Tsukikage Ran Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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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: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Tsukikage Ran

Tsukikage Ran Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     January 17, 2003
Release Date: January 07, 2003


Tsukikage Ran Vol. #3
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
The sake-swilling swordswoman continues to cut a path through Edo Japan with her hilarious adventures. And the ever-present Meow of the Iron Cat Fist remains stalwartly at her side. When a mysterious cult catches Meow's fancy, its up to Ran to discover the group's secret. Old friends, new friends - the group just got a lot "bigger" when a foreigner from across the seas decides to follow Ran around Japan!

Hilarious martial arts comedy directed by Akitaroh Daichi (Jubei-Chan: The Ninja Girl) and animated by Madhouse Studio (Ninja Scroll, Trigun, X, Vampire Hunter D).

The Review!
After two somewhat lackluster volumes, the third volume hooks us enough that we’re smiling and laughing at several parts of the show.

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:
Tsukikage Ran 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:
Though still weak, the cover this time around works better than the second volume did. The cover provides a look at a trio of women from these episodes set against the setting sun going down behind a mountaintop. The color layout here just has things looking murky and muddy as opposed to eye-catching. 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:
Extras are sort of minimal here but copious in other ways. The first extra is a brief production art gallery that provides snippets of information about the cast members they’re showing art of. The second is the liner notes section which goes into varying levels of detail about different aspects of life and culture at the time of this show, providing some very illuminating pieces of information that help flesh things out nicely.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After seven episodes, I find myself settling into the series a little bit, allowing it to finally crack a smile across my face and the occasional laugh or two. It’s rare that a series like this doesn’t automatically win me over, but something about it has kept me from really enjoying it or finding it properly amusing. At least until now.

With three more self contained stories, we follow Meow and Ran about on their travels and the adventures that they get mixed up in, sometimes willingly or unwillingly. The opening one is a typical tale, where you have a group of priest-like men who have managed to convince a growing number of people about their special healing powers. They bring convinced people under their sway and espouse the evils of money, but collecting it themselves for purification and for their own base needs.

Enter Meow, suffering from a crook in her neck. She ends up being intrigued by the entire layout and inadvertently ends up getting herself fixed up but attributing it to the priests. She then falls heavily under their sway and starts doing their bidding, but she fails to get Ran to follow with her in this new path. Ran’s more content to just go drinking, until she realizes Meow has all the money and is likely giving it away.

Meow again finds herself in trouble in another episode when they end up coming across an old childhood friend of hers. Mei’s from the same village as Meow, but has grown up with far more troubles, having lost both her parents as well as other painful things from her past. She’s managed to work hard and move up in the world to secure herself in a better position, but when Meow discovers it’s because of life robbing drugs, their relationship takes a darker turn. This was an enjoyable episode in that it really gave Meow more of a past as well gave her a serious turn for a few minutes to deal with something she normally might not have.

But it’s the last episode that provides the most laughs, as we find the two women at a carnival of sorts where they’re both seeing an Elephant for the first time. Ran is completely awestruck by it and buying up every little trinket with Meow’s money. But this is just a slight setup to them running into Stephanie, a tall blue eyed blonde from Europe who has read all the wrong things about Japan, figuring everyone is either a samurai, a ninja or a geisha. She gets attached to Ran and begs her to make her an apprentice, leading to a variety of amusing situations and general sight gags about height and such.

I don’t know what it was about these episodes that tipped me just right, but they fit the mold of what I needed at the time I watched them. I may try revisiting the first two to see if my opinion continues to change, but not until I finish out the series.

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

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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