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Kurokami the Animation – Volume Four (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 22, 2010 by  



“Kurokami the Animation” continues the awesome action/drama storyline where the first season left off.  The second season kicks off with a more Kuro/Keita-driven episodes as we see the two being put to the test as each fight brings Keita closer to death.  If you haven’t checked out this series yet, definitely give “Kurokami the Animation” a try!  It’s a series definitely worth catching!

Image courtesy of © 2009-2010 Lim Dail Young, Park Sung Woo/Square Enix/Sunrise, Bandai Visual. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Kurokami – The Animation – Volume Four

DURATION: EPISODES 12.5-16 (135 Minutes)

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen), English PCM 2.0,

COMPANY: Sunrise/Bandai Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED (Note: This anime does feature violence)

Release Date: November 23, 2010

 

Originally created by Dall-Young Lim, Sung-woo Park

Directed by Tsuneo Kobayashi

Series Composition by Reiko Yoshida

Original Character Design by Sung-woo Park

Character Design: Hiroyuki Nishimura

Art Director: Shunichiro Yoshihara

Chief Animation Director: Hiroyuki Nishimura

Art Design: Tomoyasu Fujise

Sound Director: Hiromi Kikuta

Director of Photography: Naoyuki Wada

Anime Production by Sunrise

Featuring the following voice talent:

Jason Griffith as Keita Ibuki

Laura Bailey as Kuro

Christopher Kromer as Daichi Kuraki

Crispin Freeman as Reishin

Emily Bauer as Riona Kogure

Eva Kaminsky as Nam

Julie Ann Taylor as Akane Sano

Kathleen McInerney as Yuki Kaionji

Marc Thompson as Hiyou

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn as Mikami Hojo

Michael Sinterniklaas as Punipuni

Patrick Seitz as Steiner

Stephanie Sheh as Excel

Six months have passed since the battle against Reishin in Okinawa. Keita has been in a comatose state since then while the world changed around him. Kuraki has become the new vice-chairman of the Kaionji conglomerate and is set to fulfill his dream of forming a Utopia by manipulating the Doppeliner System. A band of Tera Guardians and supports have risen around Kuro to fight against this new enemy in a strange new world…

Just when you thought the last volume of “Kurokami the Animation” was spectacular and action-packed, here we are with volume four of the anime series which kicks off the second season with more action, drama and the highly anticipated battle between Kuro/Keita vs. Raiga!

After the events of the season the season one finale which ended up with Daichi Kuraki’s Terra Guardian Raiga killing Reishin, Kuraki’s plan has begun to go in full gear in order to complete his plans for a “Pure Land”.

The events take place six months after the fight against Reishin and with Kuraki now taking over the Kaionji group as well as taking Reishin’s partner Yuki as his bride-to-be, Kuraki has become too powerful that no one can stop him, especially with Raiga by his side.

As for our protagonists… No one knows what has happened to Keita and Kuro after the events of the first season but what we do know is that Kuraki is trying move forward with his plans of Utopia, the Kaionji Group has gotten stronger and the “Noble Ones” have been forced out of Japan.  That is until we see an opening sequence of Kuro defeating members of the Kaionji group which can only mean that not all Noble Ones have disappeared and are gone, Kuro and friends must be nearby.

In fact, a few of the Noble Ones, have decided to stay back in Japan.  Kuro and Yakumo stayed behind at the Noble One compound to watch over Keita’s safety.  And we learn that Keita has used so much of his life’s energy during the last battle and now he is in a coma.

Of course, Kuro blames herself for putting Keita in this position.   And even if he wakes up, she knows that Keita will always continue to fight… but the fact is, can she continue to fight even if she knows it may kill him.  It’s something that she would not want to do and the pain is already too difficult to take in.

But for Kuro and friends, now is not the time to worry because now Pro-Kaionji Tera Guardians are now going after the Noble Ones, hunting down whoever they can in order to find Keita because for Kuraki’s “utopia” plan, he needs Keita in order to make it work.  But can Kuro protect Keita and prevent Kuraki from getting him?   Will Keita ever wake up from his coma?

And just when you think that things are bad for Kuro and Keita, Keita’s childhood friend Akane finds out that she is a master root and her sub Yuki Kaionji (Reishin’s partner) is trying to kill her .  For Yuki, she would rather become a negative root than be married to Kuraki.  So, Akane’s life is in danger but with Kuro and friends watching over Keita…. Who will be protecting Akane?

