Tactics Vol. #2 - Mania.com



Anime/Manga Reviews

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: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Manga Entertainment
  • MSRP: 24.98
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tactics

Tactics Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     September 29, 2006
Release Date: September 26, 2006


Tactics Vol. #2
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
Supernatural detective Kantaro Ichinomiya and his band of monsters and demons are back! This time, the team travels to Bride Island, Suzuku Temple, and Asakusa in search of adventures, monsters... and interesting journal articles!

Contains episodes 6-10:
The Ghost Trolley
A Seductive Beckoning
A Foxy Lady
The Strange Tale of Bride Island
Will of the Winds: Part One

The Review!
Kantaro and Haruka continue to investigate strange occurrences in order to get a bit of money as well as getting more material for his writing.

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:
Kantaro gets the cover all to himself this time as he holds up a fan to cover part of his face. Typically, the character only covers don't seem to do as well in the US as they do in Japan but I find them highly appealing, even when the backgrounds are changed. This one gives us a fairly simple purple cover in the same manner as the first one with Haruka and the blue. 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:
The first volume had a nice selection of Japanese extras to it and this one isn't all that different. Some of the basic pieces that are short but interesting are the original commercials for the show as well as some of the merchandise ads. There's also a new image gallery and another round of player cards. The more involved extra for this installment though is the interview with the Japanese voice actors that picks up where the last volume left off in dealing with the voices behind Kantaro and Haruka. It's fluff in its own way but still has some good nuggets to it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In its first installment of five episodes, Tactics proved to be a strong opener as it presented Kantaro and Haruka as sort of spiritual detectives of their day. Each of them has their own reasons for doing it, Kantaro's not being all that noble, but in the end they both perform to their best and try to solve the mysteries that are presented to them. Combined with some great looking animation and a real sense of style, it was an easy way to get hooked on the show.

In its second volume, we get another batch of five episodes and with the setup aspect of it gone, we mostly get more of the same. For this series, it isn't too surprising since there isn't any real over reaching storyline put into place yet and we're also in the phase of most series where the point is to showcase and expand the cast a bit. Throughout these five episodes, we're given time with some of the secondary characters and time for the leads to express themselves in a more detailed manner. Be it Yoko's time to run away or Haruka's seemingly greater sense of duty that comes up at the end in the first two-part storyline. These are the "mythos building" episodes that lets us get a greater sense of the world that these characters live in.

The standalone tales in this volume make up the first four episodes and they're mildly interesting but nothing too far off the beaten path of what's come before. The differences come in that this particular time period isn't all that commonly explored from this angle in anime. While we've seen plenty of retro science fiction kinds of shows here as well as standard dramas, it hasn't been often that there are spiritualists dealing with possessed machinery at a time when such machinery is really new to the country. The opening episode for example has a trolley that ended up in an accident and caught on fire and did a lot of damage, but only the driver died. It's ended up showing up in the middle of the night as a ghost trolley so Kantaro is brought in to investigate. Naturally, the secondary characters such as Yoko and Suzu end up dealing with a little girl who is waiting for her father to return and the connection is instantly obvious. It does play in some nice twists though and the ending isn't quite what you'd expect, something that does keep you coming back to the show to see if they'll keep doing it.

One of the more amusing and interesting episodes in the standalone section dealt specifically with Yoko. With her being tasked to Kantaro as little more than a maid, albeit one with some spunk and attitude, it was fun to see her finally get fed up and break loose for awhile. Her realizations along the way of how boring it is out there in some ways but also far more fascinating leads to some good growth for her but it also shows how precarious her position is in the town if people find out who she really is. It also plays well in the relationship between Kantaro and Haruka as each of them have very different ideas of about how to get her back and what to do.

This also starts to come to play more in the first episode that starts a multi-part storyline into the next volume when Haruka finds himself being drawn to a young woman who is a spiritualist herself and deals in divinations at the temple she lives at. There's a dark mystery going on there about a number of people who have died which has some ties to the family at the temple. It's one of the better episodes here, even if it is a bit slower, since it has more time to explore the mystery and allow for a larger cast to be used as well. The more leisurely approach gives the mystery itself a fuller feel instead of being rushed out to be solved in less than twenty minutes and the larger cast allows for a potentially more complex mystery as well, one that isn't quite so obvious on its face as some of the standalone ones here.

Similar to the first volume, there continues to be a lack of mention about any of the real production information for those involved with this release. It is fairly obvious who did what, but the lack of proper credit still bothers me to no end. It's a small issue in the grand scheme of things but it's one that does nothing but irritate.

In Summary:
While Tactics continues to have some fun moments and works better when it starts in the longer storylines, this set of episodes is standard fare for a series of this nature. There aren't any moments that really raise it up or expand heavily upon the world that these characters inhabit but we do get to know it a fair bit more. The stories aren't filler by the definition of it but you could easily miss this volume and not really lose out anything if the show picks up with a bigger storyline later on. The work done here is quite good though and the release is solid throughout with only some very minor quibbles here and there. Fans of the show or those who lament the lack of the manga running will find this to be quite enjoyable.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,TV Spots, Still Gallery, Image Gallery, Interview with the Japanese Voice Actors, Original Japanese Print Ads, Original Japanese TV Commercials, Player Cards

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray 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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