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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Haruka - Beyond the Stream of Time: A Tale of the Eight Guardians Vol 3
Haruka - Beyond the Stream of Time: A Tale of the Eight Guardians Vol 3
Bandai Visual USA // Unrated // June 24, 2008
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Rightstuf]
Review by John Sinnott | posted June 9, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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
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The Series:

This third volume of Haruka:  Beyond the Stream of Time plays out like the others have; introducing new heroes and having them fight a new demon to protect Akane.  That's not to say it's a bad series just that it's stuck in a bit of a rut.  Part of the reason is doubtlessly the way Bandai-Visual is releasing the show, with only three episodes on a full-priced disc.  Still fans of fantasy anime will be pleased with the show.  It has been trying to flesh out the characters and make the world that the heroine finds herself in deep and textured, as so far they're succeeding.

Series Background:

While walking to school one morning, Akane is inexplicably drawn to an old boarded up well.  Almost in a trance she goes to the ancient hole, and when she gets there a giant wind gushes up from the well and a shadow-creature tries to pull her in.  Her two friends, Tenma and Shimon, fight the creature but all three of them end up being pulled into the well and transported to a different place.  (Shades of Inu Yasha!)

Akane wakes up in the house of a princess, Fuji, and immediately bolts out of the compound. In the city she encounters the man who summoned her:  Akram.  He's a demon, though he looks human.  His race has been fighting the people who like in the Capital city for years and years.  The four Gods who lived in the mountains surrounding the city have protected it however and now the demon-people are few in number.  Akram has been able to steal the four Gods though, and now the city is vulnerable.  The only person who can possibly save it is The Priestess of the Dragon God; none other than Akane herself.

Eventually she's brought back to the castle and her two friends are found.  They've become Guardians, fighters empowered with a Dragon Jewel who battle to keep the Priestess safe.  There are eight in all, with one of Princess Fuji's guards being the third.  But who are the others and can they stop whatever plane the demons are hatching.

This volume:

Even though this is the third volume, the story feels like it's just getting started.  Akane is still discovering who the eight guardians are, and while that's going on the series feels like a monster of the week show.

At the beginning of this disc, the head of the Demons hatches a new plan; he sends a female to do the dirty work.  Shirin appears as a beautiful woman, and she can put any man under her spell.  She poses as a dancer to get near the powerful members of government and bewitches them.  The only person she can't get near is Fujiwara.  He's wary of this gorgeous woman who seems interested in him and doesn't trust her, which infuriates Shirin to no end.  No matter, even without him she has enough men to carry out her plan and assassinate the emperor.

The next story looks at Yorihisa's past.  As a young man growing up in the family of a respected samurai, Yorihisa wanted to prove himself.  To do this he entered a deep, dark forest and hunted for the Nue, a monster reputed to live there.  He finds the creature, but this handsome man with long, pointed ears and gorgeous white wings doesn't seem evil.  In any case Yorihisa attacks, and is easily bested.  The Nue advises the boy to return when he's grown strong, and he does.  Time after time he fights the Nue and though he grows and learns to fight, he can never best the creature.  Finally he has to go move to the capital, and he realizes that the creature he's been fighting is his only true friend.

Flash forward to the present day and a creature that sounds like the Hue is attacking innocent villagers.  When Yorihisa and Akane go to investigate, they discover that it is the Nue who has been causing all the chaos.  He's done so to draw Akane out and quickly kidnaps her when she appears.  Why has this gentle beast turned evil, and how can Yorihisa rescue the priestess if he can't defeat the Nue?

In the final episode we meet Inori, a poor young man who works as a blacksmith's apprentice.  He barely gets by and uses anything he makes to take care of his older sister who is ill.  While delivering a sword to the palace, Inori meets Anake and Shimon, and immediately thinks that Anake's friend is a demon.  They no sooner get that straightened out than a real demon shows up and attempts to take Akane's life.

Like the previous volumes just as I started to get into the show, the DVD was over.  While some of the episodes are very interesting, like the one that fleshes out Yorihisa's character be examining his past, others feel slow.  Getting the eight guardians seems like it's taking forever, even though at the end of this disc we've only seen 8 episodes.  It's a little bit too much by the numbers to really pique my imagination though, which is sad because it could be a great program.

The DVD:


Audio:

Being a Bandai Visual show, this DVD did not have an English dub, only the original stereo mix in Japanese with optional English subs.  The show sounded fine, though for the price they could certainly spring for a dub track.  There was some separation in the audio but nothing too fancy.  A 5.1 track would have been nice for the action sequence at the end of the first episode but as it was this track was adequate.

Video:

I was a little disappointed in the way this series looked.  On smaller monitors it may look fine, but on my 52" display the image was very soft and colors were muted.  It looked like I was watching the show through a rather thick layer of dust on the screen.  (I wasn't, I checked.)  The 1.78:1 anamorphic image just didn't impress me at all.  I suppose this could be the look the creators were going for, but it came across looking below average.  Aside from that, digital defects were minor.  A little aliasing was all.

Extras:

There is nothing much in the bonus department.  Like the previous volumes, there are alternate voice-over tracks for the 'next episode' previews but that was it.  I'm really surprised that BV isn't putting trailers for their other shows on their releases, or textless songs.  These are pretty standard bonus items and to have a premium priced disc leave them off is pretty bad.

Final Thoughts:

It's still a bit too early to tell if this is going to be a fun and exciting fantasy adventure, or just a re-imagining of things that have come before.  So far I'm leaning towards the former, though there are a lot of familiar plot elements in this show.   Fans of fantasy anime like 12 Kingdoms and Fushigi Yugi will most likely enjoy this, and for them, this disc comes Recommended.
 

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