Monday, October 26, 2009

DVD Review: Nabari no Ou Part 1

Everyone loves ninjas, right? I know I do anyway. Generally speaking I go out of my way to check out anime that falls into the category of dealing with nijitsu, samurai, or some variation in between. From Naruto to Basilisk, and even the likes of Ninja Nonsense, I've watched quite a few. When I heard about Nabari no Ou I simply couldn't wait for it to hit store shelves on our side of the pond.

FUNimation has just released the first half of the show in a two disc boxed set. With the first 13 episodes out of 26 total, Nabari no Ou's release is something to celebrate. The show is pretty damn good so far and it's one of the most unique ninja-themed shows I've seen in quite some time.

The show takes place in current day Japan, but there's a twist and the world is not quite as it seems. Things are split between the ordinary world and that of the Nabari, or shinobi (or badass ninja types, if you will). In most cases ninjas are the ones who run everything from the behind the scenes and in their world something known as the Shinrabanshou is sought after, revered, and feared. The Shinrabanshou is basically a ninja magic book that resides in the body of an unknown individual at any point in time. If that person should die, then it moves onto the next. Think of it as a ninja version of herpes, but this herpes gives you the power to kill people with mind-bullets.

Like any good case of ninja herpes, some want to destroy it, some want to take it for their own purposes, and others just want it to be possessed but unused. When the power comes to a young boy named Miharu, he's naturally not too thrilled about it.

Miharu is quickly thrust into the spotlight. He's an apathetic kid who doesn't give much of a care about the ordinary world, or the Nabari one for that matter. Soon after the show begins we see him introduced to a fellow student and new teacher. They are actually shinobi and are out to protect him from those who would cause him harm. After some time a new member of their club comes along named Raimei. She's a spunky blonde with a sword out looking for her brother whom she believes murdered their entire family. Together they set out to find a clan known as the Fuma that may have the power to seal up Miharu's ninja herpes (Shinrabanshou) permanently and prevent the cycle of death from continuing. There seems to be more afoot than is initially let on though.

After arrival at the Fuma village they are attacked by a group of ninja known as the Kairoshu. Their goal seems to be to collect forbidden techniques from each village and use them to extract the Shinrabanshou from Miharu. The Kairoshu are played as the bad guys that the beginning, though in all fairness you can never really tell who is out to do good or evil when it comes to ninjas. Motives seem to be hidden well and there are many betrayals, misunderstandings, and changed opinions in this first box set. People who were once enemies become formidable allies and those who seem to be friends have darker sides and are working against Miharu. Whatever the case may be, everyone wants to use the kid and his powers for their own gain. At this point it would seem that poor Miharu only has a couple of people he can actually trust and that's definitely one of the things that keeps you coming back to the show.
Nabari no Ou is extremely well-written and planned out. At first the show seems kind of generic; I mean it's about a chosen one with some power who gets pulled into a hidden world. That's not exactly the freshest concept on the market (think day old bread times ten). What sets this show apart from the others is the richly developed characters. Miharu is an incredible protagonist and the support cast plays off his personality quite nicely. Granted that's something that grows with the show as it progresses. At first his aloof personality and nonchalant attitude are really off-putting. It's when he finally discovers that there's something worth fighting for and he really cares about his friends that things become interesting. In addition to that, the story is rather engrossing and the accompanying action fits the ninja bill just enough (Except for the ninja with a gun. What ninja uses a gun?). The only thing that I felt didn't completely jive for the show was the sense of humor as some of the jokes just seemed kind of out of place. For instance Miharu puts on this coy cute-ish face that makes older men blush and succumb to his will. It's, well, awkward to say the least.

The a/v quality of this boxed set is pretty damned good as well. The video is presented with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio and the image is solid all around. There is some light blocking and a little grain at times, but all around the picture is quite stable and clean. The same can be said for the audio which the 2.0 Japanese and 5.1 English tracks marvelously. There isn't a flaw to be found and I must say that the English cast was astounding here. Oh, and extra Maki love for the theme song for Nabari no Ou. Simply awesome! As far as bonus features are concerned there's a commentary for the second episode, some trailers, and clean animations.

Occasionally peculiar humor aside, Nabari no Ou is an awesome show that entertains right through to the end. The first 13 episodes will hook you instantly and you'll crave the second batch of episodes almost immediately after you finish watching the set. Don't wait for a ninja to kill you with this boxed set, go buy it now and save your life in the process.

Maki Rating:

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