Samurai, The (Onmitsu Kenshi)-Volume 5 (1962)
|Year Of Production||1962|
|Running Time||70:32 (Case: 66)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Sadao Funatoko|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
This is the fifth volume of The Samurai, but that's deceptive. The first four volumes made up a complete storyline, and this is the first of the next storyline (which also extends over four volumes — watch this space!). You'll find my review of The Samurai Volume 4 has links to all the volumes of the first storyline.
The first storyline had Shintaro accompanied by a small boy (Shusaku). He was set upon by numerous ninja from the Koga, and eventually confronted their leader in the final battle. OK? Well, forget all about that, because the scriptwriters clearly did. The first series had every episode beginning with an introduction explaining about the two societies of ninja, the Ega and the Koga, and the ninja creed, and so forth (this is not historically accurate stuff, but I won't go into that). This series has left all of that behind. Now every episode begins with the same silent sword-fight between Shintaro and a ninja (who we learn later is called Gensai — we see this particular fight in Episode 3: The Bribe starting at 14:04), followed by some short credits, then into the episode. There are no closing credits.
The storyline for this set of discs concerns a trip from Edo to Kyoto / Tokyo (the names seem to be used interchangeably in the English translation, which annoyed me) by Lord Saranobu (actually, that's a guess at the spelling of his name — it gets pronounced differently by different voice actors, sounding like: Soranobu, Sadanabu, Soronabu, and so on). This trip is ostensibly one of inspection by a minister of the government, but is really intended to address a plot by Lord Iwari (another guess — could be Owari) to wrest power from the Shogun by building a palace for the Emperor. Iwari, knowing that something is up, hires Genkaro (another guess: Genkuro?) and his band of Koga ninja from the Manji valley to kill Saranobu on the long journey. That journey is only a bit over 250 miles, but it takes quite some time when you are on foot, and even longer carrying a nobleman in a litter. To protect Saranobu, the head of the Ega ninja society assigns a group of Ega ninja. Even so, he is concerned that Saranobu will not survive, and prevails upon Shintaro to assist.
This entire storyline is about the journey. Many of the episodes mention where they have reached, or are about to reach. That would be helpful, if you were familiar with Japanese geography (which I'm not). To exacerbate matters, there are several spots where the camera will linger on a sign in Kanji, with no subtitle or voice-over explaining what the sign says — I'm assuming the signs are placenames, but for all I know they could be saying "Beware of the Duck!". Actually, one of the things watching this series has done for me is give me a better appreciation of the quality of work in many of the anime translations I watch — they do a good job of explaining signs.
In some ways this storyline is more interesting than the previous one; it is certainly more focussed, being very much a "How will Genkaro attempt to kill Saranobu this time?". At the same time, it seems a bit repetitive, even though each episode is interesting in and of itself.
The first three episodes of this storyline (the number does start at 1 again, even though this is volume 5) are:
It's funny — even though this is black-and-white I still imagine I know some of the colours. It's rather obvious that the Koga ninja are dressed in black (fact is, real ninja always wore black outfits, but that would make it harder for the viewer to tell the two sides apart). For some reason, I'm convinced that the Ega ninja outfits are beige — they are definitely not white.
Shintaro seems to be wearing false eyelashes and eyeshadow in many of the scenes — it's an odd look for a master swordsman.
It really is rather interesting watching this show — it makes it clear how far things have advanced since then.
This series is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, as one might expect. It is not 16x9 enhanced.
The image is a bit soft, but less so than the first four volumes. It displays some grain, particularly in darker shots, but some shots which (according to the dialogue) are pitch black are lit the same as others which are full daylight — perhaps their cameras and film couldn't handle low-light? Shadow detail is poor. There is no low-level noise.
This is a black-and-white series. The menu has a brown background, and that's the only colour on this disc. Note that even the covers are black-and-white this time around, making it much harder to determine which volume you are holding. There are unexplained fluctuations in brightness at points.
This series was made as a television show back in the early sixties. It was made on film, but that was probably because film was cheaper than the videotape technologies available at the time. It shows the neglect of the decades. There are innumerable film artefacts, ranging from constant spots, speckles, flecks, scratches, and fluff, to more serious stains. It is easy to specify which frames show film artefacts: every single one of them!
Starting with the third episode, and continuing through all four volumes, there are some really ugly artefacts where the film was spliced. A bit of explanation is in order. Every angle of every scene is shot on a piece of film. The editor cuts the film between frames, and joins together the frames required to make the desired sequence. This cutting and joining must be done quite precisely, or the sprocket holes that are used to draw the film through the projector or telecine device will not be correctly spaced — bad things happen then. To ensure accurate joining, the film is clamped. Normally this is done without any damage to the film surface, as you might hope. Not so here! I don't know if they were using a bad machine, or what, but on either the frame immediately before a splice, or the frame immediately after, there is a nasty scratchy mess, right across the frame in many cases, and extending up to half the frame in length. It is not too bad in Episode 3, but it gets worse as the series progresses. These splice artefacts are only momentary (a single frame at a time), but I found them irritating, especially towards the end of the series when they were coming up at almost every splice — you know how they have shuriken hurled at someone, and suddenly they appear in the tree / door frame / other convenient vertical object next to a person? Well, there's a splice every time a shuriken appears (to cover the pause while someone walks up and puts the shuriken into the object) — towards the end of the series, there's an artefact on each of those splices, making for a fairly ugly appearance.
There is no significant aliasing or moire, and no shimmer. There are no MPEG artefacts on this disc.
There are no subtitles, which is a shame — I might have discovered the correct spelling for many of the names from the subtitles.
The disc is single-sided and single layered. There is no layer change to worry about, and no problem, given the limited amount included on this disc.
The soundtrack is provided in English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. There's constant hiss, and more than a little snap, crackle, and pop. Even so, it's perfectly acceptable for the job.
The dialogue is clear enough, and fairly easy to understand. It's a dreadful example of dubbing, but that's part of its charm — you ignore the audio sync failures fairly early in.
The music, from Hirooki Ogawa, is really rather good for the series. It's not high fidelity (far from it), but it is part of the show. I really like most of it, especially the fairly percussive style used for dramatic action sequences, but I could have done without the drum that goes "boing".
This show sounds right being played through a low quality TV speaker — your centre channel speaker is far too high in quality, and those expensive fronts, surrounds, and subwoofer of yours will stand around making jokes to each other about what the centre's being asked to do.
|Surround Channel Use|
The purity of this disc is unsullied by the evil of extras.
The menu is static and silent, listing the episodes and allowing selection of one at a time. The background to this menu is brown.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This disc is not available in Region 1.
A second season of a classic TV serial, presented in poor condition on DVD.
The video quality is quite poor, but that's what we expect by now.
The audio quality is poor, but adequate.
There are no extras.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Front Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5|