Samurai Gun Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & 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. #3

By Brett Barkley     January 26, 2006
Release Date: December 20, 2005


Samurai Gun Vol. #3
© ADV Films


What They Say
As Ichimatsu battles the demons within his soul, the fight for justice against the Shogunate continues. Lord Kozan’s new position has increased his power, and thus, the Anti-Samurai Gun Unit has become even more deadly. They have garnered even bigger and badder weaponry – and their counter-intelligence has moved them dangerously one step ahead of our freedom fighters. And that spells trouble. With three very important missions on the docket, the Samurai Gun warriors cannot afford to lose their technological advantage. A highly secretive package must be transported through enemy territory, an extremely valuable captive must be rescued from prison, and an entire village must be pulled from the clutches of ruthless killers. It’s time for the Samurai Gun!


The Review!
The Samurai Guns return and a vital piece of Ichimatsu’s past makes an appearance as well.

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 disk, I was very impressed with the range and subtleties of the colors on-screen.

Packaging:
The Samurai Gun volume three disk sticks fairly closely to what was established in the earlier volumes in terms of design and carries with it many of the same issues as well. This cover, featuring Ichimatsu, smoking gun drawn on the viewer and arge bust of Daimon in the background, feels slightly less jumbled than the previous volumes.

The back cover of the disk mirrors the second volume, making use of the same clear arrangement of the images (most, if not all of which are from the episodes featured in this volume this time). Line art of Sutekichi’s face is featured beside a brief bit of text describing the disk contents. On this disk, as with the second volume, the text utilizes a larger font, making it more legible and the overall design looks more organized. The Extras, remaining in the same position on the back cover as found in the second volume, are clearly separated and while listed in a significantly smaller font, are fairly easy to spot. In general, the back cover sports some very nice design and also serves its function.

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 eight, nine, and ten 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 Ichimatsu from the cover, gun drawn on the viewer, is featured on the right. 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 three offers some standard extras, but there are also some stand-outs. The production notes insert printed and bound with the disk are actually quite informative, delving in to the concepts of the alternate history perspective from which Samurai Gun was created, as well as addressing the inclusion of actual historical figures in the episodes. 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 third volume of the Samurai Gun series continues building from the inertia established in the second volume. Ichimatsu continues to develop as a character, as the first episode offers both some much needed insights in to the past he and Sutekichi share as first generation Samurai Guns, and also the fact Ichimatsu is still tortured by the death of his sister. In the first volume, he is plagued by the reoccurring nightmare of her death and the twisted, time-ravaged vision of the man responsible. While these nightmare scenes did feel a little sudden, particularly as we’ve not see this side of his character in prior episodes, it did offer a new facet to his personality, which had initially appeared very wooden.

This volume also further expands on the mysteries surrounding Ichimatsu’s training as a Samurai Gun, continuing to blur the lines between our understanding of which side in this conflict is good and which side is evil. The lines are no longer so clearly defined. This is most evident in Sutekichi’s revelation regarding Ichimatsu’s past, suggesting the council actually played a part in his sister’s horrific murder. Sutekichi actually reveals the name of the man rumored to be responsible, the man represented only by a twisted phantom in Ichimatsu’s dreams. This sets the stage for what looks to be a fairly explosive series finale, as Ichimatsu is further drawn to the middle, between the Council and the Shogunate.

Episode Eight, the first episode on this volume, puts Ichimatsu and a healed Sutekichi in to action along side one another for the first time, as they must transport some very important blueprints on the Council’s behalf through the Kikou Mountain Great Valley Bridge. Due to its strategic value, the bridge is heavily fortified by the men of the local clan. It seems the clan leader seeks to ingratiate himself with the Shogunate and has heavily fortified the area in the hopes of stopping the Samurai Guns on their mission. As there’s no way through the valley without crossing the bridge, the Samurai Guns must simply go through them.

I enjoyed this episode thoroughly, as it felt well-written, offering some great insights in to the characters of both Ichimatsu and Sutekichi. While Ichimatsu hates to kill and is tortured by his sister’s death and the Council’s potential role in it, Sutekichi, on the other hand, appears to have no qualms about killing and is perfectly capable of accepting any role the Council played in the murder of Ichimatsu’s sister. Where one questions the truth of good and evil and his role in the midst of the two, the other follows and accepts the Council without question. I have to wonder if the differences in these characters are heading toward a conflict between the two. I was also pleased with the manner in which the Samurai Guns managed to deal with the army at the bridge. This was something I had hoped this series would continually pull off—portraying the Samurai Guns as something more than martial artists with guns, something almost supernatural. The skill with which they avoided the formidable traps placed for them was more toward what I had initially expected for the Samurai Guns. Further, this episode features some very nice scenes and cinematography, particularly during Ichimatsu’s nightmare sequences and the flashbacks to the training both he and Sutekichi underwent to become Samurai Guns (which features a grainier, aged film look). This episode also features some cool, jazzy music during one fight scene in particular

