What They Say:
Having the incredible powers that come with being a Minimum Holder can be a huge advantage to a private detective firm like Hamatora, but how can anyone stop someone who can both come back from the dead AND steal your powers at the same time? That’s the problem that now confronts Murasaki and Hajime, and it’s made even more vexing by the fact that the team’s founder, Nice, may be dead as well. But while it may or may not have been Nice, Art is definitely killing himself for more than just Art’s sake and his goal seems to be to gather as many stolen powers as he can in order to rival Nice’s ability. However, the strength of a power isn’t all that matters, and a lesser ability can triumph over a greater one if used correctly. It’s Rock – Paper-Scissors but with super powers as Minimum Holder takes on Minimum Holder in RE: Hamatora!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and the new English language adaptation in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that has a good mix of dialogue and action with some ambient moments that helps to build some decent mood along the way. With the mix of characters we get and some of the different, if minor, vocal differences that exist due to the powers and the like, the mix comes across well here with what it does in placement and depth. It’s not a hugely rich mix in a sense but when you get the group in different places in Cafe Nowhere, it definitely helps with the placement. The action side has some really strong moments and I like how Nice’s moments come out, especially with the needed clarity of his finger snapping moments. The show provides for some good impact and bass here as well, making it a solid design overall. Neither track had any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes for this series are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second, which is also where the extras reside. Animated by Lerche, the series once again has a really good visual design to it and not much in the way of significant differences from when NAZ toplined as the animation studio behind it. The series has some really striking colors at teams, mostly with Nice’s abilities going full out, but there are a lot of strong areas in general. It’s given a real world design with a bit more pop of color but it’s filled with detail and some very fluid animation that makes it a standout looking series. Colors are great, detail holds up well and there’s little that I can find issue with here during regular playback.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs inside against the interior walls. The front cover is one that works well with the blue of the case as we get something that feels a bit darker and more ominous here with the black and purple shades combined with the black white aspects. it also works well with Art being separated from the core trio of the story, giving it a good sense of distance about things. The back cover is a bit more traditional with a mostly black background that also brings forth a few pops of color through shots from the show and character artwork. The tagline is a bit mediocre at best without saying much but the summary of the premise covers things well. The discs special features are clearly listed separately and we get the clean listing of the disc and episode count as well. The rest is given over to the usual production and technical segments that breaks it down cleanly, clearly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus here are ones that work well in that it pretty much works off of the color design of the cover but also evokes, at least for me, a comic book feeling. Particularly in the navigation along the left that has the episodes by number and title using bright greens and yellows with a red selector bar. It gives it a lot of pop, especially against the black background with the mix of zip tone colors across it. The right half of the screen is kept straightforward with just character artwork from the show, using different pairings for the two discs, and with some good background colors and the detailed designs of the character it stands out great. Navigation is a breeze and the menu works easily as both the main and pop-up form.
The extras for this release are essentially the same as the first season, just geared for this particular season. The familiar and always desired clean opening and closing sequences are here and with the quality of them they’re worth enjoying on their own. We also get a few minutes worth of the original promos and I continue to like revisiting how shows were marketed after I watch it to see how far they dug into it for material. The final piece here is something we don’t see often anymore, but did have with the first set, with the disclaimers used to remind people that the DVD/BD that they bought are copyrighted material and some of the watch this in bright light warnings.
After the first cour hit in the winter 2014 season as created by Yuki Kodama of Blood Lad fame along with Natsu Matsumai, Hamatora’s second season shakes things up a bit behind the scenes as it brings out its concluding half of the storyline. With it being a multimedia project, this cour changed out studio NAZ for studio Lerche and Seiji Kishi became the main director as Hiroshi Kimura had lesser involvement in it. Similarly, the writing staff was largely the same with a few reduced elements to it as well. That said, the show moves more firmly into serious material here and it feels like the production side became more focused in terms of staffing to achieve what they wanted to do..
The first cour worked better for me than I expected, especially after I dropped the series in simulcast form after the first episode as it felt weirdly convoluted for what is essentially a variation on the X-Men concept. We got to know the main cast fairly well the last time around, though a lot of it came across as mostly superficial outside of the core characters where the big motivations are. It’s a fairly standard problem in that outside of the main characters everyone else feels like they’re there just to support them and not have riche enough stories themselves. That said, when things kept coming down to Art and Nice it ended up working well as it pushed away a lot of the fluff and just connected better. Of course, one of the problems I had and have with the series is that it’s hard to take too seriously considering the names used. I know, you have to make allowances, but Art, Nice, Birthday and more just take me out of the concept as a whole at times.
