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Nabari no Ou Part 1 Anime DVD Review

9 min read
Nabari no Ou isn’t what I expected it to be based on the trailers I had seen.

Descendants of ninja clans still exist and they’re out to get the ultimate power that’s been discovered in an indifferent high school boy.

What They Say
In the shadows of this modern age, ninjas fight to control an ancient technique strong enough to rule the world. This coveted secret dwells within Miharu, who only wants to use his power to end the suffering of dying Yoite – a former foe who might be the only friend Miharu really has.

As he struggles to understand the mystery buried in his soul, Miharu unites with Yoite to survive the escalating conflict. The ninja clans who hunt them are growing more desperate – but Miharu has finally found the motivation he needs to confront his destiny.

Contains episodes 14-26.

The Review:
Nabari no Ou has a pretty expected design to the audio for this release as the English language adaptation gets the bump up to a 5.1 mix at 448kbps while the original Japanese stereo is at 192kbps. The show is like a lot of 5.1 mixes in that it does come across better, but not with a significant change to its overall layout, so there aren’t a ton of things coming out of the rear speakers. It’s a touch louder and clearer and placement is a bit more distinct, but there isn’t a huge difference between it and the original Japanese mix, which does a good job of working the forward soundstage. Dialogue is crisp and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show has quite a good look to it, especially with its softer almost sketch-like backgrounds, which is well balanced by the more fluid and vibrant character animation. There’s a lot of motion to the show at times that flows very well and the darker sections with the quiet atmospheric moments maintain their look very well. The scenes I wondered about the most would be the ones drenched in reds, which are infrequent at best, and they looked pretty good with only a bit of noise really noticeable within it. The show is done here with thirteen episodes across two discs in a seven/six split so there’s generally a decent amount of space for each volume. There are no significant extras impacting the bandwidth and space availability either.

Nabari no Ou is released in the familiar format for most of FUNimation’s shows that are in the half-season form with a slipcover that holds two thinpaks. The slipcover here is pretty nice and appropriately dark as the front features Miharu and Yoite looking serious in their street clothes while set against a fairly indistinct murky background. The back of the slipcover has a variation of the two of them with the background being a bit lighter and featuring one of the weapons for part of it. The summary is surprisingly slim on things but they do provide a good clear listing of the disc’s extras. There are a bunch of pictures from the show done almost in a jumble while the remainder is given over to some production information and a listing of how many episodes on how many discs. The actual technical grid is relegated to the bottom of the package.

Inside the case, we get a pair of really appealing clear thinpaks, though they are familiar to be certain. The first one has Miharu in his school uniform looking over a series of schools while set against a blue backdrop that’s similar to the front of the slipcover. The second volume uses Yoite in what looks like a combination of the two poses of his on the slipcover The back covers are very appealing – more so than anything else on the release – with other members of the cast in very detailed designs set against a white background with a small splash of color. The episode numbers and titles are listed here as well which looks very good with the color choices used. Each of the covers has artwork on the opposite side which is done across both panels. These pieces are fantastic as they use in-show backgrounds for one of them and they have so many of the characters covered. No show related inserts are included in this release.

The menus take a lot of their design cues and artwork from the front covers and slipcover as they have the varying colors, one with the darker green and the other with red, as well as using Miharu and Yoite to give it a bit more diversity. The layout is decent with the navigation strip along the left side that’s easy to use and very quick to respond. Submenus load quickly and the release makes language selection easy, though as usual they don’t read our players’ language presets and default to English with no subtitles.

