Shadow Skill (1995)

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Released 11-Jan-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biographies-Character
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery-14
Trailer-Blood: The Last Vampire; X; Street Fighter Alpha
Trailer-Perfect Blue; Black Jack
Featurette-Merchandising & Catalogue Info
Web Links
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 131:04 (Case: 130)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (75:30) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Hiroshi Negishi
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Click
RPI $27.95 Music Satoshi Tezuka
Toshiro Yabuki
Hideyoshi Sato


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, teaser for next movie

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

Plot Synopsis

    Shadow Skill is a bit confusing. This is because it is the name of the first movie, the name of half of the combat system, and the nickname of one of the characters. I'll explain all that.

    This disc contains two movies, but the first one was probably released as three episodes - it certainly plays as three distinct episodes. What makes it even more confusing is that the credits to this movie contain sequences from the other movie. And to add to the confusion, the movie starts with a teaser set further into the future than any of the contents. Oh, and the two movies are animated in different styles - the first movie is animated in a very stylised way, with extremely unrealistic physiques, while the second is somewhat more realistic. There's disagreement between the content of the movies, too - one says that the youngest ever Sevalle was Scarface, at sixteen, while the other says it was Elle, at fourteen. The last piece of confusion is added by the back cover, which has the blurbs in the wrong order! The blurbs are placed next to scenes from the movies - the scenes are in the correct order, it is only the text which is wrong (PS: I found the reason - apparently they were released in the opposite order on VHS, so I think we have the VHS blurbs here). Forget the blurbs, they are not all that accurate, anyway.

    The story of Shadow Skill is set in a land called Julianus, around a city called Koruda. There is a Koruda school of combat. It is divided into two halves. The first is the Open Skill, concentrating on throws and hand attacks. The second is the Shadow Skill, concentrating on foot attacks and body manoeuvres. Both are more than simple striking combat skills - both involve channelling energy, and can be utterly devastating. There are reasons why the Shadow Skill is valued more highly, but these are revealed slowly, so I won't talk about them here.

    The Sevalles are the ultimate fighters of Julianus. A fighter can only become a Sevalle after winning the Koruda combat skills competition, but there is more to it than that (in one of the movies, anyway). There are only 59 Sevalles in the entire world. The 59th Sevalle is a woman called Elle Ragu - she is one of main characters in this story. She is also nicknamed Shadow Skill for her prowess in the Shadow Skill component of the Koruda School. This makes for some confusion, because sometimes the characters talk of Shadow Skill meaning her, and sometimes meaning the fighting techniques.

    The other main character is Gau Ban of the Black Howling. He is the adoptive brother of Elle Ragu. At the start of Shadow Skill: The Movie he does not talk. He is practicing the combat skills in private, hoping to equal his sister. The first episode concerns Gau Ban's initial steps.

    These two are accompanied by Faury (full name Faurink Maya the Plasmatizer, now). She is a magician of an unusual kind, called a Sui Rame (the dub calls it "Sui Lane"). Her magic (and, it seems, all magic in this world) is activated by consulting a slip of paper specific to the desired spell. The slip of paper (or possible card) has the name of the spell (in Kanji) on it. When the spell is invoked, a deep voice intones the purpose of the spell (the name appears as an English caption on-screen, too). She wears lots of the slips of paper (animated more clearly in the second movie - not so obvious in the first one). The full story of Faury and Elle is not revealed until the third episode of the first movie.

    The second episode of the first movie concerns the appearance of another important character: Kyuo Ryu. She is a Septia, a fighter trained to capture or kill demonic beasts. She is the only survivor of the Phantom Squad, the rest of whom were killed attempting to capture the King of the Moon, a demon beast combining a centaur's body with the head of a lion, who is invincible under the light of the moon. Her weapons are chulinks - rings of metal with unusual powers. At the end of this episode we are told that all the warriors who will feature in Gau's tales of heroism have come together. Interestingly, there's an extra one in the second movie...

