Samurai Gun Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: TV MA
  • 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. #4

By Brett Barkley     March 07, 2006
Release Date: February 14, 2006


Samurai Gun Vol. #4
© ADV Films


What They Say
Ichimatsu’s past is as dark as his future. Not only has it come to light that a member of the Shogunate may have been responsible for his sister’s brutal rape and murder, but now it appears other disturbing relics of Ichi’s past are here to haunt him once again. Old friends and old enemies confront Ichimatsu and force him to question both his mental stability and his loyalty to the Samurai Gun. He will be tested against the rigors of his disturbing childhood training. He will struggle with his sister’s memory. He will be trapped into choosing between his ingrained instruction and his emerging ideals. Ohana will be in danger. A friend will betray him. The Shogunate will take advantage. And Ichi will be caught in the middle.


The Review!
An action-packed series finale with nice production values and a number of disappointments.

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. In episodes eleven and twelve, particularly, I found the sound to be very well done, being both appropriately moody and nicely active 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 four disk is largely a departure from the series standard of darker, less discernible images. Instead, the volume four cover is a brighter, more colorful montage of shots of Ichimatsu and Gouta, with Gouta most prominently featured. Set against a bright blood red background, the figures really pop.

The back cover of the disk mirrors the prior volumes, 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). A line art bust is prominently featured beside a brief bit of text describing the disk contents. On this disk, as with the other volumes, 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 previous volumes, 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. The episodes, eleven, twelve, and the unaired episode 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. The whacked-out Gouta image from the cover is featured prominently 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 four 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 anime series conclusion and its place in the larger perspective of the manga series. 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 fourth and final volume of the series features only three episodes, one of which was previously unaired during the series’ Japanese run. The two series episodes, originally airing in Japan as a single, hour-long finale, are by far the standouts, featuring some very nice production values and loads of action and drama. The unaired episode was a total disappointment, as I had been hoping for further expansion on the series finale in episode twelve, but instead brought nothing new to the series. While it offered further insight in to Ohana’s feelings for Ichimatsu, this should really be nothing new to anyone having watched even a handful of episodes.

Episodes eleven and twelve bring the series to a close, utilizing a number of the previously introduced plotlines to force a major final confrontation, while admittedly leaving seemingly just as many unaddressed. Episode eleven introduces Gouta, designated number 2 in the line of first generation Samurai Guns (and also the original Samurai Gun in the manga). Having seemingly gone insane, Gouta is murdering the other Samurai Guns. When Ichimatsu and the others are called in to deal with the threat, they begin the unsavory task of taking down one of their own. The resulting conflict will not only leave Ichimatsu’s life in shambles, but threaten to destroy the Council itself.

These two episodes, originally airing as a single, hour-long feature in Japan, boast some of the better production values of the series. The art feels just a bit smoother and the CG work is really done very well, blending nicely with the rest of the animation. As these are the final episodes in Ichimatsu’s arc, there was naturally a large amount of action, drama and tension, the opening scene from episode eleven featuring a particularly well-written gunfight. Finally, the audio was truly firing on all cylinders throughout the course of these two episodes, better enhancing the drama and action than at any other time during the series. Additionally, Andrew Love turns in an exceptional performance as Gouta, the homicidal unfeeling first generation Samurai Gun in the English dub.

However, despite the production values of these two episodes, as the finale for Ichimatsu’s arc, I found them to be fairly disappointing in terms of content. If the viewer is expecting answers, or perhaps even a confrontation between any of the series’ more prominent villains, he or she will be disappointed. Rather than offer answers or resolution to any of the issues plaguing Ichimatsu (confrontation of the man responsible for killing his sister would have been nice, or even a final, definitive battle with Watou would have been more than acceptable), the creators opt to completely explore the moral relativity argument foreshadowed for some time in Ichimatsu’s anti-killing remarks that dominated the earlier episodes in the series. While the groundwork enabling Ichimatsu to question the morality of killing killers had been loosely laid earlier in the series, the manner in which it was addressed in these episodes felt rushed and ultimately flat. Forgoing any of the number of other plotlines established throughout the series, the creators simply opt to introduce Gouta, a Samurai Gun who believes the Council is evil and has set out to destroy them. Ultimately, the Council sends Ichimatsu and Sutekichi (piloting the Council’s secret giant tank, the Heavy Samurai Gun) after Gouta, with orders to kill. Caught between these two characters with very different motivations, Ichimatsu somehow manages to escape without ever actually committing to either of their ideals, while the shogun, as represented by Watou, simply lob a few rounds of artillery at the battling Samurai Guns.

From my first review of the Samurai Gun series, I found the series concept to be very interesting and have a great deal of potential. However, with this lackluster conclusion, much of what made Samurai Gun interesting, nearly all the various plotlines and threads, were simply cast away or seemingly forgotten. Though I’m not certain of this series’ past and whether or not it was cut short prematurely, every indication would be this was the case. Unfortunately, I believe fans of Samurai Gun will likely be disappointed with what they get.

The third, previously un-aired episode further added to my disappointment in that it was not only never meant to be viewed after the completion of the series (where it is found here), but also in that it served no purpose other than illustrating what had been amply demonstrated many times previously. Initially intended to be episode nine, this episode dedicates a great deal of time to exploring Ohana’s affection for Ichimatsu, which goes completely unnoticed by him. Upon viewing this episode, I immediately recognized why it had gone un-aired; it added nothing new to the relationship Ohanna and Ichimatsu share. By this point in the series, the viewer will have a very good idea that Ohanna cares for Ichimatsu, but he is completely oblivious or incapable of returning this affection. While it does feature a battle between Watou and Ichimatsu, this battle feels too much like a clone of the earlier encounter from episode three Additionally, Ohana is again captured and questioned by a Shogun spy in a manner nearly identical to the scene also from episode three. In short, this episode proved itself to be absolutely superfluous to the primary plot and though it did offer some action sequences and interaction between Ohana and Ichimatsu, this failed to genuinely compensate.


In Summary:

Though short on content, featuring only two series episodes and another previously unreleased episode, this disk features some great action and drama, as well as boasting some truly standout production values. Further, Andrew Love lends an exceptional realism to the desensitized and more-than-slightly unbalanced Gouta. However, there are a number of significant disappointments to be found here as well. The un-aired episode included on this disk feels very redundant, and it is easy to understand why it was never aired in the series’ original run. The finale feels rushed and loses much of the power and emphasis the creators appear to have been trying for, as nearly all the plotlines developed throughout the series are simply dropped by the conclusion. Understanding the large amount of manga material in the Samurai Gun series, it is easy to recognize this arc fits in a larger whole, as there is really no definitive conclusion or much exploration outside the character of Ichimatsu. However, while this may work well for an established body of sequential stories, it does not work as well here. I would have liked this series to have felt a little more self-contained. It is my hope this series can again be visited in the anime form, addressing some of the shortcomings of this first volume.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Fun With Audio,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

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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