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Karas Vol. #2 UK Anime DVD Review

5 min read
Karas is stunning to look at and listen to

After possibly the longest between-volume break I can remember, the second volume of Karas finally hits the streets. Will Otoha finally deal with Eko, or will the power of evil conquer Shinjuku..?

What They Say:

Karas (“The Crow”) is the guardian spirit of Tokyo, but the city is thrown into disarray when Eko, a former Karas, returns and attempts to seize power. Yurine, an entity who embodies the will of the people, summons Nue, a sort of Karas-in-training, to defeat Eko.

This Anime series features breathtaking fight sequences, brilliant character and set designs, stunning hybrid animation and a great musical score by the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

Audio comes in Manga’s usual wide range of format’s with both English and Japanese tracks coming in Dolby Digital 2.0 & 5.1, and DTS versions. I listened to the Japanese DTS track for this review. The show has an absolutely wonderful soundtrack, performed by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, and with that blaring from all corners of the room it’s hard not to get carried away. Effects and dialogue are well-place across the soundstage, and plenty of oomph is given to the fight scenes to help build and maintain the atmosphere. There were no apparent problems.

Karas is without a doubt visually stunning. The animation is a hybrid of 2D & 3D techniques that in places almost has a photorealistic feel, it’s that good – but every so often, particularly in the action sequences, you’ll get little visual cues that remind you you’re still watching an animation. It can be a little bit jarring, especially since the visuals at their best are so good. The encode does justice to the source materials, too – there’s nothing in the way of visual problems or defects.

No packaging was provided with our review copy.

The main menu this time around features a dizzying set of handy-cam pans and zooms across a static image of the two Karas’, with a piece of background music playing throughout. Options are provided for Play Feature, scene selection, setup & extras. The transition animation that plagued volume 1 has been done away with – all quick & easy to use this time around.

Extras this time around comprise a 20-minute feature where we see the English dub cast at work, and a few short interviews with them; a half-hour pre-production sequence showing what the show looked like in the early stages of animation; the North America trailer for this volume; and a screenshot gallery.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)

Nue awakens to find himself in the care of Otoha and his demon friends, and explains what the problem is: Karas draws his power from a given city’s Yurine – a guardian spirit, if you like. Each city should have only one Yurine, but between Otoha and Eko, Shinjuku for some reason has two – and in the best Highlander tradition, there can be only one, even if Nue needs to make sure of that himself. With Eko being clearly the villain of the piece,he’s the one who has to go, and Nue figures he’s got one chance to do that: to confront Eko while he’s in his Karas form, and take out his Yurine. He gets his chance, but it quickly appears that he may have underestimated Eko’s power, and only ends up becoming a cog in Eko’s plan to purge the world.

While Nue’s looking to cut the numbers down, though, a third Karas appears, again with her own Yurine, to tell Otoha that his own Yurine is still alive – and that as his covenant with her has not yet been broken, there’s still the possibility for him to become Karas again. As Eko’s plans roll into action and the destruction of the city begins, his Yurine realises what’s happening and his sword begins to react – but there’s not enough power there to allow him to become Karas – initially, at least. With thousands dying around him, he needs to find a way to confront Eko and bring an end to his plans – and quickly…

The first volume of Karas – released almost 18 months before volume 2 – wasn’t exactly the easiest of stories to follow. This volume corrects that, up to a point, but does it by shunting a number of characters firmly into the background so that all you have to worry about is the main Karas vs Eko confrontation. Of the other “lead” characters from the earlier volume, Nue plays his part here but sadly gets very little on-screen time, while Sagisaka and Kure get to hang around at the side of the story and see the effects play out, without getting much chance to get involved.

Instead, it’s Otoha who takes center-stage. With his Yurine in Eko’s hands he’s unable to take the form of Karas, meaning Eko has free reign to put his plans into action. Otoha’s initially in no real hurry to become Karas again – life without fighting has its appeal – but as the disc progresses and Eko’s excesses become more and more obvious, he once again embraces his fate and goes to kick some ass. The disappointing part of this disc is that it takes two “episodes” to get that far (Manga has once again edited three episodes into one feature-length story, but you can tell where the episodes would originally have ended) – the good part is that, once Karas is reborn and goes into battle, it’s quickly shown to have been worth waiting for. Visuals once again take precedence over story, though.

In summary:
Karas is stunning to look at and listen to, with plenty of care & attention to detail having been lavished on it – in this day & age, that’ll be enough to make sure that the series gains an audience, but if you look below the gloss, the underlying story’s a basic good-versus-evil tale, and removing some of the complexity that made volume 1 hard to follow only makes it easier to see how shallow it is. Not that that’s a real criticism, though – eye-candy is good, and if you’re in the mood for something where you can sit back and switch off, Karas will certainly deliver. Just don’t expect too much from it…

Japanese Language 2.0, Japanese Language 5.1, Japanese Language DTS, English Language 2.0, English Language 5.1, English Language DTS, English Subtitles, In the Voiceover Booth, Rough Cut Excerpt, Trailer, Gallery

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: October 27th, 2007
MSRP: $19.99
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37″ widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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