|Category||Anime||Biographies - Characters
Notes - Historical Background
Notes - DVD credits
|Year Released||1999 Japanese
|Running Time||57:56 minutes|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224
Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||No|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||
|Subtitles||English||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The story is set in the nineteenth century and starts with a young orphan named Shinta who is travelling in a group of traders who intend to sell him into slavery. When they happen upon some bandits, everyone bar Shinta is ruthlessly killed in an impressive display of blood. All that saves Shinta from death is the fortuitous intervention of master swordsman Hiko. Hiko takes on Shinta as an apprentice and his first task is to give him a better name - Kenshin. And so begins years of training as Kenshin is turned into a master swordsman himself. That bit is the easiest to explain as thereafter the story takes a number of splits and frankly becomes a little difficult to follow. Broadly speaking it seems to be showing a split time arrangement, looking at Kenshin's training, his recruitment by Katsura and his work as a master assassin for Katsura. The overall thrust is the work of Katsura to try and prevent some rather unpleasant fighting that is going to have some rather nasty effects on Japanese history - including the burning of Kyoto. Along the way, the slightly restless nature of Kenshin's heart is revealed and when he meets a mysterious young lady by the name of Tomoe, it seems that he has some problem dealing with his feelings. Katsura encourages a relationship between the two and that is where the two episodes on offer here pretty well end up...after of course plenty of tastefully done murder and massacre.
To be honest, I found the story to require a lot more concentration than I give to a film for entertainment and at times it really left me puzzled as to what was going on. This confusion only lasted briefly before the old befuddled brain finally caught up, but it did detract from any enjoyment I could get here. In some respects it sort of reminded me of Ninja Resurrection, even down to the rather extreme violence depicted at times - on a much less grotesque level than that effort though. As such it once again demonstrates a degree of unoriginality which again does not help the presentation too much either. There is however some very decent animation on offer here, even though there is something of a variety of animation styles in each episode. Overall, I found this to be a little hard going, but still reasonably entertaining stuff. I would not however rate this as essential anime, despite the somewhat rapturous review the Region 1 DVD was given on Animeondvd.
The transfer is presented in a Full Frame format, and it is not 16x9 enhanced.
This is generally speaking quite a sharp looking transfer, although there are sequences which have obviously been done in such a way as to create a slightly diffuse image. This is especially noticeable in the earlier scenes of the first episode which have a nice cloudy effect across some portion of the frame to emphasize the moonlight shining. There was not much of an issue with the detail on offer here, although I would have thought after the aforementioned review of the Region 1 version that perhaps this could have been a bit more detailed. Shadow detail was adequate overall, with no real problem of huge amounts of detail disappearing in dark, night scenes. Again, however, I would have perhaps expected just a little better. This is a clear transfer with no really noticeable problems with grain or low level noise.
Whilst there are the odd sequences displaying bright, vibrant colours, the general tone here is a little muted. With so much of the action taking place at night, this is not much of an issue but I sometimes felt that the night-time colours could have perhaps been a little less dull. This is perhaps indicative of the black tones not quite being as black as they could have been. There is no problem with oversaturation in the transfer and the only bleeding happening in this transfer was the copious amounts shed by the murder victims.
There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. As indicated, there is less of a problem here with aliasing than on previous releases, although it was still present. There were no other problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There was not any problems with film artefacts here at all.
There is just the sole subtitle option on the DVD,
and to be honest it is very deserving of the "dubtitles" moniker. It certainly
bears no relationship to the English soundtrack other than in a coincidental
way. If you normally watch your anime in English with the English subtitles
on, this will probably either annoy the heck out of you or keep you completely
amused for almost an hour. Put me in the former category. Since my Japanese
is pretty well non-existent, it does not create any problems with that
soundtrack option for me.
The dialogue is easy to understand and clear throughout the transfer. The usual animation sync problems exist here but if it bothers you, you probably would not be looking at this review anyway - you would be avoiding all animated titles.
The original music score comes from Taku Iwasaki and a surprisingly good effort it is too. This is a very nicely done effort that really supports the video enormously - you certainly remember it after the end of the show, even though it is not consciously tugging at the emotional strings.
A well presented soundtrack offers natural enough
sounding dialogue, but really does miss out on the ambience that a surround
encoded soundtrack would have provided. Since the episodes are a little
more dialogue based than some anime, the surround ambience would have really
lifted this out of the good category. You obviously do not need to have
a subwoofer for this soundtrack - the bass channel is even less active
than a politician during question time. The overall soundtrack is quite
open and free of any significant distortion.
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
13th December 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|