|Category||Anime||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0|
|Rating||Other Trailer(s)||Yes, 11 - ADV Film releases preview trailers|
|Year Released||1998 Japanese Version
1998, 1999 English Language Version
|Running Time||80:36 minutes||Other Extras||Menu Audio and Animation
Scene Selection Audio and Animation
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||No||Dolby Digital||2.0|
|16x9 Enhancement||No||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||
|Subtitles||English||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The story left me somewhat confused, too, especially the second episode on offer here, Hell's Spawn. Overall, this is a complex release, as the first episode pretty much deals with the elimination of Christianity from Japan in the late 1600s. As a result, there is all sorts of religious imagery going on here.
The first episode, The Revenge Of Jubei, primarily deals with a rebel group of Christian farmers led by a young man who is believed to be the reincarnation of Christ as foretold in prophecy. They have rebelled against their shogun lord and have taken over a castle, which the shogun naturally wants back - as well as to eliminate the Christian scourge on Japan. Having resisted all the shogun's attempts to recapture the castle, apparently to the detriment of the continued existence of significant numbers of the shogun's army, the Christians are subjected to one final assault by the heavy artillery. This is in the form of an elite Ninja squad, led by the Lord Jubei, armed quite impressively with late nineteenth and twentieth century weaponry as well as such fanciful stuff as a flying suit. Naturally, the small Ninja squad impressively overcomes the large Christian army, with the result that the young messiah offers to surrender to Jubei in exchange for the safety of the people huddled in the castle church. But, the young man's mentor knows the other part of the prophecy and kills two young children to blame Jubei for such animalistic acts, forcing the young man to become Satan. Whilst the plot holes are numerous and large, and you really have difficulty accepting the time period in which this is set, this actually is quite a decent piece of entertainment. Just don't let the kids see all the violence here - it would more than likely give them nightmares. In fact, I am not too sure that I will sleep too well tonight, either.
The second episode really goes off the rails and is most difficult to follow. Lord Jubei now seems to be a relaxed samurai living out in the country, soaking up peace and quiet - at least until a bunch of undead warriors make an appearance and seem to start inflicting gross bodily violence on half the Japanese population, seemingly without any rhyme or reason. I really and truly cannot give a synopsis of the plot here as it totally lost me and seemed to be just an excuse to put together forty minutes of anime with the sole aim of trying to out-gross each preceding scene in the episode. I know somewhere along the line that Satan is involved here as he impressively emerges from the half naked body of a young woman, who for no readily apparent reason suddenly goes from being a complete nothing in the story to the possessor of Satan within her body. I remain confused and bemused and I doubt that I will ever understand what this episode was all about. Since there is no readily discernible plot here, it is very difficult to complain about plot holes!
This really is for strict devotees of ultra-violent entertainment, and definitely justifies the R rating, If you have qualms about animated violence and gore on a major scale, then you would best avoid this effort.
Apart from the opening sequence to the second episode, which is in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the transfer is presented in a Full Frame format, and is not 16x9 enhanced.
The animation style here is somewhat different to that of the other anime releases that I have seen, and this is reflected in the video transfer. The animation is slightly softer and less strident in its edging than the other releases, which reflects the slightly less strident sharpness on offer here. The animation style is actually more like traditional animation than anime. Nonetheless, the overall definition remains good, and the only real problem is some slight loss of resolution owing to the inherent lack of resolution in the inferior NTSC format. This is a clear transfer and there are no problems at all with low level noise in the transfer. Detail remains high throughout the transfer.
The colours are beautifully rendered, although the style of animation here is not for bright vibrant colours. What we have is a very nice, reasonably richly toned effort that captures the feel of the violence very well indeed. Definitely not the same sort of transfer as Sakura Wars, but in its own way almost as impressive. Even with the impressive quantities of red used in the transfer, there is no real hint of any serious oversaturation here, and colour bleed was also not an issue.
There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Apart from some shimmering during the opening credits to the episodes (not aided methinks by the very traditional style of animation used there), there were no significant problems with film-to-video artefacts. The shimmering is quite noticeable during the credits, but overall there is little distraction to the total package. Film artefacts were pretty much a non-issue here. From a technical point of view, this continues a fine record for ADV on DVD.
There are two audio tracks on the DVD: an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Since my Japanese is not improving by watching anime titles, I primarily stuck to the English soundtrack, although I did also sample the Japanese effort (with subtitles on of course). Both soundtracks sound as if they may contain minor surround encoding, but this is not mentioned anywhere on the DVD, although it is mentioned in some overseas reviews. The English subtitles bear very little in common with the English soundtrack - this is possibly the poorest subtitling I have yet seen from ADV, although as usual it is good for a laugh when the subtitles are running with the English soundtrack. You should note that the Japanese soundtrack is transferred at a higher level than the English soundtrack.
The dialogue was always clear and easy to understand.
Naturally the animation suffers from the usual "audio sync" problems.
The original musical contribution comes from Masamichi Amano and is quite a Japanese-sounding effort, which is a little unusual for anime in my experience. This is one of the better complementary soundtracks that I have heard in this genre, although still not completely memorable.
The soundtracks are really nice efforts, with nothing really too dynamic happening in the sound picture to detract from them. We do get some very subtle surround effects in the soundtrack that add a little distinction to the whole package. This is most noticeable in the opening sequence where the rain is teeming down - the rear channels seem to have a very subtle echoing type effect that mimics very well the sound of rain being listened to from inside a room. Other than those little efforts that add a bit of spice to the overall sound picture, we have a quite nicely balanced and spaced frontal soundtrack that really is quite believable. The soundtrack is similar to the other releases from this source and therefore is again free from any distortion, although again in my view the English track is more natural-sounding than the Japanese track.
A very good video transfer.
A good audio transfer.
A decent enough extras package, albeit a little repetitive.
© Ian Morris (have a
laugh, check out the bio)
11th May 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|