Tokko Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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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: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tokko

Tokko Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     June 26, 2007
Release Date: June 26, 2007


Tokko Vol. #2
© Manga Entertainment


What They Say
Shindou Ranmaru is starting to unravel the mystery behind the recent mass murders. His investigation brings him closer to the secretive Special Force Agency called Tokko. Shindou ends up joining Tokko and learns that demons are escaping from bottomless pits. Will they kill all the demons in time to save the city? Does Shindou have the strength to avoid becoming a demon himself?

Contains episodes 6-9:
Sadness
Love
Awakening
Brave

The Review!
The mysteries don't exactly deepen in this set of episodes but several revelations are made as Tokko teeters on becoming a real monster of the week series.

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. 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:
Not quite as sexy and dark as the first volume, the cover here focuses on Sakura as she leaps about with her sword. The backgrounds are a mix of different images, be it the Tokko team or one of the monsters, tied in with a strip of sunset through the middle. It's a decent enough piece but not something that stands out strongly. 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. Unlike the first volume there is a technical grid here and it's a very welcome change to what they had before. Everything is listed clearly with aspect ratios, language formats and the running time. No insert is included 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 second 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:
The lack of a fifth episodes on this volume may well be explained by the extras. While only two extras are available here, one of them is sizeable and it isn't the image gallery. The making of feature for the series runs just over thirty-five minutes and presents a good look, albeit with plenty of fluff, at what went into the shows production and adaptation. The creative staff talks a lot about what they wanted and what went into it and overall it's a good look at the series from that perspective. Particularly appreciated was a look at the original manga run.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Though the overall basis for the storyline is one that has been seen a million times before, the first volume of Tokko managed to create an effective work in that it was dark, violent and didn't feature the usual array of kids. The lack of kids in the series alone heightens my interest as nothing bothers me more these days than teenaged heroes, often in middle school, who are able to save the world. Shifting the series to a group that has to work to survive and deal with the interactions that are created by that provides for something more interesting for me.

The four episodes on this volume are good episodes overall as they work towards explaining more of the background of the series. This removes some of the mystery as some of the elements to it are cleared up too easily. At the same time, more of the mystery is expanded in regards to what forces are actually at work here. The reality of the Gate at Machida is a serious one as it will eventually swallow everything at some point with the way it expands. With that knowledge however there are some that believe that there can be a coexistence with the phantoms and they actively work against Tokko in order to provide that balance. Even within the group that oversees the second division there are those who believe a balance can be worked out.

These background movements provide a sense of unease in the series that carries well with the characters. Inspector Ibuki's past highlights the reasons for her being so determined in making sure there is no phantom left alive. Though her past isn't something that really stands out considering the violence that has spread across so many lives with the Machida residents, it is something that works well for the character as she is the only one of the group without any powers. Having her with a forceful manner that is intent on being taken seriously and having her way allows her to have a strong presence on the screen as well as being an intimidating person in general. Combined with her relatively harsh looks, Ibuki is a character that just fits the bill for this position.

The strong focus throughout these episodes is around Shindo however and that's little surprise. With all that he's seen and the power that potentially lays within him becoming more apparent, the Tokko group is set to deal with him. His desire for revenge on those that killed his parents is strong enough but it may not be the best mesh for the group. With the way he's become somewhat comfortable with Sakura, it's interesting that Ibuki has Kureha be the one to go and truly investigate how he sees things. Kureha's methods are sort of all over the map at times but she has a certain rawness to her that lets her be completely blunt yet still hide many of the important details.

Through her we're able to learn a good deal about the history of events after Machida and how it's all played out. Not unlike Ibuki, Kureha has some darkness to her past but it brings in yet another coincidence as she is a survivor of Machida herself. With everyone involved with Tokko seeming to come from there, it's really surprising that it's taken this long for things to go this way. It's hard to imagine that once it was discovered that a couple of survivors from Machida had powers that there wasn't an exhaustive list and search for other survivors and relatives who may share the same traits. This lack of common sense does allow for the story to have some tension to it, particularly as you have to wonder if Saya has any capability to her, and it also brings a common bond among the group that will help foster things.

Where the show runs into a potential pitfall is in the explanation about how the group intends to try and seal up the Gate. With the expansion on the 108 pieces that the Druuj Box revealed and how it figures into the way the primary phantom bodies have been counted, it's easy to see the show working towards a long trail of 108 super badass guys that need to be defeated. The series so far has worked well in not really being a monster of the week show as there have been down episodes that deal with the creatures only in a flashback sense. The heavy focus on the characters and their situations is what has made it work and the shift of Shindo becoming a part of the group and having the objective of nailing another 94 phantoms doesn't bode well. It's hard to say where it will go though and based on the first nine episodes I'm certainly willing to give it a chance to prove my fears wrong.

In Summary:
Tokko doesn't mistake violent for mature in how it's designed as it simply wants to be a hard edged show. The series earns some serious high marks from me for shifting the age of the cast out of the teens and into the young adult workforce range as it brings in some good differences from many other shows. Tokko has a bit of a laid back feel at times as it seemingly meanders through its plot but it then pulls everything together tightly before revealing where it's really going. The quieter moments have their advantages though with such solid sequences as Kureha and Shindo's date and the tension that's growing between Saya and Shindo as he begins to change more. Tokko stands out well on a crowded marketplace of titles, particularly for one that's adapted from a manga. The pitfalls are there but the potential to avoid them is still strong.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,Spanish 2.0 Language,Image Gallery,Making Of

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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