Utawarerumono Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: ADV Films UK
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Utawarerumono

Utawarerumono Vol. #1

By Dani Moure     November 19, 2007
Release Date: August 20, 2007


Utawarerumono Vol. #1
© ADV Films UK


What They Say
Everything about him is shrouded in mystery. The mask he cannot remove, a past he cannot unravel, and the very survival of the people who have chosen him as their leader.

What Hakuoro doesn’t know is this: he was gravely injured in the forest and left for dead. A kind, young girl named Eluluu found him and nursed him back to health. Welcomed into a barren land where strange creatures roam, an angry god seeks vengeance, an oppressive government slaughters the innocent, and a bloody war looms on the horizon.

Will the masked hero be able to liberate the people who saved him? Can he unlock the memories that elude him, or will he remain a stranger even to himself? The answers are right before your eyes (or are they?) in the thrilling killing and pillaging first volume of Utawarerumono!

The Review!
Another new series hits the UK with a mysterious man who doesn’t remember his past finding a new family on his journey to remember.

Audio:
I listened to a mix of the Japanese stereo track and the English 5.1 mix for my main viewing. The Japanese track is a pretty standard TV series stereo mix, with enjoyable performance from the voice cast. The English 5.1 track is surprisingly good, with more directionality even from dialogue than I had expected. The English dub was also really enjoyable with some good performances especially from the leads, so this is definitely one series I think I’ll continue in English. I noticed no technical problems with either track.

Video:
With this being another recent show, it looks as great as you’d expect. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the show looks extremely vibrant with the very colourful palette reproduced extremely well, with no noticeable artifacting on my setup. This just looks like another top-drawer transfer from ADV. There’s really very little to say about it other than that.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font (ADV’s usual), and I didn't notice any grammatical or spelling errors.

Packaging:
The front cover is interesting, and a slight variation from the US release. Hakuoro’s mask is the main piece, sitting on top of grass. While it’s quite striking, it doesn’t look particularly brilliant and for many might be off-putting, which would be a shame. The show’s logo is at the bottom of the cover, and it’s different to the US release and also carries the subtitle “Helden lied”, which is German for “Heroes Song” or similar. The back cover features the usual array of screenshots, sometimes overly-dramatic description, extras listing and credits, as well as the technical grid. The inside cover showcases a playful wraparound shot of Eluluu and Aruruu.

Also included in the package is a nice little booklet with an insightful interview with the screenwriter and also another with two of the Japanese voice actors.

Menu:
The menus are simple but work well. The main menu has the cover image from the mask, with episode selections and the Language and Extras selections on the bottom. The two submenus are static with the grass as the background. Although the amount of grass show is a bit questionable, with no transitions or anything the menus are really fast to use.

Extras:
The big extra on this volume is the omake theatre, which is a funny short film about Hakuoro searching for food, and being joined by Oboro. It’s a great addition to the disc. There are also extended previews for each of the episodes, as well as an art gallery and a glossary of terms.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Utawarerumono is based on one of those videogames that came out in Japan but have never been released in the UK, and it’s often hit or miss as to how the shows based on them turn out. Sometimes they end up being a complete mess, and others they’ll be a surprising breath of fresh air. Thankfully, this series falls into the latter category, as it’s been quite a while since anything like it has come along. The story is straightforward enough and falls into a few clichés, but it’s really well executed and comes together so slickly that you’d be hard pressed to find too much against it.

It all begins with a man collapsing in the woods, only to be found by a girl called Eluluu. She nurses him back to care at her grandmother’s house in the local village, and when he comes round he is wearing a mask he is unable to remove and he has no clue who he is. The man, later named Hakuoro after Eluluu’s dead father, goes out with Eluluu to explore the village, meeting several of the people she sees day to day. Her grandmother, as it turns out, is the village chief, and she has a sister, Aruruu, who is very quiet and tends to keep to herself.

While amnesia has been played on before, it’s both the driving force of the story here and also pushed to the background in a sense, as Hakuoro finds his way in the village and takes his place as an important part of the villagers’ lives. The story begins to develop with the arrival of a demon creature attacking the village one night. The beast – Mutikapa – is one that the villagers worship so it won’t bring its terror on them, but as a result of its attacks, and with Hakuoro’s help, they end up killing it, although Aruruu adopts one of its offspring.

We soon meet another young boy, Oboro, and his sister Yuzuha. She is ill and so the village elder has come to help her out, and along with Hakuoro they manage to make Yuzuha better at least for a while, and so Oboro feels he is left in Hakuoro’s death. On returning to the village, a group led by Nuwangi (a young boy that has his eye on Eluluu), arrives to say that the castle has been broken into and they want to take Hakuoro away. The elder won’t let them, and after an unfortunate chain of events she is left wounded by the men, and later she passes away leaving Hakuoro one last request – to take care of her granddaughters. This all leads to Hakuoro leading the villagers in a revolt against the castle, and it’s safe to say not everything goes to plan.

While the story doesn’t exactly sound revolutionary, and it isn’t, it is well-executed and as a result Utawarerumono is a lot of fun to watch. There’s just an awful lot going on to keep you involved. The promise of finding out more about Hakuoro’s past, and we see many flashbacks throughout the episodes that suggest it isn’t particularly rosy, is very intriguing and also watching his interactions with the other villagers, and how his status with them changes even just over the course of the first five episodes, shows that this isn’t a show that will just rest on its laurels, but will rather keep things moving and characters evolving along with the story. As his position changes so does the way he carries himself, and his sense of self-importance. In fact, for a masked character, Hakuoro has an awful lot of facets and emotions!

The supporting cast is equally as interesting; Eluluu is a sweet little girl who looks up to Hakuoro almost with a twinkle for her father in her eye, while Aruruu takes a while but eventually warms to him just as much. Oboro is a determined young man, who at times comes across as a brat but does seem to have his heart in the right place. On the other hand, Nuwangi just seems like a complete idiot the majority of the time, making wrong decision after wrong decision, all the while just trying to advance his position and get what he wants. At least Benawi seems to have some redeeming qualities, as if he has a sense of reason, that you can’t help but think the good guys will play to eventually. The other supporting characters are equally diverse and appealing, and it makes it an easy show to watch.

From a production standpoint, the animation is actually pretty good, nothing too extravagant but par for the course for a TV series, and it has an enjoyable soundtrack to go along with it. The whole package looks quite slick and smooth and that only helps with how enjoyable the show is.

In Summary:
With an intriguing story and an excellent cast of characters, Utawarerumono was a very pleasant surprise in how much fun it was to watch. I didn’t have much in the way of anticipation for the show, but after seeing this volume I can’t wait to see the next as it shows a lot of potential. I can certainly see this show being one that just gets better with each volume. Yes, the main hook of the story starts of as a man who’s lost his memory, but if you can look past the slight cliché, that just thrusts things forward into something that s much deeper. The first volume of Utawarerumono did just what you want, it kept me entertained and left me wanting the next volume right now, and as such I’d definitely recommend checking this show out.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Omake Theatre,Extended Episode Previews,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

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