Soul Taker Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A+
  • Menus Rating: A-
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Soul Taker

Soul Taker Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     February 05, 2002
Release Date: February 26, 2002

Soul Taker Vol. #1
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
Kyosuke's normal life shatters with the knife's sharp entry into his heart. Why did mom do it? As Kyosuke recovers, his body reveals a dangerous secret... a secret proving his past is a lie. . . Kyosuke searches for Runa, the sister he never knew, and the truth about his ability to transform into the powerful Soul Taker!! But, Kirihara Heavy Industries and mutants from the mysterious hospital will prevent Kyosuke from learning anything with as much violence as possible!

The Review!
SoulTaker is one of those series that you just know you're not going to really understand for awhile. There's so much mystery and deceit going on here that confusion abounds. But the way it's presented will draw you into it completely. It's exceptionally intriguing.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. This is a very slick sounding stereo presentation. There's a fair amount of directionality throughout the two episodes and the music comes across fantastic. There's no dropouts or other audio issues at all, essentially a solid stereo audio mix that fits the material nicely. If anything, the track sounded a slight bit lower than most other shows.

For the video side of the review, this is one of those rare times I can just say, let's use what I said for the region 2 release. This is just an absolute treat. There's so much style and flair to the animation that this anamorphic transfer really brings it to life. The vibrancy of the colors is practically reference material. The numerous blacks and darker colors are very solid, and the swaths of straight colors shows no color banding or breakup at all. This is just gorgeous.

After lasts years successes with chromium card covers, Pioneer is trying a different route here that's likely to be pretty successful. Similar to the wraparound box on the Ah! My Goddess movie, the Soul Taker cover is a holographic style piece that shimmers in various areas depending on how you hold it. This is definitely very eye-catching, especially with the dark cover artwork used here. The back cover uses it as well with the various pieces of text, giving it a really interesting feel. The back presents a decent summary of the show, a good listing of its features and a listing of the episodes and their respective numbers. The insert provides a shot of the Soul Taker along with the chapter listings.

Also provided with this release is a 16 page booklet about the world of Soultaker. The Soultaker Encyclopedia is pretty sweet but thankfully contains spoiler warnings right on the front. There are various sections throughout and along the top it lists which discs the information is from, so you can avoid spoilers for future episodes easily enough. This booklet is a great full color piece with lots of art and conceptual artwork and information. Booklets like this definitely help raise the bar for releases.

And the big grin came up as we get four more discs with slick looking menus from Nightjar. The evocative style of Soul Taker shines through with the main screen here with the two main aspects of the lead character. Moving between menus is nice and fast and the layout works just right. Selections are easy to see what it's set at and access times are nice and fast. Great looking stuff, especially a neat layout in the scene selection section.

There's a good opening selection of extras provided here. The textless opening and ending to the series makes its mark here, thankfully presented in anamorphic widescreen. There's also 33 odd pictures in the line art gallery showing off the conceptual artwork. The only extra I had really hoped would show up here is the music video from the Japanese release with the voice actors singing the opening song. It is truly the epitome of cheese and deserves to be seen because it works so well in trying to be cool and serious.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first time I had seen this show was when I got the Japanese DVD. It had no subtitles or dub, but I was eager to see some fresh new anamorphic anime. Intending to just check it out when I first got it in, I found myself enthralled by the visuals of the show and my meager language skills getting me to understand maybe half a dozen scenes throughout the two episodes. I knew little of what was going on, but what was going on was just bloody fascinating.

Well, having a dub and subtitles helps. Some. Maybe.

This show is dead set against giving away much of the larger picture here in its first three episodes. This isn't really a bad thing because it works well with the lead character. We're introduced to Kyosuke Date as his mother tries to kill him in her church by stabbing him in the heart. Or at least, we're lead to believe she's trying to kill him. Kyosuke can't believe what's going on, and as he falls from the balcony, he finds himself caught on a chain, leaving him dangling in front of a mural of a mother and son.

This leads to a rather cute girl who decides to dig open his grave and bring him to her apartment, cause he's really not dead. His wound heals up in a few days and he's back at the world again, though terribly confused about things. Going back to the graveyard to find out what's going on with his mother who has also died, he finds himself under attack by a mysteriously deranged doctor who claims to be from the Hospital. As the attack begins, Kyosuke gains some help in the form of Shiro Mibu, a weed chewing guy who seems to have some knowledge about everything that's going on.

Oh, there's also a nurse-like girl assisting the doctor who shots syringes that are attached to chains.

All of this battle in the graveyard, very stylistically done, leads to several bits of information that come to light. Kyosuke isn't the real target, yet at least. The people from the Hospital are after a sister he doesn't even know about (amnesia?). And apparently the woman who rescued him is part of this, as the Kirihara group has acquired her and taken her to their sea base, a place that looks truly evil. Kyosuke's sense of duty and honor requires him to go after her to save her from whatever peril he may have inadvertently gotten her into.

So he rushes off, with the aid of Shiro, to this base where the Kirihara group have been acquiring people like the woman who saved him. Apparently she's not really human, but very close, something called a Flicker. Flickers are fragments of the soul of Kyosuke's missing sister, which he has the ability to resonate with, which also lets him track the if they're close by. All of this knowledge that Kyosuke gets only serves to keep him focused on protecting those who may be all that's left of his family. Even if it kills him. Which it does, around four times or so. But these deaths, or at least the first one, has allowed him to unlock his power to transform into something massively powerful, something that can help him fight against these factions who are vying for something.

The shows amazing visuals really are as much a part of the story as the writing. The visuals, such as the blood red sky with tall crosses combined with a black tree with green hanging heads talking in conference is beyond bizarre, but fits this world perfectly. The cities architecture is into the world of the fantastic, breaking away from any sense of real world connection. Tied with the futuristic feel of the computer related materials such as handhelds and massive wallscreens, the eye is drawn in and captivated.

The character designs also get special note, with the first episode being somewhat different from the rest based on the events. The characters at times look like something right out of Mike Mignola's Hellboy comics or parts of Frank Miller's Sin City. The designs are very striking, and some may call them cheap, but they're simply not as soft and normal as we usually get. Shiro's something of a harsh look and early Kyosuke almost looks waterlogged. And the doctor.. he's just out there. But all in all, it works with the fantastical world they live in.

Soul Taker is an extremely intriguing piece. It presents some information and teases with hints of more and provides what could be the overall storyline. But it also looks to be rather layered in what it's trying to say and what it wants to be. Any show that once we finish it, we want to start it over again to see what we missed that may make more sense, is a show we're going to love. Highly recommended.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening/Ending,Line Art,16 Page Booklet

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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