"This is weird. There are no female customers."
Usually when you find yourself asking aloud "What the hell is going on?" in anime, you can dismiss the confusion and settle for the eye candy and action. In Kizuna, both are sparse, and both would be welcome distractions to a story that has no discernable plot.
If you're heterosexual, it's nearly impossible to get into yaoi anime, unless it's funny or action-packed. Kizuna is neither. Yaoi, for the anime newbie, is homosexual drama, mostly involving impossibly beautiful men. It's like most of what Wolfe Video in San Francisco puts out on DVD, except animated and very Japanese. It doesn't necessarily have to be erotic, just gay.
Kizuna is erotic, and may send a tingle up a gay man's spine, but even the most simple-minded of yaoi fans have got to be wondering where the story is. Basically, two young gay men are living together, one of them oversexed, the other very naïve. The latter is Ran, wanted by every gay male in town (and apparently there are a lot of them), including one of his professors. Kizuna is about the men around Ran, all wanting him, all willing to fight (and kill) for him. You ask me, he ain't all that. Ran moves through life with no direction, no clue about what (or who) he wants, and it's hard to have any connection with, or sympathy for, him. He's slow, easily manipulated, and only has his looks going for him. Meanwhile, everyone that's hot and bothered by Ran is doing something to get his attention, no matter how ill-conceived or senseless that something is.
There are some great moments in Kizuna: The opening five minutes is beautifully directed, and a scene where Ran is seduced by his professor in a gay bar is short on neither drama or action. But the actions of the characters surrounding Ran make absolutely no sense. Really, random gay men getting in back-alley sword fights to impress a potential lover? Guys, there are plenty of fish in the sea. When Ran comes home to his full-time lover, he's treated like a piece of meat, but those few scenes were the most interesting in the show, and only because of the impending seduction. By the time the yakuza show up toward the end of this first volume (with only one half hour episode) I was already reaching for the stop button.
Kizuna is older fare, 1994 to be exact, and isn't the most popular of yaoi offerings out there (Gravitation comes to mind), and that's probably due to a number of things. The animation is rough, character designs are bland, and there just isn't any reason to get into the characters or the air-thin storyline. If you're into the manga this show is based on, then go for it. You'll probably enjoy seeing the characters come to life. The rest of you anime fans can pass.
Kizuna is rough around the edges, with a lot of grain and some very subdued coloring. Digital problems are at a minimum, but the original 4:3 video is full of dust, scratches and spots. Sunsets look like crap, flesh tones are a mixed bag, and settings inside look bland and lifeless.
Only Japanese 2.0 is available with this DVD, and it's no shock Central Park Media didn't take the time for an English dub. There just aren't enough people who would be into it to necessitate the effort. That being said, the audio for Kizuna is quite serviceable, with good voice acting and solid, believable ambient noises. The sound stage was put to good use here, and the audio is above average overall.
Central Park Media's Be Beautiful line of DVDs is pretty niche, which is apparent in the special features. The manga previews for Kizuna are the only extras here, with nary a Black Jack or Kakurenbo preview to fill things out. I think the yaoi and hetero Otaku fans are worlds apart, but maybe there's some crossover for more general titles in the catalogue. Grave of the Fireflies? Munto? Most of the time CPM stuffs its DVDs with goodies, but not this time.
Too loose in story and too dated in look could be too much to overcome for this show. Maybe you'll watch Kizuna as random spurts of entertaining (and frenetic) gay male energy, and dismiss the lack of coherence. It's not even worth a rental if you're not into yaoi, but likely worth having in the collection if you're a fan of the manga or yaoi in general.