Tsukikage Ran Vol. #4 - 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. #4

By Chris Beveridge     February 17, 2003
Release Date: March 04, 2003


Tsukikage Ran Vol. #4
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
During their outrageous adventures, Ran and Meow, of the Iron Cat fist have had some rather unqiue experiences: they've fought off clans of evil bandits, stopped a crooked sake producer, and have been chased across Japan by a giant foreign blonde woman! Now, their adventures are about to come to an end, but there are still some surprises left. Whats this? Ran had a boyfriend?! But this guy looks like some washed-up loser. There s no way Ran would fall for a guy like that!

The Review!
Tsukikage Ran finishes out much like it started, with lots of sake, some confusion and a quick and deadly blade to make everything come to an end.

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:
Probably the best looking cover of the series, and definitely one appropriate for the final volume, we have the good looking image of Ran and Meow walking into the background of tree’s while turning to look back at the viewer and waving. The back cover provides some 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)
With the third volume we finally started to get into these two lead characters and their situations were actually amusing enough to keep us interested for the entire episode. This final volume also manages to achieve that, though I can’t actually say that at the end of the volume that I wish there was more. This has been the weakest of Daichi’s shows I’ve seen so far.

The three episodes here do provide some fun, though they are more Meow oriented than Ran oriented, which is likely one of the reasons I enjoyed it more. There’s just so little to Ran to keep me interested in anything she has to say or do outside of the few minutes of swordplay that she’s required to do in each episode. The opening episode is amusingly Meow oriented as she comes across a vengeance killing challenge that’s issued by a couple of children.

She ponders whether she should be able to jump in as a backup so that the kids have a chance against the samurai they’re challenging, but before she can do anything, another person steps forward to protect them. He uses his brash and overpowering voice and posture to force the other man off with him, which is where he extracts some coin out of him. The entire thing is a scam that the three, who are family, pull on unsuspecting weak looking people to make money while on the run, since the father is being hunted. As expected, Meow takes a serious interest after Ran gets set up by the trio, and they all become friends while trying to figure out the fathers larger problem of being hunted.

Meow, in her do-gooding way, ends up in even more trouble in the next episode when she defends a woman against a samurai that’s trying to kill her. She takes on the woman’s death wish of taking a precious box to someone in the next town. Meow now finds herself being a wanted criminal, even though she’s done no wrong. She’s captured amusingly easy enough, and Ran leaves her to the cell since she won’t be killed in there while she tries to figure out what’s going on. A little detective work later, and she’s ready to break the case, but has to run against the clock as the local magistrate already has Meow up on a cross and ready to kill.

The final episode actually delves a bit into Ran’s past when she comes across a man she once knew some time ago. The episode plays out well and provides just enough to keep you interested in Ran, but it would have helped to have more of this scattered throughout the series instead of just at the end. But, that’s not the kind of stories that they wanted to tell here, so that’s a problem I have little issue with.

The second half of this series managed to provide some enjoyable entertainment as opposed to the first half which just didn’t work for us at all. Initially, we liked neither of the lead characters and that didn’t exactly help the series win any points. Meow finally proved to be less annoying as things progressed, allowing us to enjoy her exploits a bit more and just nodding and accepting of the simple and repetitive things that Ran did in each episode. With this show being more of an homage to a long running style of series in Japan, I lack that connection to take them in that style, but can appreciate them for what I see.

Tsukikage Ran was definitely interesting at times and had some very well done sequences, but as a whole it feels like a really weak series of episodic samurai adventures.

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

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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