In episode Nine the Kawashima clan is holding a prophetess called, “Osei the Predictor.” It is said she can predict the crop yield for a given year based solely on the clouds and the wind. While this clan has developed techniques in long-term weather prediction over the course of several decades, the abilities of this prophetess will further establish their strength and ability to make a fortune in crop market speculation. Ichimatsu and Daimon have been sent to the same cavernous fortress in order to retrieve the clan’s documentation on long-term weather prediction, oblivious to the plight of the prophetess. Another man, however, later revealed to be the historical figure Ryoma Sakamoto, has come to liberate the Osei the Predictor. He hopes to rescue her, at which point her gratitude would necessitate she use her gifts to earn them both a fortune.

I was slightly disappointed with Ryoma Sakamoto’s portrayal here, as he does not appear nearly as formidable as I believe he should have. Ichimatsu and Daimon are, in fact, responsible for inadvertently rescuing both Ryoma and Osei from the Kawashima clan guards. However, this episode does feature a fair amount of action, and Ryoma Sakamoto’s meeting with the Samurai Guns features some of the smoothest, nicest animation I’ve yet seen in this series. While this episode did not do much to advance the characters or the overall plot of the series, I really enjoyed the inclusion of historical characters. On a side note, considering how strange the Samurai Gun costumes appear, I liked that Ichimatsu spent more time in his trench coat. And, of course, Daimon provides a fair amount of comic relief throughout the episode.

Episode Ten, the final on this volume, details the village of origin for the Samurai Gun technology. Consisting of descendants of the Wakou, pirates with knowledge of firearms differing from those in the West, this village has typically been of great support to the Samurai Guns in their battles against the Shogunate. However, when the younger of two prominent brothers seeking to rise to the position of Mayor in the town, Hebizo, decides to betray the village, offering the blueprints for a new type of military technology to the Shogunate, it destroys the village and threatens all of the Samurai Guns. Ichimatsu arrives on the scene and shortly thereafter, and goes to hunt down the blueprints and the traitor.

Ichimatsu’s mission, however, does not go as planned. His discovery of the fortress of the traitor leads to a series of action scenes, I gather to have been heavily edited from the source manga, culminates in his stepping on a land mine. As Hebizo’s men surround him, Ichimatsu struggles to find an escape. This episode also introduces the man Sutekichi suggest was responsible for killing Ichimatsu’s sister. Unaware of the mysterious man’s identity, and trapped by the landmine under his foot, Ichimatsu is unable to enact his revenge. The close of the episode actually progresses through the standard final credits, continuing the story and setting up the major conflict in the final volume. I also found an amusing allusion to the similarities of the Samurai Gun helmets and a cockroach in this volume.

Throughout the three episodes in this volume, while certain pieces of the puzzle surrounding Ichimatsu’s past fall in to place, I was disappointed other aspects of the ongoing storyline of the battle between the Samurai Guns and the Shogunate’s Anti-Samurai Gun unit were dropped. In this volume, for instance, Watou, who appeared as a major villain in subsequent episodes, appears only once in a very brief scene. In fact, the Anti-Samurai Gun unit does not appear at all. And this is part of what is probably my largest complaint regarding Samurai Gun—there’s so much content and so many characters to be squeezed in to these thirteen episodes. It can often be difficult to get a good idea of anything beyond the most surface aspects of a character. With the tremendous amount of potential found in this concept, I really would have enjoyed seeing the creators have the opportunities to explore them all further. As it stands, everything feels so compressed and, at times, can become confusing to the viewer.

This volume does offer some great cinematography and some great scenes. I was particularly fond of Ichimatsu’s nightmare sequences as well as his Samurai Gun training flashbacks. While I found the inclusion of actual historical figures in the story to be interesting, I would have liked more development of the plot. However, as this is the next to last volume with only three episodes remaining, it is clear all the players are beginning to take their places for what must certainly be an explosion conclusion (if all the various plot threads are to be resolved).

In Summary:
As Samurai Gun is set in an alternate history, a place where the creators have license to play with the past as we know it, while viewing this volume, I could only ponder the what-if’s. Namely, what if the creators had chosen, or been given the opportunity to expand the episode count in this series? There are so many aspects of this rich period of history to explore, and the creators do attempt that, with Ryoma Sakamoto and Kaishu Katsu each making appearances as they cross paths with the fictional Samurai Guns. But considering the series’ penchant for slow character development and numerous scenes of almost ponderous dialogue, when things do happen, it can feel like information overload trying to keep up with the different characters, their motivations and the issues at hand. This may have more to do with the creators’ emphasis on Ichimatsu’s character development, which in turn puts a great deal of strain on the other, seemingly more peripheral aspects of the story, such as the overall plot.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches and a “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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