Shadow Skill Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: £12.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Shadow Skill

Shadow Skill Vol. #1

By Dani Moure     October 25, 2007
Release Date: June 18, 2007

Shadow Skill Vol. #1
© ADV Films UK

What They Say
The kingdom of Kuruda has known many warriors, but none greater than the Sevalle, an elite breed whose mastery of martial arts has made them legendary. But for the 59th Sevalle, Elle Ragu, a.k.a. Shadow Skill, being a legend is shaping up to be something of a drag. After all, adventure alone doesn't pay the rent, and living check to check takes its toll on even the fiercest warrior.

Strong as an ox and stubborn as a mule she may be, but it's drinking like a fish that usually gets Elle in trouble. And as she travels alongside her brother Gau, leaving property damage and unpaid bar-tabs in their wake, a new threat looms on the horizon: spies from the kingdom of Solfan have entered the picture, and Kuruda seems to be headed for war...

The Review!
ADV kick off another new series, this time going for some fighting antics in the form of Shadow Skill.

I listened to the English stereo track for my review, and didn’t notice any technical problems with the track. The mix itself is very much typical stereo, with nothing about it standing out in particular. The dub is very enjoyable, with all the leads performing well. I spot-checked the Japanese track and didn’t notice any problems with it either.

Shadow Skill is an “older” series, and it shows. The colours are quite drab in general, but that’s more the setting than anything. The transfer is as good as you’d expect from ADV, presented in full screen with no noticeable problems. Subtitles are in a nice yellow font (ADV’s usual), and I didn't notice any grammatical or spelling errors.

This is another ADV dual language release, with English and German on the same disc. As such, the openings and endings are presented in their original kanji form, with full translated scrolls for the opening and each ending in the extras menu.

The front cover features Elle and Gau in fighting poses, with the show’s logo at the top and the volume title at the bottom. The background is very brown, something of a theme for the show. The volume number is on the spine, while the back cover features a description of the show, some screenshots and the show’s credits. A technical grid contains all the important details at the bottom of the cover. The reverse side of the cover features the same artwork as the front cover, but the background is a moonlit setting instead of the brown. The other side features some lineart of Elle.

The main menu is very simple, with a reddish background featuring Elle’s face, and all the text selections, while some music plays. The sub-menus are all text-based. Access times are fast, naturally, but the menus are very uninspired.

The only extra here is a preview for volume 2.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shadow Skill was something of a surprising pick up over in the US. Licensed at a time when ADV were on a bit of a lull in terms of new series, riding out the storm of a changing industry, it was an interesting choice because the series originally aired in Japan in the second half of 1998. When fans are clamouring for the latest new shows as they air in Japan these days, picking up something so much older was unexpected. Now, a couple of years on and the UK get to see it, at a lower price than your standard series.

Based on a manga by Megumu Okada, which was originally adapted as a three-part OVA series (released by Manga UK), the story follows a girl called Elle Ragu, also known as Shadow Skill, and her brother Gau Ben. Elle is a Sevalle – an elite warrior who wins an annual tournament in the country of Kuruda to be declared the best in the land – the 59th to be precise, but she’s not really interested in any of the perks or recognition that go along with it, so she tends to keep a low profile and as a result, not many people know much about her, although there are plenty of stories of how amazing she is.

Elle and Gau travel around, along with a sorcerer friend called Folli, trying to earn money to pay off the debts they run up on their travels and inevitably helping people in need, with much fighting to be done. In the opening episode, Elle rescues a town and its children from a demon, and ends up revealing to the townspeople her true identity. Unfortunately, this episode ends up being a bit of a mess in some ways, as it’s doesn’t seem too sure of what it wants to accomplish.

On the one hand, the main story with the children works quite nicely in showing what Elle, Gau and Folli are all about, but at the same time there are some random scenes with other characters interspersed throughout that seem to make little sense. Whether they are characters we’ll meet later or whatnot, it’s not clear, but their presence is just a distraction at this point and the random text that keeps popping up on the screen adds more distractions when they’re not needed.

Thankfully, things pick up in the remaining episodes with them being very much episodic but managing to keep things interesting at least. The second episode deals with a competition in which a man targets Elle wanting to defeat her to become the 60th Sevalle, and he uses very underhanded tactics to try and do it. She gets help from her brother though, and a mysterious man who turns out to be someone quite renowned, and it all takes place right under the nose of the King and a Princess from one of the neighbouring countries. This episode flows far, far better than the first and introduces some interesting possibilities with Scarface being a potential ally and also the sorts of enemies that might be out for Elle’s head.

The third episodes serves to introduces a new character who joins Elle, Gau and Folli, in the form of Kyou Lou, a young girl who asks the group to help rid her of a demon beast. Then, in the final episode on the disc, the group are staying at an inn, working to pay off some debts they’ve run up. The inn’s owner, Feolina, is another young girl who is troubled by some outsiders who are trying to force her into selling it, despite it being Feolina’s dead father’s legacy. She won’t sell and so when the bullyboy tactics start, Elle has to step in to save the day.

The last episode was probably my favourite on the disc, as it had a nice heart to it with Elle having to help Feolina and the young girl being naïve to much of what was going on around her. It was nice to see her telling Elle how much she looked up to Shadow Skill, not knowing she was actually talking directly to her, and everything in this episode just seemed to fit together quite nicely.

One of the more promising things about the disc was that the show got better with each episode, and it was especially good considering how jumbled the first episode was. The characters make up an interesting, if quite unoriginal, group. Elle, as the humble hero, Gau being the brother that helps out wherever he can and wants to learn from his sister, and Folli, who adds an extra dimension to things by injecting some humour and sorcery into the show (although quite why she remains with the group is a bit of a mystery).

In terms of production values, Shadow Skill shows its age a fair bit, with a distinctly 90s look to the animation and even the colour palette. The animation itself isn’t actually that bad, with the many fight scenes not showing quite so many of the budgetary constraints you often see in newer shows. The music and sound effects are all very similar to what you’d expect from an OVA series from around that time as well, with the themes all designed to get you pumped up for the action that’s about to hit the screens.

In Summary:
Though it’s not exactly original, and doesn’t really try to bring anything new to the table, Shadow Skill is series that will probably only appeal to you if you like a more adventure and fighting orientated series. Despite that, so far it doesn’t seem to skimp on the character development and it’s already quite promising for where it might go from here for Elle, Gau and Folli. With the promise of a larger threat looming, a meaty story will hopefully kick in soon. The series has been given a somewhat budget-style release from ADV in terms of price, and although there are no extras, a bilingual show for this price is a good deal and it’s well worth giving the first volume a try if you think you might enjoy it.

Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (2.0),English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.


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