What They Say:
In the shadows of this modern age, ninjas fight to control an ancient technique strong enough to rule the world. This coveted secret dwells within Miharu, who only wants to use his power to end the suffering of dying Yoite – a former foe who might be the only friend Miharu really has. The ninja clans who hunt them are growing more desperate – but Miharu has finally found the motivation he needs to confront his destiny.
As this was a two disc release, I watched the first disc in English and the second disc in Japanese – the English release comes in a very high powered 5.1 Dolby Track whilst the Japanese has a stand alone 2.0 Stereo track. It is very good in both languages; you definitely feel the effects from the first episode with the gritty atmosphere, which continues as the series goes along with some great battle scenes and effects. It’s a very good release overall with no noticeable lag between audio, subtitles and transition.
The video likewise had no problems, they were no glitches or slowdown, and linked in well with the Japanese subtitles, there are no transition problems and works very well in both widescreen and full screen format. No problems with the subtitles in correlation to the audio, and the animation with this combination of screen effects without any disturbances I noticed make it for a top quality release. It’s also got one of the better coalitions with CGI I’ve seen in quite a while, especially as the animation can turn from bright to dark in a flash, the effects were certainly not noticeable regarding water colouring or any other defects, making this visibly and verbally one of the better releases I’ve seen in a while from Manga Entertainment.
There was no packaging for this test disc.
The menu is very basic in comparison, with the set up being with play all, episodes, extras (on the second disc) and set up, with a picture of Miharu on the right, whilst the episode selection has no scene selection. Fairly standard, but easy to navigate.
There are two extras, both on the second disc. The first is the textless opening and ending of the series, which is standard now on most releases.
The second is a real fun treat for dub fans, as we have an episode 25 commentary involving Brina Palencia/Joel McDonald (Miharu/Yoite) The fact that the first thing they pretty much say is in their opinion how fun it is to play ‘gay ninjas’ means you’re gonna be in for a laugh. Brina in particular caters to the yaoi fans, saying is the sweetest relationship though they also comment on the usual stuff like. how do they relate to their characters, how the direction was used and how they were cast, also talking about Joel’s first con experience and that he was unsure how to interact. It’s also fun how they both wimp out when asking each other how they would use the Kira power, about the fan art they’ve seen for the series and other roles they’ve shared. A good mixture of intelligent interaction and a lot of fun.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Nabaru No Ou comes on the heels of many shows, both from the past and present that use ninjas as the primary theme. However, it takes the theme in a completely different path, with a series edge, whilst pondering to fans with common themes and speculation, with excellent character dynamics and bloodthirsty fights and bad guys. It actually even made me cry near the end…
The first episode immediately kicks in where we left off with the focus being on the new friendship/relationship between Yoite and Miharu. Yoite discovers that despite the pain he doesn’t want to die now he has a trusted friend, and Miharu no longer is the apathetic self he was at the start, even unleashing the Shinra Bashou when his friends are hurt, whether it’s just from a plan to use the ninjas for sacrifices for a healing entity or just doing it because they are evil, Miharu’s character development has gradually gone through the roof after the half way point of the series.
Whilst the focus is on Miharu and Yoite, and admittingly it does drop the grade slightly because the over focus does mean a few of the characters are put to the background, it doesn’t diminish all the character development from there, for example we learn about Koichi’s secret…there was more than enough hints in the first half at his true ability and nature, as well as Raimei’s relationship with both her brother after learning the truth previously, and how she has evolved from someone who was helping Miharu just to obtain the Shinra Bashou, to someone who wants to help him because she’s his friend. There’s even a slight bit of romance between Koichi and Raimei which is quickly shooed away in the favour of the plot, but the show enjoys ship teasing a lot (Yoite/Miharu in particular).
The real crux is that Yoite’s health is failing after using the Kira ability too much (which sucks out his life force to use for killing intent, or is used to help heal at times like using it on his associate Gau) – there are some flashbacks into Yoite’s life, and how he became close to his comrades like Gau and Yukimi, but there are more groups, from the past and new characters who are now after the Shinra Bashou, so Yoite and Miharu are on the run trying to avoid them, though they encounter some old friends including Yae, who has an ability called the Izura Shingan which can confront the Shinra Bashou to grant the powers of the Nabari for his own needs.
Of course, nothing ever goes through smoothly, with Yoite weakened, he is eventually captured – but the combined efforts of people like Yae, Gau, Miharu’s sensei Tobari and Raimei’s brother Raiko. Now with so many ninja clans desperate to get their hands on the Shinra Bashou, it becomes all scale war trying to get Miharu, with some clans attacking and some defending him in their own way (the academy students from episode 14 for example surprise you by despite being as snarky as they were, come to help in the end).
However, the last few episodes really take the cake – we get the big bad, Hattori who in the first half was simply seen as a scholar but had some power (as his ability to take out Tobari-sensei proved) but it is revealed gradually that it is more than that as he has no tolerance for anyone who opposes him, being the man behind wanting to get rid of Yoite to get to Miharu. It leads to a two episode battle conclusion which leads him killing one of the characters, leading to Yoite to use his remaining power to try and kill him. During the battle, Yoite’s true battle is with himself and is gradually pain leading him to insanity whilst Miharu and the Shinra Bashou grow in unison to try and save him. It is a finale which really hits home because it combines excellent animation, with shounen battle whilst having a true moment of friendship in trying to bring Yoite back from the dark side so to speak. It does lead to a very sad finale, which isn’t really obvious about what happens to Yoite until the last few frames and Miharu’s reaction. There are no tears, no blood, and no sighs – just memories. And it works.
The real strength of Nabari No Ou is the fact that it really is a genre that has been done in various ways, and yet it manages to find its own voice. The characters are well thought out (Yoite being my favourite) and whilst he and Miharu steal the spotlight, everyone does get their moments. I haven’t mentioned what happens to Raikou but he really proved himself after showing what truly happened back when it was him that supposedly killed him family, Yae proves that this is not just an all man’s world, and Yoichi also has some real kick ass moments two. Heck, even Gau who is the non-action guy of the team has his moments and really shows his worth. My only moan which stops it from getting a near perfect grade is that whilst the characters are well thought out, the villain of the piece is almost a rush thought as it could have been anyone. The show does well in giving several antagonists and it slowly gets along to who is the real big bad, but in the end, despite the final fight, it felt a bit rushed and maybe too much focus was put on the two leads. Tobari in particular is put on a bus for most of the second half basically training and is mostly ineffectual by the end.
Still, these are minor moans when overall the package is well told with a driven story which will appeal to both action fans, story fans and ninja fans. And yes…yaoi fans too. I’ll admit it – and yes, I agree with Brina. Satisfied?
Nabari No Ou started off strong and got stronger as the story brought into the final arc. Whilst some of the characterization seemed weaker than others, it’s brought together by two leads that are interesting and develop well throughout the series, a complex story of powers which combined CGI and animation flawlessly, and some excellent action scenes and even real tear jerking moments. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade : A –
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Manga Entertainment UJ
Release Date: September 5th, 2011
Running Time: 309 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation3, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.