Much to my surprise and delight, FUNimation separated the commentary track that’s on the first volume into an extras section whereas before they were mostly found in the individual episode selection section. The second disc features the basics of the clean opening and closing sequences

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Yuhiki Kamtani, Nabari no Ou is a twenty-six episodes series produced by JC Staff. The original manga ran from 2004 to 2010 for fourteen volumes overall, wrapping up about two years after the anime adaptation came out. This set contains the first half of the TV series that involves ninjas in the modern world that have adapted in a realistic manner for the most part and plays it in a way that makes it believable, outside of some of the really outlandish arts that are used. Ninjas in the real world tend to be overpowered to begin with, so having a show that plays it mostly the right way certainly gives it a certain kind of seriousness that it wouldn’t have otherwise, even if it is mostly populated by high school kids.

Literally translated as Ruler of Nabari, the series revolves around fourteen-year-old Miharu. Miharu is one of the more surprising characters in recent memory as he truly comes across as apathetic in a way that most others that try it never seem to succeed. Miharu is the sought after person of the series because within him is the Shinrabansho, the secret hidden forbidden art that was cast out of the clans centuries ago and banished into a person. That carrier was killed in an effort to eliminate the art, but it invariably revives and it’s now in Miharu. Now that he’s been discovered to be the carrier of this generation, efforts are underway to claim him so they can attempt to strip that power from him.

Even if it kills him. The discovery that Miharu has the Shinrabansho in him changes his life considerably as his teacher is apparently part of one of the hidden villages as well as a friend of his. They work to protect him and keep him safe as one of the other clans, the Kairoshu, are seeking him out for their own purposes. Miharu ends up meeting with one of the other villages, run by the strangely famous Kotaro Fuma, only to discover that Kotaro is not above using Miharu in the same way, though he doesn’t seem eager to strip him of his power so much as to have that power within the use of his clan in order to secure a better future.

What’s intriguing about Nabari no Ou is that it does a good job of modernizing the idea of ninjas, or what’s left of the, and putting them in a proper setting. While we do have a true hidden village in what Kotaro is doing, others are quite a bit different. One clan has put all of its efforts into a small company that has a public side that does spy and information gathering work for the outside world but also does all sorts of things for the Nabari world behind the scenes. The Kairoshu clan doesn’t seem to have a central “Village” in the classic sense but all of its members access information through web based broadcasts that keeps them in touch with what’s going on for the clan. All of these methods and the way they’ve integrated into modern society paints a much more fascinating picture than having a bunch of really hidden villages throughout the country that are competing against each other as they hold onto old traditions.

The cast of characters in the show certainly adds to the intrigue as well. Miharu is really striking with his indifferent nature because they provide so many little moments, both alone and with others, that it feels deeper than when done in other shows. His friendship with an enemy, a Kairoshu named Yoite, is really fascinating as the two find a common cause of sorts together as Yoite wants Miharu to learn how to use the Shinrabansho so he can wipe Yoite out of existence. I also really appreciated the teacher that watches over Miharu as he’s got an amusing phobia and some real issues with how best to protect Miharu. It doesn’t hurt that he has the best looking woman as his girlfriend either. The characters are fairly diverse and there aren’t any real out and out villains here, but rather different sides looking for different things that clash against each other. There are brutal moments, Yoite sees to that, but it lacks that kind of cruel edge that you would get from a villainous side. And Miharu’s indifference is an intriguing catalyst not only for himself when he does figure out his place in all of it, but also for others who interact with him because he causes a certain friction through his indifference.

In Summary:
Nabari no Ou isn’t what I expected it to be based on the trailers I had seen. The show plays things mostly serious but injects the right kind of humor into it. There’s almost a sort of self-knowing humor to it with how Miharu is portrayed. This first half of the series covers a few different stories, introduces a number of characters that interact with just about everyone and does a really intriguing change towards the end that makes you want to see the second half. It’s rare that a lead character acts as he does here yet is actually quite the engaging character. It also helps that there isn’t a serious romantic component here, at least not yet, so the focus is more on what needs to be done without anything in that department tripping things up. I’m having a hard time pinning this show down exactly, but it was quite enjoyable and it has me looking forward to the second half with its solid production values, smooth pacing, and engaging storyline.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Commentary Track

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 22nd, 2009
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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