Tokyo Majin Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: TV MA
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tokyo Majin

Tokyo Majin Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     November 23, 2007
Release Date: December 11, 2007


Tokyo Majin Vol. #1
© ADV Films


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, against 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 Review!
Darkness descends on modern day Tokyo and the only ones to stave it off is a group of high school students.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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. 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. We watched this one late at night in a completely dark room on a 70" set and came away very pleased with it.

Packaging:
The series isn't using the same cover artwork as the retail releases in Japan but it's still pretty good as it deals with a decent sized cast and lots of darkness. The logo, kept to the right, has bot the English translation and the full Japanese text scrolling down it. The background is either made up of empty black space or flames which work well to draw attention to the excellent character designs. Detail isn't huge but it's still evident here, especially as the character design's aren't standard cookie cutter material. The back cover continues the dark theme without the flames and has several shots from the show and an overall sense of foreboding with mysterious eyes peeking out from behind the summary. The discs production information is cleanly listed, though a touch small and difficult to read in some cases, while the technical grid covers the basics along the bottom. Only one error slipped through this time as it lists only a Japanese 2.0 mix when there's really a 5.1 mix on there for it. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
Continuing a recent trend from ADV Films with simple static menus, this one is decently done as it features the strong character artwork off to the right that has most of the lead characters. The background to the menu is done in three horizontal strips with flames and parchment while the center strip has the navigation. As is standard and welcome, individual episode selection is here while the only submenus are for the languages and extras. Everything loads very quickly and moving about is pretty much a breeze. The disc also performed as expected when it came to it reading our player presets as it grabbed what I specified and played accordingly.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tokyo Majin, originally called Tokyo Majin Gakuen Kenpuchō, is based on the PlayStation game of the same name which came out way back in 1998. The anime incarnation of the property, done by AIC Spirits which proves it still has some quality production value left in it, is interesting in that the two seasons that were done for it aren't quite as cleanly broken as we're used to. The first season, or Act, ran for fourteen episodes while the second season which kicked off a couple of months later ran for twelve episodes. That leads to a different kind of storytelling in terms of pacing since you want to have some things complete and closed out at the end of each act.

The story takes place in a modern day Tokyo which provides for a detailed, vivid yet dark backdrop for everything. A series of murders have been happening all over lately and the problem is only getting worse. What's unknown to most people is that the people that are dying are being reborn as the undead and coming back to bring more over to their side. The forces that are behind this, which are seen here and there but without much detail, have not had their motives revealed yet but seem to be working towards something more than just general mayhem. Through manipulations with people of their choosing, they cause a new outbreak to happen which in turn leads to more of the undead being born.

Where Tokyo Majin works well is in the group of characters that forms to battle these things. The show opens up with a storyline that throws the viewer right into the action with a big ugly monster that's clawing at people as a small army of undead are running about. It's big, loud and very lushly animated in its own way so it really draws you in while trying to make you figure out exactly what's going on. But after that episode it decides to go backwards several months in order to explain things more over the next few episodes. The arrival of a new transfer student at Magami High School named Tatsumi seems to herald things. His master has sent him there for his new phase of training and as soon as he gets there he hooks up almost instantly with another student named Kyouichi. The two aren't against each other but there's a sense that they're bonded in a way, which in turn causes some friction until they realize they work well together, almost as wolves. Kyouichi is the dark member of the group as he has a gang of his own, fits the delinquent characterization easily, and has quite a good deal of knowledge about how the real world works in a city like Tokyo.

Tatsuma's arrival also draws others to him, something through which all of the core group ends up together at a time in which the real danger to the world is revealed. The student council president, Aoi, fills the role of the quiet and somewhat weak type while she's constantly backed by Komaki, a strong willed and outgoing young woman who is in the archery club. Komaki has some strong feelings for Aoi but it's hard to tell whether it's really more than just a strong sisterly kind of bond. That's something that resident tough guy and wrestling club member Yuuya hopes for since he's very interested in Komaki in a romantic way. When all of these people are drawn to a place where the magic of the world seems to come out, they end up being gifted with powers that lets them fight the darkness that's starting to spread throughout the city.

The ability to cope with these powers, and with the darkness that's revealed, makes up a small part of the show though since events are moving fast for them. There's little time to sit down and take stock of things before someone else is on the move and causing more undead to be born, or another creature of some sort is getting involved in the human world. The event that caused their powers to manifest isn't limited to them either and this takes a couple of episodes worth of story as the show progresses back towards the present. While the big bad evil characters are kept to the sidelines, making comments here and there and watching events unfold, those they manipulate are front and center, as is a man named Kisaragi who knows Aoi quite well. An antique shop owner, he's quite aware of what kind of things lurk in this world and utilizes magic in order to deal with it. Though he tries to persuade Aoi and the others to drop their cause, he ends up involved with them as a member more than anything else.

Tokyo Majin's story is a bit awkward in how it's told at first but it's one where the pacing and script compels you to watch more. Working hand in hand with that are the terrific visuals which helps to elevate the show beyond a typical action series. The character designs are terrific in that they're more angular in features and you certainly can't mistake any of the characters for anyone else. This is the first series where Jun Nakai is listed as the actual character designer but they're involvement in key animation and direction over the years shows the evolution of the designs, be it from Argento Soma to Haibane Renmei and Ouran Host Club. These designs do a great deal to give the show a kind of vitality as the diversity in the core group of characters is great. While Aoi may be the standard soft character, she's got a bit of an edge to her underneath that's apparent. Even Yuuya with his muscled body doesn't come across as the standard muscleman. Well, except for the scenes where all the outlandish characters from his wrestling club are running behind him.

In Summary:
Tokyo Majin is slowly revealing its tale in these first five episodes and doing so in a slightly haphazard way. It opens big with plenty of violence, bloodshed and a sense of the epic. It then backs away a bit to introduce us to the cast and lay out some of the setting and exposition. While there are standard elements to each of the characters, the overall presentation of them with the script combined with the great visuals really lets this click well. Some of it may be predictable as there are only so many ways to go with the base storyline, but how it's put together is top notch and it kept me engaged for the entire thing. Tokyo Majin has some really strong potential to be more than just a basic high school gang of demon fighters and these episodes are showing that it's likely to get there very quickly.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
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.

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