Shadow Skill -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C-

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 120
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Shadow Skill

Shadow Skill

By Chris Beveridge     December 15, 2001
Release Date: November 27, 2001

Shadow Skill
© Manga Entertainment

What They Say
In a war torn world of deadly conflict, one small group of heroes stand against the forces of darkness, armed with only two weapons: their unswerving dedication to good and the superhuman martial art known as the Shadow Skill. For fourteen year old Gau, it is time once again for him to return to the graves of his parents, murdered by bandits when he was just ten. In the company of his adoptive sister Ella, Gau quickly comes to realize that his journey is more than a pilgrimage, and that his combat abilities as a student fo the Karuda school of martial arts are about to be pushed to the breaking point. Will he ever discover the secret of the Shadow Skill?

The Review!
Made up of three OVA's and an epilogue OVA, Shadow Skill is another tale delivered to us by Hiroshi Negishi, one of the more controversial directors out there depending on your point of view.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. There's a fair amount of audio being sent to the rear speakers here, from background music to ambient effects such as crowds. Most of the action effects are forward soundstage based as well as all of the dialogue, neither of which has much directionality. Audio is clean and clear and other than the dropout during the layer change in the third episode, there were no problems.

Thankfully, the above mentioned layer change problem actually occurs in a black moment on the screen, so other than the unnatural pause that some people may see, it's not bad. If you notice it though you may have another opinion on it. The rest of the transfer is pretty decent overall. The main thing I noticed with it is just how soft it looks, which at times looks like it may be by design. Even when we get some nice vibrant moments, such as some of the magic, the colors have a soft fuzzy aura around it. Cross coloration is non-existent and there's few jaggies overall.

Though most will mistake the woman on the cover as a male just due to the piece of art used, it's an interesting looking cover and one that may catch someone's eye on the shelf. The blues are pretty nice looking and grab the eyeball, or at least mine. The back cover provides a few animation shots and two summaries for the show, one for the movie portion and one for the epilogue portion. The insert provides some different artwork and folds out to give the character biographies that appear in the extras. The back side of it provides the chapter listings for each of the programs as well.

The menus are laid out with some nice animation and music from the show that don't slow down or hamper the use of the menu at all. The layout is nice and features are quick and easy to get to and moving between menus is nice and fast.

The extras here are pretty minimal. We've got the previously mentioned character biographies that go into some detail on each of the main characters as well as several pages worth of a photo gallery that has some rather nice color artwork. There's also the Manga produced trailer for the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For those who've seen and enjoyed the show previously, let me quote a small-print section of the insert:

"Previously released in the US by Manga Entertainment on two VHS volumes entitled Shadow Skill, and Shadow Skill Part 2, the two animated programs appearing on this DVD are in an order slightly different than the order of their VHS release. At the suggestion of anime enthusiasts, Shadow Skill Part 2 (here entitled Shadow Skill: The Movie) appears first on the DVD, and Shadow Skill (here entitled Epilogue) appears second."

I'll leave it to the enthusiasts to decide whether this made the show better or worse. For me, since I found the show mediocre at best, I'm not sure if it would have made much difference if it was done in the previous release way.

Shadow Skill is the story of Gau Ban and his adoptive older sister Ella Ragu. We're introduced to young fourteen year old Gau training near the city where his older adoptive sister is about to go into the arena to fight for the title of becoming a Sevalle. The Kurada section of the world has evolved into a warrior based society over the past 2000 years and during these competitions, the winner is bestowed the title and honor of Sevalle, which is the name of those who ruled.

After a brief encounter with someone who was watching Gau train in a mysterious fighting mode, he heads to the arena to watch the even. Ella's got the cock attitude of a seventeen year old whose a master in the Shadow Skill, a rare and powerful fighting technique. She's going up against Baslek, a rather imposing and tall beefy creature who keeps on fighting even after losing entire limbs.

But in the end, it's a foregone conclusion that she wins and attains the title of Sevalle. But not without some issue as her next challenger decides to try and take her on at her residence the evening before the next competition. It's during here that we get to know Gau more, as he breaks his vow of silence and reveals his desires to learn the Shadow Skills so he can be on even footing with Ella and she can respect him as a proper brother.

The show then begins to move into the standard territory of a group of people with powerful fighting skills that are simply roaming around. As far as I can tell with the three main episodes in the movie here, there's no real plot or purpose beyond defeat the enemy that the get hired to defeat or deal with. One of the episodes deals with a giant Moon King beast that killed a group of hunters that set after it, so Ella, Gau and their comrade Faura end up being hired by the sole survivor of the group, the granddaughter of the leader.

Then there's a bit of history between Ella and Faury that comes back into play in another episode as some trickery about their pasts and how they were set against each other as enemies is revealed and they revert from friends to enemies. It's not bad, but it's just so bloody predictable that you can map out the entire episode once you know the players. And unfortunately, that's how much of this show feels in general.

Add in that I found the character designs to be pretty unattractive and the animation style following suit, it didn't help to enhance my enjoyment of the predictability. There's a few flashes of style here and there, but with so much undefined and unknown and no real plot, you wonder what it was all for at the end.

Those who are fans of this show are getting a nice release though with everything included and a new English 5.1 track that sounded pretty good for effects and music. And in dealing with the credits, they provide the English language credits, then the original Japanese credits and then the translated Japanese credits. But for the couple of pluses to the release, they don't outweigh the negatives I felt about it, especially in the three episodes being spliced together to make a movie. That always annoys me.

Japanese Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Trailer,Photo Gallery

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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