Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-DUEL Press conference, Festival Opening, PR Battle
Featurette-DUEL Premiere, Vidoe Message For Premiere
Trailer-Godzilla - The Final War; Samarai 1; Dark Water
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (18:12)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Ryuhei Kitamura|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese dts 5.0 (1536Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Two heavily wounded samurai stumble into a temple and collapse, the severity of their injuries too great. A short time later, only one of them wakes (Takao Osawa) to find himself completely healed, while the man who accompanied him has perished. His saviour introduces himself as Aragami (Masaya Kato), a warrior god who can only meet his end in combat, preferably at the end of a blade. None have been able to vanquish him yet, in fact he boasts so wildly about his conquests that it is difficult to sieve the truth from the crap. After much posturing the host persuades his guest to stay - after all, he did save his life, and during the course of the night they engage in a series of one-on-one battles, the kind that can only have one victor.
Sure, the premise is simple but the focus is really on the action scenes, and great they are. This is a blood-drenched no-holds-barred battle to the death, although the action is frequently interrupted by lengthy, intense passages of dialogue. The contrasts in pacing are effective and serve to build tension in a way, but in the end I don't think this film is comparable to Kitamura's other excellent work on films such as Azumi or Versus.
The concept is not very well explained on this DVD, but as far as I can tell Aragami is one of a pair of films, made by Directors Yukihiko Tsutsumi and Ryuhei Kitamura. The two directors hatched a challenge, which involved each director making a film in the space of a week, with a limited budget, one set and two main actors - dubbed the Duel Project - so besides being a cinematic duel, the name infers the theme of the films as well. When completed, the films were to be shown as a double feature and at the conclusion the audience will be left to decide which was superior. Tsutsumi made 2LDK, a modern-day action film about two actresses vying for the same film role. Kitamura poured many sleepless nights into Aragami and it is really amazing what he has been able to achieve, considering the boundaries he had to work within. The tight production schedule is covered in the extras on this DVD and makes for interesting viewing.
I have not seen 2LDK, so at the time of writing I am unable to cast my personal vote, or say which is the better of these two films. If you enjoy a bit of sword-fighting action, this is sure to provide a few thrills.
The transfer is presented in the film's intended aspect ratio of 1.78:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. This is a pretty good PAL transfer, with no major issues to report.
There is a great deal of detail in the image, as evidenced in the close shots of hair and fabrics. Shadow detail is similarly realistic and black levels are deep and bold when they need to be. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.
Most of the film is dominated by a dark and washed out appearance, which is contrasted by a very brightly coloured final scene. I didn't notice any colour rendering inconsistencies in the slightest.
MPEG compression artefacting is nowhere to be found, nor are there any film artefacts or grain in the image.
English subtitles are activated by default and are presented in a yellow font that is easy to read. I noted a couple of minor typing errors but overall the text flows well with the spoken word.
This disc is dual layered, with the layer break placed early in the feature at 18:12. This is a silent, still moment that should pass unnoticed by most viewers.
There are three soundtracks to choose from, the default of which is Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). The alternatives are a very nice full bitrate Japanese dts 5.0 (1536Kb/s) soundtrack or a completely avoidable English dub (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224Kb/s).
The dialogue is crystal clear at all times and is never overpowered by effects or score. The ADR seems completely natural, although I don't speak much Japanese. Audio sync is perfect.
The surround channels are used for subtle effects such as thunder and other atmospherics that help guide the viewer. I also heard the film's score being carried by the rears. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel.
In comparing the soundtracks, I found the English dub overly loud, besides being laden with a cringeworthy voice cast. Obviously, the full bitrate dts option is the way to go here. It has a depth and brightness that isn't even hinted at in the Dolby Digital equivalent.
The score by Nobuhiko Morino is quite percussive and heavy at times, which adds to the tension of the action sequences. The soundtrack score also includes a contribution from guitarist extraordinaire Paul Gilbert of metal band Racer X.
The only soundtrack with an LFE channel present is the Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 default. I noticed some subwoofer activity during the score and at other points during the action scenes. Despite the use of the LFE channel, I found the dts soundtrack still contained superior depth.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are a lot of extras included, but they become very repetitive and they are certainly not the kind of extras I would like to revisit over and over. None of the featurettes are 16x9 enhanced.
This Making Of shows that despite the tight restrictions of time and budget, the cast and crew managed to retain their sense of humour throughout the production. Some of the shooting days extended beyond 24 hours, leaving much of the crew heavily exhausted (and a little bit wacky, in my opinion). A roving camera wanders around the set, capturing conversations with many cast and crew members.
The two Directors (Yukihiko Tsutsumi and Ryuhei Kitamura) discuss their previous films, how the project came about and the challenges that had to be overcome in order to begin production. They clearly have a great deal of respect for one another and voice their admiration often. Some members of the cast are included.
Director Ryuhei Kitamura and actors Takao Osawa and Masaya Kato discuss their experience working on the film and some of the fun they had during the short production.
Here we are at another screening of the film, with director and cast chatting some more about the project.
At the Premiere this time, the director and cast members joke around with the audience and talk about their respect for one another.
This is a video message that was taped for those who saw the film in Tokyo. Like the other premieres above, the Director and cast joke about for a while and speak of their admiration for one another.
This is a split trailer for both films; 2LDK and Aragami.
There are 15 still images taken from the film, to scroll through using your remote.
The slick is identical on both sides, but one omits the ugly rating logos.
Trailers are included for Godzilla: Final Wars, Samurai Trilogy Vol. 1: Musashi Miyamoto and Hideo Nakata's Dark Water.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 disc includes a 45 minute making of, but only has English and Japanese audio in Dolby Digital stereo.
A double feature exists in Germany (Region 2), which includes both of the Duel Project films in one package. Japanese dts audio is included, as well as optional English subtitles.
The Region 2 NTSC Japanese version is available on its own, or together with 2LDK. The specifications of these are unclear, however I'm content with the local release.
The video transfer is great.
The audio transfer boasts an excellent dts soundtrack, encoded at a high bitrate.
The extras are a bit repetitive, but pertinent to the film.
|DVD||Denon DVD-3910, using DVI output|
|Display||Sanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Denon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete|
|Speakers||Orpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.|