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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Law of Ueki: The Complete Series Box Set
The Law of Ueki: The Complete Series Box Set
FUNimation // Unrated // June 9, 2009
List Price: $79.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted June 29, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Show:
          
FUNimation rides to the rescue once again.  The premier US anime company has bought up the rights to a lot of shows that were leased to now defunct (or nearly so) studios and instead of sitting on them they're either re-releasing the shows and even completing series that were left in limbo.  This time it's the latter.  They've completed The Law of Ueki, a show that was left hanging when Geneon abruptly pulled out of the US anime market.  Geneon put out nine volumes of the wacky and bizarre show, but the remaining four volumes weren't available until now.  The bad news:  FUNimation is only releasing the last discs as part of the complete series set so if you've bought the previous discs, you'll have to buy them again to find out how the show wraps up.  That's not too surprising or unexpected though, with today's anime market and the fact that this is a rather marginal series.
 
This show revolves around Kousuke Ueki, a typical middle school student.  He's pretty ordinary until he encounters an odd man named Mr. K one evening.  This unusual person, out of the blue, offers Ueki his choice of super-powers.  Out of all the myriad of abilities that are offered, the young man chooses (drum roll please....) the power to turn garbage into trees.  Not what I would have picked, but okay.  With this power Ueki has to battle the 99 other middle school kids who have also been given super-human abilities.  (And just about all of them are as odd as Ueki's.  One person has the ability to turn cloth into steel, but only while he's holding his breath.  Another can turn water into fire, but only if the water is in his mouth.)  The winner of this tournament will gain the "talent of blank", and the 'sponsor' who granted the child the power he used to win will become the Celestial King. 
 
Each battle between 'power users' will go on until one of them is knocked unconscious.  When that happens the fight is over and the person who was defeated loses their power.  That sounds fine, but there's a down side to this power to: if anyone uses it to harm someone who isn't in the tournament, they loose a 'talent'.  These talents can be anything.  Ueki loses the talent "to be liked by girls" at the beginning.  He only starts with 11 talents all together and when they all disappear, so does poor Ueki. 
 
Helping Ueki in this trial is a fellow middle school student, Ai Mori.  Her favorite pastime is to 'meddle', so following Ueki around warning him to be on the lookout for other people with powers is just up her alley.  Also joining Ueki over the course of the early episodes are a variety of people including Rinko Jerrard, a power user who can change beads into bombs, and Tenko a large heavenly beast that takes a shine to Ueki.  Tenko likes to give Ueki advice and can change into a fuzzy bracelet if he wants so that the fighter can wear him on his wrist.
 
The first handful or episodes serves to introduce the main characters and get the early battles underway.  Right as it sets into a seemingly typical battle-of-the-week show, the creators switch things around a bit by introducing new villains or tasks for Ueki to overcome.  The biggest of these villains is the odds-on favorite to win the whole tournament, Robert Haydn.  Haydn is not only a strong power user; he's also a maniacal psychopath who kills other users for fun.  He wants to win the tournament so he can employ the 'talent of blank' to destroy the world.  Nice guy.  In the early episodes Ueki has some run-ins with this crazy villain and barely survives.
 
Haydn eventually forms a team, Robert's Ten, and together then manage to take out a lot of other power users.  Ueki forms his own group and does some serious training to get stronger.  That's a good thing because the second part of the tournament is definitely going to challenge him.
 
About half way through the series the rules change.  It's no longer every man for himself.  In the second part of the tournament groups are formed.  Five teams with five members each have made it to the finals.  In addition, two people, 'Robert Haydn' and Li Ho, decided not to recruit teams and they get a pass to the next level.  (How is that fair??)  In this round the rules are a little different.  When someone is knocked out, they no longer loose their power.  It's only if the entire team is KO'ed that the power users will get in trouble.  The team that wins gets to advance to the final round and a chance to earn the talent of blank.
 
While this isn't a great series by any stretch of the imagination, it is very enjoyable.  The creative and unusual powers that seem to come out of left field are great both amusing and interesting, and the arenas used for some of the battles are just as fun. 
 
While this is a battle-of-the-week show, the show's creativity and sense of the bizarre make it a lot of fun to watch.  I really got into the series and reveled in the silliness of if all.  The arena that was a vacuum was great.  With no oxygen, the only way to breath is to put a Cossack hat on and dance.  If a fighter stops dancing, they stop breathing. 
 
Then there are the talents themselves.  Each one seems more outrageous and bizarre than the last.  The ability to change someone's thoughts into text messages, or the power to change a whistle into a laser are weird. 
 
Of course zipping through the episodes one after another the show can get a little repetitive.  There's also a bit too much "we knew you'd do that" - "oh yeah, well we knew you'd know!" going on at times, but it just adds to the fun of the show.  Not a deep or intellectually rigorous show, it's still nice to sit back and watch some of the weird battles.
 
The DVD:

 

These 13 discs come in two multi-pack DVD cases, each about twice the width of a single keepcase.  They are shrinkwrapped together and don't come with a slipcase.  It's rather disappointing to note that the covers to both cases are exactly the same, right down to the UPC code.  That can get confusing at times.
 
Audio:
 
Viewers have the choice of either the original Japanese audio track or an English dub, both in stereo.  The English dub was a little heavy handed in the effects department.  In the very first episode they added some heavy echos to the voices in one scene which made it hard to understand what was being said.  It also sounded pretty stupid.  Because of that, I enjoyed the original language track a lot more.  Both audio options sounded good though, with nice range and clear dialog.  There wasn't any hiss of background noise.
 
Video:
 
The full frame picture looked very good.  The image is clean and clear, and the lines are tight.  This is a colorful show with a wide range of shades present.  The colors are strong and bright and add a lot to the show's look.  Digital defects are nearly absent, with only some very minor aliasing in the background.  Overall this is a very nice looking disc.
 
Extras:
          
There wasn't much in the way of extras.  Sprinkled through the discs are a clean opening and closing and a couple of promo spots.  Aside from a few previews, that's it. 
 
Final Thoughts:
 
While this is a children's battle-of-the-week show, it has enough going for it to make it enjoyable for adults as well as kids.  The strange and bizarre powers are great fun, and so are the unusual battle conditions.  While the series won't find its way onto many 'best of' lists, it's still worth checking out.  Recommended.
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