The last seal is about to be broken and the only way to stop it is for Masahiro to kill Guren.
What They Say
In order to learn the truth behind the Door of Hades' opening, Masahiro visits Kifune in spite of his injury and has a difficult choice forced upon him. As the first holy seal holding back the Land of Hades crumbles, Masahiro, Kouchin and Seiryu rush to the scene to try and stop the miasma from escaping into the world as Seimei faces Chishiki No Guuji alone!
Shonen Onmyouji is presented with two stereo language tracks which are both encoded at 192 kbps. While there is a good full feeling to the mixes as it spreads out across the two channels, there isn't a lot of real directionality to it. The full mix works well in the action sequences as it has some nice impact to it but during the various dialogue scenes the characters are generally front and center anyway so placement isn't much of an issue. In listening to this disc with both language tracks, we didn't have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The source materials for the series are in great shape considering how recent it is and it shows throughout here. Colors are rich and vibrant with no visible bleeding or break-up in them. Some backgrounds, such as dark blue night skies and the occasional brown wall, do show some movement to them but it's fairly minimal. The reds in the color palette tend to look the best, particularly when Masahiro is in his full robes. With no noticeable cross coloration and only a small amount of aliasing during panning sequences, the release looks quite solid.
The original Japanese artwork again provides for a very striking cover both in the overall detail of the character design but also the overall layout. The background is a bit muted but it lets the attention focus squarely on character artwork. The back cover uses the same kind of background to provide the summary of the show and list through the discs features. It also uses it to cover the remainder of the items such as the production information and the usual array of logos. There's a strip along the left that features a number of non-cropped shots from the show which look good. No technical grid is here unfortunately. The cover is reversible here with a great illustration of one of Seimei’s shikigami with a solid background while the back cover is laid out the same but with a different set of shots from the show. The insert uses a smaller version of the front cover artwork along with a breakdown of what months the remaining volumes will be release while the other side has a full version of the reverse cover artwork.
The menu layout isn't a surprise in that it utilizes the same artwork from the cover to good effect as it comes across as all the more striking in this form. While the character illustration is fantastic, the background is just a dull grey piece that reminds me of concrete. The series logo and navigation strip is along the left which is quick and easy to use though it doesn't provide individual top level episode access. Similar to a couple of other new shows from Geneon, there isn't any background music playing to the imagery. With no real animations to the menus, everything is fast to load and problem free. The disc did not read our players' language presets though and defaulted to English with no subtitles.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The final volume of Shonen Onmyouji brings the storyline to a rather dramatic close and with a few changes that you wouldn’t normally expect to have happen. With this set of episodes bringing to close the story arc from the light novels, it has that sense of closure to it that’s appropriate while still setting things up for how they could go on. It’s an ending, but it really does feel more like the ending to a first chapter of a much larger storyline. You want to see more, but there’s also a completeness about it that makes it rather satisfying overall.
Not surprisingly, the bulk of this volume is given over to two aspects. The first aspect is in dealing with figuring out how to handle Guren now that he’s essentially possessed and working for Ryusai and his goals of bringing the dead to the world of the living. Masahiro’s suffered greatly so far but when he learns that the only real option is to kill Guren, it’s rather devastating to him. He’s going to seek out other options, but there’s only so much that can be done to resolve the situation. Masahiro’s talk with Takaoko no Miki hints at one possibility, but when he takes on the power to kill a deity into him, his path becomes quite clear. This fits with the conversations he has with his grandfather as well and it also fits in with the things that the other shikigami are talking about as they realize that there’s no real hope for Guren at this point with what’s happened to him.
The other big part of these episodes is the actual confrontation. Ryusai has completely taken advantage of Kazane by this point and she’s only now realizing the extent to which this has happened. With everything now in place, he’s setting everything in motion to unleash the underworld into the real world and Guren is completely willing. Since he’s been changed, he’s quite compliant and almost eager even though he knows he’s a sacrifice in all of this. Once the miasma starts wafting through, everything turns into confrontation as Ryusai meets again with Seimei and Masahiro has to confront Guren directly to stop everything from happening. There are tricks up the sleeves of just about everyone, but the end result is admittedly somewhat predictable, especially when you know there’s a lot more material out there in novel form.
The four episodes here play through fairly quickly as the story doesn’t allow for too much downtime. The impending threat from the underworld is pretty strong and there’s only so much time before it actually happens. That puts Masahiro and Seimei in the position of having to work quickly, though they do spend an appropriate amount of time trying to talk and think things through to ensure they’re not acting rashly. Masahiro, who spent a lot of time in the last volume unconscious, makes out better this time around and certainly comes across as much more mature. His growth from the start of the series where he has now is certainly quite different and it’s been interesting to watch him grow. In particular, his relationship with Guren is really fascinating to watch as they’ve bonded in a great way. That’s been one of the highlights in this show that plays things straight and serious but without going too far.
Shonen Onmyouji has been a really fun show to watch but one that admittedly suffered from the Geneon shutdown in 2007. The gap in releases drained some of the energy and enthusiasm when it picked up again and it was hard to recapture it. The show is quite a bit of fun and its basis in the world of light novels helps it from being too predictable in some ways and too formulaic in its approach. The series being made up of two arcs also gives it a stronger feeling since it’s not a “of the week” kind of series where certain events have to be told. They really tell each story using all thirteen episodes allotted to it and they do it well. At the end, I like how things closed out and I can feel a sense of completeness with it. But it also leaves me wanting to see more of it animated and to see what else is in store for these characters. This has been a fun release, but it’s one that I suspect will do better in an eventual collected form, even as two half season sets.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.