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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Witchblade , Vol. 2
Witchblade , Vol. 2
FUNimation // Unrated // November 6, 2007
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted November 12, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Show:

To the masses Top Cow may not be a well known juggernaut like DC or Marvel but comic book fans know the company intimately. I remember when the publisher began releasing its first line of titles and spawned from Image. Operated by Marc Silvestri, Top Cow launched its most popular comic, Witchblade, in 1995. The series went on to be very successful with a continued release, a short-lived TV series, and rumored film in the works. About a year ago the franchise quietly jumped across the ocean and landed in Japan.

Last year GONZO worked with director Yoshimitsu Ohashi and designer Uno Makoto to produce an anime series based upon the Witchblade universe. If you were ever a fan of the comic book then you should know going in that this Witchblade is very different. Sarah Pezzini is nowhere to be found and the show takes place in a dilapidated Tokyo rather than New York City. This change in venue and focus may be jarring at first for fans but like many other franchise if you look at this anime as simply an alternate continuity then it's easy enough to accept.

The show seemingly takes place in the future judging by some of the available technology, though they never really discuss a time period. All we know is that after a great earthquake most of Japan has been left in ruins. When the show began a woman named Masane Amaha appeared with her daughter Rihoko and there was some trouble with the Child Welfare Services. Before long we discovered the Masane was actually the wielder of the Witchblade and all went to pot shortly thereafter.

The first volume chronicled the resurrection of the Witchblade well enough and we really got to learn quite a bit about Masane and Rihoko. It would appear that Masane has no memory of events before the earthquake and if it weren't for some medical records she never would have known that Rihoko was her daughter. Also unknown was how she came into possession of the sought after artifact but that's kind of a moot point at this juncture of the show. Before long Masane was recruited by a mysterious company and employed to destroy beings known as X-Cons. Life seemed to be getting back on track for the mother and daughter until some other ladies decided to show up in the final moments.

The second installment picks up right where the last one left off with Masane staring down two apparent Witchblade users. They comment about how pathetic she seems and remark that they don't understand what the weapon sees in her. Their little meeting is a foreshadowing to a conflict later in this volume but for the time being I'm going to focus on Masane and Rihoko's life.

This volume continues to show the mother and daughter living together happily in their apartment. Rihoko still seems to be the mature one despite her young age though together they are quite the pair. It doesn't take long for Yuusuke Tozawa to start harassing Masane about her involvement with the mysterious monster he saw at the detention center in an earlier episode. He shows her a picture of herself as in Witchblade form but it's not until later in this volume that he makes the connection. I found this particular storyline of interest because it added so much depth to Masane's character and her maternal protectiveness of Rihoko. It also displayed Tozawa's desperateness as a freelance photographer looking for a big break.

Those Witchblade wannabes surface again after a while and take Masane to task. One of the women, Shiori (displayed on the cover in blue) confronts Masane and instigates a deadly fight. During the battle Masane takes some heavy damage due to her inexperience and supposed weakness however Shiori doesn't leave unscathed. Her Cloneblade (a nearly identical copy of the Witchblade) begins to chip away and the weapon starts to take over her mind and body. Soon she becomes a bloodthirsty monster no different than the X-Cons that prowl the streets looking for someone to kill.

While Masane recovers Shiori attacks yet again though things don't go exactly as you'd expect they would. I'll refrain from spoiling what happens but let's just say that it calls the Witchblade's fate into question and could have ramifications on the future of the series. In between it all the action was intense and disastrously sexy as each lady seemed to really "enjoy" fighting one another.

I do have to say that this volume of Witchblade feels somehow unbalanced in many regards. On one hand there are some great developmental bits between Tozawa and Masane and I really appreciated the path Shiori's character took. In between these events though I couldn't help but feel that something under the surface wasn't being told yet. These episodes hinted very vaguely at Rihoko not being Masane's daughter and they showed us that the Witchblade bearer acts like she doesn't have a care in the world. Each of these ideals felt at odds with the overarching story and until some questions are answered I suppose it's going to stay that way. These peculiarities weren't enough to kill my appreciation of the material though; rather they served as a minor annoyance as I tried to get the big picture.

