Posts Tagged ‘bandai visual usa’
Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time Vol. 1
Taking a trip back to Heian era of
In the first two episodes of this series, we meet Akane and her two friends Tenma and Shimon. On their way to school one day, Akane has a strange feeling that summons her to an abandoned well where she and her two friends are sucked in by a mysterious mystical force. When the three wake up separated, they find themselves in a strange new world that resembles the Heian era of
In the second episode, Akane begins to learn about the new fate that her life has delivered to her. An ancient city protected by four gods is now in danger due to an evil force breaking the protective seal and it’s up to Akane to use her new powers to free the gods and save the capital from annihilation and evil. Along with this the audience is introduced to five of the eight guardians who will protect her: Yorihisa, Inori, Eisen, and her friends, Shimon who is believed to be a demon by the residents, and Tenma.
Good and the Bad
With not much to go on for this series before I began, all I really had to go with was the buzz surrounding the release of this series. For months fans have spoken about it quietly and Bandai Visual USA has spoken not so quietly about it leaving me in a perpetual state of curiosity. Starting at the beginning though, the opening animation looks wonderful. Right away I could see that the character design looked fabulous during the opening credits with every character, both male and female, being drawn with striking characteristics that make them stand apart from one another.
Just as quickly however I learned that the animation in this feature is not something that I am going to be able to look at as a consistent good point for this series. The still shots, for example, right after the credits made me hit a brick wall. While these still shots are only on the screen for a few moments and I can understand the appeal in using something low tech like watercolor (at least they looked like watercolors, I don’t paint so I can’t be certain) portraits to begin to set the mood and prepare the audience for a jump into the past, the switch from very beautiful CG animation to still watercolors was a very stark comparison for the audience to make right away.
The staff of this feature really paid attention to the little things though and that goes a very long way with me. I loved how the characters referred to each other by name so many times during the first half of episode one. I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten through a series only to realize that besides the main characters, I couldn’t name the supporting characters because their names were used so infrequently that I never had a chance to memorize them. In this case though, character names are used frequently giving the audience a real chance to get to know a character. It’s so much easier to become attached to a character that you know the name of.
With the heroine, eight guardians, a best friend and supporting characters though it’s bound to feel overwhelming to those not used to large casts. While on one hand I like how only a small handful of the characters have really been introduced (besides a few who have had screen time but no introduction), I’m not entirely sold on this route for this series. With only two episodes on this first volume, the staff did take a slight risk with alienating its audience. If the audience didn’t find at least one character amongst the five to eight that are introduced on this volume (including supporting cast) that they really like than it’s not very likely that they are going to continue with the series. This is a series that I think could’ve benefited from a simple scene that introduced all of the characters right away and gave the audience a chance to find out who they liked right away.
In terms of the story though, this series wastes absolutely no time in getting the plot set up and introduced. The series only spends about five minutes in the present world before sending Akane and her friends into the past. The first episode alone is very frantic with all of the new information being thrown at the audience but they do a great job of keeping it organized through pacing.
While it didn’t remain at a consistent pace throughout the volume, these first two episodes still managed to keep the audience engaged with action and drama while still feeding new information to the audience. The information, I thought, was really well organized as well and it never left me feeling overly confused over whom people were and what role they would largely fill in future episodes. By the end of the volume I was able to not only name most of the characters that I saw but I was also able to recall what role they played in the volume and where the story had gone so far. While this is largely, again, due to there being only two episodes on this first volume it’s still worth noting that this is something that they did well.
What bothers me the most about this volume though is that there is not enough here for casual fans and these first two episodes are not going to provide a very good hook for a new audience. While I certainly am curious about what happens next, I know for certain that if I didn’t have to review it I would be in no rush to pick up the next volume of this series. The characters were good, the animation was nice but after I hit stop on my player I was left with just an empty feeling and no real longing to see more. I’m hoping that after the story is fleshed out a little and the characters are developed a little more this is going to change.
The only other complaint that I really have is small but worth noting. Audience members should be prepared to wait an extra 30 seconds every time they put this DVD into their player since the opening warning screens are not skippable. A very small annoyance but nothing that I stressed about.
The opening theme didn’t impress me that much. Performed by three of the male seiyuu from the series, the song felt like it was written specifically for the series and so it had that kind of clichéd feeling that other opening themes don’t have. Naturally the primary purpose of any opening theme and animation sequence is to get the audience prepared by easing them into the proper frame of mind and I just never felt like the opening theme did that for me. I’m not going to call it a bad song since there is a more than likely chance that this song will grow on me before too long but for now, I was more than happy to skip the opening theme after only hearing it once. The closing theme, on the other hand, was much more enjoyable with a much smoother sound and substantive lyrics.
Dub vs. Sub
It was announced fairly early on that this series was not going to get a dub cast. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t, in this case… I have no idea. While the two episodes were well performed by the cast as far as I could tell, no one really stood out as amazing to me. I’ve never been crazy about releases that do not have any sort of dub track attached to them since Japanese is a language that has so many nuances in it; it’s easy to miss things if you’re not familiar with how to pick up on subtleties in speech patterns. Honestly even after almost 500 reviews, I still have trouble picking up on it sometimes which makes me believe that others will have the same issue which is a shame since I’m certain this series is going to get a whole lot more complex within the next six episodes or so.
The only extra included on this volume is an extra titled ‘The Demon’s Soliloquy’ which is just alternate next episode previews.
Two episodes, $30, no dub track and hardly any extras made this a hard sell for me and even after I finished this volume I found myself really wavering on how much I should be recommending this to others. While fans who are already familiar with the series might be willing to pay the MSRP tag on this one, casual fans who aren’t as familiar are going to have a hard time justifying the purchase since you really aren’t getting much for your money. For now, I’m going to stick with suggesting this one as a rental or sale purchase but unless you already know that you’re going to enjoy the next five volumes, I wouldn’t pay full price for it.
Final Grade: 79% – C