What They Say
Soon after locating “Hells Fire on Frozen Tundra,” one of the Four Forbidden Boxes, in Francia, Yuri and his team are captured by Big Cimaron’s army, led by none other than Conrad! Yuri is deeply hurt by this betrayal, but to make matters worse, King Belar of the Big Cimaron suddenly shows up, ordering Conrad to execute Yuri.
With Yuri out of the picture, Belar can easily conquer the Great Demon Kingdom and control the whole world. Conrad must make a decision – but it may cost his own life!
Contains episodes 40-78.
Both the English and Japanese tracks for this release are offered in 2.0. The mix is fairly basic, with a bit of directionality present during action scenes, but the dialogue and most of the effects staying centered. However, the tracks all come through clear and there is no dropout at any point. Normally, with a title that has quite a bit of action, I’d be disappointed in the lack of a 5.1 track, but I cannot really fault this one. I do not think just having 2.0 is taking away from anything.
Visually, this release shines. The colors and lining are bright and crisp, and the animation fluid. There are some especially nice effects whenever somebody casts magic. The transfer is also clean, as I noticed no problems with aliasing or gradients (or anything else). It just looks really nice.
This is pretty standard Funimation box set packaging; that means a nice design ruined by the flimsy double thinpaks. On my set, a couple of the cases were broken, and the ones that were not were loose; just about every time I would open one up, at least one of the discs would be loose inside. The front of the case has a picture of the five principal characters set against a brown background. The back has image of the five, this time also including Murata the Wise. The thinpaks have various shots of the characters on each side, while the insides have some screen shots and episode listings. Again, it’s a decent design, but the cases are still a problem.
I am usually not one to get excited over menu design, but I really liked the ones on this set. The basic design was simple: the menu opens up like an old fashioned book onto a title page. Each submenu occupies another page, but what takes the design to another level is that the animation for the lower submenus flips past the pages of the other submenus. For example, the last submenu is the Extras menu; when clicked on, the book flips through pages giving you glimpses of the episode and setup menus as well. Again, it is a basic design, but I liked the level of detail that went into it.
After being over inundated with art galleries in the first season set, I was expecting more of the same for this release. There is a fan art gallery on the first disc (which is a bit hit-or-miss as you might expect), but then on the rest of the discs: nada. Not even clean versions of the opening or closing. The Extras menu is still on each disc, so you know where to go if you want some previews, but otherwise, this release is pretty bereft of extras.
When the “first season” of Kyo Kara Maoh! ended, Yuri and his crew were finishing off an encounter with the human kingdom of Big Cimaron and coming to grips with Conrad’s defection to the enemy. Note that I put “first season” in quotation marks, as the first season actually does not end until two episodes into this boxset, regardless of how the sets are actually marked. These two episodes put this story arc to rest. While I was mostly non-plussed about Kyo Kara Maoh! for most of the first season, I did feel that it started to pick up with this storyline; the second season continued this trend, and I enjoyed it far more than the first.
With three of the Demon Boxes in their possession and Conrad back in the fold, Yuri sets about finding the final Box in an effort to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. After a few false starts, Murata is informed by The Great One that the final box is actually on another world. Despite having an obvious answer at hand, it takes them a while to deduce that other world is actually Yuri’s home: Earth.
With Yuri and Murata making constant visits back to their birth place, the means of returning to Earth is well known; however this time Yuri’s entire entourage travel as well to ensure that nothing happens to their King. The search for the box brings the group up against Bob, the Demon King of the Earth. While Bob has usually been kind to Yuri, even protecting him when he was a kid, Bob views the presence of so many warriors from the Great Demon Kingdom as a harbinger of strife on Earth, and so he does everything he can to keep them from their search. Ultimately, though, they find what they are looking for and return it to the protection of their castle.
With all four boxes in their protection, Yuri thinks that life should begin to calm down. However, weird things start happening, such as a mass betrayal of trust by the Bony Tribe (who are otherwise completely loyal to the Demon King) and an attack by wolf spirits attempting to sabotage the building of a bridge symbolizing the new trust between humans and demons. It is discovered that the seals on the boxes are wearing out, and if they cannot find a way to contain the evil within, then reality as they know it is doomed.
My impressions of season one of Kyo Kara Maoh! were a bit mixed. It was amusing, even though much of it was based on bishounen concepts that do not usually entertain me, and there was some decent action, but it seemed disjointed at times and was generally forgettable. Add in that each conflict followed the same pattern (things look dire for Yuri and his crew until Yuri’s subconscious magic bubbles to the surface and wipes the walls with anything and everything), and it also managed to be repetitive. But when the search for the three boxes and the main conflict with Big Cimaron started up, it sucked me in a little more.
