Mania Grade: A-
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: B-
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: A-
- Age Rating: TV MA
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 125
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Shadow Skill
Shadow Skill TV Vol. #3
By Brett Barkley
March 16, 2006
Release Date: March 07, 2006
Shadow Skill TV Vol. #3
What They Say
© ADV Films
She's dealt with demons, barbarians and thugs before, but Elle's toughest opponent now looms before her: a five thousand-year-old ceremony full of pomp and posturing. The ceremony of the Devas has begun, and the only thing more humiliating than Elle in her dress is Elle flubbing her lines. Will being a Deva mellow Elle's warrior ways? Can she put away her fists long enough for festivities?
Meanwhile, Solfan seeks out Elle's brother Diaz in preparation for war. But does evil drive Solfan's army or is it hunger for Kurudan soil? Old friends return as the geriatric platoon of Jura forest must hold back an entire nation of have-nots hellbent on taking what Kuruda has: the power of Soma!
And with war comes Gau's final lesson in his warrior's education - a crash course on killing! To become a warrior of legendary status how many must fall before him? Are a thousand souls enough? Will part of Gau have to die for him to be reborn... as the warrior known as "Black Howling"?The Review!
War comes to the Holy Kingdom, bringing with it a dramatic shift in the tone of the series..Audio:
In terms of audio options, Shadow Skill Vol. 3 offers English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0 with subtitles. Both audio tracks are fairly standard and are certainly clear without distortion. While definitely solid, the audio doesn’t really stand out as anything spectacular. While both audio options are very solid, I feel the humor comes across a bit better in the English dub. Video:
Shadow Skill Vol. 3 is presented in the original 4:3 full frame aspect ratio. Originally airing in 1998, Shadow Skill looks clean, lacking notable scratches and dust. The blacks are primarily true and the colors, while definitely appearing muted, are consistent and solid throughout. I did note some jagged line edges and blurriness, but this was very minimal.Packaging:
Shadow Skill Vol. 3 ships in a standard keep case and features the Four Devas set against a backdrop of the floating city of Julianess in a moody night sky. The Shadow Skill logo is featured across the top of the front cover, the title, “The Call of the Black Howling” across the bottom. The cover image itself is a fairly standard in the way of group action poses, but I really like the actual art featured here, which has a very dynamic feel.
The reverse cover features a background somewhat akin to blood soaked granite and showcases a stylized version of the logo at the top of the case. Just below that is a brief synopsis of the series offering a bring synopsis of the episodes. A gritty horizontal montage of images from within marks the middle of the reverse cover. The four episode listings are clearly indicated just below this and disc and credits information occupies the lower quarter of the cover.
Shadow Skill Vol. 3 includes an insert featuring the cover image (sans the volume title along the bottom of the screen) on one side and some line art images on the reverse. Set against more of the blood-spattered background as found on the disc reverse, the line art features a number of the primary characters along the top, with two images (a full body and bust shot of Faurink Maya, or Folli) occupying the majority of the insert. While having a nice look, the line art for these images, however, is reproduced in white, which makes it a bit difficult to separate from the busy background. Menu:
Retaining the same basic and primarily monochromatic menu feel of the earlier volumes, the Shadow Skill Vol. 3 menu certainly has attitude. The menu opens with a side-scrolling effect as the logo, in text nearly as tall as the screen, moves to center on the stylized image of Elle Ragu’s face. Slightly above this is the episode listing nine through thirteen and below are options for the fourth volume preview, language options, and disk extras. When navigating through the menu, the cursor is a blood drop that changes per selection, which I found to be very imaginative. The entire image is primarily red, the only true blacks being the image of Elle and the text. The background is a pulsing red spatter effect echoing the look of blood-spattered granite from the disc reverse cover. A brief audio clip loops throughout. The menu is very easy to navigate and all options are distinct.Extras:
The extras found on Shadow Skill Vol. 3 are more in line with those found on the second volume. While offering the standard ADV Previews and Preview of the upcoming third volume, and clean opening and closing animations, this disk also offers more value-added extras, including a commentary with Greg Ayers (Gau Ragu), Christine Auten (Folli) and John Swasey. Of these, I was most impressed with the cast commentary. It was fun to get an interesting peek behind-the-scenes at ADV’s work on the series and this voice-over commentary actually provides interesting insight in to what’s coming up in the series. The episode they chose, episode nine, was truly the perfect choice for the humorous and candid insights offered by the crewContent:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shadow Skill is a martial arts fantasy based on the 1992 manga series created by Mugumu Okada and is a re-imagining of sorts of that manga, as well as two OVAs (or four, as the last OVA was released as both a movie and three separate OVAs) from 1995 through 1996. The series reviewed here, released in 1998, while retaining much the same characters and settings as the original manga and OVAs, is more of a departure from what has come before.
Shadows Skill Vol. 3 follows the primary cast of Elle Ragu a.k.a. Shadow Skill, her adopted brother Gau Ban, Folli and Kyou as they fight to survive the opening volley in the war with Solfan. Having firmly established the characters in the first two volumes, this volume begins to explore these characters and their relationships set against the backdrop of war. As they fight to survive and protect the ones they hold dear, relationships and previously held thoughts and ideals are challenged; some forever altered.
