Tsukikage Ran Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: C+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tsukikage Ran

Tsukikage Ran Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     August 02, 2002
Release Date: September 10, 2002


Tsukikage Ran Vol. #1
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Wandering the lands of Japan – Ran is a master swordsman with a strong sense of honor combined with the courage and strength to right wrongs and battle injustice. But that doesn’t stop her from having a good time!

Stuck with an unwanted traveling companion, Myao, the two will bring law and order to the countryside... if they don’t kill each other first. A comedic, action drama from start to finish … the way of the Samurai will never be the same!

The Review!
Tsukikage Ran, also known as Carried by the Wind, brings Akitaro Daichi and his particular brand of storytelling to the Edo period of Japan to provide a parody of the seemingly eternally popular TV dramas.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese. The show features a rather good stereo mix that makes good use of the forward soundstage to give the viewer some good moments of directionality, mostly in terms of the swordplay. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and there were no noticeable distortions or dropouts in either language track.

Video:
Originally airing in the first quarter of 2000 on WOWOW, this show features some very fresh looking animation and sports a transfer that does it justice. While it’s not a very vibrant or heavily shiny looking, it’s a solid transfer that conveys the animation as you want it. Colors are nice and solid, flesh tones look great, cross coloration and aliasing are pretty much non-existent. There’s pretty much nothing I can find fault with here with how this transfer is done.

Packaging:
The weakest part of this package is the entire front cover, which looks positively uninspired and very bland. There’s just too much wasted dark space and not enough good looking character artwork for the two female leads to really hold it well. The logo works good, giving both of them plenty of space and easy to read, as well as volume numbering right there on the front. The back cover makes out a bit better with a few more screenshots and some nice designs, though the blue text is hard to read on the white and gray backgrounds. The discs episode numbers and titles as well as technical features are all clearly listed here. The insert provides another look at the front cover while the interior opens up to a great piece that goes over the various periods in history of Japan. The back of the insert provides full credits for the show.

Menu:
The menu layout is pretty nice, going for the general theme of the show with the shoji borders surrounding animation playing in the center while the selections are laid out along the bottom with crests used for the menu selector. Moving to the submenus is pretty good though there were a few slowdowns at some places in moving back and forth.

Extras:
A good selection of extras are included for the opening volume. The big one is the liner notes, which go into very good detail about the time period and the things going on around at that time and how it impacts the storyline. A brief production art gallery is included as well as the commercial spots that preceded the shows airing and the ones that aired during the first episode.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tsukikage Ran is the story of a rather skilled swordswoman in the Edo period whose only goal in life appears to be to travel around the country and to drink sake. Her travels end up causing plenty of problems though, as trouble seems to just find her. The show opens with her simply trying to nap under a tree, only to have three men from a local clan try to recruit her (think she was a he) to deal with a rival clan that’s taken over more of their land than they believe is legitimate. She quickly dispatches them, and as they run off that go face first into Lady Meow.

Lady Meow is the essential opposite of Ran in several ways. While Ran is very focused, yet mellow, Meow is sort of brash and all over the map. But like Ran, she’s quite skilled, only in martial arts however. Initially by luck, and likely later by design, Lady Meow ends up following Ran around on her wanderings and the two eventually just begin to travel together where the wind takes them. Of course, there’s plenty of things along the way that cause problems for both of them. Half the time, they cause it themselves.

The initial story with the rival clans is fairly amusing, but it only gets more so as it delves more into Ran’s continual desire for sake and the finer points of sake, its creation and the proper way for it to be enjoyed. She ends up getting wrapped up more in the turf war between the two clans after she’s given a hefty amount of food from one of the local restaurants that’s under the thumb of the rival clan. Her main goal is to simply get everyone to get along so she can enjoy her journey, but she has little qualm about knocking some heads around to get it to happen.

One episode that worked rather well dealt with Lady Meow “acquiring” a baby after someone slips it into her possession. She ends up keeping it by inference of other people who see her with it, and she tries to do her best to keep the little baby boy happy. She ends up really getting into the role of the mother, and her varied and wild expressions work well to show her way of dealing with it. When she and Ran end up wandering into each other, Ran becomes entangled in the small mess, only to watch it expand into one with a feudal lord, his jealous wife and a dead mistress. It’s an episode that does a good job of playing up the whole samurai drama and having fun with it with these two characters.

Having enjoyed a number of Daichi’s works before, and going by the initial trailers, I was expecting a show similar to Jubei-Chan. Tsukikage Ran is similar in some respects, with some really good swordplay moments and martial arts, it doesn’t go to the extreme of that show in the comedy department. It’s much more of a subtle parody at times than an outright laugh kind of show. And thankfully, it doesn’t go to the other extreme of Now & Then, Here & There either, at least not yet. The show keeps a mostly realistic tone for the character styles, with Lady Meow occasionally going into some wild takes as well as the secondary characters. In the end, this show is unto itself, and not really like other works of his that have come over.

While I found parts of interesting, and areas of specific episodes, as a whole it left me fairly underwhelmed since I had gone into it expecting much more than I got. It’s enjoyable, but I just need to change my expectations of what I’m getting. For those that are fans of this series, they’re going to love how this release came out, if they can get past the blasé cover.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Liner Notes,Production Gallery,Commercial Collection

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Skyworth 1050P Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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