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Kekkaishi Collection 1 DVD Review

10 min read

Yoshi’s not thrilled with being a kekkaishi but he’s got the gift to be the best there is.

What They Say:
Yoshimori Sumimura is a 14-year-old student at Karasumori School. Following a tradition come down through generations, he is the 22nd Kekkaishi of the Sumimura clan. But he’s also constantly fighting with his rival, Tokine Yukimura – a Kekkaishi herself and his childhood friend – about who is the rightful heir to the magical barrier arts. Protecting people from danger and growing stronger, Yoshimori will battle the forces of evil and protect the school grounds again tonight!
Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is done with both the English and Japanese languages in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show is a pretty standard design for a shonen series where the action dominates the mix overall with directionality and impact, though it’s not a heavy impact show, while handling the simple character dialogue segments without any problem. There’s a decent amount of action throughout it with some creative moments with the powers that are used and the variety of the creatures and that gives the mix a little bit more to work with, but it’s nothing that stands out in a huge and distinct way. It’s a solid mix throughout with no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing from 2006 to 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This collection contains thirteen episodes to it spread across three discs with four on the first two each and five on the third. The Sunrise animated series has a decent look to it but falls into the standard shonen style where it’s a bit simple with a lot of it, from the backgrounds to the character designs, while not looking cheap or cutting corners to get it done. There are some very good action sequences with solid animation to it and the characters all stand out well with none looking too similar to others. The transfer captures the look well with only some basic noise in the backgrounds and little in the way of line shimmering going on during panning sequences. The authoring of the disc is awkward though as it has minimal chapter stops; it lacks them with the prologue and on either side of the opening sequence, and the show is essentially a dump of the TV broadcast version with the swapped out hardsubbed/overlays for the character names that flash up on the screen.

The packaging for this release is fairly basic as we get the three discs inside a standard sized keepcase. The front cover isn’t all that engaging and kind of overly busy in a way as the mixture of Yoshi and Ginro with the swirls around them set against the white background with the gray symbols tends to blend too much. Yoshi stands out the most with the dark color of his outfit but it’s not enough by itself. The top portion of the cover has a black strip to it which feels oddly placed and the logo is pretty heavy with the red and yellows of the Japanese characters and the small English translated title below it. The back cover flips the colors of the background and puts the logo at the top again, albeit smaller, while a lot of space is given over with the rest of the cover to various shots from the series which are all pretty dark in nature and color. The summary is short and sweet. The rest is here with the awkward technical breakdown and a very small print version of the production credits. Flesh the rest of it out with just a bunch of logos and it’s pretty standard fare. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

After a couple of non-skippable screens that feels like an eternity for maybe thirty seconds, the menu design for this release is pretty simple but works well enough while using elements from the cover. The menus are done with static screens with a black and white background with various symbols mixed into it while bringing in a different character for each volume that takes up space along the left. The right side has the very large logo and episode listing (these things must look better on smaller screens) while below it is the basic navigation. It’s an effective menu, though a quiet one with no music to set the mood, and it’s very easy to navigate. As expected, the discs ignore our players’ language presents and defaulted to English language. There are no sign/song subtitle tracks available here so if you’re watching it in English, you get bupkiss.

The extras for this release are a bit more than the usual which is nice and they’re all located on the third volume. There’s a brief nine screen section of production art that highlights the characters and two sections of brief storyboard art for episodes eleven and twelve. The clean versions of the opening and closings are here as well and the Japanese cast credits are provided separately since the main video track was designed for US broadcast. Add in a Kekkaishi trailer and it’s got a couple of nice things but nothing truly stands out.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the thirty-five volume manga series by Yellow Tanabe that ran in Shonen Sunday, Kekkaishi is a fifty-two episode series that deals with teenage characters who deal with spirits and yoki that appear around their school. The series has a simple story to tell with its character at this stage of the series as it’s largely introducing the concepts, the core cast and their interactions, but it hits a lot of one-off stories and expanded stories just in the first thirteen episodes that shows us a good variety of spirits and yoki that come into the area. The show definitely has that “adapted from manga” feeling to it as it hits its marks in a very clear and distinct way. With it being about spirit hunters to a large degree, there’s a certain familiarity to it all if you’ve watched a lot of shows like this before.

