What They Say:
Rei Ogami doesn’t have a problem with killing. As a Code:Breaker – a super-powered assassin employed by a secret government organization – he works outside of the law, existing in the gray area between right and wrong. When Rei gets an assignment, criminals are cremated in a blaze of blue fire. That is, until a classmate named Sakura witnesses his fatal flames in action and makes it her mission to keep him from killing again.
As Sakura becomes entrenched in Rei’s world of cruelty, mayhem, and violence, the line between good and evil begins to blur. When another Code:Breaker goes rogue and the remaining assassins assemble, murder might be the only way to make things right.
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this series is done with the original Japanese language track in stereo and the new English language adaptation, which got a 5.1 upgrade, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that has a pretty good mix to it in that while it is filled with a lot of dialogue, it’s pretty well balanced with some solid action sequences and some incidental sounds that build up at times to something bigger. The dialogue aspect of the show definitely works well as the placement is solid throughout many scenes and there are several areas where the depth of placement hits some surprisingly good notes. The action takes all of that and raises it a few notches as it goes louder, bigger and more intense in a good way. This is made all the stronger in the English mix where it’s just naturally louder but also has more bass to it which definitely gives the action scenes more impact. The show has a solid mix overall and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show runs for thirteen episodes and is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second, which is also where the bulk of the extras are. Animated by Kinema Citrus, the series has a good look to it even as it works heavily on the blues and darker colors that certainly outstrips the simulcast that we had seen in so many ways. Colors are strong, solid and vibrant and the animation comes across as more fluid throughout, but especially in the high action scenes. There’s little in the way to really grouse about during a regular playback viewing session as detail holds up well, there’s little in the way of noise in the backgrounds and other solid colors and there are no problems such as cross coloration to it. An occasional bit of line noise may show up from time to time with some close lines, but it looks to be more of a source issue than an encoding issue.
The packaging for this release in its limited edition form is pretty good as it has some positive design elements to work with that lets it stand out. The heavy chipboard box holds the two Blu-ray cases in side, where each case holds one form, and it’s all done in a lot of dark blues and blacks that gives it a little extra impact. The front of the box gives us Ogami with his jacket open and power coming out of his hand as he’s against a dark and indistinct backdrop so it’s murky but striking with how it comes across with its serious style. The back cover does the same kind of feeling with a different light source angle while bringing in a few other characters as well for the visual, which stands out a bit differently but still well. The cases inside are done similar to the front cover, but not as vibrant, with the main panels featuring some good character artwork while the back covers are dark as it has the discs by format with a breakdown of the episodes by number and title with which discs they’re on as well as the extras. The covers are reversible with the same style while adding another couple of characters to the mix so you can have your prefered main ones on the outside.
The menu design for this release changes things up a bit from other FUNimation shows as we get a large static logo through the center with glass shattering images along the corners that works nicely while the background plays in the murky blacks and blues that we get from the cover. It’s not the most dynamic of menus and it doesn’t tell you much about the show, and in some ways it doesn’t really set the mood either, but it works well enough in being dark and stark in a way that feels right. The navigation strip along the bottom has the text floating by itself in white with a blue highlighted selection and it moves quickly and easily to submenus but during the top level aspect and during the pop-up side as well.
The extras for this release are pretty standard but always welcome as we get the clean opening and closing sequences, a selection of TV spots and the promotional videos lead-up to its broadcast in Japan. We also get a pair of English language cast commentaries that let the actors have a fair bit of fun with the show and their characters with amusing anecdotes and just a good sense of fun.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Akimine Kamijyo, Code: Breaker is a thirteen episode series that aired during the fall 2012 season and was simulcast by FUNimation. The show was animated by the fine folks at Kinema Citrus, so we get a pretty solid real world approach here with the heightened aspect of what the characters can do and a solid buildup towards some fun destruction. Kamijyo isn’t the most well known of manga creators, but his previous big series, ran for awhile and got released here in both anime and manga form. Code:Breaker ended up finishing its manga run not long after the anime series was broadcast for a total of twenty-six volumes, so there’s a lot of material that wasn’t adapted from the book for the series, which serves as a good start to the overall premise that they’re trying to bring through here.