With this season, there’s a solid overarching storyline that unfolds after the ending events of the first where Nice ended up seemingly killed only to be alive and his health being kept a relative secret – all while living out in the open, of course. The premise of the season is one that I can like in that we have a lot of Minimum Holders who don’t want to be a part of the agency trying to figure out a better way in life. It’s made clear early on that one can not join the agency and live a life without problem, especially if you don’t use your powers, but you lose a good bit of your freedom as you’ll always be watched. You can easily understand both sides of it as it’s essentially forced registration and constant surveillance, which will grate against some more than others and each side will have their non-powered allies as well.
What I like is that we do see some of those with abilities wanting to figure out a new path but at the same time knowing that they’re mostly just spinning their wheels until the right person can come along and take it to the next level. It takes someone with real personality to move and shape an event, to lead it in the direction it needs to go, and most of these folks really are just normal people that have been thrown into something that doesn’t click with what they want to do in life. So it’s no surprise that eventually Art ends up aligning with them, even if his personality is a dark and mopey one, because when he does get all inspirational and intense he can really move a crowd. Granted, it’s akin to the Dark Side kind of leadership, but when you feel the whole world is against you, you end up gravitating towards someone of strength and charisma that you believe will take you to the promised land.
What connects with me with this season is that it does play to dark themes and as convoluted as it gets with smaller subplots and characters that don’t resonate well is that we do have people trying to change the world – at least in a capacity that they can. With Moral being a big part of the first season, Momoka takes over the mantle here and works things to bring about the kind of journey she wants to see, continuing his ambitions through the use of Ishigami and Art along different directions. Ishigami’s idea of carving out a “toy garden” world is interesting, as he points out that ruling the world isn’t easy considering the size of it, and I like that he’s content with fortifying an area and establishing a safe haven. Which is what we get from Art as well, to a degree, which comes into play through drawing thousands of Minimum Holders to Yokohama as part of moving forward as a group.
It may seem like a broken record, but I just keep seeing echoes of so many X-Men stories throughout this with characters and situations, making it a draw in that regard. The season goes appropriately big as we learn what Hajime’s true past is as well as the scale of her abilities and how they can be used to achieve Momoka’s ends while also digging into some good backstory that fleshes out the connections between her, Nice, and Art as well as Master in how they all ended up where they did. It’s given proper weight and helps to flesh them out, but it again reminds that a lot of the other characters are superficial in really being delved into. The first season was for a lot of that but these characters have only targeted roles here in the second season, such as Birthday and Ratio. Murasaki kind of won me over the more we got to know him, however, and I rather enjoyed the way he manages to survive his hospital stay along the way. But that still feels more like a carryover from the first season than something truly instrumental here as it largely serves to provide more material for Hajime.
In the end, while chunks of this particular season come across as material that just kind of extends and pads things out, there’s a lot of payoff to it. I loved the last couple of episodes that goes big with what it does in trying to change the status quo and the use of powers. There’s a really varied use of those powers throughout, but when you get someone like Hajime who has something that’s destructively unique, particularly alongside the other elements in play that eliminates Minimum abilities and alters personalities, you can see why various intense personalities would get involved and try to use things to their advantage, particularly if they felt slighted or worse along the way. Though we always go back to the basic idea of good versus evil, there’s a lot more going on here and I think they only scratch the surface of what kind of tale could be told about it when you look at the various levels of power players involved. It’s definitely enjoyable for what it is and it’s largely well executed, but it falls short of its potential.
Hamatora comes to a solid conclusion with this set and once again feels like one of the more Western shows I’ve seen come out of Japan. It’s essentially a superhero show without the costumes, done in the modern style as opposed to the cartoony days of old that a lot of people still think all comics are like. I enjoyed Hamatora across both cour pretty well and the visuals definitely connect in a good way, especially when it really narrows its focus on a couple of characters. The larger themes work well and are explored as best as can be yet still leave some fantastic opportunities on the table. In the end, this show in both its parts is definitely worth checking out as it doesn’t pull its punches for the most part, works some solid character material for its leads, and has a big plan that it runs hard with. Sentai did a solid job throughout and went out strong with the dub cast and the work that was done there to make it thoroughly engaging. It’s a show that really should be getting a broadcast run.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening and Closing, Japanese Disclaimers, Japanese Promos
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 26th, 2016
Running Time: 300 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.