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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » HARUKA: Beyond the Stream of Time - A Tale of the Eight Guardians, Vol 4
HARUKA: Beyond the Stream of Time - A Tale of the Eight Guardians, Vol 4
Bandai Visual USA // Unrated // July 22, 2008
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Rightstuf]
Review by John Sinnott | posted July 9, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:

Bandai-Visual has released the fourth volume of Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time and with this disc the series is starting to feel more and more like an average fantasy anime. That's not necessarily a bad thing, fantasy series are a lot of fun, but this show could have been more than that. As it is, this set of shows has Akane being pretty much in constant peril and finding yet another protector. Some of the subplots end up progressing nicely, but the main story seems to be stuck in a rut.

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:

This disc starts off with a two-part story that puts Akane and her guardians in mortal danger. A demon plants a magical harp in a pagoda, and when a monk finds and plays it, he dies. Most harps have seven strings, but this one has an eighth string that is cursed. Having died a horrible death, the monk's spirit haunts the harp and one night plays a tune again. When this happens Akane is cursed and falls into a coma. Hearing the music of the cursed harp has upset the energy levels in her body, and it may take decades for them to go back to normal on their own, if they ever do.

The Guardians track down the demon that placed the harp in this realm and she reveals that there is only one way to cure the Priestess: They must determine which string is cursed and then play it. Doing so will kill the Guardian but revive Akane. But can they believe the demon and if it is true which one will die?

The next tale starts a sub-plot that promises to last a while. A young lady arrives is town and cures a hurt child, turning his illness into a beautiful butterfly. When this mysterious stranger identifies herself as The Priestess of the Dragon God, Tenma goes to investigate. What he discovers shocks him to the core. This new Priestess is none other than his sister, who has been missing for a while. Although she doesn't recognize him, Tenma is sure that she is the missing Ran. But how did she get here and why does she think she's the real Priestess. To make things worse, Ran is willing to kill Akane to ensure that no one threatens her position as Priestess of the Dragon God.

Honestly, I was hoping for a little more substance in this series by now. With this volume they find the last (I believe) Guardian, but there's still very little known about this world or how it works. What's so bad about the Four Gods no longer living in the mountains? Nothing bad seems to have happened to the city, and the people seem content and happy.

I've also been wondering why Akane is even in this land. What is her purpose?? What does The Priestess of the Dragon God do? Apparently just sit around and wait for enemies to attack her. Yeah, it was shown that she had great power in some of the early episodes, but she can't control it or call it up on demand, so it's pretty much useless.

With this volume the show started to drag a little. Maybe it's just me and I'm getting tired of the premise, but they could do a little more to flesh out this world. (Is there even anything beyond this city? Where do they get their food?)

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 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:

By the end of the fourth volume of a series, I expect to be able to tell where it's heading and what type of story it's going to tell. I'm still not sure with this show though. It doesn't seem to be progressing and there are too many deus ex machina endings (including one to the two-parter that starts off this volume) to really get into the show. If you've stuck with the show this far, this disc is worth watching, but make it a rental.

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