Samurai 7 Box Set - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: A
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 16 and Up
  • Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 79.98
  • Running time: 705
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 1080p
  • Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC
  • Series: Samurai 7

Samurai 7 Box Set

By Bryce Coulter     April 28, 2009
Release Date: February 24, 2009


Samurai 7 Complete Collection (Blu-ray)
© FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.

A steam punk revision of classic samurai tale.

What They Say
Set in a futuristic world that has just witnessed the end of a massive war, scores of villages are terrorized by Nobuseri bandits. But the Nobuseri are no normal bandits. They were once Samurai, who during the war integrated their living cells with machines to become dangerous weapons now appearing more machine than man. Absolute power corrupts, and their reign of terror is increasing its hold on the countryside.

But one group of villagers has had enough, deciding to hire samurai to protect their village. Kirara is a young priestess who travels to the city seeking out protection. One by one, she encounters brave samurai that the war has left behind. These men of skill and valor are each unique and not without their quirks. But can they come together as one to defend the helpless village?

Contains episodes 1-26.

The Review!
Audio:
The audio for this series provides audiophiles with much to drool over.  The English dub for the series is presented in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 along with a lossless Japanese language track.  Listening to the series was quite enjoyable as there is plenty of localized dialogue and a lively ambiance.  The sound quality really immerses the viewer into the show, which made it all the more fascinating.   The soundtrack for the series sounds great in TrueHD.  Sound effects from the clashing of swords to the Nobuseri mecha felt appropriate and realistic.  However, it was noticed in the episode, The Drifter, that the English audio was not in synch with the video. Fortunately, the audio sync issue only occurs in the one episode. 

Overall, I found the English voice cast to be very engaging and convincing as compared to the Japanese tracks that I sampled. 

Video:
Samurai seven is presented in its original source, MPEG-4 AVC, with a frame rate of 24 (23.98) fps at 1080p resolution.  Samurai 7 is one of FUNimation’s first attempts at reauthoring a series into high-definition.  Overall they did a good job.  The imagery for the series is vibrant and vivid.  One will note that there are not really any eye-popping effects and that the CG imagery is nothing spectacular.  In fact, it is easier to pick out imperfections in the CG animation in high definition, which was somewhat noticeable with the Nobuseri mecha.

It has been noted that there were artifacts present in the original release.  They are also present with this release as there is some visible colorization banding plagued the entire series. This is noticeable with scenes that have darker backdrops or scenes that contain mist or fog.  FUNimation recently stated that the banding issue originated from the source material.  However, it does make for a less than stellar review for high definition video quality.  

Overall, I found the video presentation to be acceptable.  The banding issue was easy to ignore as I found myself more engrossed into the series.

Packaging:
The packaging for Samurai 7 is based upon a simple design.  So simple, that I am afraid that the box that houses the three BD cases might not last over time.  This box is made of thin cardboard that is already showing some wear and tear from just being shipped.  The front of the cover features a bright red sun with silhouettes of each of the seven samurai standing in the foreground.  The series logo is prominently placed in the lower part of the box with white lettering on a black background.  The front cover image wraps around to the spine which uses a similar logo layout.  The back of the box has a few screen shots with the typical series summary and technical specifications.

The three Blu-ray discs are a bit different in that the front of each case is just an image or drawing of a scene from within the series.  This image wraps around to the back side of each case as well.  The spine for each of the three discs contains the only writing on the case, which includes the series title and the disc number.  The inside jacket features descriptions of each of the episodes found on the discs.  The discs, themselves, have images of the various cast members set in a two-tone brown. 

Menu:
The menu design for the series is simply laid out with the main menu on the bottom left-hand side of the screen.  The Afro Samurai: Resurrection theme plays appropriately as different clips play in the background.  The submenus appear on the top-left hand side of the screen.  The menu theme has a dark appearance that fits well with the overall feel for Afro Samurai as well as the music from RZA.  The menus were quick and easy to access.  However, I would have liked to have the chapter menus use larger menu screens as they were relatively small.

Extras:
The extras are pretty bare bones.  There are the usual textless songs and trailers. The commentary from episode 14 that was included in the standard DVD is included in the collection.  There is new a new audio commentary that includes Christopher Bevins, Colleen Clickenbeard, and English script writer Jared Hedges.  The primary focus of this commentary is on the similarities and differences between the classic The Seven Samurai and Samurai 7.  This has definitely piqued my interest in seeking out a copy of the classic.

