Urotsukidoji: New Saga Collection - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: C+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Anime 18
  • MSRP: 89.99
  • Running time: 135 minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen Letterbox
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Urotsukidoji

Urotsukidoji: New Saga Collection

By Chris Beveridge     August 01, 2004
Release Date: March 09, 2004


Urotsukidoji: New Saga Collection
© Anime 18


What They Say
An immortal beast-man of supernatural lusts, Amano Jaku escapes prison to gratify his appetites at Meishin College. But the campus is not just a hotbed of luscious coeds ? it's the breeding ground of a hideous monster! The Ultra God is Amano Jaku's nemesis, a vile killing machine, and the ancient harbinger of the coming apocalypse. Now, immortals will clash in a battle that will bathe the Earth in innocent blood! Complete series on 3 DVDs!

The Review!
Going back to the classics and essentially remaking and re-imagining the original five episode OVA series, the New Saga captures much of what made that show one of my all time favorite series and makes it even better.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The shows stereo mix has quite a bit of solid directionality to it across the forward soundstage and plays with both dialogue and ambient effects well. This worked out really well for the English mix which was done up in a 5.1 version and gives everything a lot more punch and clarity. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and we had no problems with the Japanese track during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released to video back in 2002, the three OVAs are presented here in their original 1.78:1 widescreen letterbox format. While original information when it was being created in Japan indicated that it would be the first anamorphic hentai release, which did not pan out. But we do have a rather good looking if somewhat problematic widescreen series of OVAs, a first I believe. The series uses a lot of digital effects in it and the painting that's used for it comes across with a fair amount of color banding during a number of the areas that are large areas of a single color. Some of the panning sequences suffer from a poor digital stutter as well and there's still some fairly visible aliasing going on during panning that doesn't suffer from the stuttering. But even with all that, this show has some really good looking production values for a lot of it. It's unfortunate that there are some areas where it really showed that they went cheap; in one instance, a far range character that's walking along moves without any of the legs actually making a walking motion. They literally just slide a stationary character across the screen.

Packaging:
Released on three DVDs in one box set at the start, the New Saga has all the markings of a show that's eventually going to be re-released in individual format. The individual keepcases are nicely done by using the original Japanese artwork and using the name of the original series but with the tag of "New Saga". Each of the covers has the kind of artwork that typifies this series with the demons and naked women being manhandled roughly and dark designs. The back covers provide various shots from the show set against indistinct backgrounds while having the brief summaries and features as well as the basic technical information. On the reverse side, we get some good black and white action artwork on one side while the other has the English cast list (the Japanese preferred not to be accounted for it looks like), chapter listings and the usual mixture of production information. The box is the usual thin cardboard type that is standard for CPM releases. The main panel uses the artwork from the first cover but zoomed in considerably while the back does a sell job on all three volumes of the show by using artwork from all of them and giving an overall summary of the show and its features.

Menu:
The menu layout for the series is pretty pitiful compared to a number of other releases I've seen from them lately. With clips of animation playing in the middle, they use a decent amount of dub work with it. The series title and volume numbering is along the top while the bottom has the selections. There are some brief dubbed transitional animations that I don't care for either. Access times are nice and fast and the menu is easy to navigate but the disc ignored our players presets for the language and defaulted to English language only.

Extras:
There's some extras included in this release that are the usual types we see for adult releases. The art and character galleries provide what they usually do in a video format while there's a set of storyboard to animation clips as well. Amusingly, Anime 18 has also included a 5.1 test clip with some of the music doing it as various pieces of audio placement. They also show clips with tentacle placement and amusing terms for it. If you've ever wondered how a 5.1 mix sounds downmixed, this is a great way to get a feel for where rear channel sounds get placed.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I've made no bones about it over the years that I've found the original Urotsukidoji series, the five episode OVA show, to be one of the best hentai releases I'd seen and a show that early on that proved that even that genre can produce solid and engaging stories. The original was something that my wife enjoyed and could say that if you took the sex out, you'd still have a great show. Even my mother saw it back when it originally came out as she wanted to see what all the hubbub was about.

So in 2002, they decided to take the series back to its roots by remaking the first three OVA episodes and taking the storyline and making it work better. Having seen the original many times, my first instinct is to make all the comparisons to it, note all the changes and talk about which version is better. In a way, that's unfair just due to the differences in culture(s) between then and now, both here and in Japan. In the end, this new series stands well enough on its own and does stand apart from what a lot of shows are like that have been coming out in Japan and over here.

The premise is essentially the same. According to legend in the Beastly World, there is a tale that is the same in all the worlds but has gone forgotten in the Human World. Some day, there will be born into the Human World an Ultra God, a creature that will take the three disparate worlds of Beast, Demon and Human and destroy them all and have it all rebuilt under his own dominion. That time is coming soon and something must be done about it so the Beastly World has decided to send one of its outcasts, a powerful one from a disgraced family that has been jailed, a young man named Amano Jyaku, to head out from their world to seek out who this Ultra God will be and destroy him.

