Posts Tagged ‘steve staley’
Don’t think of it as lacking in innovation, think of it as having tons of what you already know and love about the shonen genre.
In this modern world, people are killed secretly by creatures called homunculus. Homunculus were created many years ago through the power of alchemy but hidden away from the world. They are small robotic embryos that attach themselves to humans and devour the host’s brain and body until they are eventually able to take over the host body and eat other humans to survive. The ones who fight and kill them are alchemist warriors who have the other great discovery of alchemy, Buso Renkin, to fight with.
The first thirteen episodes of the first season are included in this set. The hero of this anime is Kazuki Muto who after wandering to the haunted factory behind his school is killed by a homunculus while attempting to save the life of a girl he sees there, Tokiko Tsumura. Tokiko is an alchemist warrior fighting in Kazuki’s town and intrigued by his act of bravery, gives him a kakugane which gives him a new life and the ability to wield a Buso Renkin, a powerful weapon powered by its owner’s will to survive and the powers of alchemy.
Unable to turn away from his new found power and desire to protect the world from the homunculus, Kazuki teams up with Tokiko to face off against the mysterious Papillion Masked Creator who is creating these monsters.
Good and the Bad
The first thing that anyone who picks up this package has to notice is the wonderful job that Viz Media did with the packing of this release. Normally packaging isn’t really factored into my reviews but the case for this set is very well put together with separate pages within the case for each disc. I did find that the special postcards that were included with the set tended to slide around which sometimes made it hard to close the case or keep the postcards in the case. If you plan on removing the postcards from the case for various display purposes, this won’t be an issue.
Getting into the anime itself, this anime almost lost me from the start with a very over the top bit of dialogue that forced me to roll my eyes. Getting past this initial hurdle, audiences are going to very quickly enter a world where over the top and shonen clichés are the norm. All of them are there for the audience: A clueless hero entering a world he knew nothing about, a desire to protect the innocent, new super fighting powers (with or without props, they’re both there), names for the attacks and weapons, the adorable female character and the tough female character. The only thing missing was a snarky female character though Tokiko certainly has some great snarky moments.
Breaking down those elements though, the audience is going to find that all of the representations are well presented. Mahiro is a very cute representation for the ‘little sister’ role and remains a very strong source of comedy and emotion throughout the thirteen episode set. Tokiko is also an excellent example of the tough warrior maiden character that every shonen series needs.
The story and writing in this series is exactly what you would expect with very few surprises being thrown at the audience. Despite its liberal use of clichés, the writing in this series remained strong throughout managing to pull me in with its action and its ability to connect to the audience on an emotional level early in the series driving them towards wanting to see more. The series does hit a very poor speed bump with its comedy though.
All of the comedy is basically visual gags with a few clever situational gags thrown in. This ended up being really disappointing since the writers rarely even attempted to use more clever forms of humor despite having characters that could support it easily. Captain Bravo alone could have managed at least a couple of scenes on his own with more clever dialogue but is just never given the opportunity. There were a few example of clever writing though. Kazuki was really written well as a rookie fighter and hearing the villains cut off his big hero speeches was a unique twist that made me chuckle a few times.
Over the course of thirteen episodes, audiences are taken through two connecting story arcs. While any description of the second story arc will lead to spoilers of the first, it can be said that the first story arc has an absolutely terrible ending and the second story arc almost falls into the same pit of early over the top writing that does a very strong job of pushing its audience away.
The second story arc suffers from its own set of problems really though. The introduction of new characters in the second story arc makes it episodic very quickly. The staff does a great job with combating this issue though by keeping the storyline strong throughout the episodes to tie them together firmly and keep the series moving at a very good pace.
The animation is very strong in this series. While the CG animation of the series was very noticeable, the battle scenes were very well animated and choreographed. While the weapons of the series tended to be a little impractical, they were innovative. This innovation in the weapons led to some very exciting battles worth watching. It is a little surprising to me how violent and bloody this series is though. While it is obvious that there is going to be violence and blood just due to its genre, it still managed to surprise me as an audience member the various ways that people were being killed.
Most of the music that stood out in this series was very nice Jazz melodies that melted well into the background. In particular fans should pay attention to the soft jazz theme during the episode five mountain scenes. Also very enjoyable was the Jazz themes that played during Mahiro’s Buso Renkin seminars. The battle scene music really came across well when I rewatched this series with surround sound. The strong orchestra music really played well with the scene and the strong brass really captured that shonen fighting spirit that heroes keep going on and on about.
Throughout the set the audio quality remains consistently strong with no detectable drops in quality.
Dub vs. Sub
Going back and forth between the English and Japanese casts, I just could not get behind Tara Platt’s performance of Tokiko. The difference between the performance from Platt and the performance of Ryoka Yuzuki in the Japanese cast felt like they were almost night and day in terms of inflection and emotion. While I could certainly hear the different intonations that Yuzuki delivered in her role, Platt delivers a performance that is flat and even throughout. She rarely changes her vocal tones and is always speaking in a very serious tone. While this makes complete sense for the character, it also makes the character very boring and hard to cheer for. Eventually I got used to the character and the flat tones but it did take awhile.
Karen Straussman as Mahiro, however, was very nice. The performance here was very nicely done though it’s so sugary sweet I can see it getting on the nerves of some members of the audience and sending someone into diabetic shock at some point. Another big plus for the dub cast was Spike Spencer in the role of Chono/Papillon. I can’t think of an adjective to describe the performance without offending one subset of the population or another so let’s just say… a foppish cream puff?
For this set, the edge in terms of performance really has to go to the Japanese cast.
There aren’t a lot of extras included with this set but the ones that are included are enjoyable for all members of the audience. All three discs have a commentary track on them with the first one hosted by Steve Staley (Kazuki) and Tara Platt (Tokiko). On the second disc is a commentary that I believe is hosted by Steve Staley and Spike Spencer. I say ‘think’ because the actors never actually introduce themselves on the commentary which left me having to figure out who was talking based on what they were saying about the characters. This commentary was the best of the three though as the actors (whomever they are) were really hilarious as they riffed on the anime and cracked jokes about the characters. The third disc commentary is with the ADR director and script adapter, Rene Veilleux and Donald Roman Lopez.
Also included on the third disc is a behind the scenes feature taking fans into the animation process of the series. While they don’t show anything particularly new that fans who have watched other extras of this nature haven’t seen before, it’s still worth checking out.
Despite a small effort on its own part to change my mind, this is an enjoyable release. While this is not the series that you would ever show to someone as a great example of the shonen genre, those who enjoy their anime filled with action and monsters and new powers are going to find little to be disappointed with here. As long as you take it at face value and don’t think about it too much, this is a nice set for an anime fan to kill a weekend with and with any luck, Viz will announce a release date for the last thirteen episodes soon.
Final Grade: 85% – B