Note: A HD trailer for Tsubasa is on the second disc. Is this a precursor of more Blu-ray goodness?
 
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers). 
Originally airing in 2004, Samurai 7 is an anime based off of Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Shichinin no samurai’ (‘Seven Samurai’).  Seven Samurai is considered as one of the greatest films ever made. The original film has inspired many movies and television series as it pins itself on the themes of morality, honor, and sacrifice.  This version is told through a suspenseful tale about a village that has been oppressed by bandits who repeatedly pillage and raid them. Seven warriors are recruited to defend the village from the bandits, their only payment, food in the form of rice.  Samurai 7 takes on a steam-punk form that is animated by none other than Gonzo, who is known for high quality animated features.

The premise for the series is very engaging as it opens with a back story about a feudal war that took place prior to the time setting in which the series takes place.  This war pitted the best of samurai against one another.  Some samurai even gave up their own humanity to become mechanical fighting machines known as the Nobuseri. The war ended with the Nobuseri overthrowing the samurai, thus setting up the oppressive rule of several feudal lords.  The few human samurai remaining from the war have gone into hiding. 

The focus of the series is all about the small rice village known as Kanna.   At the end of the harvest season, Kanna, along with other villages are robbed of their rice by the Nobuseri.  Rice is becoming the least of the Nobuseri’s needs as they are now taking women and children in addition to rice.  The village is literally on the brink of collapse.  The elder of Kanna has decided that the village must hire samurai to fight against the Nobuseri if the village is to survive. With no money, the village seeks to find any samurai willing to protect the village for a payment of rice.

The first part of the series starts out a bit slow as it sets up the premise of how the seven samurai come together and how the Kanna village members find them.  The village’s water priestess, Kirara, her sister, Komachi, and aide Rikichi travel to the largest city in the empire.  Here they find a morose, yet skilled samurai, named Shimada Kambei.  Kambei, who fought in the Great War, identifies with Kanna’s plight and agrees to aid them.  He helps Kirara recruit the remaining six warriors for her cause and together they set out for Kanna.  Despite its slow beginning, the introduction of each of the samurai, with exception to Kyuzo, is really unique.  Each samurai is in hiding, and how they join the cause for Kanna village tells fathoms about the inner makings of each character.  This is where the series really shines.  Many anime series can become too bogged down in the details of fleshing out the background for each character or they can tell too little.  Samurai 7 seems to flesh out each character very appropriately, even to the most minor of characters.

The second major plot point focuses on how the samurai train the villagers to defend their village.  You have to go with the flow of the story here as logic in weaponry really doesn’t make sense.  Also, there is no real explanation as to how a sword or an arrow can take down a mechanized giant.  Nevertheless, it is still good entertainment!  Defending Kanna village boils down to the samurai instructing the villagers how to use bows, build defensive fortifications, and constructing a giant ballista to take down the big Nobuseri ships. 

The final story arc focuses on overthrowing the Nobuseri and the Emperor.  Earlier on in the series, we are introduced to a group, Ukyo and Ayamaro who serve emperor Amanushi.   Ukyo has a hidden agenda that will ultimately play into the demise of Emperor Ayamaro as well as aide the cause for overthrowing the Emperor’s reign throughout the entire kingdom.  This part of the series tends drag a little as it is not quite as exciting as the previous story arc of defending Kanna village.  As the story comes to a close tragedy strikes near and dear as most of the original seven lose their lives to save Kanna.  There are blaze of glory moments and some frustratingly cheap deaths of which I will leave you to interpret. 

The story has a fulfilling ending, but not without feeling at a loss for those who made sacrifices.  The underlying romantic ties for all the characters are not neatly ended, but that’s reality for you.  In the end Kambei walks away victorious, but not feeling triumphant as the toll of surviving many a battle weighs heavily on his heart in more ways than one.  He resigns his sword to Kyuzo, who in turn leaves the village to wander out his days as a full samurai. 

Summary:
Samurai 7 is a futuristic remake of Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Shichinin no samurai’ (‘Seven Samurai’) that represents the heart of BushidĹ well.  The premise is a familiar one, but the authors have presented it with a freshness that many can enjoy.  The flaws with the video and audio quality make this a less than stellar Blu-ray release.  However, this well written, well crafted work is worthy of a place in every anime library. 

Features
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Staff Commentary, Director/Actor Commentary, Promotional Video, Clean Openings, Clean Closings

Review Equipment

Hitachi 62VS69 62" UltraVision LCD Projection HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080i

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