Tokyo Underground Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tokyo Underground

Tokyo Underground Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     May 23, 2005
Release Date: May 03, 2005


Tokyo Underground Vol. #2
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Rumina realizes he cannot rescue Ruri, the Maiden of Life, at his current skill level so he undergoes strenuous training to acquires the powerful “Gale Force Wind” attack. Chelsea and Ginnosuke then join Rumina to assault the Underground world, but upon opening the Pandora’s Box, they land in a quagmire of monstrous creatures and bloodthirsty evil forces within the gloomy darkness!

The Review!
With Ruri captured by the Company, Rumina and Chelsea must head down to the Underground to rescue her.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series is fairly action based at a lot of times so there are a fair amount of audio moments where directionality comes into play, such as the movements of the wind and blade fights. The dialogue doesn't get spread too far across the forward soundstage though but comes across well and is clean and clear throughout. In listening to both language tracks, we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2002, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. Tokyo Underground is one of those series of the past few years that really stands out as being a digitally painted show in that the characters tend to stand out more against the backgrounds and not blend into their settings quite as well, sometimes almost looking like they're really on top of things and not part of things. The transfer captures this feeling from the source material and overall it's a very good looking transfer. The series has a lot of bold vibrant colors and a couple of visual tricks that could play havoc with an encoding but it's well handled here. Gradient and blocking issues within the colors are virtually non-existent, aliasing and cross coloration isn't an issue and the black and white filtered scenes look good without any noticeable break-up. While the show itself may not look the best, the transfer does a great job of representing the source materials.

Packaging:
Giving a pair of the villains a shot at the cover, the duo here who have barely an episode or so of screen time in this volume take center stage with a decent looking illustration that's well detailed but really nicely colored with its soft and almost watercolor feeling. The back cover is well laid out with a strip of action shots from the show along the left while the right side provides a good summary of the premise and goes into detail listing the episode numbers and titles as well as the discs extras. The basic features and production information are mixed into smaller type below though and gets a bit hard to read in some places but isn't too bad. The insert replicates the front cover artwork while the reverse side lists the episode numbers and titles on this volume and release dates for the remainder of the series.

Menu:
The menu layout is nicely done and kept in tune with how some of the animation plays out in the show. Using a black and white line filter that appears behind the characters at key moments during the show, it plays havoc with the animation running underneath it in full screen mode here where we get both bits of animation from the show and its opening sequence, all set to some really creepy music when tied to this kind of look. The selections also "warble" in and out along the bottom except for whatever is actually highlighted which is left easy to read in a bold and brighter white. This is a neat looking menu that's designed with an interesting twist to it. The layout is easy to figure out and navigation is problem free. The disc also correctly read our players language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty minimal and mostly mirror the first volume. The profiles section is one of those that I really wonder why they do them since it's just a single character shot and barely a sentence or two about the character. We also get the ending sequence with the original Japanese text included on it.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first volume of Tokyo Underground didn't go a long way towards impressing me either with its animation or its overall story but I still have an affection for these kinds of settings. The second volume, with another five episodes, brings us much further into the show and finally starts actually showing something of what the Underground is actually like but it still suffers from several of the elements that made the first volume so hard to get through. The first five episodes spent so little time truly establishing the setting that even at this late stage in the game it feels like we're trying to get a handle on how this world works and then they go and add a new layer called the Underglobe.

With Ruri having been kidnapped and taken back to the Underground, Rumina is getting set to go back and get her along with Chelsea. Their plans get slowed down a bit though by the return of his grandfather who is not at all happy with how his place has been left while he was gone, though he does get to have some pluses by groping Chelsea's tush whenever she's not looking. And being one of those incredibly powerful old lecherous guys, she's not able to lay a finger on him the entire time. He makes sure this is something that registers for both of them by walloping them repeatedly and then making sure that they'll stay with him for a bit to train. A whole weeks worth of training and now both will be ready to take on the Underground!

They do at least go through a short side tale where Rumina is able to get himself a truly excellent sword that will help more than his wooden one in doing actual battle and will probably add a bit to his wind power. What's amusing during all of this training is watching Ginnosuke go along with all of it as well since he wants to help out his friends and Ruri also. Rumina's grandfather essentially ignores him and just has him running and running but the plucky bespectacled lad does his best to keep up and at the least continues to cheer on the other two. While he initially really annoyed me, particularly with the style of glasses and his ultra high pitch, he's the one character that's actually growing on me.

The journey into the Underground itself is somewhat understated since it's just a big sealed doorway at the end of one abandoned tunnel that has a password entry system but once on the other side we finally start getting to see what it's all about, how it's set up, the way it's laid out and how the Company manages to keep control of everything. Their ability to at least watch the entrances is a nice plus so they're fully aware of who's coming and they send out their particular assassins to slowly hunt them down and deal with them, one by one instead of in a large group of course, which leads to various action sequences over the course of the next couple of episodes. A lot of what we do see of the Underground feels like it could take place in a spaceship as well since it's a lot of endless corridors and then a couple of wide open areas, which at least they show how the lighting is done to simulate above ground conditions.

The group gets sidetracked in one village where they spend some time with one family as they figure out their best approach to dealing with the Company, but it also leads to a longer extended fight with one of the assassins hunting them down. To my surprise, it gave Ginnosuke a chance to showcase his smarts to help his friends in the fight but it also led him down another path where he gets to meet someone who has a weapon that Ginnosuke can duplicate if he's able to convince him to let him do just that. Ginnosuke slowly turns from the complete sidekick putz character that you just want to smack constantly into someone who looks like he'll be able to hold his ground (though he probably won't) and will be an actual asset to the team.

I was also interested to see how Ruri was handling things with her return to captivity and over the course of the five episodes she gets a short scene or two in each episode where her new bodyguard ends up finding herself understanding more and more of why she is the way she is. Ruri's such an outgoing happy person and she's managed to retain a lot of that even though she's been put back where she is. Ruri keeps reflecting on her time spent above ground and her talk of friends and friendship is what's carrying her through things now and all of that talk looks to be slowly changing her guards view of her as well as what she does with her. Having her back in this situation also allows for more glimpses into the Company and the way they operate so that it slowly becomes something easier to figure out.

But still at the end I'm finding the same problems challenging as before; though we get more of how the Underground works, it's things we should have learned about several episodes earlier. The way that Chelsea keeps so much useful information from Rumina and Ginnosuke about the basic way that the entire area works until they're actually going past that first doorway.

In Summary:
Tokyo Underground finally starts to reveal itself as the shift to down below finally happens and our heroic trio make their way down there to find their missing friend. The show doesn't feel quite as choppy or with as many shortcuts as the first few episodes did with more darkness and cramped feeling corridors being introduced. The series still has very much a simplistic adventure fantasy feel to it combined with the strange technology that seems to be available down below. Those down below don't seem to have a cohesive feel in design though there is an obvious class structure to it but so much is still undefined that it's hard to really get into it in full.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles,Japanese Ending

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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