Two tales that build upon each other and then a couple of extra episodes to flesh it all out bring Tokyo Majin to an epic – if rushed – conclusion.
What They Say
Tokyo. A wave of mysterious deaths ripples throughout the city. Corpses of the un-dead, controlled by monstrous creatures, scour the urban underworld at the bidding of their dark master, seeking a power that could bring about the final apocalypse.
With the police helpless in the face of these unnamable horrors, the fate of the world hangs on five unlikely saviors: the students of Tokyo Majin!
Armed with their own incredible powers, they must battle an unholy swarm of evil beings; everything from Alchemists through Zombies! It's a deadly war fought in shadows, and they're completely outmatched except for one thing: they never learned when to say die! The back alleys of Japan's largest city are the site of the biggest supernatural rumble ever in Tokyo Majin!
The bilingual presentation of Tokyo Majin is quite good as both mixes play to their strengths. Both are encoded at 448 kbps and the background and action effects are solid throughout, though these aren't common since it's kept most to action sequences. Dialogue placement is used well in both mixes also with some throws to the rear channels which add to the overall atmosphere of the scenes. The original score has plenty of movement as well which brings it all to life while still coming across as unobtrusive. Dialogue placement and depth is good, but not above and beyond some other shows, but it is better than the majority of the seemingly standard stereo mixes that come out of Japan. In listening to both tracks, we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally in 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This set was never released in single form and we get the twelve episodes spread across the two discs in a six/six format. With the authoring basically being done by ADV Films, it’s pretty much comparable to what we saw before. Tokyo Majin is one of those series that tries to rise above the standard action presentations and give the viewer something a bit grittier and a bit more detailed. The transfer for this show reflects the solid production values of the series and lets the quality of the work really shine. What surprised me the most was how well the few scenes with gradients worked out as it didn't devolve into a lot of noise or blocking. Additionally, the show has a very specific look, not as stark as some others, where it uses a very light kind of grain in order to add atmosphere. The end result is that the materials here look fantastic and it really provides for an engaging series of visuals.
This release is done in the standard format that FUNimation is doing all their half season sets in with a pair of thinpaks in a thin cardboard slipcase. The slipcase is nicely done with a heavy dark feeling surrounding it but with bright and appealing character artwork of the new Martial Fist characters to draw you in. The characters have good looking designs that don’t feel like a typical show so they’re eye-catching from the start. The logo is kept to the lower right which is a little unusual but it looks good here and doesn’t dominate even with as much space as it takes up. The back of the slipcase adds a bit more red to the background to give it a bit more menace. With a decent summary of what to expect and a clear listing of how many episodes are here, it’s certainly presented as a good value. The shots from the show play up the supernatural side rather well and the discs special features are clearly listed. The technical grid is kept to the bottom though which isn’t a surprise but I’m not a fan of its placement there.
Inside, we get two thinpak cases that are a bit more vibrant and upbeat, though with that element of danger still there. The first volume has a shot of three of the new Martial Fist characters with Daigo done softly in the background in a lot of pain. The second volume has another set of characters, a mix of new and old, with a very intense and violent feel to it with a touch of somberness. The back covers are laid out the same in that it’s a dark black piece that has the episode listings with numbers and titles running down them and a few shots from the show itself along the bottom. The reverse side of the covers features a pair of mystical symbols done in a brown, black and white shading that looks good when you open up the cases.
The menu design is pretty par for the course for a collection like this as it utilizes the basic colors and structure from the original single disc editions. Each menu has a top level episode access point in which it lists the episode number and title set against the red, gray and black background. The first disc has the extras selectable from here as well while the only submenu is for the language selection. The second disc is the same except that it also offers a trailers submenu for other FUNimation shows. The layout is straightforward and easy to navigate and I do like having access to all the episodes easily like this, though I think there are better ways to design it so it doesn’t feel like a restaurant menu. Submenus load quickly and the discs correctly read our players’ language presets like all ADV Films authored discs do but FUNimation discs don’t.
The only extras are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which are on the first disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first set of Tokyo Majin was an interesting show to watch, both in single and collected form, as it introduced us to the characters and setting and put them through the wringer. That set, The Dark Arts Chapter, was one good storyline told over the course of the first fourteen episodes as well as going through the motions of introducing the characters. This set is a bit different since it has less to do in that sense and that has the whole thing feeling a bit more chaotic. Without the need to introduce the characters, it kind of throws you headfirst into everything and that seems a bit rushed.
