Tokko Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • 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: Tokko

Tokko Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     March 05, 2007
Release Date: March 27, 2007


Tokko Vol. #1
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
Shindou Ranmaru has just graduated from police academy and been assigned to Tokki: Special Mobile Investigation Force. On the day of his graduation, he meets the half-naked girl he has been seeing in his dreams, Rokujo Sakura. It turns out she works for a secret group within Tokki, known as Tokko: Special Public Safety Task Force.

Shindou ends up joining Tokko to avenge his parents' death, and solve the mystery mass murder of residents in his hometown of Machida. Bottomless pits start to appear around Japan, and mysterious creatures emerge from them, linked to the mass murder of humans.

Contains episodes 1-5:
Daybreak
Dream
Bonds
Omen
Devil

The Review!
Intent on finding out what caused their parents deaths, both Saya and Ranmaru join the police and end up in a far more tangled web than they would have believed.

Audio:
Tokko is heavily loaded on the audio front which is a surprise considering how high up the video bitrate gets. A total of five audio tracks are included here that cover a pretty wide range. Two of the tracks are stereo mixes in Japanese and English at 192 kbps that have a decent sound to them even if they are basically standard action soundstage designs. There are also a pair of 5.1 mixes done at 448 kbps for both English and Japanese. These have a fuller sound to them as well as a bit more sharpness. The increased levels account for part of it but there is just a touch more rich sound dynamic here. Also included, a real rarity these days, is a stereo mix in Spanish that's in 192 kbps. We listened to the disc primarily in Japanese 5.1 but spot checked all the tracks throughout and had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Tokko is an interesting encode with the first volume containing five episodes. The show is a pretty slick looking one with lots of clean lines and solid colors but also a fair bit of detail and depth to it. The bitrate hits a lot of highs into the eights and plenty of steady sevens but it has a lot of dips into the two's as well. A lot of scenes are practically stills as characters go through internal monologues so they're able to keep it down low without any real perceptible loss at 480p. There's a touch of aliasing throughout in scenes that have panning but it's pretty minimal. Cross coloration is essentially a non-issue and colors in general maintain a very solid good looking feel to it. The main problem we had with the authoring on this disc is that each episode is its own chapter, so moving about to different scenes or even skipping the opening and closing sequences is essentially impossible without immense frustration.

Packaging:
The cover artwork for Tokko fits in perfectly with that perception of the kind of shows that Manga deals in. With a dark ominous background and a mix attractive and serious looking men and women, it stands out against a lot of other titles. The designs are attractive and they show just enough skin and sex appeal without going too far overboard. It's also a plus that it's a mixed gender cover with serious looking men so it doesn't come across as completely pandering. The back cover clearly shows how violent the show will be with the background being a blood splattered living room. Rounding it is a series of shots from the show that look good by going into the bad guys and the violence as opposed to the sex. The summary covers the basics while below it is a list of the episode numbers and titles and basic disc features. No technical grid is here and that information is a bit scattershot across different areas but it's all clearly listed. No insert is included with this release nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menus for this release are a bit amusing as they're front-loaded with pretty much all of Manga's current and recent shows. What's most amusing is that in sitting down to watch the first volume of Tokko, I'm treated to a trailer for... Tokko. Using a full on load of trailers is one thing (and you can skip them) but doing it so that the show you bought is part of it just feels unprofessional. With a bit of lead in animation after the trailers, the menus are nicely done with a black background that has blood splattering animation to it while swapping out various characters from the show. The layout is straightforward and easy to use and access times are pretty fast. The disc defaulted to our player presets correctly as well.

Extras:
With five episodes on the disc I wasn't expect all that much in the form of extras. The disc has the standard but welcome material with the opening and closing sequences as well as a picture gallery. An extra from the Japanese release is a "voice actor forum" which has some of the lead actors on stage talking about their experiences on the show for its premier it looks like. It's a cute piece but not terribly long as it runs about eight minutes. On the DVD-ROM side of it they included a special screen saver from the series. I've had bad luck with these in the past from other places so it's not something I even tried to install.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For better or worse, when it comes to a series from Manga Entertainment there is a certain level of expectation to it. Their history since the mid nineties has been pretty solid in that while they branch out to some pretty interesting movies, the majority of their shows and OVAs tend to revolve around pretty violent material that's laced with sex. Knowing nothing about Tokko before going into it, not even seeing much more than the cover art, this aspect is covered in spades. At the same time, the brutal visuals are accompanied by quite the intriguing story.

Running a total of thirteen episodes, Tokko is based on the manga by Tohru Fujisawa. He's not exactly famous over here but his works are fairly popular as he's had several of his manga release such as GTO, Rose Hip Zero and Shonan Junai-gumi. There's also been the anime and live action adaptations of GTO that have gotten him a good deal of recognition. Tokko has a very different feel in terms of story but the underlying violence that populated his manga series is still very evident here. It's simply taken up a few notches and made far more serious.