Overall this volume is a fantastic follow up to the first installment and it opens up a new can of worms that could impact future episodes. The fight scenes between Shiori and Masane are epic and the story driven moments are very intriguing. Hopefully upcoming releases will address some of the proposed questions but only time will tell. If you're a fan of Witchblade's comic franchise you'll definitely want to check this one out whether or not you're an appreciator of anime. On the flip side otaku will find another strong and sex show to plunk their hard earned anime dollars down on.

The DVD:

Video:

If you have read any of my reviews then you already know that I love GONZO productions. They have a way of rendering a show with cool designs, slick animation, and higher than average video quality. Witchblade fortunately does not break from GONZO's tradition of excellence.

The character designs for the show by Uno Makoto come to life with a great level of detail and presence in most every scene. Considering Makoto lent his designing talents to other shows like Gravion and Love Hina I'm sure you can ascertain just how, um, "developed" the female characters are. The action and animation is also top of the line though I do have to share some of my disappointment with a couple scenes during this volume. Like the previous installment some of the animation seemed stilted at times and this time around it surfaced during regular dialogue bits rather than just action. It wasn't enough to cheapen the production but it certainly made me take notice.

Technically speaking the video quality on this disc is fine enough but it's nothing entirely stellar. FUNimation has included four episodes here but the compression rate once again is slightly higher than average so you're going to see blocking and artifacts nestled in darker sections of the image. Some light grain was also present in scenes where lighting wasn't designed to be the best and I spotted a few instance of aliasing here and there. There are plenty of moments where Witchblade looks brilliant though and on the whole the transfer here is better than most. I just wish FUNimation hammered some of the nitpicky flaws out of this release.

Audio:

Like most recent series released here in America Witchblade comes with three audio tracks. On the lighter side of things is a pair of 2.0 stereo tracks for English and Japanese languages. The audio quality in both is exemplary with precise and flawless sound but it unfortunately doesn't pack the wallop on the soundstage that you'd hope it would. The 5.1 English track is a definite step in the right direction with a greater sense of immersion and presence on the soundstage. Some of the effects don't provide as much impact as you'd expect them to but overall the quality is very good.

With regards to the dubbing quality both the English and Japanese languages offer an enjoyable experience though I feel that the English dub has a little more fun with the "sexy" part of Witchblade. Sometimes it sounds like Masane is having an orgasm when things really heat up and this only gets even sillier once Shiori is introduced into the fold.

Extras:

Once again Witchblade comes packed with bonus features. Previously we received a tour of Top Cow thanks to Marc Silvestri and that trend continues in this installment with a video about how Top Cow makes comic books. If you have ever been a lover of comics you'll appreciate the content here and it is a sign of the times by the amount of technology put into everything. Sure the comic doesn't have a whole lot to do with the anime but for American content it's very good for fans of the franchise.

Clean animations are included along with some trailers for other FUNimation releases. Keeping up with the spirit of the Japanese release there are also two interview segments available. The voice actors for Tozawa and Rihoko are put in front of the camera though the questions are rather fluffy when you get right down to it. Even so I appreciate any original supplemental content we can get and that's precisely what this is.

Final Thoughts:

Witchblade is fleshing out to be a nice series. The action is over the top, the characters are interesting (though a few are one-dimensional), and there is an air of mystery surrounding everything. My impressions of the second release are rather similar to the first. The program is flashy, there's a lot of fun bits in between, and the development is there; it's just that everything doesn't feel as solid as it could be. There is very little that sets this show apart from other action series though some of the story developments in this volume begin that trend. I'll be interested in seeing where the show goes from here though for now it's merely recommended.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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