Samurai Gun Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Samurai Gun

Samurai Gun Vol. #2

By Brett Barkley     September 15, 2005
Release Date: September 20, 2005


Samurai Gun Vol. #2
© ADV Films


What They Say
An elite group of specially trained fighters in feudal Japan, the Samurai Guns forge ahead in their relentless struggle against the sinister forces of the Shogun. With their expertly crafted firearms and explosives, these brave warriors are badly outnumbered but still they have no choice but to infiltrate heavily fortified enemy installations to rescue fallen comrades.

Can this new breed of rebel samurai avoid the cunning traps the Shogun's operatives set for them at every turn? Follow the explosive action as a tiny band of fearless warriors takes on the Shogun's entire military establishment in Samurai Gun!

The Review!
Samurai Gun Volume II--Back with a bang!

Audio:
Samurai Gun is presented in Dolby 5.1 in English and Dolby 2.0 in Japanese with English subtitles. The English track is very nicely done. It’s certainly not overly active, but there is some decent play in the rear speakers. Understandably, the Japanese Dolby 2.0 comes across much flatter in comparison. Aside from the quality of sound and barring a few instances in which the subtitles for the English dub vary inexplicably, I found the English dub track to be the better of the two. But this is really a trade-off between preferences. The English Dub obviously has better stereo options, but the way it deviates from the original Japanese can be a little jarring. In the end the viewer will have to compromise between the two. In general, and regardless of audio option selected, I found the dialogue throughout to be very clean and with no distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in Japan less than a year ago, Samurai Gun is presented in it original standard Full Screen aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I thought the transfer looked great and no issues of aliasing or blurriness. I also thought the colors reproduced nicely. The bright, fiery oranges and reds really pop, but even the night sky in many scenes seemed to glow in the gorgeous hues of blue. In episodes throughout this disc, I was very impressed with the range and subtleties of the colors on-screen.

Packaging:
The Samurai Gun volume two disc sticks fairly closely to what was established in the first volume in terms of design and carries with it many of the same issues as well. However, I found the cover of this volume to be a little more confused in terms of the design than the first. Whereas the first disc cover was too dark, this disc is just too red. This is truly a case of the blood splatter effect gone awry. Ichimatsu and Kurenai are featured amongst the red design, the Samurai Gun title and logo found near the bottom.

The back cover of the disc minimizes the blood spatter effect and makes use of a clearer arrangement of the images (which I’ll get to in a moment). Line art of Kurenai’s face is featured beside a brief bit of text describing the disc contents. On this disc, as opposed to the first, the text utilizes a larger font, making it more legible and the disc in general looks more organized. The Extras are much easier to read as well this time around. In general, this back cover works much better than the more chaotic arrangement from the first. However, one thing troubled me with this volume. While the images are arranged in a much cleaner fashion, none are from this volume. Considering the strength of the content in this volume, it’s a shame they didn’t utilize some images from any of the episodes found within.

Menu:
The main menu loads after a short animated “Locked & Loaded” clip from the show’s opening. For this volume, the menu features the Samurai Gun title along the top of the screen. Episodes five, six and seven are listed in a descending order down the middle of the screen. Just below them, the options for Languages, Extras, and Preview Volume Three are also included. An image of Kurenai in her casual dress, gun drawn on the viewer, is featured on the left. A bloody red slash serves as the cursor and a brief audio clip plays in the background. I was very pleased with the menu on this volume. The arrangement is very clean and easy to navigate.

Extras:
Samurai Gun volume two offers some standard extras, but there are also some stand-outs. The production notes printed and bound with the disk are actually quite informative, delving in to the history in which Samurai Gun is set, as well as the artistic license taken in the series’ creation. The disk itself features Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, Character Art, Production Art, Fun with Audio, ADV Previews, and Credits. Of these, I found the Fun with Audio extra to be genuinely enjoyable. Considering how seriously Samurai Gun takes itself, it was fun to watch a number of different clips humorously re-dubbed by the English voice cast. I actually laughed out loud on several occasions. Artistically speaking, I also enjoyed the Production Art and Character Art collections, though I feel the Production Art was the more value-added respectively with some truly beautiful conceptual renderings of the scenery and various series backgrounds.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The second volume of the Samurai Gun series picks up a tremendous amount of steam as things truly start happening. This volume also begins to build some much-needed personality in the series’ main characters. It genuinely builds on the relationship between Ichimatsu and Daimon, showing the strength of the bond between the two. And while volume two emphasizes the human relationships and connections between the main characters, it also asks some serious and hard questions about the truth of good and evil. Are all who serve the Shogun evil? Can one just assume the mysterious Council is entirely good and the Shogun entirely evil? Or is the truth found somewhere in the middle? A vast improvement over the slow start in volume one, I was very pleased with what I found in this disc.

