Shadow Skill TV Vol. #5 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: TV PG
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Shadow Skill

Shadow Skill TV Vol. #5

By Brett Barkley     December 20, 2006
Release Date: June 27, 2006


Shadow Skill TV Vol. #5
© ADV Films


What They Say
The annihilation of the Holy Nation has begun, and flames engulf the ancient city of Kuruda. All eyes are on Elle, for a maniac versed in the Kurudan martial arts has begun to assassinate key figures, with the skill which only a Sevalle such as she could possess. Sensing the time is ripe for attack, more of Ashlianna's enemies gather in the shadows, seeking to purge mankind of the "societal disease" known as civilization by awakening the beast within. With society clinging to order amidst the chaos, Elle violates the Law of the Four Devas, adding fuel to the inferno consuming Kuruda. In the war between man's dueling natures, has Elle finally given the beast in man the upper hand? Meanwhile Gau's trials at the hands of the 58th Sevalle, the deranged "G," take him to the brink of madness, where a Darkness more terrible than death itself has set its eyes on our young hero's life. Will it take the sacrifice of Diaz for Gau to be delivered from his dark fate? Will the Black Wing ever fly again? Join us and find out, in this latest installment of Shadow Skill. And remember: while the fangs of the beast remain unbroken, the battle rages on!


The Review!
As the Holy Nation nears ever-closer to annihilation, Gau progress on his journey to become a true warrior, and one of their number lays down his life for a friend.


Audio:

In terms of audio options, Shadow Skill Vol. 5 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. 5 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. 5 ships in a standard keep case with a very nicely designed cover featuring Diaz in the center, with angelic wings spread across the cover, almost shielding Gau at the bottom of the image. Above Diaz, looking almost as if he is peeking over the wings, appears to be Len Fuma, one of the series' primary antagonists. The Shadow Skill logo is featured across the top of the front cover, the title, "The Fall" across the bottom. The cover image is very nicely designed with a somewhat more traditional design sense.

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 this is a brief 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 the images, and disc and credits information occupies the lower quarter of the cover.

Shadow Skill Vol. 5 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 characters along the, with two line art images (a full body and bust shot of Diaz Ragu) 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. 5 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 eighteen through twenty-one, and below are options for a preview of volume six, 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. 4 are much like what we've seen in the most previous volumes. While offering the standard ADV Previews and clean opening and closing animations, this disk also offers a nice bonus of an episode commentary with Marty Fleck (King Iba Sutra), Jay Hickman ("G" Kain Phallanx), and ADR Director John Swasey. While the rest of the extras are more common, I found the commentary to be fun, with a great deal of personality. It was also very informative, offering some great insights in to the business of voice acting.. While not offering much information on the series itself, it was fun to hear the back-and-forth from the three as they watched the episode.


Content: (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.

Building off the climatic finale of the last disk, episode 18 begins picks up immediately after Gau bursts in to the Chamber of Hades to face down G Kain Phallanx. Gau requests the honor of serving King Iba Sutra by battling the fearsome G. As the king grants Gau's request, G allows for a brief detour from his quest for revenge to destroy what he believes to be a truly unworthy opponent. However, the battle turns out somewhat different than he planned. Proving himself somewhat more formidable a taking a blow than actually delivering one, Gau's victory, while in the end quite hard won, shows little more than his ability to endure tremendous amounts of pain and injury. As flashbacks to his own tortured past drive him to remain on his feet, to become stronger, to withstand G's onslaught, G Kain Phallanx's time begins to run out. But this battle is far more than simply physical, as Gau struggles to repress the animal rage that lies within, the same animalism he sees in G's eyes. Struggling through the burning streets of Kuruda, Elle arrives just in time to coax Gau back from the brink of defeat, as G delivers what is to be the final, killing blow. G falls at Gau's hand. As he lays dying, he reveals the truth behind his desire to kill the King, and how he managed to conquer the grave. His final words to Gau emphasize what G learned through is own failings; that Gau must become a warrior of righteousness, not one swallowed by the bestial ways of the warrior, to never allow that evil to overtake his heart.