“Kurokami the Animation” Backstory

For those who have never heard of “Kurokami”, in the world of “Kurokami” (“Black God”), one sometimes think they see another person that looks exactly like them (doppelganger) but in reality, there are three (doppeliner) which share the same life force (known as Tera). If by any chance, one was to see each other, one would die and the others would have that life force equally distributed. Making sure this “Coexistence Exquilibrium” is kept in check are the Tera Guardians.

This is the story of “Kurokami”, a 23-episode anime TV series which is an adaptation of a Japanese manga series by Dall-Young Lim and illustrated by Sung-Woo Park and is an ongoing series published in the magazine “Young Gangan”.

The anime series is directed by Tsuneo Kobayashi (“Glass no Kamen”, “Midori Days”, “Twelve Kingdoms”) and features series composition by Reiko Yoshida (“Aria”, “D.Gray-Man”, “Kaleido Star”, “Peach Girl”). Character designs are by Hiroyuki Nishimura (“Spirit of Wonder”, “Deltora Quest”) and music composed by Tomohisa Ishikawa (“Appleseed: Ex Machina”, “Kite Liberator”, “Innocent Venus”). And now the first volume of the anime series is released on Blu-ray and includes the first four episodes.

“Kurokami” revolves around a teenager named Keita Ibuki. When he was younger, his mother met someone that looked exactly like her and the next day she was hit by a car. So, the existence of a doppelganger has always been in his mind.

One night when he went out for ramen, he meets a girl named Kuro along with her dog Punipuni, they seem quite hungry. He offers her his ramen and all seems well until a madman comes out of nowhere and assaults her.

Keita tries to help her but is easily beaten by this madman. But what he sees is this girl’s incredible fighting power. After all is done and Kuro overcomes her assailant, she tells him that she is out to kill her brother.

The paths of both Keita and Kuro cross again and Kuro explains to her about the doppeliner and that she is a Tera Guardian. As Keita tries to deal with this and possibly learn why his mother died, his childhood friend Akane (who likes Keita) tries to help both Keita and Kuro as well.

One evening, a group of thugs with extreme power go after her again but this time, Keita tries to help but is mortally wounded. Kuro manages to escape with him but because he is dying, she decides to exchange hearts with him in order to keep him alive and thus a contract is created. But she warns him that they must be near each other at all times or her heart will become necrotic if its too far away from her. Keita has now become the contractee and his life is forever bonded with Kuro.

In volume 2 of “Kurokami the Animation”, Keita and Kuro confront a group of Tera Guardians in battle, meanwhile we learn about Kuro’s past and also information about Keita’s deceased mother. But most importantly, Keita is told the truth about his status of being a contractee and that contractee’s can easily be killed and are not invincible.

For Keita, his thought was that he wouldn’t die during a battle but now knowing that he is vulnerable may change his status of how he fights with Kuro. Meanwhile, Keita, Kuro and Akane left to Okinawa and confronted two survivors from the Hiba Clan.

In volume 3, it appears that others are looking for the survivors of the Hiba Clan and while Reishin makes his appearance. Keita discovers that contractees can be “negative roots” but would he ever dare going that direction. Also, a friend who had been dead has made his appearance once again and the news he has for Keita will surprise him.

As Kuro and Keita barely survive against their battle with Reishin, thanks to the help of Excel and Steiner, Kuro and Keita are able to escape.  But unfortunately, in order for them to escape, Steiner sacrificed his life.  Meanwhile, Kuraki and Raiga then take on Reishin to for the control of the Kaionji Group.

“Kurokami” vol. 4 features the episodes 12.5-16 of the TV series on one Blu-ray disc. Here is a brief, spoiler-free synopsis of each episode:

  • EPISODE 12.5 – Intermission – A special episode which aired before episode 13 in Japan.  Keita narrates a recap of what took place from episodes 1-12.
  • EPISODE 13 – New World – Kuraki orders the Pro-Kaionji Tera Guardians to find Keita and destroy anyone who gets in their way.
  • EPISODE 14 – Breakthrough – Bernhard leads Noble One operatives including Yakumo and Riona to infiltrate the Kaionji group.  Meanwhile, Yuki plans to kill Akane in order to become a negative root.
  • EPISODE 15 – Carnage – Kuro and Keita go against the powerful Shinra but Kuro worries that Keita will die if he diverts all his life energy into her.
  • EPISODE 16 – Ruin – After the events which took place in episode 15, we are introduced to a new and much more powerful duo of Kuro and Keita.

