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Guin Saga Collection 1 DVD Review

9 min read

When a pair of royal twins are sent hurtling out of their kingdom during an invasion, they find themselves rescued by a man with a leopard head. And then things get weird.

What They Say
He awakens in the dark forest of a mythical land with some type of leopard mask that he cannot remove. The only thing he remembers is his name – Guin – and that he is a warrior of unimaginable power. And when the two twins of Parros, innocent victims of a civil war arrive, Guin knows what he must do. But the journey to save the children means much more than just slaughtering a few hundred well-trained Mongoul soldiers. Victory means he must battle magical desert tribes, assemble forces that have fought each other for hundreds of hears, and divine a mysterious plan that he is central to. Prepare for a sweeping anime epic of mystery and magic! Of violent clashes and dark double-crosses.

The Review!
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release has a pair of solid stereo tracks encoded at 224kbps. Guin Saga is pretty straightforward with a lot of what it offers as there’s a fair bit of dialogue throughout it as the characters bring out the exposition and just talk about what to do but it’s well balanced with some rather good action sequences. Those sequences step things up a bit with placement and directionality of the mix since the swords clang well, horses rumble over the screen and other standard fantasy fare aspects. Both the Japanese and English tracks run about the same here with no really noticeable differences when it comes to the volume levels, though there is the perception that the English mix is a touch louder. Both tracks come across clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortionsd uring regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs in a six/seven format with a third disc included that contains all the extras so they don’t impact the main program. Guin Saga has a really strong look to it with Satelight producing the animation as there’s a lot of detail, a lot of great colors and a fully realized world here which helps it all to be really distinctive. The transfer captures a lot of this though there are some minor issues to be had with it that will be more visible on some setups. Some of the backgrounds show off a fair bit of noise, particularly in the first episode in the Roodwood, and there are some moments in the Crystal capital where there’s some significant line noise during the panning sequences. Overall, there’s a lot to like with the show in how it looks but it’s the kind of show that needs more bits thrown at it and a high definition transfer.

Packaging:
Guin Saga comes in a standard sized black keepcase which holds the three discs with a white hinge inside. The front cover is rather dark and murky with a sunset scene that has Guin with sword in hand as the clouds reflect the light behind him while it’s all surrounded by a reddish brown frame that gives it a very classic feeling. The cover has a very distinct look to it and having the design of Guin right there is definitely appealing, but the colors make it a bit of a hard sell. The back cover lightens things up with an almost parchment like look to it where there’s a strip along the top that uses similar style as the front for a shadowed Guin while further down is another with several decent shots from the show. In between them is a brief summary of the basic plot, and there’s a lot of show here so being minimal is actually good, and sets up expectations pretty well. The bottom section has a good clean listing of the discs extras, though the font is rather small, and a solid listing of the production credits and technical grid that lists everything clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is rather simple but effective as it goes with a static approach to it. The main menu has a split screen style applied to it where the left side has the episode numbers and titles running from top to bottom set against a reddish background while the very bottom has the submenu for language selection. The right side has a good piece of character artwork just below the logo where the first volume has Guin and the second has Rinda. With little to the discs outside of the show itself since the extras have their own disc, navigation is a breeze and easy to move around. Strangely, the first disc read our players’ language presets while the second defaulted to English with sign/song subtitles.

