Death Frenzy is a violent
and bloody anime that can be hard to watch at times.
Based on the first chapter of a book
by Norio Nanjo, it takes
place in the 1600's in Japan,
a very violent period, and the show doesn't flinch away from showing
hard and demanding life could be. With
CGI animation for some of the more gruesome sections, this show is
not for the faint-hearted. Like other
anime shows (Gantz comes to mind) if you can get past the gore and
blood you'll find an excellent series that is well worth watching. This series is also the first time that
FUNimation has released an anime show on DVD and Blu-ray concurrently. There's a kink or two present, but the
splendid image and compelling story make up for the flaws.
In ancient Japan
a lord has announced that he will have a tournament where all the best
in the land will compete for honor. This
isn't going to be just a show of skill however.
The lord has insisted that the samurai that compete use real
rather than wooden bokken. Even when a
magistrate commits sepiku and pulls his own intestines out so that the
see what real swordplay does, he doesn't relent. If
anything, seeing his underling kill himself
makes the lord all the more excited about the tournament.
With all of the local leaders commanded to bring their best
samurai, the contestants for the first match, Fujiki
and Irako, are a bit unusual. One
is missing his left arm, and the other is blind and with a lame leg. How can these two be highly trained
fighters? That's what this series is
After the attention-getting first episode, the narrative
flashes back to eight years ago where Fujiki
star pupil in the dojo of Kogan Iawamoto, founder of the Kogan
fighting. He hopes to replace his
master, who is suffering from extreme dementia, someday and marry his
the lovely Mie.
This all changes one day when a brash young man, Irako
enters the dojo and demands to fight Iawamoto himself.
The rules of the school state that any challenger
must best two students to prove himself worthy of battling the master. Fujiki is his first opponent and he defeats
him quickly, which humiliates the young samurai to no end.
When Irako sees the power of the second in command however,
he quickly admits defeat and begs to join the school and train there. Once admitted Fujiki and Irako become
life-long enemies, competing not only to be the heir to the Kogan
also for Mie's hand in marriage. This
is hard on both parties, but hardest on poor Mie herself, and
them to face each other, broken and battered, in the tournament shown
This was a very good show, a character study of two very
driven men. They have different
backgrounds and reasons for striving to be the best, and this
their motivations drives the show. It's
an interesting drama with neither man being totally good or completely
evil. The grey areas in each samurai's
that gives the series its driving force.
My main complaint is that this is a very intense show.
It is heavy and sometimes depressing, and
there isn't anything to lighten the mood or even give viewers a break
constant violence. It's one of those
programs where just when you think that things can't get any more
twisted, they do. Not only is there a
lot of extreme violence, but a good amount of sex too.
When Iawamoto finally decides (rather early
in the series) who is going to marry his daughter, he has the ceremony
performed and then commands all of the students of his school to hold
so her husband can impregnate her right then and there.
He's in a hurry to have an heir after
The animation style is unique and helps set the tone and
mood for the show. For the most part the
show looks like an old sepia toned film including a lot of added grain,
that serves to make the bright red blood all the more shocking. It's a very effective style and one that I
wouldn't be surprised to see again.
The Blu-ray Disc:
This highly stylized show comes with a AVC encoded 1.78:1
image and a looks wonderful. The show
uses a very dark palate, browns, grays and earth tones, it almost looks
sepia toned black and white movie, and there is a fairly strong grain
intentionally applied on top of that.
This gives the show an old-fashioned feel, like we're looking
time at events long since past. The
level of detail is very good, the colors are solid, especially the
the lines are very tight. On the digital
side I couldn't find anything to complain about either.
There were no visible compression artifacts
and edge enhancement and DNR weren't present either.
A very good looking set of shows.
Here's where I have a bone to pick with FUNimation.
The set includes a magnificent sounding Dolby
TrueHD 5.1 track, but for the English dub only.
The original Japanese audio track is
presented in Dolby Stereo only. Assuming
that the Japanese did not trash the master recordings, presenting them
lossless format would have been the preferable thing to do, even if it
mixed in stereo. As it is, the English
track sounds significantly better than the Japanese one.
The soundstage is more open and the action
sequences make good use of that. It's a
shame that the clear and forceful Japanese audio wasn't mixed for
The show has optional English subtitles, which are white,
and sometimes they blend into the background making things hard to read. This didn't happen too often during the
that I watched in Japanese though it was a bit of an irritant.
Not a lot in the way of bonus material. There
are commentary tracks on episodes 4 and
10 with the ADR and an English voice actor, a clean opening and
closing, and a
pair of art galleries. That's actually
fine with me. Most anime extras aren't
very interesting (does anyone really want to see how a show is brought
again??) and if a lack of fluff material keeps costs down, I'm all for
One thing that was a disappointment is that the booklet that
is included with the DVD set is missing.
Why FUNimation would want to omit that from the higher priced
set is a head scratcher.
Though this series is very shocking and violent, at its core
there is an excellent story of two men who will, and do, sacrifice
everything to achieve their goals. FUNimation
does a good job with their Blu-ray release, but going just a little
would have made the presentation much better.
Including a lossless Japanese language track would have been
welcome, but omitting the booklet that is included with the DVD release
bad move on their part. Still, when all
is said and done, this is an excellent looking show that, though hard
in places, is worth seeing. It gets a
images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not
represent the image quality on the disc.