Tokyo Underground Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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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: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tokyo Underground

Tokyo Underground Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     August 28, 2005
Release Date: September 06, 2005


Tokyo Underground Vol. #4
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Below the capital city of Tokyo exists a forgotten world called "Tokyo Underground."


The Review!
While more than halfway through the series, things are still heavily focused on the action side of things and very little is done to push the actual storyline forward.

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:
With a very nice looking shade of purple in the background, the cover for this volume takes the four lead characters looking around at the viewer with some nice detail and overall good looking character designs. Not quite to the same level as what we get in the second opening sequence but still good looking. 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 mirror the previous volume as all we get is series images in an art gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the fourth installment of Tokyo Underground, the series gets all the way up to episode eighteen here and spends the bulk of its time dealing with action sequences stemming from Ruri's escape from Pairon's clutches. Very little new plot material is introduced here which leaves us with a number of varying action scenes to watch but little else.

While this may not be bad in some series, the action material here continues to be like the series overall and has an uneven feel to it and something of an unexplained feeling at the same time. So little of the makeup of this place has been established and it goes from looking like a series of slums to a rather attractive section of a Tokyo suburb that the consistency and general lack of explanations really makes it hard to take all that seriously. In addition, this volume makes it a bit worse by bringing in a secondary character and hoping to have us empathize with their situation like we would a main character and give that situation the same kind of screen time.

Other than Ruri who is basically kept in chains for the bulk of the volume, the other lead heroes of the series face off against the super secret elite force that Pairon uses to extend his control and domination of things in the Company. These are the criminals and scum that he's put under his control to do his bidding. And going by how they act here, half of them are fairly competent while the other half are practically jokes. Either that or they don't know when to act serious and do what needs to be done. Rumina himself ends up with one of the serious guys but even that fight is kept relatively minimal across the three episodes that the fights fill and Rumina is the usual idiot in that he doesn't even use his sword properly to get himself out of the most basic of situations.

Chelsea ends up in two fights along the way and those are mostly just to get her warmed up for things. The first one against Heat is comical as his power is the ability to heat himself up which allows for super muscles apparently. He uses this to flame on his right arm so it looks like he's bulked out there while the rest of his frame is normal and it gives him a super strength. Unfortunately, he hasn't exercised his mind much and Chelsea, claiming she's only at seventy percent strength, goes forward to kick ass on him and leave him shattered in the street. It's a pitifully brief fight and gives you the idea of how bad these super bad guys really are.

Her other fight is a bit more involved as Sound, the kid wonder, takes her on directly after he sends his controlled minion Hexa to deal with Sui. Sound's abilities are obvious and he uses his flute in order to gain control of other people and have them do their bidding. This is a more dialogue driven fight as the two face off against each other but it brings in the lovesick guard that's been following Chelsea which is amusing. Hexa's facing off with Sui is an area where it's quite dramatic and full of big moments as he realizes that the woman is actually the girl he grew up with that was kidnapped years ago, so Sui spends a lot of the fight trying to get through the conditioning she's been put under as they fight to the near death. It's an engaging fight and the only one where you feel that things are getting heated but with Sui being such a secondary character and not someone you're exactly jumping up and down for, their relationship is just sort of there and doesn't draw you in the way that they writer is hoping.

The fight that could have been interesting is with Ginnosuke since he gets his gun back from Sui with the new settings on it and he faces an attractive woman who manipulates shadows as her power. She plays up the sultry bit and even swipes his glasses from him so that she can be more appealing by using him that way. The idea of someone being able to use shadows to move around isn't new but it's always a trick that I like but the secret behind it is revealed far too quickly and it really didn't need to be done. What's worse is that before and after the secret is revealed, GInnosuke's pathetic in dealing with her and spends his time running away instead of trying to defeat her. Ginnosuke's been a potentially surprising character but he gets hamstrung once again here.

The last episode on the volume does have some more character driven material as Rumina and Ruri are nearly re-united atop the bridge before Pairon arrives to steal her away for his plans. The verbal sparring is weak though and with so little of the overall plot really being laid bare before and with little relationship between the two men there's not exactly a lot of subtlety or depth to their conversations. It really runs along the lines of "give her to me" and "no, she's mine" with some dark glares thrown in for good measure. The others have a few moments of closure as well such as Sui and Hexa, but again, I can't bring myself to care much for them.

In Summary:
The uneven nature of the show is still very apparent even this far in and with only eight more episodes to go across the final two volumes, I'm really wondering what the series is supposed to be about. The mystery of what the Company's plans are for revenge upon the surface is just too simple of a plot and that's bared out with the way so many episodes are being stretched to cover a series of rather basic and fairly lackluster fight scenes. There's a part of me that wants to like this since the original ideas and concepts have such possibilities but it still feels like it's been squandered every stop of the way.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery

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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