Tactics Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 150
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tactics

Tactics Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     June 07, 2006
Release Date: June 27, 2006


Tactics Vol. #1
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
Kantaro Ichinomiya studies folklore, and he takes his knowledge of ghouls and goblins to the streets of Japan, in hopes of bringing the worlds of beasts and humans together. This is no smooth transition, but with the help of the powerful demon-eater Haruka, Kantaro might be able to steer a course of collision between two groups of rivals that keep this bi-species referee on his toes!

The Review!
Searching for a demon-eating goblin that will give him strength, Kantaro performs odd spiritual oriented jobs to make ends meet.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. A Japanese 5.1 mix was made for this show which is what we listened to though the stereo mix is also included thankfully. The 5.1 mix isn't bad by any stretch but it doesn't add much in terms of real directionality or sounds to the rear speakers. It does provide more clarity to the forward soundstage though and overall gives the mix a bit more power. The Japanese release was only a PCM mix so I imagine that this is a remastered mix done by Manga as they tend to provide 5.1 mixes for most of their shows. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this show is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The source materials for this show look like they're in fantastic shape and there is a lot of good detail to the show in general as these early episodes almost look like OVA quality pieces. During a lot of the scenes in the episodes proper, colors are very solid with a great smooth feel and warmth to them. Blocking is very minimal and difficult to pick out of most scenes and aliasing and cross coloration is essentially non-existent. The opening sequences are some of the best moments as the colors simply pop out at you. This is a great looking transfer.

Packaging:
Using the character artwork from the seventh Japanese volume, we get the good pairing of Haruka and Kantaro together that shows off the tall, dark and handsome with wings aspect that will get a segment of fans very interested. The layout of the design along with the sideways logo and colors works really well here and this is a very appealing cover that stands out very strongly. The back cover brings the blue shades and design pieces to it as it provides for a couple of shots from the show that displays its darker nature. The summary is pretty solid and each of the episodes are listed with mini summaries for them. Though there's no technical grid, the features and extras for the release are clear and easy to find but I wish they had a better method for the technical side since you can't tell that the show is widescreen until you put it in the player. I also continue to really dislike Manga's method of listing episodes as thirty minutes each when they're less than twenty-five minutes each. The runtime of 150 minutes is completely off since the actual runtime is just over 120 minutes. No insert was included with this release.

Menu:
Very few menus really have much in the way of motion these days but this one is nicely done as pieces move and flow about when you go between menus. A good part of the layout is made up of the character art while there are scroll pieces where the navigation strip is as some of the instrumental music plays along to it. Load times between menus is pretty good though it does have some minor motion to it but the overall design makes it appealing enough to look at. Due to there being multiple Japanese language tracks on it, we didn't go through the standard method of letting our player presets pick it up and manually selected the Japanese 5.1 track and subtitles.

Extras:
There's a good selection of extras for the first volume here from the Japanese release. There's a mix of gallery's from the show that are done in regular format as well as another that lists them as "player cards." The opening and ending sequences get some great looking clean presentations here and we get the Japanese TV commercial as well as some of their DVD clips that list the various merchandise that came out during the DVD release. The best extra is the interviews with the voice actors that came from the second Japanese DVD release where they talk about how scary some of the episodes can be.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Sakura Kinoshita, Tactics is a rather surprising TV series. I'd read the first volume of the manga and found it to be interesting enough in a sort of common way with its mixture of supernatural and comedy elements but the anime version in these opening episodes seems to trend a bit darker and a touch less of the comedy which gives it a better balance and allows it to flow more smoothly.

The premise of the series revolves around a young man named Kantaro sometime in the early 20th century Japan. In his much younger days, he had been teased by other kids about his ability to see creatures and monsters since they didn't believe him. He decided at this age that he would be stronger someday so that he could show these wonders to others, which is when he learned of the demon-eating goblin. If he could make this goblin his, he'd have the strength he would need. As he got older he continued on the search and in the meantime has made a decent living by doing minor exorcisms and other supernatural related jobs while also writing up books about the supernatural world. With the time taking place in what appears to be the early twenties, it fits in with how society was continuing to make its gradual break between the superstitions of the past and the modern world of the present.

