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Soul Hunter - Complete Collection
The collection is the full season set of 26 episodes from the popular series that took a look at a story from about a thousand or so years ago. The gods had decided it was time to clean house of the demons overrunning the human world as they had all but taken over the affairs of man, including enslaving the will of the Chinese Emperor. The main demon, Dakki, was so powerful that they didn't want to risk their own necks so they find a sucker by the name of Taikoubou to fight their battles for them. Tai is given a weapon somewhat more powerful than he can handle, a flying critter named Sibuxiang, and a list of bad guys to work on capturing or killing, depending on what he can handle. As he works his way through the list, his skills and powers will increase to the point where he'll have a shot at taking down Dakki, or so the original plan went. Needless to say, Tai was a bit headstrong and decided to cut out all the middlemen and go straight to the top of the list, a move that proved somewhat unfortunate for him. After having his butt handed to him on a platter (nearly his head though), he decides to recruit some others to assist him in his quest, making for a fairly interesting series.
As the show progressed, there were increasingly interesting uses of the local mythology and it became a bit like some of the popular fighting shows that so many anime fans enjoy but it never got completely trapped in that mode of thinking either. As Tai recruits allies of varying strengths (and loyalties), the interplay between them made for some of the most interesting dialogue, much like the aforementioned Saiyuki. Another thing I liked was how the series evolved over time to encompass a lot more than a single-minded attempt to check off bad guys from a list (which would've been like Pokemon or its clones), moving towards a series of moral dilemmas that Tai could've easily fallen into and lost his way.
In all, the show was not the most accessible series I've watched in my life, primarily due to keeping track of so many colorful characters with weird names but also some plot threads that seemed a bit "off" at times. Nonetheless, the show seen with all the episodes together made for a great weekend of viewing recently and I'm sure it was easier keeping track of the events transpiring that way than if I had bought a disc at a time over the course of a few years as most anime is released. I just wish ADV Films would've released the boxed set first and then the individual discs but I'm aware of the financial difficulties in doing so with the company having so much on their plate at once.
I'm going to rate this value added collection as Recommended since it was so affordable and enjoyable at the same time. I applaud ADV Films for their recent attempts to market such season sets at a lower price as it makes more sense for a fan like myself to pick them up this way. It makes particular sense to buy a series like this all at once as it is easy to lose track of the details if you wait any time between episodes, a fact I've encountered even with more easily accessible shows I've reviewed. If you have any interest in historical anime that still manages to display a lot of quirky fighting, strategy and tactical maneuvering, and humor, this might be just the show you're looking for.
Picture: The picture was presented in the 1.33:1 ratio full frame color that it was originally produced in. The colors were decent and the grain minimal but the series is showing its age a bit here. The anime styles employed were a combination of CGI and traditional cel painting, making for a unique combination that sometimes worked better than other times, if you catch my drift. There were a few compression artifacts and some pattern noise but overall it looked pretty good for its age.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital with a choice of either the original Japanese or a dubbed English track, both with optional English subtitles. The original Japanese was vastly superior although I wondered at times if the subtitles were accurate or not; figuring it might've been something lost in a literal translation wherever something went over my head. In any case, the vocals seemed well done and there was occasional separation between the channels but nothing like some of the more current shows on the market today. The music was a bit weird and the sound effects appropriate so you won't have to worry about problems there either. I did notice a few moments of drop outs in the dubbed track but out of 640+ minutes, that's nothing to lose sleep over.
Extras: As expected, the extras package here was pretty solid, given it was taken from six full DVDs. The best extra for me was the translator notes. These notes gave me the background necessary to understand much of the historical context of the show. Without them, I'd have just had to view the series mindlessly instead of in the rich texture of history, which would've detracted from the value for me. Another extra of value was the relationship tree that showed how the characters were related to one another. This also provided a means to track who knew whom and how, something you could easily lose in a series so complex. There were also glossaries, clean openings and closings, trailers and teasers, voice actor biographies, and character descriptions, making it a well rounded package to enjoy. Keep in mind that the entire set was packaged compactly in a single box with five hinges rather than the fold out packs that are becoming popular these days.
Final Thoughts: I really liked the show a lot better in this set than I would have spaced out over a year or so in separate volumes. The nature of the material was strong but complicated and that makes for some tough times if you can't make sense of everything, adding to the replay value too. In all though, the combination of value, interesting historically-based mythology, and character development, made this one a solid choice for my collection and I think fans of this type of show are going to really appreciate its quirky humor too.
If you enjoy anime, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime article!