What They Say
Set in the Meiji era, Moeyo Ken is the story of three daughters of the Shinsengumi, who decide to follow in their fathers’ footsteps as protectors of Japan. Only most of the threats these girls face are of the paranormal variety (not to mention hilarious!)
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo along with the English dub, both of which are encoded at 192kbps. The show is one that does have its share of action to it but it’s a fairly standard action/comedy piece with nothing that really stretches the stereo presentation. Dialogue was well placed and the action sequences have enough sense of directionality about them but it’s a fairly typical mix for a show of this nature. We didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing 2005, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection contains the same discs that were released individually so the set is done in a 5/4/4 format. In general, the show tends to lack a lot of fine detail to it so the designs and animation is simple in that it has large areas of colors. The lack of detail isn’t a problem as it works for the show and it makes for an easier authoring job with fewer problems. Colors look good throughout without much in the way of noticeable noise or compression artifacts though some backgrounds do look a touch soft and fuzzy at times. Colors are vibrant and most of the problematic areas like hair tend to maintain a solid feel. Aliasing and cross coloration is very minimal with only a touch of either showing up, often around faces during some of the mid-range shots, but only very briefly.
Unlike most collections from ADV Films in the past, Moeyo Ken has a really rushed and simple feel to it, even for a three-disc set. Done up in a single keepcase with a flippy hinge inside, all three discs take up very little shelf space in total. The front cover is a nicely done piece with the three lead women in their stand outfits with serious looks on their faces. The colors are vibrant and look good, especially when set against the blue line work of the character/monster artwork that makes up the background. The series logo is kept to the lower right corner and is fairly unobtrusive. The back cover is nicely laid out with a lengthy summary of the premise of the series and a rundown of the numerous extras available on the release. Add in three strips of shots from the show and it’s easy to get a good idea of what it’s all about. The remainder of the cover is made up of production information and a solid technical grid. No relevant inserts are included nor is there a reverse side cover.
With hindsight, Moeyo Ken is one of those releases from ADV Films that signals when things started to trim down and become more basic. The menus here for the release are pretty bland in general though they’re at least pieces that fit with the show. If it wasn’t for the nice border given to it, you’d almost think it was from the ADV Kids line as it’s just a basic image with the episode numbers and other selections down in a strip alongside the character designs. The artwork and design looks good but it has something of a weak effort feel to it. Access times are nice and fast however and top level episode access is a plus. The disc also correctly read our players’ language presets and played accordingly.
With it utilizing the original discs, the extras are included with this release which is pretty good considering a chunk of the draw for the series is its voice talent:
Disc 1 – In addition to the traditional inclusion of the clean opening and closing sequences, we get a treat in seeing some storyboards for the series. For English language fans, a commentary track is included with the ADR director and the voice actor for Nekomaru.
Disc 2 – Standard for this volume is the inclusion of the clean opening and closing sequence as well as more storyboards for these episodes. A new extra for this volume is an interview with a couple of the Japanese creative staff members. This is done as a multi-page text offering with a picture at the start for reference. Another nice new extra is a music video for the ending song. For English language fans, a commentary track is included with the ADR director and the voice actress for Hijikata.
Disc 3 – Finishing out with the opening and closing sequences again and more storyboards, the third volume also has another interview with the Japanese voice actors. The difference this time around is that it’s not a text interview like the previous volume but rather a roundtable discussion. This actually runs for nearly thirty minutes and provides a lot of material for fans of these actresses. For English language fans, a commentary track is included with the ADR director and two of the voice actresses.
After what must have been an at least marginally successful OVA series in 2003, Moeyo Ken was resurrected as a thirteen episode series in 2005. With a fairly decent pedigree behind it with its voice cast and creative staff, it’s pretty apparent that everyone involved was hoping for the new Sakura Wars that would give them lots of work and merchandise to deal with. And if it was fifteen or twenty years earlier, they probably would have. At this point in time though, and especially with Sakura Wars having mined much of this familiar territory before, it all feels incredibly derivative and without anything that sets it apart.
Moeyo Ken revolves around an alternate world version of Kyoto that takes place during the Meiji era where everything is starting to change because of Western influences. The main difference in it is that there are numerous “monsters” that are roaming through the city as they’ve gained licenses to do so. Rather than continuing to fight and banish monsters, the government decided co-existence was better and they offered a legal way to do it. Those that don’t have licenses or cause trouble are swiftly dealt with, though often not by the Mobile Shinsengumi. This group is the second generation of the Shinsengumi which is made up of the daughters of the original.
