Tactics Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: C+
  • 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. #4

By Chris Beveridge     April 13, 2007
Release Date: March 27, 2007


Tactics Vol. #4
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
Kantaro Ichinomiya and his team of monsters and demons are back solving supernatural mysteries. Haruka, the demon-eating goblin, questions his reliance on the team while also growing closer to them. The fox demon Yoko, heiress Suzu Etogawa, Sugino the White Goblin, and his wife Muuchan also return for more supernatural adventures.

The Review!
With just a few touches on the larger plotline that's running around for the most part, Tactics continues to play up standard episodic stories.

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 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. Some of the episodes on this volume, notably the third and fifth ones, have some rather severe edge enhancement going on. It's much more minimal in other episodes but during these it's very pronounced. With a lot of backgrounds having bright solid colors it's very easy to see and very distracting.

Packaging:
Though it has a dark cover in terms of color, the character artwork of Sugino and Muuchan certainly make it a happy looking piece as the pair revel in their apparent love. This one gives us a fairly simple green cover in the same manner as the earlier ones. 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 purple 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 is 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. Contrary to the previous volumes, the run time is now much more accurate as it lists 129 minutes and mentions the bonus features are now included. I'm very glad to see this since so many people found the previous method to be less than honest.

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 extras are much lighter for this volume but there are still a few nice inclusions to be had here. The back cover amusingly lists the language options as bonus features but we're not listing those here for obvious reasons. A new still gallery of shots from the show makes its way here as does a new round of original Japanese TV commercials and merchandising ads. The new music video on this volume is for "Embrace the Sun and the Moon" which is pretty good but not terribly mind-blowing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the fourth volume in the series, Manga Entertainment's pushing of five episodes per release now has us already at episode twenty. Getting this far into the show this quickly feels a bit odd but it's definitely a good thing since it provides a good deal of content quickly. The downside, as we seem to find occurring in each volume, is that Tactics simply isn't a show to marathon unless you're head over heels in love with the characters.

Out of the five episodes on this volume, it's only the last one that starts us back on the path of the seeming overall plotline of the series. Raiko's mission to defeat Haruka takes a nice move forward as he sets the stage through a powerful medium who hasn't learned to tap her powers yet. Bringing her and Haruka close and then pushing Haruka to regain his memories that end up forcing him into his true demon-eater mentality, Raiko is able to get Haruka closer to his true self so that he can dispatch him. With a long family history of dealing with such creatures but never being able to defeat Haruka, he's intent on eliminating the one stain on his family's honor. Things are a bit forced throughout it, particularly in how Haruka and Yuri end up becoming so close so quickly, but getting back to Raiko and that plotline is a very welcome thing.

The episodes prior to this have some interesting moments to them but are for the most part fairly forgettable. An opening tale about a woman who died and has come back to haunt the man who was her lover has the standard twist of his being married to someone else. Another tale has Yoko getting exposed to more of the human world when she goes to work for someone for awhile and ends up not only falling in love with the man but him falling in love with her as well. There's naturally a tie in to the monsters that are out there as the store has a bit of a history to it but it also works really well in highlighting some of the differences and similarities between foxes and humans.

Even as simple yet enjoyable as those episodes are as standalone pieces, the one thing that bothers me about the show in the most recent episodes is the arrival of Sugino. Sugino doesn't exactly stand out in a bad way against the other characters as they all have some element of silliness to them. But his just ends up being so much more overt and in your face that it really puts the show off balance at times. I expect Kantaro to have his goofy moments, much as I do with Yoko. Even Haruka has the occasional nod and wink to the humorous side. With Sugino, particularly when it comes to Muuchan, it's just over the top and upsets the balance of the show. He's certainly made contributions to the show but it's easy to imagine that they could have written things well enough without him.

In Summary:
While this volume suffers from some very noticeable edge enhancement issues as well as seeming just a bit softer in general, the shows themselves are still fun and simple. The main issue is that watching five of them in a row feels like overkill. This is an ideal title for putting into a DVD changer and just rotating in an episode before or after another show. With only one volume left, it's easy to see that the storyline is starting to pick up again that deals with Haruka. After the third volume covered some good ground with it, this one drops it for the most part which is unfortunate. Tactics suffers from what most manga to anime series do in that it's simply too drawn out in some ways. The show feels very much like a guilty pleasure at times but not one that I derive a huge amount of pleasure from.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Embrace the Sun and the Moon Music Video, Original Japanese TV Commercial, Original Japanese Merchandise Ads, Image Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 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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