Bandai Entertainment has been hitting a lot of homeruns lately. With releases such as Code Geass, Lucky Star, and Gurren Lagann under their belt, they have been making their mark on the industry even in this tough economy. I suppose in this day and age you have to be fairly certain that a license is going to do well before you bother investing time and money into it. The gamble has certainly paid off for the aforementioned shows, but what about Ghost Slayers Ayashi?
After experiencing the first "part" of Ghost Slayers Ayashi I can definitely say that it didn't wow me like those other shows have. The depressive atmosphere, subdued characters, and meandering plotline did little to make it stand out. There was plenty of interesting bits to it for sure, and it certainly was unique, but the first ten episodes of the show just didn't push the envelope. The real question now is, do the next ten fair any better?
Incase you missed the first installment's review, let's give you some background information on the show, shall we? Ghost Slayers Ayashi takes place in the 1840's which is the Tenpo era in Edo. This is a fascinating time period, and in all honesty it's not one that is explored very often in anime. Granted this is probably due to the depressingly gloominess that surrounds it, hence my initial impressions of the show, but I digress. With the drab historical setting in place, Ayashi tells the tale of a man named Yuki, who is older than most anime protagonists. Yuki is about forty when the series starts, and as the show progresses we learn that he left his hometown 25 years ago. He has become a wanderer, and as is the case with many wanderers he's seen some interesting things. Unfortunately for Yuki, one of those sights involves the Other World and some monsters known as Youi.
In the first installment we saw as Yuki joined up with a group, the Office of Barbarian Knowledge Enforcement (also known as Ayashi), whose mission is to defeat the Youi. Each of the characters in this organization brings something different to the team, though for the most part it all revolves around the use of Ayagami which is a form of magic. This second part presents the third and fourth volumes of the show, with five episodes on each disc. With the setting and most of the characters established, Ghost Slayers Ayashi settles into the majority of its run.
This installment starts out with a somewhat interesting story as Yuki and Hozaburo comes across a group of people known as the Western Ones. These guys are evidently bad and are using something known as the Killing Stone. Not only does this object have a particularly foreboding namesake, but it also has the ability to control an army of Youi. This is definitely not a good thing and naturally the Ayashi become involved in the matter. This storyline had a lot going for it and there was a fair amount of action to be had. Due to some developments in the second part of the story it also gave Hozaburo some extra time to grow and it enriched the character.
Skipping past a recap episode we get a nice little storyline that involves some of the Ayashi coming under investigation from some local police. They have been implicated in some crimes, but as it turns out the Youi actually perpetrated the incidents in question. I suppose that shouldn't really be shocking, though there are plenty of moments here that will keep you guessing what's really going on. The rest of this volume follows suit with two more storylines that span two and three episodes, respectively. Of note I felt that the one that closed out this installment was the best story to date since it gave us some more insight into Yuki's past.
I'm pleased to say that after the first decent, yet somewhat disappointing installment of Ghost Slayers Ayashi, the second really came into its own. The atmosphere is still a little drab, and the times are certainly depressing, but with the characters established the story takes off in new directions. Sure there's still a familiar pattern of the Ayashi getting involved with the Youi, but at the core of each tale is an impressive amount of development that enriches the overall story. My tentative recommendation of the first part stands, though this second part is much stronger. This still isn't a show for everyone and it's something you really have to watch with an open mind. Still, if you can get past the depressive atmosphere you'll find a rich story with plenty of heart.
Ghost Slayers Ayashi is presented on DVD with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. The show looks good overall and Bones really nailed the gloominess of the time period. The series bears an authentic look, but the problem with that is the show isn't very inviting. The earthy tones rarely pop, the contrast is dark, and all around there's very little outstanding about the way the show was designed. The transfer itself bears quite a bit of noise due to the darkness, and there are several moments where blocking and compression artifacts are identifiable. Neither of these flaws is quite enough to tarnish the show completely, but they definitely keep it from looking as good as it could have.
Ghost Slayers Ayashi hits DVD with 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo tracks for both the English and Japanese languages. As far as the presentation is concerned both tracks performed admirably, and offered quality on par with what you'd expect a stereo track to provide. The range of the sound was a tad flat at times, but there were some scenes that had some nice depth. The dubbing quality is good as well with the English and Japanese teams doing a very good job with the material.
The second part of Ghost Slayers Ayashi includes some previews, a line art gallery, and textless animation as its bonus features.
Ghost Slayers Ayashi thankfully comes into its own with this installment. The first ten episodes of the show did a fine enough job setting the series up, but they ultimately felt a little lackluster. This batch of episodes changes that and we really get some rock-solid stories here. This still isn't a show for everyone. It is drab, formulaic, and can leave you feeling kind of depressed, but if you're looking for solid writing, a unique premise, and great character development, you'll be pleasantly surprised. It's not my strongest recommendation, but Ghost Slayers Ayashi definitely deserves a serious look.
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