The first episode on this volume, episode nine, picks up where the last volume ended, as the four have found their way to the Julianess for the Ceremony of the Four Devas. Obviously, as Elle is involved, there’s a very good chance things will go wrong; and they do. From her humorous missteps during the ceremony, to her actually antagonizing and attempting to fight another of the Four Devas (which, is strictly and utterly forbidden, and would be devastating for the land), Elle conducts herself in typical fashion. Additionally, Lohengreen, or “Lo” once again mistakes Gau’s intentions for Kyou, which in turn sparks yet another humorous conflict between the two friends. However, the episode is not entirely light-hearted in tone, as the seeds of future conflict are planted in Deva Sai Oh of Kishlianna’s silent vow to kill Elle Ragu. What this means for Elle and, as Sai Oh is one of the four Devas and therefore prohibited from fighting, much less killing another Deva, for the kingdom of Ashlianna, only time will tell. However, Sai Oh looks to become a major threat for Elle and her friends.
In episode ten, shadowy outside forces watch as the Solfan army invades Kuruda. This episode marks the beginning in a major shift in the tone of the overall tone of the series. All the martial arts training, all the fighting, now becomes very real, as the characters must fight to the fullest extent of their abilities in order to survive. This episode introduces Gana Gig, or Wedge, a formidable Hulem with a penchant for bloody destruction and the ultimate goal of destroying Elle Ragu. As Elle is summoned to perform her duties as a Sevalle, bringing her in direct conflict with Wedge, Lo engages Gau in a vicious battle to show force Gau to understand the gravity of the battles that lie ahead. This battle will forever change both the characters and their relationship. Featuring the first battle between Elle and Wedge, as well as the battle between Lo and Gau, there is a healthy amount of action. However, it is the character-altering drama found in Lo and Gau’s fight that is most affecting. I found a great deal to enjoy in this episode (though I wish more attention would have been paid to some of the poorly translated subtitles).
Episode eleven, finally offers insight in to the nature of Kuruda’s enemies and why they seek the destruction of the Holy Nation. Motivated by poverty and hunger, the Solfan army seeks to take control of the powerful magical energy, Soma, the power that flows through nature. At the command of the king, Elle returns to the Jura forest in order to aid the forgotten platoon patrolling there (from the last volume) against the overwhelming numbers of the Solfan army. Scarface, however, has recognized the attack on the Jura forest was only a diversion to draw the Sevalle away from the true objective; her brother, Diaz. He instead commissions Gau to go and hold off the army. While his motivations are not entirely clear, it is certain he sees this as a training mission for the boy, a means to test his strength, to determine if he has what it takes to himself become a Sevalle. As Elle battles the Solfan army, she again must face the formidable Wedge. With somewhat of a cliff-hanger ending, this episode doesn’t feel entirely resolved, serving as more of a lead-in for episode twelve. However, in this regard, it works quite well in that there is again a high level of action and drama. There is also a great deal of tension to be found here, particularly as Elle must find a way to quickly resolve her conflict with Wedge and the regiment of Solfan soldiers before she can go to the aid of Diaz, Gau, and her friends. As the war with Solfan picks up in pace, and the stakes become even higher, I found myself increasingly drawn in to the episodes.
Episode twelve begins by recapping the cliff-hanger ending from episode eleven, explaining how Wedge survived while Gau and company arrive just as the Solfan army is attempting to capture Diaz. This episode also introduces Kai Shink, a Sevalle also knows as Crimson, or Silver Sword in his role as a Kurudan Laza Rem. The Laza Rems are the rare individuals capable of merging with the Soma and can even create miracles. While Wedge is quick to rekindle her battle with Elle, the fight is over all too soon. Instead, it is Gau’s battle with the Solfan army, as he attempts to protect Diaz, which really steals the episode. Spattered with the blood of his enemies as well as his own, Gau forces the Kurudan army back, holding them off until reinforcements can arrive. This episode is one of my favorites in the series. Having learned a great deal about what it means to be a Kurudan warrior from his battle with Lo last episode, Gau truly comes in to his own here. Showing himself to have what it takes to not just be a great Kurudan warrior, but perhaps also a great Sevalle, Gau earns the name, “Black Howling.” This episode featured copious amounts of action and a great deal of drama. At several points I found myself on the edge of my seat, hoping Gau would have what it takes to survive his battle with the Solfan army.
Episode thirteen, the final on the disk, is a brief respite from the war, as the characters return to the Green Octopus. Despite his incredible victory against the Solfan army last episode, Gau is still haunted by the outcome of his duel with Lo. Seriously injured in the fight, Lo is also trying to recover, conflicted by the doubts he has for his own ability and whether or not he battled his friend to the fullest extent of his abilities. This episode features a number of clips from previous episodes, and the pace is markedly slower than the last few. However, Scarface’ offers both Gau and Lo important direction on how a Kurudan soldier can never truly have friends, how the feelings of compassion must be outweighed by the love of the fight, that will likely play in to the continued development of these characters. However, the episodes’ conclusion suggests Gau and Lo are not yet willing to completely erase all traces of compassion. Despite the recycled clips, I really enjoyed this episodes’ resolution. Having come to care about these characters, I was very happy to see they had not yet been totally changed by war.In Summary:
Shadow Skill Vol. 3 really captured my interest and actually went a long way toward selling me on the entire series. While it retains much of the humor from the earlier volumes (check out Elle’s ode to karaoke in the final episode), this humor takes on new meaning, a greater weight, as the characters are faced with the gravity of war and the changes going on all around and within themselves. This volume features a large amount of action, as well as dramatic tension. There were moments in which I truly felt characters I had grown to know and care about may not survive the episode, drawing me in and holding my interest until the final credits rolled. And with the foreshadowing groundwork laid in this volume, I am actually very excited to see where the series goes from here.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles, Commentary Track with Greg Ayres (Gua) and Christine Auten (Folli), Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
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.