What is interesting is that season two follows much of the same structure of the first. Once the first two episodes are out of the way, and we begin season two properly, there are a lot of random, repetitive episodes before settling into the groove that takes us through the conclusion. But for whatever reason, it worked better for me this time around. It might be because I knew what to expect, but I think it’s the fact that the world/characters/plot have already been established by this point, so they were able to just focus on telling a story.
I even began to appreciate the bishounan humor a bit more this time around. Wolfram’s constant jealousy every time Yuri happens to glance at another person was annoying at first, but grew on me as time went on. And I loved the side story when the group travels to Earth where Ginter somehow gets separated from the rest of the party and ends up in New York City instead of Japan where he gets roped into being a male model to raise the funds he needs to travel and find his king. It sounds dumb on paper, but it is amusing to see.
But the real strength of this series is in the characters. The main characters are all well developed and experience some real character growth. In particular, I really liked Gwendal’s and Adelbert’s character arc: Gwendal starting off as an antagonistic ally of Yuri who opposes the new Demon King and Adelbert as an antagonistic antagonist, but both coming to accept Yuri’s reign and become trusted companions in their own way by the end.
And as strong as the main cast are, it is the secondary cast that I liked most. Whether it’s Annisina and her wacky inventions (not to mention her continual roping of Ginter in to test said inventions) or Stoffel and his constant attempts to prove his loyalty to the new Demon King (and their hilarious disastrous results), this series has a great secondary cast. I particularly like the seemingly-airheaded Lady Cecilie and Yuri’s equally-seemingly-airheaded mother on Earth. Lady Cecilie was the previous Demon King, who’s abdication upon Yuri’s arrival frees her up for her “free and easy quest for love,” and his mother is hilarious in a chipper overbearing mother kind of way. Both appear to have nothing going on upstairs, but both are far more perceptive than their outward personalities would suggest. I was always sad that Yuri’s mother was relegated to nothing more than cameo appearances in the first season, so I was happy that she played more of a role in this one.
But my favorite character is easily Morgrif—Yuri’s melancholic, lecherous Demon Sword. Morgrif can only be wielded by the true Demon King, and so provides proof of Yuri’s heritage should somebody doubt him. But even though Morgrif is just a sword, it certainly has a personality. The image of a skull on its hilt acts as its face, and though it cannot talk, it certainly emotes. It is generally a bit bummed out because it is underpowered; it typically requires human souls to power it up, and Yuri is less than enthusiastic about providing them. Still, it always has eyes for the ladies and is not afraid to make his feelings known. For the most part, Morgrif’s interactions with Yuri have little bearing on the plot, but are some of the funniest things in the entire series.
Yet, as much as I enjoyed this season of Kyo Kara Maoh!, I also cannot pretend that I was completely enthusiastic about it. While the bishounen humor worked better for me this time around, but it is generally not something that I am particularly fond of. So, your mileage may vary there. And the story was still a bit disjointed at times. I found that it worked well when it settled down to it and got on with the main plot but got bogged down when it meandered. Unfortunately, it meanders a lot. It seemed that every time I would start to get invested in it, it would break off into something different and pull me away again. Drawing a viewer back in when they have disconnected is a tough thing to do, so kudos to it for always drawing me back in, but it was frustrating that it would keep pushing me away.
As a final note, I should mention that a third season of Kyo Kara Maoh! was completed but was never localized due to the collapse of Geneon. This season was even initially cut short before the distribution deal with Funimation saved it. However, despite missing the conclusion of the series, what we have of Kyo Kara Maoh! does not suffer at all. The story line surrounding the four Demon Boxes and the fate of the Great Demon Kingdom comes to a satisfying conclusion at the end of this season and works well as a series finale. In fact, I almost feel like tacking anything onto this would actually ruin it, so do not let the missing season keep you from watching this if you are interested.
While I certainly enjoyed the second season of Kyo Kara Maoh! more than the first, I would not call it must-see TV. I probably would have liked it quite a bit more if I had more interest bishounen humor, so take that as you will. But, while disjointed at times, when the story settles down and gets to the real issues, there’s quite a bit to like here. Add in a great cast of characters, and there are certainly plenty of worse ways you could spend your time. Mildly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Fan Art Gallery
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: D-
Released By: Geneon Entertainment
Release Date: July 7th, 2009
Running Time: 975 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080p, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System