Tactics Vol. #1 - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Manga UK
  • MSRP: £29.99
  • Running time: 325
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen Letterbox
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tactics

Tactics Vol. #1

By Dani Moure     April 16, 2007
Release Date: March 26, 2007

Tactics Vol. #1
© Manga UK

What They Say
Tactics is the story of Ichinomiya Kantarou, a folk lorist with the special ability to communicate with youkai (goblins and assorted demons!). However, not only does he possess the ability to see them, he also befriends them! Haruka is his companion; a youkai with a dark past. Based on the best-selling series of Manga, Tactics is an action-packed, humorous and sometimes dark supernatural fantasy anime series from Japan's Studio Deen (Beyblade The Movie, Fruits Basket, Getbackers, and Read Or Die).

Tactics Series 1 Part 1 includes the first 13 episodes of the 26 episode series.

The Review!
Brought to the UK in two half-season box sets, Tactics is the latest series to feature a paranormal storyline.

For my review, I listened to a mixture of the Japanese and English 5.1 mixes. Dialogue sounds good, with most coming from the centre channel. Sound effects and music have a fair bit of directionality at various points. I didn't notice any technical issues with either track as I listened.

The English dub features your usual ADV Films voice talents, and they all do a good job in their roles, getting across the feelings of the characters well.

The video looks very good, with colours coming out very well. The show has a lot of vibrant colours, and they are reproduced well and the video looks crisp and clear for the most part. I didn't notice any artifacting as I watched either.

Subtitles are in a white font which is easily readable, and unlike several other recent Manga series, they are literal translations. In another unusual (for Manga UK) move, the openings and endings are all subtitled as well.

No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

The menus are quite basic, with still images of the characters from the show rotating through and the selections at the bottom of the menu. Some background music plays over this screen, while the sub-menus are all static with no music playing.

There are several extras in this collection, all on Disc 2. First we get a couple of adverts; one for all the different merchandise available for the series in Japan, and a TV commercial for the premiere of the series on TV. There's also an almost 10 minute feature with interviews with the voice actors from the series. It's rounded out with a textless opening and ending, some "player cards" (a list of characters with pictures and when they were introduced) and a photo gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tactics is a bit of an odd-ball, both in how it finally made its way to the west and how in turn it's been released in the UK. Originally the show was licensed by ADV Films, but was subsequently dropped and never released. They had finished dubbing it however, and presumably the dub was owned by the Japanese license holders and given to Manga, who then licensed the series, rescuing it from oblivion in the process. Then in bringing it to the UK, Manga have decided to release the series in two boxsets for a decent price, obviously figuring they'll get better sales than an individual release.

I'm not entirely sure that was the best move for the series though, as it's not really one that lends itself to being marathoned in large chunks, but might be slightly more enjoyable in watching a couple of episodes at a time, or even as little as once a week. If you like the characters a lot, maybe you could lap it up, but otherwise it just feels like an exercise in frustration to watch too many episodes in one go. The series is just so episodic that by the time you get to the fourth or fifth episode, it feels like you're watching the same thing in each episode. Sadly, that feeling never really changes throughout all 13 episodes in this set.

Even when it seems like some semblance of over-arching story might come to the fore, even for a few minutes, in the second to last episode, it's all but forgotten when the next one starts, even though some characters make another appearance. With some shows, being episodic can be a good thing and there are plenty of examples of shows that manage to hold interest with each episode even without any ongoing story. But the key to such series is their characters, and sadly the ones in Tactics just can't carry the show in such a situation.

The series starts out by introducing us to a young man called Kantaro, living in the early 1900s. As a child, he was teased by other kids because he used to say he could see spiritual creatures and the like, but no one believed him. These days, he makes a bit of money here and there from doing some spirit-style jobs and as a writer of all things supernatural. One day he stumbles across a sealed demon-eating goblin which, as a child, he believed would give him strength. He unseals the demon, Haruka, and thus a partnership is formed.

Also involved in the excitement are Yoko, the fox-demon who he named, so now effectively "owns", and Reiko, Kantaro's editor who gets into a bit of trouble over the course of the series.

In terms of the stories of the week, well some are entertaining to a degree while others I found barely keeping my attention. A two-part story involving a rich woman with two daughters, one of whom is preparing to do a divination, actually ends up being quite gripping. One of the sisters is jealous that the other will be performing, and there is a great deal of friction between her and her mother, while there's also an interesting relationship between the sisters themselves, and even a developing love-story of sorts as Miyabe falls for Haruka.

On the other hand, episodes like one where a ghost train starts causing havoc, being related to a dead father trying to keep an appointment he promised with his daughter, are more by the numbers with little in the way of surprises or much to keep up the interest level. It's hard to really maintain enjoyment when the episodes are as hit and miss as this, and it's a bit of a shame considering the premise is actually quite interesting.

As for the characters, well at times they are interesting but there's not really enough development over the first half of the series to be able to rely on them to hold interest in the episodes, which is why the onus falls on the story. Haruka is a pretty typical protagonist. He is young and shows his age at times, as he has a bit of fun but can be quite the obnoxious one at times, when he tries to assert his "authority" over Haruka and Yoko.

Haruka is a bit different, a formerly quite badass demon who is now somewhat tamed. Although the concept is hardly original (and Tactics brings little to the table to mix things up), he's a fun character to watch as he adapts to his new life with Kantaro, and sometimes shows a softer side. Yoko and Reiko don't get too much development throughout the series, and they are really the four main characters to speak of.

A bit of story is touched upon in episode 12, and the next episode brings back a couple of the characters to cause some trouble for Haruka in particular. My biggest hope for the series is that, if the characters aren't going to really develop, the story will in the second volume, picking up on the story threads that have started, albeit in a stunted fashion, in this volume.

In Summary:
While I applaud Manga for trying to give value for money with Tactics, unfortunately it's not a series that benefits from being watched in big chunks. Episodic to the max, there's little story-wise to get too excited about, other than it's all a case-of-the-week style for Kantaro and the crew. Sadly there's little character development to really shout about, so the cast remains virtually unchanged despite events that take place. It's disappointing for a show that had promise, but hopefully the second half of the series will redeem it.

Japanese Language (2.0 & 5.1),English Language (2.0 & 5.1),TV Commercials,Interviews with the Japanese Voice Actors,Textless Opening and Ending,Player Cards,Photo Gallery

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP 5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.


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