The twelve episodes that this set runs is also set up a bit differently in structure in comparison to the first as well. While the Dark Arts Chapter essentially told one story involving Kozunu, this one has two distinct stories that build upon each other. And even then that's just ten episodes as there are two “Extra” episodes that delve into some background and side stories to help flesh things out in retrospect. With the set feeling rushed when it starts, the flow of the narrative feels off throughout as the first story almost seemingly closes out quicker than you'd think and it then shifts into a slower story that does build up into a big epic climax. Thankfully, that part of the second storyline really does make up for a lot of things and reminded me of the kind of anime I was drawn to quite a few years ago.
The opening chapter, which is what this set is named after, has everyone adjusting to events after Kozunu has been defeated. The quiet doesn't last very long though as a group calling itself the Martial Fist has arrived and is picking off the group and their allies individually. They seem to know everything that they need to about them when it comes to their lives and weaknesses and they hit them hard and fast. Some fall to the attacks while others stave them off – sometimes only just barely – but it's an intense fight. The man behind it, known as the Director, is doing this to confront Hiyu about his past and reveals to him that everything he's been taught is actually the art of assassination. This hits hard at the young man because he's grown up using his fists and abilities to protect people. Finding out what it's really all about gives him pause to say the least.
What proves to be fascinating about this arc is the back story that we get about Hiyu's father and the group that he was part of that was similar to what Hiyu's friends are like. They weren't quite as strong and they had to work differently because they were short a member, but they help to set the tone for what's to come in the next arc. There's a lot of set up here and a lot of character back story, particularly for people like Daigo, but the main problem is that it introduces far too much for the five episodes that it runs. The Martial Fist group has so many people in it to combat against Hiyu and friends that it gets to be pretty chaotic because of it. Half the time you don't even feel like you know the names of those that are on the screen unless they're the primary characters. The story has a lot of action to it, but it has a rushed and chaotic feel. When it slows down and works through the back story, such as Daigo, it's a lot more interesting.
The second arc is considerably slower at first but it does end up in the epic sense as it progresses. This story does keep to having Hiyu as the central character as he meets a young wheelchair bound man named Ryuji. Ryuji seems like a good guy who is always smiling, but he's actually quite the disturbed young man who is being used by someone else. Ryuji doesn't really feel anything one way or another when it comes to emotions and he believes everyone is truly like this. That has him using the abilities that he has to take on the persona of Chaos. Chaos plays a bit of a Hell Girl role by connecting with people online and helping them to achieve their secret desires of murder and violence. It's primarily with people of a similar age in high school so it has a pretty dramatic effect.
This arc builds upon the previous one as it has Hiyu in a position where he has to really figure out what his reason for being is when it comes to his abilities. Ryuji's mindset allows him to play quite dirty and that has everyone else in the group feeling very uneasy about everything as the danger that they face is now being directed towards friends and family as well if it plays out. The slower nature of the arc and the way Hiyu's crisis has him feeling like a dark avengers is rather well played, especially after the busy Martial Fist arc. As the story plays along and it builds to the larger level with the four guardians being revealed, the Martial Fist characters come back into the story as well and the fate of the city is put at risk. What appeals to me about shows like this at this stage is that they do go beyond the norm, they do make the crisis real and put everyone in danger. It isn't the kind of show where everyone gets off scott free with no consequence but rather there's a huge amount of consequence. And some of them really get to shine.
This is all the more apparent when we get the Extra episodes afterwards. The second on serves as a big flashback to the time after the Dark Arts chapter where everyone is back at school and having fun, just getting along with life while waiting to see what would come next. Hiyu gets caught up in a school play for Romeo and Juliet which has some nice moments to it, but it's the material around this that sells it so well. It's a true epilogue where things have change in the city and people like Aoi and Komaki are rising to the challenge of their new world with a sense of optimism and faith. Faith in each other and those around them but also with those that sacrificed to save all of it. I found it quite uplifting overall, especially as it follows the other Extra episode that dealt with the time seven years prior with Kyoichi and showed how the paths they all followed led them to their first year in high school. The disconnected stories that eventually meet up is simply quite fun to watch after seeing the fate of everything.
Tokyo Majin was an intriguing series when I first started it as I really liked the character designs and the way it told its story after it got going in single disc form. The show really did work better overall in this format for the first season but the second season felt like it wasn't sure how to really get started and it worked at it haphazardly. Once it got rolling though and you started to see the connections with the second arc here, it felt like it tied together a lot better. The show is a bit of a mixed bag overall, but it has a lot more positives to it than negatives. Great animation, a very distinct style and engaging character designs. It knows the stories it wants to tell and it takes chances by not keeping the status quo throughout. These characters do grow and change over the course of it and the series is nowhere near the same at the end as it was in the beginning. The flashback material in the Extra episodes make that all the more apparent and gives you a much great appreciation for that first arc as well. Definitely recommended to check out for those looking for something a bit more mature, complicated and violent but with an intriguing storyline and engaging characters.
Japanese 5.1 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.