Spirit Warrior Vol. #4: Castle of Illusion - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: C+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: C+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Central Park Media
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 50
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Spirit Warrior

Spirit Warrior Vol. #4: Castle of Illusion

By Chris Beveridge     April 17, 2004
Release Date: April 06, 2004

Spirit Warrior Vol. #4: Castle of Illusion
© Central Park Media

What They Say
A demonic king rises to power armed with a sword that has killed over a thousand men. Only one man stands in his way: the untried apprentice warrior named Kujaku. The reincarnation of a god, Kujaku has been blessed with supernatural powers. Now, the young mystic must use these powers to destroy the king, or the Earth will be plunged into an apocalyptic nightmare!

The Review!
Delving into another standalone tale, Onimaru and Kujaku this time take on the bogeyman that is Nobunaga reincarnated!

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The OVA series features a pretty standard stereo mix with only a few very minor moments of noticeable directionality across the forward soundstage, as the bulk of it is center channel based. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no technical issues with it at all.

Originally released to video back in 1989, Spirit Warrior manages to look decent nearly ten years later. The show is pretty dark in nature and with it being traditionally animated, there's some noticeable grain and breakup visible during some of the backgrounds. There's a fair bit of cross coloration during the initial sequences but that tapers off after a bit and aliasing is very minimal though, providing something of a balance. Colors look good without bleeding and there's very little noticeable in the way of jitter.

Using just character art this time, we get the image of the four main characters from this episode in defensive positions in some fairly good detailed artwork, at least compared to some other pieces they could have used. With it being such a male heavy show, they get the bulk of the cover along with the weak defenseless female character set in the background. The back cover provides a single character shot and gives time over to the summary and the basic features, technical and extras. The reverse side of the cover provides more artwork in black and white as well as chapter listings and the English cast list. Unfortunately, there's no Japanese listing for actors as it's listed as unavailable.

Using static images of Nobunaga props around a center piece that plays video from the show, you get a decent looking menu that tries to be as in-theme as possible, though I can see why they had to stretch to be able to do it. Selections are lined down along the right side and covering up part of the video clip which also plays a spot of instrumental music before quickly recycling. Selections are quick and easy to access and the layout works nicely with no transitional animations.

The only included extra is a brief video gallery showcasing some shots from the show and the small amount of available artwork for this episode for things like packaging.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The mixed feelings on this show continued again with this volume as the new tale unwound before us. Much like the past ones, there are parts that come across as mildly interesting but at the same time we've seen those same parts better executed elsewhere. Add in that the designs continue to look almost unfinished at times, particularly for an OVA, and it just feels below average.

Things start off interesting enough as there's an archeological 'dig' of sorts going on out on Lake Biwa. At one end of it there's a place where hundreds of years ago Nobunaga had sunk something that he considered very powerful and wanted to keep out of the castle proper. The dig has now finally excavated it underwater and brought up the case from its murky depths. Inside the case there are two long boxes that contain an artifact that when placed together will give Nobunaga considerable powers and the ability to fully raise Azushi Castle. Before the professor can do anything with it though, he has other obligations for them as he's sold them to Onimaru, the wandering warrior from past volumes. This shocks everyone else in the group when the professor practically starts rolling in the pile of money.

Before the shock can wear off for them, the real mystery men show up as monks floating in the air with white masks covering their faces demanding the return of the artifacts for Nobunaga, their Sixth King of Evil. Onimaru of course refuses and a pitched fight ensues with most everyone getting quickly and violently killed before Onimaru and the one woman there manage to escape. Onimaru heads to take the one artifact he managed to keep to a protected room beneath a temple while sending the woman to find Kujaku and tell him what's happened. Kujaku, back at Urakyo, is still something of a rebellious pup as he avoids the mass prayer ceremony that's being used to try and keep Nobunaga's soul from returning to the world. He's just not keen on the concept in general so he misses the big event when Nobunaga suddenly appears in a blaze of fire and threatens everyone with his sword that had killed a thousand monks previously.

So when Kujaku and Asura finally get brought into things, Nobunaga has already revived and he's sending his forces against them to find his missing artifact. Kujaku and Onimaru are helped out by a Chinese descendant who was related to one of the past emperors that dealt with sealing up evil like Nobunaga before, so he becomes involved in the pitched battle as it begins first at the protected room and then further into Azushi Castle with Nobunaga personally.

The inclusion of Nobunaga into this series wasn't too much of a surprise since he's one of the usual bogeymen from Japanese history that seems to get trotted out pretty frequently when dealing with the past and ghosts/villains thereof. It's pretty consistent with other shows as well so there wasn't anything terribly unique about his revival here nor how he acted. I'm pretty sure parts of the show are lost on me with its nods to both Japanese and Chinese myths and religion but overall this really just felt much like the past volumes ? something not terribly original, a bit unfinished in a few senses of the word and pretty mediocre.

In Summary:
If you liked the past volumes of this series you'll likely enjoy this one for the same reasons. The characters haven't really grown at all and everything seems like it's rebooted at the end in preparation for the next episode since the characters make no real references to the past. There are definitely far worse shows but this one simply suffers from being slightly less than average and generally dull.

Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, 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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