Jyaku's journey initially takes him from a surprisingly modernized Beastly World off into the Demon World where he meets up with the Queen of the Demons, Genyo and engages her in rather fun and entertaining ways as seemingly his arrival was almost prophesized, giving more credence to the coming of the Ultra God. All of this setup works well in giving us views of the other two realms and how they work before it shifts to the Human World. Jyaku's been searching for the Ultra God for three hundred years now as has Genyo as she's on Earth with a number of her subordinates where she's set up something of an amusing little company. The two haven't worked together but their goals are the same, they've simply used different methods in the search.

This brings us to the human cast at last, where again there are similarities but differences. The lead characters are quite different from each other. Nice guy Nagumo has come to visit his old friend Ozaki and watch him participate in one of the biggest boxing matches of his school career. The two have been good friends over the years but drifted apart in recent years and Nagumo saw the invitation as a potential attempt to rebuild their friendship. Ozaki's the polar opposite of Nagumo in that he's tall, confident, strong and strong willed. Nagumo's not exactly a wimp here, but he's got the presence of someone who simply doesn't stand out in a crowd while Ozaki's the one who has people drawn to him. And typically those are women as we see him having his way with various ones.

As Jyaku studies what's going on, they come to the conclusion that Ozaki is the one who will eventually turn into the Ultra God based on what he's like as a human. Events have surrounded him as well that push that belief further, including some sort of presence inside his mind that causes him to transform into a devilish creature with a lust for young women. But there are other creatures lurking about as well that are having their way with the world and Jyaku ends up battling them more than anything else as they try to force Ozaki into situations where he has to act, not realizing that he's not aware of his transformations or what they think he really is.

There's more than enough hints dropped along the way as to who the Ultra God is, so it doesn't come as much of a surprise, especially if you have seen the original before. The way it plays out here though is that it's done with more time given to Ozaki and his issues and problems of him and his friends. What we get through the change in the relationships and the expansion of Ozaki's role is a great sense of who these characters really are and what they mean to each other. There's a good deal of flashback sequences that show the four leads, the two guys and the girls they're involved with, from their early years to the romantic interests in school and so forth. There's one particular sequence that shows off the mindsets that they've grown up with when you see Ozaki and Nagumo at Ozaki's seventh birthday and he gets some boxing gloves and Nagumo manages to practically knock him out. So much is wrapped up in his psychological state from being something of a mother's boy that it's driven him since then and he's used boxing as the catalyst for it.

The appeal of this show for me was a given from the start since it's taking something I like and giving me a new presentation of it, but it was also enhanced by the way they've taken things visually. While I'm not too much of a fan of "make it widescreen to make it seem artsy", the widescreen aspect of this is a definite plus as it does give it a more theatrical feel and there is a good use of the canvas to space out everything, moving it away from some of the cramped nature of the first one. There are a lot of gorgeous outdoor shots that do these long panning shots over the city and the bridges and it works very well in this format. The other is the way the animation is done. While it is following the usual traditions of hentai releases with it being heavy on the digital effects, the character animation looks quite good and uses a rich if seemingly different color palette. There's something I can't quite put my finger on for how this just doesn't look like the usual kind of painting for the colors. I was even surprised to find myself enjoying the varying types of CG throughout it, though I will say some of it looked cheesy as hell, but with it going for something of a large scale epic with a theatrical feel, it managed to work somehow in my mind.

For the obligatory comparison minded: This new version does a lot of things right but it removes a few things as well. The show is basically a remake of the first three OVAs of the original series, which does mean that yes it ends on a beautifully painful note. It also means that there's no Nazi death rape machines or the storyline that took place in the past. This is all about the here and now. The biggest loss in my mind is that of Jyaku's sister Megumi and the way they seemingly shifted part of her role over to that of Genyo, the demon queen. It does make sense to bring her into play but Megumi was one of the best things about the original in my eyes. There are a lot of nods to the original here though that made me happy. The sequence in the original with Nagumo and the nurse was one of those early defining hentai moments for me when I first saw it on a raw copy, back when little hentai was available other than raw Cream Lemon episodes. That scene is done differently here but essentially the same, so there are plenty of homage moments throughout which made it fun to watch for. The change in Ozaki becoming a much more important character than his roughly fifteen minutes of fame in the original is a huge plus for this show. The way his and Nagumo's relationship has shifted from adversarial right from the start to friends who have lost their way adds more emotional weight to things, especially as both of their lives start to get insane in this new version. While there are plenty of differences, I think both of them stand up well on their own but they complement each other at the same time.

In Summary:
The original Urotsukidoji series made a huge impact on me back in the early 90's when it first came out. It's the show that said to me, keep watching hentai, you may find something just as good if not better than this someday. While I've seen things that are definitely different and very enjoyable, I've never found anything that worked the same kind of ideas as this show done again until they went and remade it. This is essentially Urotsukidoji for the new generation. At the shows conclusion, I yelled at the set demanding more of it be made. Very few shows really aim for that large epic feel while still keeping things properly focused on the characters. Sometimes some of the best material comes from the unlikeliest of places. Urotsukidoji: New Saga isn't problem free, both in technical and content, but after watching as much hentai as I have, this is one of the precious few that I will go back and rewatch over the next few years, just like the original. Very recommended.

Features
Japanese Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Textless Opening, Production Sketches, Storyboards,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung P341 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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