Samurai 7 Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Samurai 7

Samurai 7 Vol. #1

By Kim Wolstenholme     April 06, 2006
Release Date: February 06, 2006


Samurai 7 Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
The Legendary Epic Reborn!

Based on the legendary Akira Kurosawa classic epic feature film, Seven Samurai

Set in a futuristic world that has just witnessed the end of a massive war, scores of villages are terrorised 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 valour are each unique and not without their quirks. But can they come together as one to defend the helpless village?

The Review!
MVM increase its range of titles yet again, with this futuristic Samurai epic from Gonzo.

Audio:

I stuck with the Japanese track for the first disk and did a spot check of the English 5.1 track. Both tracks use good use of the surrounds, especially during the more kinetic action sequences. I found the English 5.1 track to be much louder than the Japanese track, so you may have to be prepared to turn your amp down a bit if you choose the English track.

Video:

With Samurai 7 being a Gonzo show, there is a fair amount of GCI blended into the animation, especially during the initial aerial battle sequence. This comes across really well, and is not at all distracting. The show uses a broad range of colours, with a nice distinction between light and dark scenes (for example in the first episode the difference between the water finding exercise and the meeting in the old barn are nicely contrasted). Surprisingly enough the village of Kana is much more colourful than the city Kirara goes to in order to find samurai. This allows for a nice distinction between the two settings.

Packaging:

This cover is dark and moody, which surprised me when the show itself is, to a certain extent, quite bright and colourful. The first volume has a picture of Kambei (in black and white), who looks very dark and mysterious, against a deep red background. The shows title is very prominent towards the bottom left hand side of the front cover and the volume number is clearly displayed in the top right. The back cover has the usual blurb about the show and a nice selection of screen shots, as well as the technical details displayed at the bottom of the cover.

Menu:

Unfortunately I'm spotting a trend with MVM menus in that they are not at all dynamic. OK, so the show's meant to be the most important thing on the disk, but an interesting menu can help whet the appetite for what's to come. The menu starts with a film countdown and then changes to a static screen that is a duplicate of the front cover. As with all MVM menus music plays over the main menu, but all submenus are silent. All menus are, however, quick to access and no dead ends were encountered.

Extras:

For the first disk you get your usual basic extras, comprising of a clean opening and closing, character profiles and the promotional video. I went through the extras before actually watching any of the episodes and initially I thought the opening and ending songs (Unlimited and Fuhen) seemed a bit out of place. However, viewed in the context of the episodes they do fit quite well. The promotional video gives an overview of the basic story and practically shows the first few minutes of the first episode as it's quite long. The character profiles are nice and informative, but personally I found the text slightly too small. Finally there are trailers for Tenjho Tenje and Burst Angel.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)

Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is hailed as a masterpiece of modern cinema; the film tells the story of a village who hire a band of samurai to protect their rice crop from the bandits that raid their harvest every year. Having never actually seen the film, I have nothing to compare the reimagining of the story by Gonzo against, but based on the first disk Samurai 7 has the potential to be an epic series, in much the same way as the original film.

In order to give their version of the story a unique look and feel, Gonzo have set Samurai 7 in the future, although the basic premise is the same. A number of former samurai have decided to meld with technology in order to make them superior in every way. These samurai have now become bandits, and in order to survive they terrorise small villages into giving them the majority of their crops year in and year out. In the past a number of villages have tried to stand up to the bandits, but these attempts have led to disaster as the bandits have destroyed these villages as a lesson to others that they are all powerful and have little mercy.

However, one of the villages terrorised by the bandits has decided that it has had enough and will no longer bow down to their demands. This village, Kana, has no means of defending itself and so decides that the only chance it has is trying to recruit some samurai to its cause. Once this is decided 3 of the villagers are sent to the local city to find these men, who could potentially be the saviours of Kana.

The villagers who make their way to the city are Kirara, the village's water goddess, who, with the help of a magical amulet has the ability to sense water. It is hoped that this amulet will help find samurai of a suitable calibre to defend the village. Kirara is accompanied by a fellow villager and her younger sister. The only thing they have to help recruit the samurai is a reasonable amount of rice, as they are hoping to recruit 'hungry samurai'.

Upon entering the village, things do not go well for the trio, a hungry thief tries to steal their rice, and although they are helped by a novice samurai, Katsushiro, he is deemed by Kirara to be too inexperienced to help them in their quest. However, they soon come upon Kambei, a samurai with honour who has experience in the ways of the samurai and plenty of battle experience. Their first meeting with Kambei occurs when he helps a shopkeeper whose baby has been kidnapped by a desperate samurai. Kambei successfully returns the baby to its parents, showing incredible skill and an ability to think on his feet. This interlude also introduces Kikuchiyo, a mechanical samurai who seems to think that brute strength is the secret of being a samurai.