Founded by the wife of Ryoma Sakamoto, Mrs. Oryou has kept up some of the traditions of the original but with the obvious divergences of monsters, magic, and technology. Though she’s the leader, she doesn’t get involved much and tends to be the business end more than anything else. To do the dirty work, she’s got Yuuko Kondo, a fiery redheaded young woman she found that was in trouble. Kondo is somewhat self-centered, often poor and buys cheap imitations thinking they’re the real things, something that gets her in trouble when it comes to her swords. Ably aiding her is Kaoru Okita, a young woman who was born of the pairing of a monster and a human. She’s the most directly magical of them all as she has control over four Summoned Gods who are really just pint-sized distractions that help out only when they’re exactly needed.
The strangest one of them is Toshie Hijikata, a cool and collected young woman who wears elegant dresses and is the master sharpshooter. Kondo is convinced she’s really a robot and there are numerous incidents where this is pushed, though sometimes it seems to be more of Kondo’s imagination than others. Of course, the resident mechanical guru of the group is able to build an authentic replica of Hijikata which doesn’t help to quash this belief. What cements this group in the series however is the introduction of Mrs. Oryou’s son, Ryuunosuke, who has returned from Shanghai to help out his mother. He’s a bit of a daft young man but is earnest about things and only wants to make his mother happy. He dies pretty regularly though and is brought back to life due to the help of his own personal monster, Nekomaru, a cat monster that can re-tie his soul back to him afterward.
Moeyo Ken is a monster of the week show where wacky stuff happens and the girls try to make sure nothing goes catastrophically wrong, often while making it worse themselves. They’re all very basic stereotypes of this genre and there’s no real growth for any of them. In fact, their origin moments and back story pieces are pretty short in general if they’re given any real time at all. The only changes that are mildly introduced in the main part of the series is that Okita finds herself falling in love with Ryuunosuke, but that’s only because someone impersonating him says he’s in love with her. She spends much of her time trying to figure out how to get closer to him and whether he’d even like her considering her split ancestry. At the same time, the group in general is trying to get Ryuunosuke involved with a waitress named Sayoko since the idea is that if they date, he’ll stay there instead of going back to Shanghai. And his staying there will make his mother happy, which makes them happy.
The series does start to introduce some larger plot elements during the last few episodes where Team Rocket, er, I mean, the Tsubame Group brings in their new leader in the form of Count Montague, a European vampire who wants to dominate China through something that Ryuunosuke has. The Tsubame Group is a basic foil for the Shinsengumi throughout the series but they’re even less defined than they are and almost entirely forgettable one-note characters. Even worse than that is the obvious hook into the Ranma ½ world by the introduction of Lan Lan, the daughter a Chinese mafia boss who Ryuunosuke is accidentally engaged to from his time in Shanghai. She’s come to find him and she brings along her combat trained giant panda with her as well.
This would have been bad enough in and of itself, but with the show boasting its main character designs being done by Rumiko Takahashi, it feels like an incredibly bad homage/rip-off to her. And that’s what much of the series feels like since you can see plenty of similar elements to Sakura Wars of which the creator also was involved with. The main difference is that this is more comedy oriented but that doesn’t help to set it apart. If anything, it might have played out a bit better if it wasn’t. But then you wouldn’t want someone like Takahashi involved and you’d have an even more obvious parallel to Sakura Wars. I truly expected more from Junki Takegami considering the shows he’s worked on, and even those with related elements such as Shura no Toki. Unfortunately, he’s simply hamstrung by what the game creators came up with and it feels like he’s just collecting a paycheck by regurgitating things we saw in the early ’90s.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that tastes can certainly change, both for the better and for the worse. When the OVA first came out, it left me feeling cold. When the TV series came out, seeing it in single disc form was an exercise in torture. That left me curious as to whether it would play out better in a collection taken in over a day or two, something that has changed opinions over the yers for me. Unfortunately, it feels even worse as the repetitive nature and lack of anything more to it shines through all the more. Moeyo Ken is an ideal show for someone new to anime, someone who hasn’t been exposed to all of it before. Done before and done better at that. It has a great look to it as I love Takahashi’s character designs and the lighter nature of it all, but the stories are just dull as watching paint dry and longer than most other shows are by a couple of minutes at that.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Storyboards, Text Interviews, Cast Interviews, Commentaries
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B
Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: June 10th, 2008
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.