Kantaro's managed to do well for the most part but he's always on the verge of being broke or being late for a publishing deadline which forces him to pick up odd jobs of exorcisms and the like. These have worked out for the most part since they've led him to a small group of faithful servants, such as Yoko, a fox demon that he managed to name, thereby making her obey all of his commands. It doesn't take long in the opening of the series before Kantaro runs into a situation where he discovers the place that the demon-eating goblin has been kept sealed and his powers are just enough to break the seal and name him, thereby bringing in the tall, dark and handsome Haruka. Haruka's return to the world has left him in a different place than the past where he was a badass demon as he now finds himself being restrained, presumably by Kantaro's will, from killing. He's still dangerous but he has more of controlled edge to him as he now finds himself working alongside Kantaro in his various jobs.

Once the pair are together, the show moves rather well into doing a supernatural event of the week kind of story to it which is about what I expected during the early part of it and since it's mirroring the manga pretty well. These kinds of episodes let us get to know the characters better, the relationships that they're all growing into and the extent of the kinds of powers that will be used. We get to see more of how the relationship between Kantaro and his publisher works which is cute and fun to watch but the real fun is watching Haruka become settled into this time, especially after he gets taught how to use his looks to his advantage. Haruka is an archetype for part of these episodes since there's plenty going on but he is most definitely the type with plenty of appeal between his looks and the clothing he gets to wear for this. The stories that they go through with these changes coming into play are quite good though if you've seen a lot of anime in the same genre over the years you'll find plenty of similarities.

The quality of the animation is what helps this rise above a lot of those other shows though. While it's not unusual to have very high quality opening sequences, the rest of the show is also surprisingly high quality with a lot of detail to it. It felt like the series was one of those that started out as an OVA and those were just reworked into the TV series itself. The character designs, the backgrounds and the color design is very appealing with lots of smooth animation to it. With the very solid transfer that's used, this is a really standout piece of animation that does a great job of bringing you into its world.

The title itself has had an interesting journey here. Originally it was licensed by ADV Films but then it was removed from their list of licensed titles only to turn up at Manga Entertainment. While the reasons why were unknown, what's interesting is that it appears that ADV Films did the actual production work on the show and the dub for the entire thing. I'm presuming that the subtitle track is also the one that ADV Films did but reworked by Manga since it has the color shading of blue in some secondary lines that they use that I don't recall ADV using in the past. The opening and ending sequences also look to be done in English by ADV and the end-credit scroll is the kind we've seen on all ADV titles to date. But this is also where I think Manga really dropped the ball and to someone like me who deals with all manner of people behind the scenes, pretty much insulted almost everyone that worked on the title outside of the voice actors. The English cast is credited (both named and additional voices roles) but after the Japanese staff credits, there are no English production credits, not even for anyone at Manga who may have done things with the release. No credit is given to the ADR director, script writer, translator and other staffers who contributed to the release. To me and I may be alone on it, that is a slap in the face, especially since the release is so top notch in general. Because of the lack of credit, I can't actually give any props to Manga for the release since as far as I can tell, they're simply distributing ADV's work for this because of whatever licensor issues there may be.

In Summary:
With the original manga being somewhat average and not thrilling me enough to look beyond the first volume, I was surprised at how well done the anime adaptation for it was. These five opening episodes kept me very entertained and managed to attract my wife's attention completely, something that's been harder to do in recent years since there are so many similar shows out there. The quality of the animation, the very well paced script and the overall production quality of the release is just great. Barring a few very minor quirks that we've mentioned, this is a release that really shines and will appeal to those who enjoy this kind of show.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,TV Spot, Still Gallery, Interview with Japanese Voice Cast, Original Japanese Merchandise Ads, Original Japanese TV Commercial, Textless Opening and Ending

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Toshiba HD-A1 Progressive Scan HD DVD player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, 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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