The series deals with the descendants of a clan that has been dealing with ayakashi and other spiritual problems for some five hundred years. In the past, an evil was sealed in the area after it had caused great problems and now it resides deep under the local school. What it does is draw in other ayakashi and through its power, it helps them to become something more dangerous and more powerful. The current generation of the descendants has split into two as there’s debate over who the true heir will be and they spend their nights dealing with capturing the ayakashi that come into the area before they get caught up in what’s below. The critters that they deal with for the most part early on here are simple, though there’s enough challenge to some of them to make it a bit of an effort, though it’s more of a learning curve than anything else.

Kekkaishi does start off in an interesting way as it deals with the two main characters at a younger age than where it will end up. While the elders of the two clans that live next to each other have a longstanding feud, their grandchildren in the form of nine year old Yoshi and eleven year old Tokine are pretty friendly at this age. Much to the dismay of their grandparents of course as they continually pull them apart. Yoshi’s been thrust into this position as a true heir against his will as his older brother wasn’t considered right for the task, though he ended up leaving to become a leader with in the Shadow Organization that oversees things related to the ayakashi in the present day. Yoshi’s struggling with being a kekkaishi since he’s having a a hard time mastering the skills and can’t even read the sacred scrolls, but he does his best and works pretty hard at it, reckless he may be. Tokine has a greater acceptance of things and works hard to impress her grandmother, but she’s already realizing at this age that her skills will be surpassed by Yoshi’s raw power.

When the show flashes forward five years and you have Yoshi in middle school and Tokine in high school, things have been frayed between them since an incident caused her to be hurt. He felt guilty, even though she recovered fully, and it put up a barrier between the two. There’s also the fact that she became a teenage girl who really doesn’t care much for Yoshi and wants to avoid him because of that. When we see them in the present, the two are very much in competition with each other though Yoshi is just trying to get back on her good side. Tokine dislikes his ways over it since he doesn’t truly study for being a kekkaishi and he’s always late for their night time missions and does reckless things in fighting the ayakashi. He’s a little unorthodox, but a lot of it is just the age.

A lot of these episodes show Yoshi starting to get a better feel for things and coming up with creative ways of using his spiritual abilities to capture the ayakashi and eliminate them. It does get interesting when he creates the cubes in which he captures them and then learns how to manipulate them to different designs and uses and it shows a creativity on his part that Tokine lacks. As he continues this, she starts to get more of a clue about his potential and treats him a little differently, but the age differences do contribute some to things. The relationship between them thaws in small, slow ways, but it’s hard to believe they’d go five years like this without some sort of thawing before then.

The creatures they face aren’t all that memorable for the most part and we get familiar things like a friendly ghost who hasn’t passed on yet and ends up befriending Yoshi, who tries to help him pass on. It was actually nice that the character was spread over a few episodes as a background piece rather than a focus and it helped to introduce more of how willing spirits can pass on without being destroyed. There’s an extended story with Yoshi’s familiar at the end that goes for a few episodes that shows us the ghost-wolf’s past with how war and man destroyed their mountain and how a comrade of his has survived all these centuries as well and leads a ragtag group of ruffian ayakashi. The issue with what’s underneath the school is only lightly dealt with in these episodes unfortunately. We get a basic understanding of it but the focus is more on the things that it manipulates and powers up than anything else.

The biggest problem I have with Kekkaishi at this state though is that the characters just aren’t all that interesting. There are amusing moments with the grandparents and the familiars are fun enough, but the two leads have different issues. Tokine is too cool and aloof so we don’t get to really know her. Yoshi is rash and annoying with his personality because he has the whole “I don’ want to be here” mentality that can wear after awhile. And neither of them has a real life outside of being a kekkaishi. They go through the motions at school during the day, but Yoshi is exhausted since they spend every night dealing with the ayakashi. Neither seems to have much in the way of friends either which makes them all the more isolated and without any extra personality. With their focus so much on the ayakashi, especially with Tokine, it’s almost an obsession.

In Summary:
Kekkaishi plays but a lot of familiar shonen rules so there aren’t any real surprises here. It starts off a bit rough since the characters are young and there’s some initial panic about it being an elementary school series, but once it gets them a bit older it settles down and starts to work better. But nothing that it does here really differentiates itself from other ayakashi hunting series that are out there and the characters themselves are fairly plain and without personality beyond their jobs. There are some interesting hooks to be had at times and they lay out parts of a bigger picture to explore here, but this is just the first quarter of the series and it’s largely trying to deal with the basic concepts. It does it alright but it doesn’t separate itself yet from many other shows.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Production Art, Storyboards, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Japanese Credits

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

Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: June 21st, 2011
MSRP: $49.99
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

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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