The series revolves around a brother and sister named Ranmaru and Saya. Both are orphaned after a bizarre incident five years earlier that left their parents and pretty much everyone else in their apartment complex dead. The entire thing has been a mystery as to what really happened. Ranmaru's made it his goal to become a police officer and graduate to a member of the Mobile Investigations unit in order to be able to figure out what the truth is. Saya has also joined the police though she doesn't seem to have the same kind of goals. If anything, Saya is more interested in making sure that Ranmaru gets a girlfriend and enjoys life a bit. She does it in a few amusing ways though since the two live together and she struts around in her underwear in order to get him to have a reaction.

Once Ranmaru makes it into the Mobile Investigations group, things go downhill pretty quickly as he ends up heading out with the captain to check out a new violent incident. To their surprise, the attacker is still there but he almost seems inhuman in how they're talking and moving. Several members of their group are taken down by what looks like your average punk that's unaffected by bullets. The only thing that saves Ranmaru is the arrival of the mysterious "division two" that's better known as SpecSec, a strange mixture of characters dressed in black leather and wielding swords. With bullets not affecting the punk, who has now infected others, it turns out that swords are the best way to do it. At the same time, slicing them open reveals small strange creatures with high pitched voices that can be stomped on easily.

Ranmaru and the others are simply told to forget what they've seen and they find that all the information that's relevant about the case becomes classified. Simple investigations unearth numerous other cases that are similar and that sets them on the path to figuring out what's going on. Kunikada, the captain, is a bit more overt and obvious in his path but Ranmaru tries a more subtle approach and uses others he ends up meeting via Saya to learn more. There is a decent mystery associated with what's going on and plenty of hints are revealed along the way about the various connections to it that Ranmaru and others have. The members of SpecSec are the weakest ones though as they're left more mysterious than anything else but some potentially interesting tidbits are revealed along the way. Finding that one of them actually knew Ranmaru in the mildest of ways years ago in the apartment complex adds a nice twist to it.

Across the first five episodes here the show plays out in a very relaxed manner as it teases out what's really going on. There are several brutal and violent scenes that help to give it a good flow and keep it enticing. Where the show works well is in making sure it doesn't reveal too much but just enough to keep it interesting and engaging. There are obvious ties between characters and you can see where things are slowly going but it does it in a way to leave some uncertainty to it. A nice twist to how it works is that the survivors of the apartment complex incident five years earlier are actively being hunted by their smell. The means that both Ranmaru and Saya have a certain smell to them that these creatures can sense. With the way they talk and how they inhabit the bodies they take over, it provides a truly creepy sense about it.

The design of the show retains a lot of what makes Fujisawa's character designs so much fun to look at. There is a style to them with its angles and hairstyles that just doesn't seem to be used by many others. The show has a strong real-world style to it which seems all the more stark when you have the extreme violence and otherworldly material mix into it. The downside to the design and style of the show is that it has a lot of those slow frame moments as well as camera pans that help to draw it all out. Add in several internal monologues and it allows for some basic animation. What's on the screen looks great but a good chunk of it feels like it lacks an actual sense of being animated. The worst part comes in the vehicles though as some of them just look so digitally tacked on that you can't help but laugh. These are small moments but they're ones that really take you out of the show for a moment.

Bang Zoom has done quite a nice job with this release and have provided some solid crediting going on at the end of each episode. With two dubs to account for, I was really glad to see that the Spanish cast was properly credited as well as the technical folks behind it. Often when we do get Spanish dubs they're shortchanged. The only thing I would have wished for with this was an actual set of Spanish subtitles for those that would want to watch it in Japanese but with subtitles not in English. The inclusion of a Spanish dub however sets Tokko apart from most releases that come out as only one or two series a year seem to have them.

In Summary:
With no expectations going into it, Tokko turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable dark series that avoids a lot of the pitfalls of so many shows today. It's not populated by teenagers, the lead characters actually hold jobs and the fanservice in its own way really does fit the storyline without feeling too forced. If anything it seems like that this could have been better as just four episodes for the first volume and not be quite the overload of plot and characters that it is. What we do get though is quite a bit of fun and a welcome change with its dark and violent tone that doesn't seem to go completely overboard. Tokko gives me more of Fujisawa's works and that in itself is a good thing. The show being quite engaging only makes it all the better. Definitely recommended for those wanting something a bit more adult in nature.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,Spanish 2.0 Language,Clean Opening,Clean Closing,Voice Actor Forum,DVD-ROM: Screensaver

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.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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jnager 3/13/2012 11:13:15 PM

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