Ouri and Makina are back – albeit separately, for the time being – as are the Seven Stars, and with Akasha’s plans reaching tipping point, the Kougon Sect is finding that the problems he presents may be too much for them to handle…
What They Say:
Makina Hoshino is already dead, but she can’t let go of this twisted world. She burned to death along with her entire family in a fire started by freaks that wouldn’t stay buried. Makina knows she doesn’t belong among the living, but that won’t stop her from unleashing the full fury of her twin MAC-11 machine guns on the rotting remains of those who refuse to die. She’s hell-bent on filling every empty grave she can find with the monsters that should be six feet under. Makina is a Shikabane Hime – a Corpse Princess – and it’s her job to finish off the undead leftovers haunting the dark corners of a city that used to be safe.
Audio for this release comes in English 5.1 surround and Japanese 2.0 stereo versions – I listened to the Japanese track for this review. There’s a hefty dose of action in this series, and even with the limitations of a stereo track the audio does plenty of justice to it (and to the rather good angela opening and closing songs, too) – fairly impressive stuff, with no obvious defects. A spot-check of the English track showed it to be equally competent, although without much use of the rear channels.
Video is presented in its original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect. The show is mostly set at night, so it’s weighted heavily towards darker scenes, with reds also making regular appearances (all that blood, you see) – it’s a combination that DVD often seems to struggle with, and Corpse Princess sadly does suffer from some visible issues from time to time – nothing too major, but hard to ignore once you spot them. Daytime scenes fare better, and the quality of the animation itself is good throughout.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
The main menu is a simple affair, with a static image of Makina (in a rather fetching pose) set against a red background setting the tone for disc one, with options for Play All, Episodes and Setup. Some ominous background music completes the screen. Flesh graces disc two with her presence. This disc also has an option for Extras. There are no transition animations, so it’s all suitably quick and easy to use.
Along with the traditional creditless opening and closing sequences (and both versions of the ED are provided), there’s a commentary track for episode 24 from the dub VA cast.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It’s six months after Keisei’s death, and Ouri’s been living up to his bargain with Keisei – and his contract with Makina – by training hard so that he can properly fulfil the role of being her Contracted Monk. But Makina’s condition is causing concern for some with the Kougon Sect, to the point where Sadahiro has been asked to investigate her – and possibly kill her, if she’s deemed to be beyond help. She’s been holding on to Keisei’s Rune, his lifeforce – it’s all she has left of him, and she wants to cherish it – but Rune, like milk, goes stale if kept for too long. It’s time for Makina to move on – but who’s going to persuade her? Given that Ouri can barely deal with rabbits at the moment, it may not be him.
Later, the plans laid by Akasha and the Seven Stars reach fruition – with several planes having been brought down within Ikai City and the death toll on the ground high, there’s a steady supply of new shikabane emerging from the wreckage, and the Kougon Sect is realising that they’ve been played for fools. All along, it had been assumed that the Stars were targeting the Sect directly, but now it’s clear they had grander aims – and the swarms of shikabane may be more than they can deal with. Nonetheless, the order is given by the Sect’s head: destroy the shikabane in Ikai. With only eleven Shikabane Hime available, the odds are high and the chances of success poor, but the effort must still be made. Meanwhile, Akasha has his own plans, separate from the Stars, and plans are being made to stop him, too…
Couple of distinct arcs to this set, aside from the two main ones above, and relationships are key to all of them – in the two above, it’s the triangle of Ouri, Keisei and Makina on the one hand, and Akasha, Hokuto and his former Shikanabe Hime on the other. Along the way, we also get an in-depth look at the bond between Itsuki (possibly my favourite of the Shikabane Hime) and Takamasa; and a detour into Kasuga’s feelings for Ouri, which turns out to be rather a tragic little arc. Yes, it’s all quite heavy on the emotion, but that’s relevant to how the bond between monk and Shikabane Hime works and it’s not done in an overly-heavy, angsty way, so it’s still enjoyable to watch. It’s also broken up with enough out-and-out action scenes that the story never begins to drag.
It also all leads up to a story of ultimate betrayal that plays out quite well. All along the Shikabane Hime and their contracted monks have been told that, should a Shikabane Hime kill 108 shikabane, they’ll be able to go to heaven – as motivations to fight, it’s a bloody good one. As Akasha has already learned, though, it’s also a lie – the truth is rather different, and while 108 kills is indeed a turning point for a Shikabane Hime, it’s a point that’s very far from salvation – and that’s what ultimately turned Akasha against the Sect. How the other Shikabane Hime deal with the knowledge of their ultimate fate – which again plays on that relationship theme already mentioned – is a key part to how the series is resolved.
Overall, it’s pretty good stuff. Come the aftermath there are some scenes that tie things up that I thought could have been handled a little better – there’s a slightly unlikely feeling to how Ouri and Makina move on – but that’s a minor issue. For the most part, it’s an enjoyable tale that mixes humanity and action well to create a series that’s well worth watching.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 5.1, English Subtitles, Episode 24 Commentary, Textless Opening and Closing Sequences
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: August 1st, 2011
Running Time: 136 minutes
Video Encoding: 4880i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37″ widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.