What They Say:
Hunter X Hunter: Phantom Rouge- Someone has stolen Kurapika’s eyes—and according to him, it was another survivor from his clan who were massacred for their Scarlet Eyes! Gon and Killua begin investigating on his behalf, but shortly after they’ve begun, the Phantom Troupe appears!
The audio presentation for this release covers the spread with stereo and 5.1 mixes for both languages, which is done with the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The film is one that works several solid action pieces into it and they stand out the most here with some really strong directionality at times and a good sense of impact throughout. This is where it needs to stand out the most and it’s applied well, making the action sing a bit better. The rest of the film is fairly standard dialogue stuff without a lot in the way of incidental sounds to dig into so it’s a touch quieter in some ways, letting the score take on more importance. That’s decent with what it does but it’s a fairly unmemorable score in general, but it does keep things moving forward. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally in theaters in 2013, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Madhouse, it has a good look about it with plenty of space to work with on the disc. Like a lot of what this franchise is like, it deals with a lot of darker sequences and not a lot of brightly lit ones, especially for the action sequences. There’s lots going on during the day throughout it but the big scenes are all in darker and more murky areas which keeps this from really looking great. There are some strong sequences for the action but it feels more like high quality TV as opposed to real theatrical style, but that’s partially to keep it all in the same design and feel of the series. The encoding captures the look of the film well with solid colors, deep blacks, and no breakup or noise to it while showing off as much detail as it can as well in some of those harder to discern areas.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with an foil o-card that uses a different piece of artwork. The o-card gives us the close-up of Kurapika’s eye with the spider in it that looks neat and gives the whole thing a dark and ominous feeling, to the point where even the logo feels appropriate to it rather than colorfully cartoonish. The back of the slipcover does a nice cast montage piece along the left and covers the summary of the premise in simple form while also showing off several shots from the show. I like the breakdown of the extras on the disc and how it’s set up, noting Blu-ray exclusives as well, while the production credits round out the rest. Sadly, I still dislike the way there’s no true technical grid that breaks everything out cleanly here. The case artwork itself uses the Japanese theatrical poster to good effect for the front while the back uses a slightly darker looking version of the o-card back side. While there are no show related inserts included we do get artwork on the reverse side of the cover that provides a dark and murky look at the final encounter setting.
The extras for this release are pretty good and fans of both casts make out well. With the basics here with the art gallery and trailers, the English side gets four cast member interviews that run between five and seven minutes each where they talk about the film and their characters. The Japanese side has the two actors for original characters interviewed here that runs about eleven minutes and we get a really fun stage greeting event from the theatrical side that runs about seventeen minutes with a lot of the cast and main creative together talking about the project.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Amid the at the time ongoing Hunter X Hunter series that ran for 148 episodes total, we got the Phantom Rouge film in January 2013. The film takes place in a standalone way but nicely connected to where things generally are in the film with everyone gone their separate ways but with Gon and Killua still together. Madhouse generally does solid work at minimum and this is no exception but it’s a film that’s intended to look close to the TV series designs, just with better smoothness overall and some richer backgrounds along the way. Yuzo Sato directed it and you could easily see it broken out to four episodes or so as part of the TV series just with a slightly better look and it’d work fine.
The film works a couple of simple themes but mostly it’s about friendship and trust. For Killua, this is a huge thing because of his family and the profession as his brother Illumi is always talking about the fact that friends will either betray you or you’ll betray them over time, so it’s better to not have any. While we get this as a dream for Killua, it reinforces the things that he’s learned from Illumi over the years and has him feeling really conflicted about his friendship with Gon, which has been one of the best things about the TV series. The two are just utterly best friends that look out for each other but this really eats at Killua’s mind. What draws them back to their other main friends from the Hunter testing period and other adventures is learning that Kurapika is in the hospital and Leorio is there. They naturally rush off but even with this you know that Killua has much of his brother’s words always in his mind.
Kurapika has found himself in a bad way as his eyes have been stolen, which is certainly even more problematic considering his abilities. As it turns out there’s a connection to the past for the Kuruta clan that he was investigating and the Spiders as well, which is what drew him out here. He’s unable to help at the moment because of the loss of the eyes but he’s able to provide details for Gon and Killua to go hunting after to try and get them back and figure out what’s going on. The man behind it all is revealed later in the film but it has a nice tie to a couple of different areas because of the Kuruta side and the Spiders and that gives it all a decent bit of emotional weight even if it is, in the end, just a side story. That’s usually what makes anime films weak when they come from a franchise because they have minimal to no impact on the larger story and exist just for this experience.
So what has to be asked is whether it works or not. For me, the film slowed down a bit when dealing with things from Kurapika’s past, such as the boy Pairo or the time spent with the girl that Gon and Killua befriend, even though both of them are key pieces for what the Big Bad is orchestrating here. Largely, it just feels like said Big Bad doesn’t have a really big or bad plan here and is just going through the motions of building up his group rather than executing things. And considering the arsenal he does have when it’s fully revealed, it’s a little frustrating because he could have been digging into a lot of different things instead of catching the eye of powerful Hunters. It also feels a touched forced to bring in both Hisoka and the Spiders for this because it kind of just looks sideways at the larger troubles between all the groups involved with weak reasons as to why we don’t get a real and true throwdown here.
I’m a big fan of the Hunter X Hunter property, though I think it struggled a lot of the time once it got past the certification/testing phase. This film, which has taken far too many years to get here and a TV series that hasn’t been brought out in full either, is a nice little piece of the puzzle but not one that makes a huge impact. It’s a fun side story to the main adventure that’s well animated and works through some of what Killua struggles with because of his family profession and the way friends aren’t exactly something that assassins generally have. Viz’s release is very solid with a good looking encode, a great dub, and a very good selection of extras all within an appealing package. Fans of it will be glad to have a copy in their library and it’ll just make you want more of the TV series since it’s been far too long since it ended.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 language, English Cast Interviews, Art Gallery, Japanese Movie Premiere, Japanese Cast Interviews, Trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: February 13th, 2018
Running Time: 97 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.