    The most powerful Sevalle is Vy Low, but this name is rarely used. He is usually know as Scarface. He acts mostly as a guardian angel to Elle and Gau, but his role is ambiguous, particularly in the third episode of the first movie.

    The second movie is called Shadow Skill: The Epilogue. It concerns Gau Ban's inner doubts, and his problems achieving full mastery of the Shadow Skill half of the Koruda School (he has already mastered the Open Skill half). It is this movie that fully explains the origin and importance of the Shadow Skill. As I mentioned above, this movie is animated in a different style - this one is less stylised, more like the style seen in most other anime; it is rather more realistic. The animation style in Shadow Skill: The Movie, is unusual and attractive - people have impossibly tiny waists, pointed noses, and hair that comes to points in front of their faces.

    This is interesting stuff - a complex storyline, with interesting characters, and quite attractive both to look at, and to listen to.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

    This film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced. I watched part of the first movie as though it were 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, and it looked fine, because the animation style makes the characters quite thin. I think the original aspect ratio is 1.33:1, although the opening credits are presented as letterboxed, and look roughly 2.35:1.

    The picture is reasonably sharp. There's no such thing as shadow detail in animation, in my opinion. There is no trace of low level noise.

    Colour is not perfect. There are moments when colour is more than a little washed out (see 55:48 in the first movie, for example). There are several times when white seems over-hot, and bleeds into the surrounding area.

    There are very few film artefacts, amounting to a few flecks (see 27:09 in the first movie, or 33:17 in the second). There are no apparent MPEG artefacts, and virtually no aliasing or moire. There is some haloing in the second movie (not in the first) - it's like ghosting. There are no "rainbows" - that artefact seems to be confined to NTSC transfers of animation.

    The only subtitles are in English. They are presented in yellow with a black border, and are quite legible. In the first movie they closely resemble the dubbed English (a good sign). In the second movie, they are a little more different, but not enough to change the storyline significantly.

    The disc is single-sided and dual-layered, formatted RSDL. The layer change is at 75:30 in the first movie, and is well-placed. It is placed between the English closing credits and the Japanese ones on a static screen - it's hard to spot - nice work.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three soundtracks, two in English, and one in Japanese. The Japanese, and one of the English soundtracks, are in Dolby Digital 2.0 without surround encoding. The other English soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1. They all seem to be mastered a bit louder than usual - you might want to drop your volume by 2 or 3 dB before putting this disc on.

    The dialogue is quite good, with the English readily understood. Most of my confusion arose from the use of the same name for multiple things. Audio sync is difficult to judge on animation, but there are a couple of spots where the dialogue is simply missing: for example, at 65:47 in the first movie Kyuo's mouth is moving, but there's no audio (in English or Japanese), even though there's a line in the subtitles - go figure! Same thing at 29:00. Strangely, although the same voice actors are used in both movies, the second movie has them using slight accents which don't quite fit.

    The score is fabulous. Satoshi Tezuka (credited as Osamu Tezuka at the start of the first film) and Toshiro Yabuki have done an excellent job of supporting the storyline - rousing stuff, and well fitted to the on-screen action. The title music is by Hideoyoshi Sato - very evocative.

    Only the English 5.1 soundtrack uses the surrounds and subwoofer. There are few moments of directional sound from the surrounds (22:28 in the second movie is a rare example, but a good one), but they do a superb job of rendering the soundtrack immersive. The subwoofer is called upon to support the score, and does so well, plus the occasional crash.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The main menu has both music and animation.

Character Bios

    We get bios for:

Trailer (0:49)

    This is a short trailer for Shadow Skill: The Movie alone.

Photo Gallery

    We get 14 high quality images from the first movie

Manga Extras

    There's a secondary menu from which you can select:

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 version of this disc sounds pretty much identical, except that it lacks the Manga Extras, and the video is described as mediocre. I see no reason to pass up the extra resolution of the PAL transfer, so I'd recommend the R4.

Summary

    Two movies, both reasonable quality anime, presented rather well on a single DVD.

    The video is good.

    The audio is very good.

    The extras are reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Wednesday, January 30, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, 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 and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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