Kai Doh Maru (2002)

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Released 18-Aug-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-roundtable discussion with creators
Gallery-Character Design Boards
Gallery-3D Models
Trailer-Madman Propaganda (7)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 46:46
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kanji Wakabayashi

Madman Entertainment
Starring Mitsuki Saiga
Kathleen McInerney
Shotaro Morikubo
Bruce Winant
Yurika Hino
Corinne Orr
Yasunori Masutani
Flavio Romeo
Hikaru Hanada
Jay Snyder
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Yoshihiro Ike

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, beautiful painting and haiku after the credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Kai Doh Maru is a (very) short movie that I found quite interesting, but I can't readily describe why. The details of the story aren't told in the film I had to piece them together from the extras (which are plentiful). Although it is not stated in the extras, I have the feeling that this film re-tells a story from a Japanese legend; that would explain why the filmmakers felt that they didn't need to explain what was going on.

This is a story of a person, Kintoki. We are told (in the blurb) that Kintoki's immediate family are slaughtered by an uncle who wants control of the family (the Sakata) Kintoki was chosen as the next head of the family (which is unusual, (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) because Kintoki is female, although raised as male). We first see Kintoki running through a forest, trying to escape the clutches of the minions of her uncle. Kintoki is rescued by a clean-cut young man who we learn is Lord Reiko, who raises Kintoki.

The title is shown on the cover, and on the menu, as Kai Doh Maru, but all of the subtitles show it as Kaidohmaru. I don't know which is correct. Either way, Kaidohmaru is the title given to Kintoki while living in the wilds. I don't know what the title means.

For some reason, Kintoki is always shown wearing a garment with the sleeves torn off. I am sure there is some special significance to this, but again, I don't know. (If you get the impression that I found a fair bit of this story perplexing, then you are right.)

The film opens in 889AD, then jumps forward to 894AD. That exact setting in time is a bit unusual for a fantasy / historical anime, but adds a hint of realism that counterbalances the magical elements.

There are quite a few characters to keep track of, and most are never properly introduced. I suspect that the only way to appreciate this film is to watch it repeatedly, and to go through all of the extras in between viewings.

Oh, and I should warn those with children there are some scenes that are a bit gory, and thoroughly deserving of the M rating it has. If you aren't young and impressionable, though, those gory moments are very effective parts of the story.

All up, this is an intriguing film (although very short).

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


This DVD transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced. I gather that this was released as an OVA, so this is likely to be exactly how it was released (including the lack of 16x9 enhancement).

It would be understandable to look at this disc and to see it as poorly transferred. The picture always looks over-bright, with no true blacks, just dark greys; there's a lack of contrast. However, I suspect that this is a deliberate style, rather than a botched mastering. To be honest, I don't particularly like the style, but I'll try to judge it discompassionately.

The image is a little variable, but is generally quite sharp. There's no apparent film grain, and no low level noise.

Colour is interesting. The film begins in black and white, then shades into pastel colours through the opening credits, which are presented over what look like ancient Japanese paintings. As mentioned, the entire film looks too bright, with the colours washed out, but I'm fairly sure that this is deliberate. The one colour which is not pastel is blood splashes of near-saturated red adorn the screen when body parts are slashed away I wouldn't be surprised if the pastels were intended to make the shock of the blood more intense. Even so, it is wearing on the eyes to watch so bright an image for the length of the picture. I was almost tempted to boost the contrast and drop the brightness in an attempt to undo what has been done to this picture, but I resisted. I think the transfer may be a little too bright even for the intentions of the animators, but I can see how it would be hard to avoid. I wanted to give the colour two ratings: one for the awesome use of subtle colours that make this a very attractive picture (which deserves five stars); and one for the over-brightness that made it tiring to watch (which deserves two stars). In the end I had to compromise.

There are no few film artefacts. There is next to no aliasing on most shots, and acceptable aliasing on a few. There's no moire, and no MPEG artefacts.

There are subtitles in English and Portuguese. I only watched the English subtitles, which are quite close to the English dub; this may indicate that the English dub is close to a literal translation of the Japanese. The subtitles are easy to read, and seem well-timed to the dialogue.

The disc is single-sided and single-layered. With the film running only three quarters of an hour, there's plenty of room on the single layer for it.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


The soundtrack is provided in English and Japanese, as usual, but we get both Dolby Digital 5.1 (448kbps) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (224kbps) in both languages. The Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks do exist (I checked), but sound dry and uninteresting when compared to the richness that is the 5.1 tracks. I listened to both 5.1 tracks.

The English dialogue is clear and comprehensible, but rather stilted characters speak very formally, even in casual circumstances; this may be a deliberate affectation intended to represent the historical Japanese setting, but it does not come across as natural. The Japanese dialogue is clear, and probably equally comprehensible if you understand Japanese. There are no obvious glitches in audio sync.

Yoshihiro Ike has provided a superb score, even if occasional phrases at the beginning do seem more than a little evocative of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. The opening title is courtesy of Yutaka Fukuoka, while the closing song features AKIRA.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks provide continuous surround sound. There is all manner of directional sound, and it's very effective. The subwoofer is used more subtly, but it is given plenty of deep ominous rumblings to play.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



The menu is animated with music. It's easy to operate.

Featurette: Round-table discussion with the creators (8:36)

(The "round table" in question looks like a restaurant table, with food and drink on it.) This is an excellent opportunity to meet the men behind the creation of Kai Doh Maru, and to hear their thoughts on the project. We hear from the director, Kanji Wakabayashi, the character designer, Sho-u Tajima, and the animation director, Kyouji Asano. From the way Sho-u Tajima talks, one gets the impression that his experience lies mainly in manga, rather than anime.

This featurette is presented with the participants talking in Japanese, and subtitled in English. There's lots of hiss in the soundtrack, which is unfortunate.

Character Boards

There are more than 30 panels here (I lost count...), showing details of characters.

Character Profiles

Each of these are a written introduction to the character/s, plus a model sheet (which is a guide to the animators), plus a feature called Best Scenes this last feature is a short video clip (1 to 2 minutes) of scenes featuring the character. The characters profiled are:

CG Models (7)

Each of these is a fly-through of a 3D model of a location interesting and ends with comments from the model designer about the location..

Original Trailer (0:37)

An interesting trailer, and not too spoiler-ific.

Madman Propaganda

One way to be sure this is an R4 anime disc...

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region 1 disc, which was released a few months back, sounds almost identical to the Region 4, except we get the Madman trailers and they get a free poster. From reports, their transfer is identical to ours, including the deliberately bright picture. Looks like you can pick this up from whichever region is more convenient to you. I'd recommend that Australian readers get the local version.


An intriguing (and very confusing) film that I really liked, without being able to tell you why. Presented rather well on DVD

The video quality is good, but I'm not enraptured by the very bright picture.

The audio quality is outstanding.

The extras are quite good.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, August 25, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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