Episode 19 continues to explore of aftermath of burning of Kuruda and G Kain Phallanx. The episode opens with a brief and deadly battle between the Kishlianna Divine Knights and the mysterious masked villain behind the devastation in Kuruda. Easily defeating them with Kuruda annihilation techniques, King Iba Sutra realizes this may be the work of an individual intent on drawing the nations in to battle. Making matters worse for the troubled relationship of the Four Devas, and the states they represent, Elle is challenged to battle by Sai Oh. Once again throwing all caution and regard for the near-sacred peace between the Four Devas to the wind, Elle rushes off to meet Sai Oh in a battle to the death. As the episode builds toward the conflict, the reasons for Sai Oh's desire for vengeance are revealed. Apparently, Sai Oh's one-eyed master, Zal Zachary was killed in a duel with Elle Ragu. Swearing vengeance on the Sevalle and going so far as to remove his own eye in honor of Sal Zachary, Sai Oh couldn't have chosen a worse time for the kingdom. The episode does a great job of building to the climactic conflict, following the path of both warriors as they prepare. Additionally, a major subplot is introduced, showing Darkness' growing and likely nefarious interest in the ever more powerful Gau. Disappointingly, however, this episode defaults the characters to their state prior to Gau's massive victory over "G" Kain Phallanx. Gau just can't seem to get any respect from Elle, or anyone else for that matter, again treated like a naïve child. By the episode's inevitably bloody conclusion, the mysterious villain plaguing Kuruda plays a pivotal role in deciding the battle of the two warriors, coming one step closer to throwing the Holy nation into internal conflict.

Building directly from the brief scene of conflict between Diaz and Scarface from the last episode, Episode 20 brings Scarface and Darkness' plans for the young Gau Ban in to light. This exceptional episode (as well as the next) also explores the true character of Diaz, expressing his depth and nobility. The episode opens with a brief examination of the larger situation for the Holy nation, as Solfan prepares for a massive invasion and the series' behind-the-scenes villain, Len Fuma, has waded through the Valles of Likitoa, Felcia, and Kishliana, sowing seeds of chaos throughout the Holy Nation. The reasons for the villains' destruction of Ashlianna, the Holy Nation, are revealed, and their plans begin to come in to full swing. However, the largest, and most engaging aspect of this episode is found in the battle of wills between Diaz and Scarface (through the techniques of Darkness) with Gau's future and very soul caught in the middle. In the ultimate test of will, to elevate Gau to the warrior Scarface intends him to be, Gau is truly fighting for his very life. Mortally wounded, and with only a few short minutess of life remaining, his blood spilled on the ground, Gau must find a means of defeating Darkness. As each of Gau's attempts to save himself is rebuffed, Darkness reveals his reasons for Gau's torment as an attempt to reveal the beastly heart of the warrior that lies within the boy. Too weak to defend himself, Gau struggles for life. Understanding Scarface's plan and recognizing Darkness' tactics, Diaz rushes to Gau's aid. The episode ends on a cliffhanger with Gau bleeding to death in the grass, and the already weakened Diaz pushing himself to arrive before it is too late.

Episode 21, the final on this disk opens with an eerily fading heartbeat, as Gau fades, the dirt soaked with his blood. In the last moments of his life, Gau reflects on his life. He briefly recalls the Kanon martial arts technique, something he desperately seizes upon as the only means of saving his own life. Like a zombie, Gau rises to his feet. With a renewed vigor, like the wild beast he was as a boy, trying to survive on his own, he attacks Darkness. But even this is not enough. Diaz bursts on to the scene just in time to defend Gau. Pushing his ruined body far beyond the breaking point, Diaz uses every technique he has accumulated in his years of fighting. This battle is incredibly well done, without a doubt the best battle in the series thus far, as the viewer can really feel the tension as Gau's time slowly slips away while Diaz does everything he can to defeat Darkness. As he irreparably damages his own body, still he continues to fight on Gau's behalf. In a beautiful scene, Diaz makes the ultimate sacrifice to save Gau and making perhaps a greater impact on the boy than even Darkness could have, Diaz shows the power of a greater, nobler warrior's soul. These episodes were truly excellent, engaging the viewer with a number of emotions before the final scene.

In Summary:

I continue to enjoy this series more with each successive disk. While the Shadow Skill Vol. 5 does a fantastic job of building the suspense of the coming onslaught for the Holy Nation of Ashlianna, it also does a tremendous job of building and exploring the primary cast. I thoroughly enjoyed this exploration of character, as motivations and agendas are better brought to light. The final two episodes on this disk are my absolute favorite of the series, managing to engage on a number of levels. As the various aspects of the series move in to their final positions, I'm very much looking forward to seeing how it all comes together for the conclusion. If this disk was any indication, I expect great things from the next volume.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Commentary track with Marty Fleck (Iba Sutra) Jay Hickman (Kain) and John Swasey (ADR Director),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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