When Kirara's amulet indicates that Kambei is a worthy samurai she attempts to follow him, but when she eventually catches up with him and explains Kana's plight he turns down their request to help them. It seems Kambei is also quite content to be a lone samurai as well, as he also turns down Katsushiro's request for Kambei to be his mentor. At this point Kambei seems to be somewhat jaded, and although he embraces life as a samurai, you get the impression that he just wants to be left in peace.

During her brief time in the city Kirara has come to the attention of Ukyo, the son of the local magistrate who owns the city. Ukyo seems to want Kirara to become a member of his harem, and manages to kidnap her, luckily though Kikuchiyo and Katsushiro come to the rescue although their rescue attempt does not quite go their way. In the end it is Kambei who saves Kirara when she throws herself into a 'bottomless' pit in order to escape from Ukyo's henchmen. After rescuing Kirara, Kambei reluctantly agrees to help the villagers and says that seven samurai should be enough for the task. Unfortunately for Katsushiro and Kikuchiyo he dismisses them out of hand, which does nothing to improve the mechanical samurai's impression of Kambei.

Mesamune, Kikuchiyo's engineer / creator, mentions a samurai that Katsushiro had just encountered " Gorobe, a samurai who is now using his talents to perform street entertainment to keep him fed. Gorobe accepts Kambei's invitation to join the group, but just as they are cementing their possible future, more of Ukyo's henchmen attack. This time they've been sent by the magistrate to kill Kirara and her companions, of course they are unsuccessful in this attempt, but during their attack we get to see Kambei and Gorobe in action. They make quite an impressive pair and Gorobe's skill of plucking arrow bolts out of midair, coupled with his battle experience seems to make him an equal partner for Kambei.

The last episode on this disk features probably the best battle scene of the entire disk. After his henchmen failed to kill Kirara and her friends the magistrate sends his finest samurai to finish the job " Kyuzo. After Kyuzo tracks the group down he targets Kambei and the two of them have a blistering sword fight in the middle of the city. Kyuzo has a slight advantage over Kambei though, as he uses two swords to fight with, quite an impressive skill. Even so, he still finds Kambei to be an adequate opponent and only narrowly beats him. This defeat does not spell the end of Kambei though, as Kyuzo leaves him to fight another day, instead of taking the cowardly way out of striking down his enemy when his back is turned.

Samurai 7 has the Gonzo trademark of 2D and CGI animation which as per their previous shows have been blended really well. The animation is certainly lush and is impressive to watch, and the battle scenes are impressive right from the start. In fact the opening sequence is quite breathtaking showing an enormous aerial battle between various factions of the mechanised samurai. This opening actually takes up quite an amount of the first episode and throws the viewer straight into the action, before settling down to a rather more subdued pace, although all the episodes contain a nice balance of action sequences along with necessary exposition of characters and situations.

The first four episodes of Samurai 7 are interesting and entertaining to watch and it's nice that the creators have not rushed the introductions of the main characters, giving time over to developing their characters and intentions. The main pairing of Kirara and Kambei is obvious right from the start, as they both have a sense of honour and duty. Katsushiro is the young, naïve, would-be samurai who is looking for a means to prove himself. Kikuchoiyo is obviously the character who is going to provide some comic relief along with Komachi, Kirara's sister. She has already decided that Kikuchiyo is going to help save the village as she's taken a bit of a shine to him, and given him a nickname of Nunky. The last samurai to be introduced on this disk Gorobe, is currently a bit of a mystery, although he posses the same sense of honour as Kambei. So far the most interesting character is probably Kyuzo, the two sword samurai, who says very little. He's quite an enigmatic character and I'd like to find out more about how he got in his current position of working for the magistrate.

In Summary:

Even though I've never seen Seven Samurai I was still expecting great things from Samurai 7, probably because Gonzo had chosen to go with a concept that was developed by the master of Japanese cinema Akira Kurosawa. So far this first disk does not disappoint, with a nice relaxed pace that takes its time to introduce the characters and the setting, along with some kinetic action sequences and a nice dollop of humour. While futuristic settings are common place in anime, I like the way in which Gonzo have managed to meld the old with the new, without the whole setting coming across as forced or contrived.

Features
Japanese Language 5.1,English Language 5.1,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Promotional video,Clean opening,Clean closing

Review Equipment
Panasonic 42" Plasma, Arcam 88+ Prog Scan DVD Player, Kef Egg 7.1 Speaker system with a Ruark log sub. Denon 3802 amplifier.

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