What They Say:
After the Toji defeat the Great Aradama Princess Tagitsu, she releases her noro over Japan evoking a deadly increase in aradama that only Kanami and the other Toji can face! But Hiyori is considering retiring now that she’s fulfilled her mother’s wish. With more danger and a possible noro thief, Hiyori may find a new reason to keep fighting. Especially when they learn that Tagitsu hasn’t actually been defeated and is planning to attack! Are Kanami and her friends ready for the biggest battle yet?
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub gets a 5.1 boost, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that works its dialogue well with placement and depth with a lot of scenes in how the ships are setup and some of the other sequences so there’s good design at work there. A lot of dialogue is fairly straightforward face to face material that uses the forward soundstage well. We do get some really good sword fights where the 5.1 mix is able to boost things just a bit more nicely so that it has a better feeling to it overall, especially with the warmth of the score at times. The series works a good sprawling feeling where needed but it also gets up close and personal pretty well too. The dialogue itself is clean and clear throughout at all levels and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2018, 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 are spread across two discs in a standard nine/three format. Animated by Studio Gokumi, the series works a really good visual presentation and I even like the CG character animation in the battle sequences as it works with the way they speed up and the fluidity of it for the attacks. The show works a lot of standard design material here with costuming and sets but it’s done with just enough detail to stand out a bit more and some good color design, even if a lot of it seems to lean into darker sequences. The encoding brings it to life well with a good solidity with the colors and no problems in handling details in the darker sequences. The character animation is solid and there’s a lot to like in the high-motion sequences that’s clean and smooth.
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard-sized Blu-ray case as this is a Blu-ray only release plus the digital. The o-card slipcover that comes with it replicates the case artwork but what a difference in color quality and depth here just from the blues in the background and then the character artwork. The main piece uses the familiar key visual for the second cour/season as we knew it would but it’s a solid cast shot with an ominous dark background that lets it all stand out well. The back cover has a nice layout to it with the red slice cuts that hold two strips of shots from the show above and below set against a white background. The white is what helps everything stand out with the layout and character artwork while also making for an easy to read summary of the premise in the middle. The extras are clearly listed and we get a solid technical grid that breaks down how the Blu-ray was put together. The reverse side has two panels with more character artwork from the Japanese covers and we get a nice inclusion of two art cards that are pretty nice even if they’re just character shots against a white background.
The menus for this release go for the simple but effective route where we get the same static image for both discs. Working with the main key visual that’s also used for the cover, it’s kept to the right and gives us a good look at the main cast and all their designs and details. Unlike the cover, it’s set against a white background with some widgets across it to give it a little more definition. The character artwork stands out well here in a colorful way and placing the logo over the empty space sets it all together well. The navigation is near the bottom with the “bloody splotch” red approach that has the navigation across it in blue and white as selected. It’s quick and easy to navigate and it looks good with both discs. The menu works well both as the main menu for setup and as a pop-up menu during playback for further adjustments and movement.
The only extras included with this set were the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
The opening half of Toji no Miko was fairly standard fare with some nice style and a couple of elements that clicked well, though they may not be the most memorable overall. This set brings us the back half of the series with another twelve episodes of action and character material that delivers some good thrills when it goes all in on the action. It’s balanced well with the character material, which plays its own balance of serious and silly so that you feel like these characters are a bit more humanized overall. That said, it is pretty standard when you get down to it and even though it hits that sweet spot for fan sin the lack of male characters, it does isolate some of the stories that it can tell.
The series aired its two-cour run consecutively so that fans didn’t have long to wait and that meant no big re-introduction piece within the main storytelling – though we did get a 12.5 recap episode during the broadcast. So this set just continues right into events where after what happened before has its fallout with the aradama now increasing sharply and ready to cause a whole lot more problems. Everything that they’ve faced is now dialed up even more and that makes it pretty problematic as they’re already struggling a bit. Because of all of this, the academy kids are drawn into more of the formal fighting and that’s been going on for four months now after Tagitsu’s apparent death in defeat. That’s going to strain the students, even the best of them, and the whole thing has been built up well to this point.
This is what defines a decent part of the show early on because of the impact it has on everyone, wearing them down a decent bit. Interestingly, you also get a number of students transferred out of the various academies because of it as their parents didn’t want them having to deal with this as teenagers. It completely makes sense and was one of those realistic aspects of the show that I can definitely appreciate. This becomes more of an issue for Mai as the early episodes play out and I like that it ends up dovetailing into her family as they’re involved in some of the bigger research projects going on with the noro. You know some will try to use their connections through her for all sorts of reasons, good and bad, and that puts some different pressures on her.
There are a few fairly standard action episodes that focuses on some of the cast and their personalities, lazy types or not, There’s even an episode that focuses on Sayaka’s birthday that’s pretty fun and some time is spent along the way trying to get Kanami to realize she’s not alone in the fights that they’re facing. Her attitude is one that’s problematic at times but I liked that the core group can see past that front and just tries to get her to knock it off and move forward in a better space with everyone. All of it is solid material as the background plots turn and we eventually come back to the fact that Tagitsu wasn’t killed (surprise!) and her new round of attacks are making serious inroads, putting everyone on the defensive when it comes to the Princess that they must protect.
Everything leads into that final fight against Tagitsu and it plays out well over the last few episodes. It’s predictable in most ways but I’m hard-pressed to knock it because it did execute it well with the characters that they’re working with. A lot of what we get at the end was set up relatively early in the series as a whole but the course of it allowed us to connect to a decent level with the characters. And it goes big enough at the end with the action and its animation for its fans to feel like there’s some real payoff here. I particularly like that it does give us a good chunk of epilogue time in the last episode to see where various characters have found themselves as this can be done in a pretty shorty form that doesn’t always convey the impact well enough.
Katana Maidens is a properly serviceable and fun series that gives us a lot of cute girls dealing with some difficult situations – but not to a degree where it feels disturbing or problematic. The larger storyline plays well over this half of the series and we get some fun bits early on with some standalone actions and events. I like the animation for this a good bit and the action scenes have some really good impact to them that keeps it moving and engaging, especially on top of the character moments we get elsewhere. It’s not a series that I think will have a long term impact (I did, however, enjoy the silly spinoff series of shorts that are memorable) but it’s the kind of solid entry series for a lot of fans that’s accessible and gets you to understand how they work. Funimation’s release is solid here with a good encoding, solid sound design, a fun dub, and a good looking packaging. It’s an easy pickup if you want to ensure repeat viewings when streams go away.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: May 21st, 2019
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.