Extras:
The third disc that has all extras on it has some good stuff here that makes it very worthwhile. The basic are here in that we get the clean opening sequences and the clean closing as well as a trio of trailers for the release. The bigger extras are where the meat is though, such as the interview with the voice actors for several of the leads, such as Guin and Remus as well as Istavan and Norisse. That piece runs for just under thirty minutes and covers a lot of the usual things you’d see in such extras with them talking about their roles and showing off some of the recording sessions. Another extra that’s rather interesting is the interview piece with a man named Kiyoshi Imaoka, who serves as the novel editor for the series. The piece runs for about twelve minutes and gives us a nice look at the original author and her works through a very personal experience. It feels more intimate and real than a lot of interviews tend to be and really gets you to feel a little connected to the author herself. Of course, he reveals early on that he was her husband so that definitely colors it a bit, but it’s really just icing on the cake of an intriguing extra. The last extra here is a thirteen minute piece from 2009, a few months before the show aired, where they did a premiere event and had the first episode shown off and spent time with the cast and creative side. It’s a bit bittersweet since the author is there as well and she died just a few months later after the show began its broadcast.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the massive, sprawling series of novels by Kaoru Kurimoto, Guin Saga is a twenty-six episode series by Satelight that gives us a properly epic fantasy series. With the novels having started way back in 1979 and there being well over a hundred of them before Kurimoto died, there’s a lot of material to work with here and the anime world definitely needs more fantasy shows. With these first thirteen episodes, Guin Saga introduces us to a lot of ideas, countries and religions in quick fashion as it has a lot of ground to cover. Things do slow down a bit as it progresses but for the most Guin Saga just keeps going and going.

Guin Saga can be a bit of a hard watch because it is trying to cover so much material and there are some jumps in it that could have taken a lot more time to work through. The series opens with the nation of Parros being under attack by the Mongaul warriors. It’s a quick and brutal attack on the fairly peaceful, elegant and established country which results in the death of its king and queen. That happens just as their twin children, with Rinda being the strong and serious daughter with prophetic abilities and Remus as the son who is a bit of a wallflower and not exactly a leader. The two are spirited away to ensure that the lineage would continue and they’re thrown into a special transportation device hidden in the castle that sends them a considerable distance away to the Roodwood.

It’s here that things take a curious turn as the twins come across a very powerful looking man who isn’t quite a man named Guin. While his physique says he’s a skilled and hardened warrior, his head is that of a leopard and he’s got very little memory of who he is, how he got there and what his purpose is. There’s a few key things he remembers, but their meaning is lost to him. What he does have is a sense of justice, so when the Mongaul troops roam through and try to take the twins, he steps in as their protector. This leads the trio to being on the run, something that happens for a good part of this set and for the first half of it specifically. It can be a little annoying at times because they’re constantly reacting and getting thrown to different areas of the land, which has them meeting new people and creatures.

Guin Saga does turn more seriously towards Guin himself as it moves on and into the country of Nospherus, which is like a no-man’s land where a few animal type races live and some what you would call savage men. It’s here that Guin really comes alive and has the feeling that he must have been an incredible general in a past life as he begins to put things together to defend the area against the Mongaul incursion as they’re intent on eliminating the races there and building a new keep to expand their power. This has Guin separating from the group for a bit and allows another addition to the cast from early on, Istavan the Crimson Mercenary, to shine a bit as he watches over the twins and engages in quite the plan with Guin for dealing with the Mongaul.

Guin Saga has a whole lot going on with these first thirteen episodes and it moves pretty quick, though there are times when it feels like it’s spinning its wheels as they deal with the Mongaul incursion for so long. Thankfully, the series has such a rich backdrop with all that it wants to introduce and is animated with a strong sense of attention to detail that you don’t mind these slower moments. It lets you take it all in all the more if anything. With so many different elements to the series, I kept coming away really enjoying this aspect of it since there’s such an appeal with the armor, flags and the entire military side of the Mongauli forces This kind of attention to the work makes the world even more fully realized as it moves along and that helps to cement it as a strong work, even with the awkwardness of the story at times because of how it progresses. Anything weaker in the animation department would have made this show much more difficult to get through.

In Summary:
Guin Saga is one of very few shows that deal with fantasy themes and that’s something anime needs more of, especially those that treats it seriously. While there are characters that can be completely abused for comedy here, such as Remus or the monkey-style creatures, it avoids it completely and plays it straight. There’s a lot going on here with this series and it has a whole lot of mysteries to be revealed and interactions to explore. With a massive amount of source material to work with, this is the kind of show you really want to see explored even more than it does. With this first set, Satelight has put together a very engaging show that keeps you watching episode after episode and wanting even more. Guin Saga is a very easy recommendation, especially if you can’t get enough of good fantasy anime series.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Bonus disc of extras

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 29th, 2011
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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