grades higher than the last disc, which started off looking, well...bad. But it got better as the disc went on. This DVD starts of pretty good, and maintains that good level of video quality throughout the disc. As usual, we're dealing with a 3-4 year old series, so the video naturally won't look as good as something newer, but this is a really good job improving the quality over the last two, and I'm rather glad about it.
The audio is the same audio it's been....good, crisp, clean. No complaints. The dub voice actors do as good a job as ever, and I'm really pleased with the choices for the four core characters (so far, four) of Kenshin, Kaoru, Sanosuke and Yahiko: all their English voice actors seem to do a very good job switching between serious, sad, happy, and downright goofy. The minor quip I have is that some of the "bad guy" voice actors sound, well, cheesy. But I guess you can't have everything, or else there wouldn't be any room for improvement? :) And it's not that they're bad, either, just that they sound like villains from some 80s series like Transformers or something. Ah, well.
The extras on Shadow Elite aren't overwhelming, but frankly, when the video is improved as much as it has been since the first two, I really don't care about extras. The liner notes are still there, and still informative, but the character biographies which made an appearance on the last disc are gone. Too bad, they were interesting. Also, the outtakes are gone, as are the creditless opening/closing. They were already done, so I guess it's silly to expect them to do something on the same level, but some more outtakes would have been fantastic, especially since the last set of them were fairly enjoyable. Definitely not a negative, as the disc itself is awesome, but maybe next time...:)
The cover artwork for Shadow Elite is about on par with the other two, but this time the cover is less active: it's basically just Kenshin in the foreground, with Aoshi in the background looking like a "bad guy". Good cover, and the writing on the back of the disc is bold-faced so it's a bit easier to read. It would have been neat to have a cover with a different color motif (this one's a cornflower blue which at quick glance doesn't seem much different than the first disc; maybe a dark red would have been cool, but there's still probably four zillion to go, and frankly I like the cover and insert artwork so far, so now big problems here). The insert is there again; that makes two Media Blasters discs with inserts! Woohoo! Keep it up!
The story on Kenshin: Shadow Elite is definitely on par, if not better than, some of the stories on the first two discs. This one is much more action-oriented, and far less comedic elements, as Megumi Takani is kidnapped by the bad-guy-of-the-arc, Kanryu. Avoiding spoilers and major plot elements (per usual, go look on the web if you want them), the three episodes of Kenshin-and-friends' battle against Kanryu, Aoshi, and the Oniwaban are three of the best action episodes so far. As I stated before, even Wolverine makes a cameo appearance! Keep watching, you can't miss him. It's sort of, er, interesting.
The fourth episode on this volume is entitled "The Birth of a Boy Swordsman", but could just as easily be subtitled "Yahiko Hits Puberty!", as he fights to defend his first real crush, a little number named Tsubame. After the prior three episodes, which got pretty intense, this episode is a breather and a definite breath of fresh air, with some more of the fun and funny elements that make Kenshin such a great series.
All in all, Kenshin: Shadow Elite is a better disc than the previous two, video-wise and content-wise. This isn't a knock on the first two, as they were both thoroughly enjoyable, but it is nice to see improvements on the discs as they go, and I'd like to thank Media Blasters for listening to people's concerns about the first discs, and acting on them in order to make Kenshin one of the best releases available. (For those wondering, the auto-switching opening and ending are now completely gone...both ending and opening can be toggled between English and Japanese at will, without the interesting branching method used for the first two discs. Nice touch, even if I don't particularly listen to both versions that often, because it does shorten the small gap in between the end of an episode and the start of the closing credits).
Only a few weeks more till the fourth DVD, and I can hardly wait...!
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