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Law of Ueki Complete Series Collection Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Law of Ueki CoverWhen a young middle school student is offered any ability at all, he chooses the ability to turn trash into trees. And so begins a quirky yet highly predictable shonen show with some great moments.

What They Say:
The fate of the world rests on Ueki, an average junior high student. Average until he gains the power to change trash into trees, anyway. Granted to him by the enigmatic Mr K., Ueki’s strange power forces him to participate in the 100-fighter “Battle of Supernatural Powers.” If Ueki wins the tournament, Mr. K will become the new King of the Celestial World while Ueki will receive the “Talent of Blank,” allowing him to choose any power he desires. However, if Ueki gets too many penalties during the game, he will disappear!

The battles won’t be easy. Ueki will face many corrupt opponents with crazy powers from blowing fire after drinking water to turning cotton into snakes! It’s up to Ueki to win the tournament and prevent the Talent of Blank from falling into the wrong hands.

Contains episodes 1 – 51.

The Review:
Law of Ueki has a decent pair of stereo mixes associated with it that are both encoded at a somewhat standard 192kbps. With the Japanese stereo mix that’s used, it’s fairly active with both the left and right channels during the fight sequences, particularly when the trees are being used to attack. But outside of the fights the show is like most others in that it’s a pretty straightforward mix. There isn’t a huge amount of strong directionality with it but it fills the forward soundstage like you’d want it to. Dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The fifty-one episodes it runs is spread across thirteen volumes with four episodes per volume except the last which only has three. The design of the show is one where it’s filled with some interesting color choices that when combined with the animation style gives it a feel where it almost seems like some of those early CG shows where backgrounds and character animations don’t quite blend all that well. The style of the shows animation just feels like it’s off here somehow but the transfer for it is very clean and looks great. There weren’t any noticeable issues such as cross coloration or aliasing, colors are strong and vibrant and backgrounds come across very well here.

When it comes to how to pack 13 discs into a single collection, there are a couple of routes you can go. Geneon opted for a pair of oversized keepcases which holds multiple discs on hinges and shrinkwrapped both of them together while also using the adhesive between the two sets to make sure they don’t fall apart unless you want them apart. I don’t know that there was a better solution for it considering they’re trying to do it as cheaply as possible, but this does work fairly well. Each keepcase is designed exactly the same when it comes to its artwork and layout and text. The front cover has a good overall cast shot of most of the principle characters with the multi-colored logo down in front of the very serious looking Ueki. There’s a good tag for it being the complete set as well. The back cover has just a single pairing of character artwork that’s cute while the rest is given over to text. The series summary deals with it all in very basic fashion and we get a clean listing of the discs extras. The bottom third of the cover has the standard production information we saw on the single releases and the very solid technical grid which lays it all out clearly. The reverse side is very handy as it shows the artwork for each of the discs and lays out their volume numbers and episodes, something that the discs themselves don’t have.

The menu layout at first is a bit strange looking but it keeps to the shows slightly off-kilter feel as the left half has animation playing throughout it from the show and the right side has the image of one of the trees from the show with the navigation selections over it with a bit of music playing along to it. The menus are a bit more animated than a lot of other Geneon menus at the time were as there are some brief transitional pieces that shift to the submenus when selected but they don’t last long and are pretty smooth. Access times are nice and fast and the layout is easy to use while the disc does also read our players’ presets and played accordingly.

Outside of a single Japanese promotional trailer, the extras here are spread out across all the volumes with clean versions of the openings and endings on the appropriate volumes when they change. The only one that I disliked was that the final closing when done in clean format wasn’t done with subtitles with it, so you can’t watch it and get the dialogue with it which is unfortunate.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’ll have to admit this right up front, but I cheated with this set. I didn’t watch all of it. I simply couldn’t. After having a serious love/hate relationship with the nine single volumes that were released before Geneon shut down back in 2007, I couldn’t bring myself to watch them all over again just to finish out the final four volumes of fifteen episodes. Law of Ueki is a very straightforward shonen series with how it’s designed so jumping back into the show after this amount of time wasn’t a problem in the slightest. So for this review, we’re just covering the new material going forward and I encourage anyone who is interested in this fifty-one episode series to check out our existing coverage of those nine volumes to get a close-up look at it.

