Shonen Onmyouji Vol. #1 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • 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: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Shonen Onmyouji

Shonen Onmyouji Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     May 21, 2007
Release Date: July 10, 2007


Shonen Onmyoji Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Masahiro Abeno is the grandson of the great sorcerer Seimei Abeno. Unfortunately for him, his grandfather did such a great job in the past, he really hasn't had a need to perform any magical duties and as a result, Masahiro lost his sixth sense and the ability to see spirits. One day, a demon drops from the sky and proclaims that Masahiro must continue his grandfathers work or perish in flames!

The Review!
When Abe no Seimi's grandson finally gains his true Second Sight, his life changes dramatically as he now sees the world for what it really is.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
Shonen Onmyouji uses the original Japanese artwork to great effect here with a solid illustration of a serious looking Masahiro in full robes. The background is a bit muted but it lets the attention focus squarely on Masahiro. The back cover uses the same kind of background to provide the summary of the show and list through the discs features and extras. 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 the original artwork of Mokkun in his full form used 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 of Mokkun.

Menu:
The menu layout for this release is very simple with just a shot of Masahiro in his full robes while Mokkun is wrapped around him. 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.

Extras:
The only extra on this release is a clean version of the opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Hikaru Yuuki, Shonen Onmyouji is a twenty-six episode series that plays in the time of Abe no Seimei. A few series have touch on this time period in the last few years, either in comedy (Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi) or more seriously (Otogi Zoshi). Shonen Onmyouji wants to play up a little bit of both as it revolves around Seimei's grandson.

Life as Abe no Seimei's grandson isn't going to be easy no matter what. With so many expectations placed on the family bloodline it'll be hard for anyone to live up to what's come before him. For Masahiro it's even worse as he doesn't have the second sight that will allow him to see what's beyond normal human view. Masahiro's spent much of his time around his thirteenth birthday simply looking for another career to pursue. But even there he fails regularly, be it calligraphy or anything else. Yet into every life a little change must fall and for Masahiro it comes in the form of a large white rat. Well, not exactly a rat but rather a mystical creature that only onmyouji can see.

Masahiro wants nothing to do with the one mystical creature that he can see but the creature intends to follow him around. Nicknaming him Mokkun, Masahiro gradually accepts his presence and then realizes he can use him to try and deal with the exorcisms he'll need to perform. The timing is just right as his grandfather has sent him instructions to try and perform an exorcism on a creature that's terrorizing the area. Even with Masahiro's limited vision, the two make a decent team against what turns out to be a far more deadly threat. It also turns out to be a threat that helps to unleash Masahiro's full second sight, something that had been sealed years ago in order to protect him.

With his abilities now something he can use, he goes completely into onmyouji training and works hard at the dorm where others are studying. He's got further to go but due to his background where his grandfather had taught him a lot as a child he's able to spend more time on his own pursuits. This works to his advantage as he and Mokkun find that there's a growing issue in the area that needs to be dealt with. A series of demons from across the waters to the west have come to Japan to find refuge and build a new dominion. These are fairly powerful creatures that he has to face and Masahiro undergoes several trials by fire that show his mettle as well as how far he'll go to protect not just those close to him but everyone that he can. Being thirteen and entrusted with such responsibility, Masahiro takes to it easily. It also helps that he's being encouraged by a beautiful princess that his grandfather is working to protect.

One of the least known titles to be released by Geneon in the first half of 2007, Shonen Onmyouji surprised me with how much fun it actually was. In some ways it's reminiscent of Inu Yasha simply because of how Masahiro dressed and interacts with the numerous demons. Yet to me it's far more engaging as there is a consistent plot that looks to be addressed. With the aid of Mokkun who has more to him than is obvious at first, the pairing works quite well. Mokkun provides some good mild comedy as Masahiro does yet both of them know when to be serious. The relationship between the two grows nicely during the first five episodes as well as the purity of intention behind Masahiro's actions are made plainly clear.

The production side of this release is pretty solid overall. Studio DEEN isn't one of my top favorite studios but they've done an immense amount of work on shows that I like and this one fits in well with those. The artwork is clean with plenty of detail while not being too busy and there is a good sense of fluidity to much of it without additional obvious CG work. One side of the production that's likely to annoy some is that the English language adaptation (as well as translation and authoring of the disc) has been handled by Odex. In listening to the series in English with my kids, I found the production overall to be pretty solid though not one that stands out strongly. Some of the secondary characters early on do unfortunately sound like they're reading scripts, such as Yukinari, but I get that feeling from a number of US based shows as well so that didn't strike me quite so much. Masahiro works well which is the biggest plus and the relationship between him and Mokkun gets better the more episodes the cast gets under their belts.

If there is anything I really did not like with the translation, it's how they handled the chants. In past, most shows will either not translate them or will translate them faithfully. I've gotten used to seeing them translated in full (or subtitled if you prefer instead of translated). For this show, they opted to put [chant] in place of the actual chant dialogue. It's not exactly close captioning but it's reminiscent of it enough to make me cringe. Either subtitle what's being said (no translation required!) or just leave it blank.

In Summary:
With another twenty-one episodes to go, it's hard to say how this series will really play out. In its opening salvo of episodes it's proven to have some real charm to it. There are plenty of hints of what's to come and what's really motivating some of these characters. There's also some great artwork that reminded me of some of the best Fushigi Yugi illustrations. The series looks to have cherry picked some of the best elements of other series and made them its own. Fans of this particular time period and those who enjoy the spiritual creature side of anime series will find a lot to like here. With plenty of potential for more mainstream acceptance as well as enough hooks to grab the more hardcore, Shonen Onmyouji is a series that could be quite the little gem in the long run.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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