Wicked City (Yj Toshi) (1987)

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Released 23-May-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biographies-Character
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Street Fighter Alpha, Blood
DVD Credits
Interviews-Crew-Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Easter Egg-Original Japanese Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 85:08 (Case: 82)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Michael Bakewell
Carl Macek
Studio
Distributor
Japan Home Video
Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $27.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

Wicked City is an adult Japanese anime in the horror and fantasy genres. The story is based around the renewal of a peace treaty between the Black World and Earth.

Throughout history, humans have occasionally encountered people from a parallel dimension known as the Black World. The majority of people from both sides wish to live in harmony and exchange information and ideas but unfortunately misunderstandings and bloody fights between the worlds have broken out in the past. To stop these problems between the worlds, representatives from both sides negotiated a peace treaty. Every few centuries, this treaty is renewed and peace between the worlds continues.

At the end of the twentieth century, the treaty between both worlds is to be renewed again but terrorists from the Black World wish to disrupt the signing. Two Black Guards - Renzaburo Taki (a human) and Makie from the Black World - are assigned to protect the treaty's key signatory Giuseppi Mayart. The Black Guards are an elite group that police the interaction between the worlds and keep the peace. With only twenty four hours before the signing of the treaty, the terrorists will force Taki and Makie to continually battle to keep Mayart safe.

This is a well-written film with a solid story and solid character development making it an excellent example of this genre of animation. It was directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri who also directed Ninja Scroll, and was originally intended to have a running time of just over half an hour. Towards the completion of this project, the running time was extended to approximately eighty minutes. Surprisingly, the numerous scenes added throughout the movie are very well-integrated and do not disrupt the flow of the film at all. Credits for both the English 2.0 and 5.1 mixes are provided at the end of the movie but the original Japanese credits are not included.

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Transfer Quality

Video

The video transfer on this disc has a number of problems, but due to the age of the film and the presumed quality of the available source materials, the transfer is acceptable and unlikely to be significantly improved upon in the future.

The Full Frame transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, keeping the original framing. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

The transfer is quite soft throughout, but due to the style of animation used this is to be expected. Some minor low level noise can be seen during many of the dark scenes, with examples visible at 45:50 and 57:11. One of the major problems with this transfer is the black level. Blacks are consistently presented as a dark gray and at no stage are they totally black. This can be annoying to the viewer, as the numerous fade-to-black transitions and darkly-lit scenes never become black. Both the poor blacks and the minor low level noise appear to be source material limitations and not a transfer problem. A small amount of grain is visible throughout the transfer.

The colour palette used in this film is rather minimal with the characters and most scenes rendered in muted grays, greens and browns. In contrast to these minimal colours, high levels of both red and blue are used when characters from the Dark World are present. During scenes with high levels of intense colour, some chroma noise is present and is slightly distracting to the viewer. Examples of this can be seen at 5:32, 11:38, 47:55 and 72:52.

No MPEG artefacts or aliasing were visible during the transfer.

This transfer does show regular film artefacts but these are quite small and not distracting to the viewer. Due to the age of the materials involved, these artefacts are to be expected. Examples of film damage can be seen at 2:15, 10:02, 12:45 and 68:20.

An unusual artefact that is present during the transfer appears as parts of backgrounds pulsating, appearing to slightly zoom in and out again. This does not appear for the total frame but only for select parts of the frame. Specific examples of this can be seen at 3:40, 13:51, 21:55 and 23:44. This artefact is quite distracting but does seem to be present in the source material and not as a result of the encoding.

The English subtitles presented on this disc are clear and easy to read. As I do not speak Japanese I am unable to comment on their accuracy but they do differ significantly to both the English audio tracks provided.

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

Audio

There are three audio tracks present on this disc; the original Japanese 2.0 soundtrack is available as well as 2.0 and 5.1 English mixes. I listened to each soundtrack in full.

Each of the audio tracks is constantly clear and easy to understand but all of the tracks provide slightly different scripts. When compared to the subtitles, the English 2.0 mix is closer to the original than the 5.1 mix. The sentence structure and cultural references found in the English 2.0 mix are closer to the original Japanese mix, and it does seem to match the animation more than the slightly Westernized 5.1 mix. Both of the English tracks are performed by different voice actors, but the performances on the 5.1 mix seem to better match the on-screen characters. Ideally, I would have liked to have had the 2.0 English script performed by the actors used in the 5.1 mix. It should also be noted that the 5.1 mix also slightly changes some details given in both the Japanese and English 2.0 mixes. Examples of these changes include a character's age and the time taken to reach a specific location. These changes do not affect the storyline at all and there is no obvious reason for the alteration. While each of these mixes is slightly different, each is of high quality and sure to satisfy both fans of subs or dubs.

As this is an animated feature there are obvious sync issues present in all audio mixes. At no stage during the transfer were any dropouts detected in any of the audio tracks.

The 5.1 mix is highly focused across the front three channels and does not make any real use of the surround channels. Neither the Japanese nor English 2.0 tracks have the surround flag enabled. The subwoofer is used minimally to support both music and effects.

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

Extras

The small amount of extras included on this disc are informative and are a welcome addition.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

The animated menu is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and includes a short transition animation when moving between selections.

Biographies-Character

A short two page profile for each of the three main characters is provided.

Theatrical Trailer

The English trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. It has a running time of 1:28.

Trailer

Trailers for the upcoming releases of Street Fighter Alpha and Blood The Last Vampire are also provided.

Crew Interviews

This interesting and informative 13:55 minute interview with director Yoshiaki Kawajiri is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Japanese 2.0 audio and non-removable English subtitles. The video quality of this interview is not of reference quality but is more than adequate to convey the required information. A number of obvious instances of macro-blocking can be seen at 0:05, 2:15, 3:03, 9:12, 10:05 and 10:52. Each artefact occurs for a single frame and they are not disruptive to the viewer.

Easter Egg

The original Japanese trailer is also provided as an Easter Egg accessible from the main menu. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a running time of 2:32.

R4 vs R1

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

The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on; The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on; The obvious difference between these versions is in the available audio choices. If you prefer English mixes then the Region 4 version is the clear winner. If you prefer the original language track then my preference would still be for the Region 4 disc as it includes the original audio, but the choice is less clear. I feel that the Japanese 5.1 remix would have very little surround information present after listening to the English 5.1 mix.

Summary

While this film is slightly dated, Wicked City is still an enjoyable example of adult Japanese animation with a strong storyline and character development.

The video quality is not of reference quality but considering the age of the film and the quality of the source materials the transfer is acceptable.

The audio selections provided on this disc will appeal to both fans of subtitles and English tracks.

There are minimal extras provided but the interview with Yoshiaki Kawajiri is interesting and informative.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Anthony Kable (read my bio)
Friday, June 08, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using S-Video output
DisplaySony KP-E41SN11. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationFront left/right: ME75b; Center: DA50ES; rear left/right: DA50ES; subwoofer: NAD 2600 (Bridged)
SpeakersFront left/right: VAF DC-X; Center: VAF DC-6; rear left/right: VAF DC-7; subwoofer: Custom NHT-1259

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