The Tournament in the Celestial world is still essentially what this series is about at this point and continues to be right up until the end. So much of it has been the back and forth matches between the various groups, first with Ueki going against Robert and his gang back on Earth and now in the official Tournament, that there isn’t room for much else. In very simple shonen style, Law of Ueki works through a phase that can last for dozens of episodes. The Tournament has moved well so far and the third round has been fairly intense as Ueki has been working hard against Team Marilyn since she’s such a hard-nosed opponent with the desire to fight and to win. Of course, that brings up her past as to why she’s so intent on fighting and it’s simple in its origins as she had a troubled childhood. Ueki’s ability, his hidden Talent I think, is that his righteousness brings things to the surface in others that they wouldn’t think about otherwise. Things that cause them to realize truths about themselves which he can then use and work with to his advantage.

Unsurprisingly, Team Ueki does make it through each round and has to face different kinds of troubles. One round has them going up against a team made up entirely of those who are Celestials like Ueki himself but they’re not exactly as good as they could be and the team lacks cohesion as they aren’t truly friends. It’s at this point that the show really starts to feel like it’s being rushed towards its conclusion as the fights are dealt with relatively quickly and we’re pushed into the fight against Hanon. Hanon has decided that everyone is fair game in taking him down and opens it to all challengers, but not before he adds the king to those he’s swallowed and absorbed for their celestial and sacred abilities. Spanning a few episodes with multiple fights between characters, Law of Ueki does build to a decent ending as it forces Ueki to grow and others to rally around him.

As is typical for any shonen series, there are moments of growth throughout that come in rather standard ways. I was very pleased to see that Ai was actually allowed to discover her ability since they could have kept that from being displayed here. Of course, it’s a completely horrid power she has and it turns into one that’s needed at key times going forward which makes it all the more unbearable. I like Ai since she’s the heart of the team and the one with the romantic desire towards Ueki, but she does tend to get shortchanged into a shrill character. Sano has some good moments as he realizes his Level 2 ability and works towards mastering that at the right time. Rinko, unfortunately, is almost as underutilized as Hideyoshi is during all of this and she really only shines when someone calls her useless and she goes ballistic on them.

Naturally, it’s Ueki that gets the most growth as his perseverance and righteousness is what propels the series forward. He doesn’t care about the underlying reasons for all of this, which does get revealed. Upon the more public knowledge that Hanon is an Infernal and one of the Guardian Clan that has sought to destroy the Celestials for ages untold, Ueki doesn’t really care about it as he just wants to stop Hanon. Hanon’s goal isn’t just the end of the Celestials but rather the end of everything since he wants to break the cycle of endless violence that the Guardian Clan has undertaken. His methods, of course, are silly and ill thought out, but he’s such a monster of a powerhouse that it’s easy to see why his mindset would work this way. For Ueki, whose past we see when the king reminiscences about when he met Ueki’s mother, it’s all about justice and doing what’s right and that helps to tie the show together overall.

In Summary:
The Law of Ueki was a tough series to get through and it was still tough just sitting through these final fifteen episodes. Geneon’s original plan to release it as a thirteen disc show a decade  ago was one that didn’t make much sense and was emblematic of some of the behind the times thinking the company was working with – or forced to do. This collection is really ideal however and I cannot help but recommend it enough to shonen fans who want to be entertained. Fifty-one episodes, fully dubbed and complete, for this list price? The show has some really quirky moments to it and at times I hated the way they made the logic work in it as well as some of the powers, but Ueki is a strangely alluring character and his chosen ability to turn trash into trees has him standing out against most of those who participate in shows like this. It’ll never be a trailblazer, but there are some wonderful moments to be had in here, especially if you like tournament based shows.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening, Textless Endings 1 and 2, Japanese Promotional Trailer, U.S. Promotional Trailer

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

Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: June 9th, 2009
MSRP: $79.98
Running Time: 1125 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
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.

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