VIDEO:

“Kurokami The Animation” is featured in 1080p High Definition. The series is quite vibrant and looks absolutely beautiful in HD. Blacks are nice and deep, colors pop and I didn’t notice any edge enhancement or compression artifacts during my viewing of the series.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kurokami The Animation” is presented in English PCM 2.0. And as mentioned in my previous review of volume 1 of the series, “Kurokami” does not include the lossless Japanese audio while the DVD does include both soundtracks. It is discussed on various message boards that because the series is being released at the same time in Japan, to prevent reverse importation, the lossless Japanese soundtrack was not granted for the U.S. release (note: In Japan, the Blu-ray release costs about three times as more than the U.S. release and to prevent reverse importation over there, they didn’t include English subtitles).

Unfortunately with Japan and the U.S. on the same region for Blu-ray releases and people demanding simultaneous or near simultaneous releases, this is easily going to be an issue for American anime fans if more series continue to feature the lack of a Japanese audio track.

As for the English dub, for the most part the English dubbing was well-done. Jason Griffith (as Keita) known for his work for the character Shadow for “Sonic X” does a very good job but anime voice acting veterans Laura Bailey (as Kuro) and Julie Ann Taylor (as Akane) do a solid job as the voice of their characters.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Kurokami the Animation vol. 4” contains the following special features:

  • Textless theme and ending themes – Included are one textless opening themes and four textless ending themes for “Kurokami the Animation”.
  • Bandai Entertainment Previews

Just when you have thought that “Kurokami the Animation” had ended the first season with a bang!  The first few episodes of the second season continues the action-packed storyline as the Kaionji group continues their fight against the Noble Ones.  With the Terra Guardians helping out the Kaionji group, Kuro, Keita and friends are literally in defense mode, especially Kuro as she is unable to fight without Keita (who is in a coma).

But what makes this latest volume so exciting for me was that it devoted itself to furthering the bond between Kuro and Keita.  Especially with Kuro worrying about Keita’s life and him fighting and fighting and literally killing himself in the process.  So, it was very interesting to see how things have developed in these first four episodes of the new season and I’m even more excited to see how things develop in vol. 5 as the new and very powerful Kuro and Keita aim to do the impossible.  So, it’ll be interesting to see if they accomplish that.

As for positives, the major positive aside from the story is this series looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Character designs are well done and are vibrant onscreen, the detailed artistic backgrounds definitely look beautiful and the fighting sequences look absolutely fluid. I didn’t catch any edge enhancement or any significant artifacting but I haven’t compared the DVD to the Blu-ray series either. But I’m confident on how beautiful this series is on Blu-ray.

On the negative side, I think that many anime fans who prefer a Japanese soundtrack and also prefer to purchase anime on Blu with a lossless Japanese audio soundtrack. So, I can feel their pain! As mentioned, with Japan and U.S. sharing the same region on Blu-ray and with people wanting simultaneous (or near-simultaneous) releases, this is going to be a major issue in the near future and I hope this is something that can be resolved for future releases.

The other negative that I can think of for anime fans is episodes per volume. With other anime companies releasing complete series or breaking down their releases by a dozen episodes, “Kurokami” which is a 23-episode series features only four episodes per volume (although vol. 4 does come with five episodes with the inclusion of the special recap episode 12.5) and also releases thus far have not really included many special features but the textless opening and closing themes and Bandai Entertainment trailers.   But I suppose without a Japanese vocal track, it makes it difficult to include anything related to the Japanese releases of “Kurokami”.

Overall, “Kurokami – The Animation” is an entertaining anime series that so far features a solid storyline and really cool animation/background art. Volume 4 continues that action-driven storyline where the last volume had left off.  As well as continuing the dramatic component that made the last volume so enjoyable.

If you have watched the first three volumes thus far, you’re definitely going to enjoy the fourth!  “Kurokami the Animation” is definitely an anime series on Blu-ray worth checking out!






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