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

March 9, 2010 by  



“Kurokami vol. 1” boasts a solid, action-packed storyline and beautiful visuals on Blu-ray but the lack of a Japanese soundtrack may deter some anime fans.

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

TITLE: Kurokami – The Animation – Volume 1

DURATION: 102 Minutes

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

COMPANY: Sunrise/Bandai Entertainment

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

Release Date: March 9, 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

A world in which one’s happiness and misfortunes, even their lives are controlled by “luck”… In this world, there are three identical looking people in existence. Each of these three split between them an energy-like force called “Tera.” This energy can be attributed to the amount of “Luck” or “Life Energy” that an individual possesses.

Between those three, the one with the largest share of Tera is called the “Root” and the two possessing a lesser amount are called the “Sub.” If a Sub should ever meet up with another person that looks just like them, they will die. Their Tera will then be absorbed by the remaining two. If two Subs run into each other, they both perish, leaving the entire amount of Tera to be absorbed by the Root. That individual then becomes a “Master Root” and comes into possession of an enormous amount of luck and leads a life with success at every turn. This is the hidden truth of existence in the World of Humans and is called the “Doppeliner System.”

In accordance to the rules of the Doppeliner System, there exist beings who observe the human world, maintaining the balance of Tera, known as the “Coexistence Equilibrium.” These beings possess abilities that surpass those of normal human beings, and reside in hiding in places known as the “Pure Place” in tribes. They are called the Tera Guardians. This is a tale of battle that begins with the meeting between a human boy named Keita and a young Tera Guardian girl named Kuro.

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 basis 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.

Now the two must deal with their new lives together but at the same time knowing that they will be the hunted.

“Kurokami” vol. 1 features the first four episodes of the TV series.  Here is a brief, spoiler-free synopsis of each episode:

  • EPISODE 1- Doppeliner System – Keita and Kuro meet each other for the first time.
  • EPISODE 2 – Pact – Keita is badly injured while trying to help Kuro and in order to save his life, the Terra Guardian Kuro makes a pact with him.
  • EPISODE 3 – Synchro – Tsubota-sensei tries to help Keita but it appears that Tsubota may be something much more than a teacher.
  • EPISODE 4 – Tracker – Tera Guardian Steiner and Excel start to follow Akane for some reason.

VIDEO:

“Kurokami” is featured in 1080p High Definition.  I have to say that for a TV series, this is probably one of the most beautiful looking (and more recent) anime to show up on Blu-ray in the U.S.  Artistic backgrounds are highly detailed and for any Japanophile anime fan who is watching this series, can only be happy by seeing so many scenes around in Japan featuring this beautiful artistic backgrounds.  Character animation is also well done especially during the fighting sequences which are well-animated.

Overall, “Kurokami” looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  A lot of detail, I didn’t notice any edge enhancement nor did I see any more compression artifacts.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Kurokami” is featured in English Dolby TrueHD Audio 2.0 and is front channel driven.  The lossless audio is enjoyable to listen to but what is surprising is that it is not in 5.1.  Also, this is the first Bandai release where the Blu-ray does not include the lossless Japanese audio while the DVD does include both soundtracks.  It is said 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” contains the following special features in 1080p and 480p:

  • Textless Opening – Textless opening for “Sympathizer” by Minami Kuribayashi
  • Textless Ending – Textless ending theme for “Irodori no Nai Sekai” by Minami Kuribayashi
  • Bandai Entertainment Previews

“Kurokami” has turned out to be a fantastic series thus far.  The anime is definitely for those who enjoy action, especially fighting-based anime series.  The concept of the “doppeliner” is pretty cool but with only four episodes, it will be interesting to see where this series is headed.  But for these first four episodes alone, I was definitely pleased by the series.

As for positives, the major positive aside from the story is this series looks fantastic on Blu-ray.  The detailed artistic backgrounds definitely look beautiful and the fighting sequences look absolutely fluid.  Please note that I haven’t seen the DVD version to do any comparisons but with so many anime TV series upconverted for Blu-ray, it was great to see an anime TV series native to HD and look so beautiful.

On the negative side, I think that many anime fans who prefer the Japanese soundtrack let alone lossless Japanese audio soundtrack are reeling of the lack of inclusion of it.  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.

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.

Overall, “Kurokami – The Animation” is an entertaining anime series that so far features a solid storyline, beautiful animation and painted backgrounds and looks great on Blu-ray.  Although not a perfect release especially without the Japanese lossless, definitely a series worth considering for your anime on Blu-ray collection!






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