Episode Five, the first episode on this volume, introduces a new Samurai Gun, one of the first generation, a brilliant pianist and strategist named Sutekichi. After being captured by the Shogun’s forces, Ichimatsu, Daimon, and Kurenai are sent to rescue the captured Samurai Gun. The Shogun’s forces, however, learn even when captured, the Samurai Gun is quite formidable.

Sutekichi stands to be a major player in the final half of the series and is established as a moral foil for Ichimatsu. While Ichimatsu still has some pretty major qualms about killing (evidently in direct conflict with his training and programming as a Samurai Gun), Sutekichi seems far more relaxed and accepting of his responsibilities as a Samurai Gun. For him the world is black and white. There is good and there is evil. This episode also reveals a great deal about the Council, and not all of it is good. While it opposes the evil of the Shogun, it programs men to be little more than killer automatons, begging the question of the ends justifying the means. This potentially establishes what could be a major conflict between the lead characters and the Council in the future and I’m curious if that is indeed the route the creators will take.

Episode Six, what I would consider to be the strongest of the entire series to this point, finds the Shogun experimenting with a new Gatling gun/cannon hybrid. The project foreman, a sadistic female has been using young women sold in to slavery to the Shogun as target fodder while the cannon is being developed. Obviously the Council won’t stand for this and sends the Samurai Guns in to destroy the cannon and bring the foreman to justice. Unfortunately, this is precisely what the Shogun was planning on.

The lead antagonist in this episode is not Watou, his Anti-Samurai Gun Unit, or even the Shogun, though they each have their roles, but rather Archimedes, a man out of place in Japan. Like Ichimatsu, he is half Japanese, and clings to a heritage beyond Japan’s borders and the few remnants of a family within. In order to continue providing his ailing mother with medicine, he will do as the Shogun commands. He carries huge Gatling guns and is a formidable foe to the Samurai Guns. This episode has an incredibly powerful ending that asks some hard questions about who is good and who is evil in the ongoing battle between the Council and the Shogun.

Episode Seven is the episode I’ve been waiting for. As Daimon was originally my favorite character (initially as he was the only character that actually felt fleshed-out, though that has changed with this volume), I was very happy to find this episode finally put his character in the spotlight. Asked to retrieve some coded documents, Daimon has the opportunity to lead the mission. When things don’t go quite as planned and he is captured, the Council decides to forgo any attempt at rescue. This puts the series’ main characters in a difficult position. Wanting desperately to rescue Daimon, but lacking the Council’s approval (or the necessary armament), Ichimatsu resolves to go in alone (again adding what could be serious foreshadowing to a future conflict of interests between the Council and Ichimatsu.) Surprisingly, Matsuzaki, having appeared to be little more than a Council voice box in the last volume, goes against the Council’s orders and authorizes a rescue and Ichimatsu and Kurenai go to bring Daimon home.

I found this to be another great episode because it not only built on Daimon’s character, even going so far to give hints to his inspiration for becoming a Samurai Gun, but also in how it builds on the relationship between the characters. While Kurenai still appears to be a bit of a mystery (the fact she had substantially diminished screen time did not help), I enjoyed the very apparent bond between Ichimatsu and Daimon. It was a relief to see the characters acting as human beings, which is a vast improvement over the first episode.

In Summary:
Whereas I was somewhat on the fence with the first volume of this series, I am now far less hesitant to recommend this series. The fountains of blood spatter were substantially diminished in this volume, with the story seemingly focusing on action for the sake of furthering the plot. And the plot certainly progressed. Where the initial volume seemed to wander aimlessly, leaving Ichimatsu wooden and without personality, this volume establishes character in general far better. In short, I can best summarize my feelings for this show when I say I can’t wait to watch the next volume.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Production sketches,"Fun With Audio" segment,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation

Review Equipment
34” Sony FD Trinitron Wega HDTV KD-34XBR910 and Sony Dav-FR9 progressive scan Home Theatre System with 114 watts per channel to each speaker and 115 watts to each of the subwoofer's two woofers.

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