The series revolves around a small group of characters and two principle characters that dominates it. With the series setup to show us a normal, modern world, we get introduced to Sakura Sakurakoji, a popular high school girl who is generally one of those positive justice kids that does the right thing and tries to make sure others are on the right path as well. Such is what draws her into the darkness though when on a bus ride home, she sees someone attacking people in the woods nearby and rushes to see what it’s all about. This is where she ends up introduced to Rei Ogami, a dark and cold young man who has special abilities that allows him to generate an intensely powerful blue flame that he uses to mete out his own justice as it kills those that are engulfed in it. Naturally, this doesn’t go over well with Sakura and the two end up in a kind of back and forth initially as he ends up at her school keeping an eye on her as she ends up trying to get him to see the error of his ways and turn himself into the police.
Ogami’s not doing all of this by himself though and we learn that he’s the sixth and latest member of a group known as Code: Breakers. This kids of relatively the same age range are basically like the 00’s of the Bond universe in that they work for a mysterious organization known as Eden that intends to deal with the worst of the worst in Japan. They get assignments from Eden, often through puppets, and they deal with the bad men in a bold and distinct way, though it largely happens out of sight of normal people so that nobody knows there are these powered individuals running around. When a Code: Breaker dies, they basically bring in someone new to take over that rank. Ogami has a whole lot of potential based on what we see and hear and that’s made more intense by the cold nature that he has, both towards his assignment targets and those that tell him where to go. He’s like the caged lone wolf that’s only doing all of this because it gives him what he needs, for now.
Of course, this means that there are five other Code: Breakers that we get introduced to as we see Ogami going through some of his jobs here since getting involved with Sakura. She ends up being drawn into it and across the first half or just a bit more than that we have her making contact with the other Code: Breakers since they’re all surprised that he’s opened up at all towards her in even the smallest of ways. While some like Toki get a little more characters, others like Rui are pretty much just support characters with a couple of nice scenes and no real development. It’s decent to see the kind of banter that goes on between all of them and how Ogami himself is a lone wolf even among them as he just has a kind of low scowl when it comes to interacting with anyone else. All he wants to do is deal with the threats and evil that’s out there since it gives him a sense of accomplishment that factors into the light background we get for him.
It’s the second half where the larger story starts to form as we learn more about the Ace of the Code: Breakers, the one that gets the 01 designation, a young man named Hitomi. While he gets involved with the group for a bit, it’s all preamble and pretense to him becoming the villain of the series that carries through to the end of the season. He gets a fair bit of time as it progresses as we see how the Eden organization handles the Code: Breakers and the kind of disposable nature of them and some of what the reality of the missions they were being sent on was all about. With him intent on bringing the organization into the light and revealing the existence of people with powers like theirs, it’s obvious that there will be push back and having Eden make him out to be the villain works nicely. That provides some nice connective material in seeing how they all interacted with Hitomi over the years and the bonds that formed, particularly with Ogami, but it touches on them all in the end.
The series plays out a pretty decent story as it progresses and there’s definitely interest in this kind of material with the secret organization with superhuman abilities fighting the true evil that exists out there. And those with powers that use them to serve their own ends. But the show never really makes the cast all that engaging so that you really get invested in them. Sakura is the human part of it all and she gets some good material throughout, especially as we meet her family and understand her past that forms her whole justice crusade, but once you get past her it’s basically just Hitomi that gets fleshed out in the final episodes. Everyone else is a decent archetype, including Ogami, but the never really progress past being an archetype. On the positive side, there’s some slick and great looking animation here, but it lacks the heart of the characters to elevate it into something stronger.
I had watched this series as a simulcast and I’ll easily admit that I struggled with a lot of because of the lack of good charactes. Revisiting it here in marathon form and in much higher quality presentation, the story as a whole works out much better and it has a far more workable flow to it than it does on an episode by episode basis. I really did come away liking the story more and feeling a bit more towards the characters. But those characters juts have an inherent weakness to them in that you do find yourself not really rooting for anyone in particular and viewing the events at a bit more of a distant approach than being all in and invested in them. It’s a show that clicked very lightly for me when it could have been far more on a lot of fronts. It’s definitely well presented here and FUNimation has done a solid job with it across the board so that fans of the show will definitely be pleased by the end release. It’s definitely worth sampling as it’s the kind of show that makes for some good dissection on why it does and doesn’t work.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentaries (7, 12), Japanese Commercials, Promo Videos, TV Spots, Textless Opening Song, Textless Closing Song
Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: June 24th, 2014
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.