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Shadow Skill, Vol. 5: Timor Mors Mortis
Even though Shadow Skill the series originally came out in 1998, it hadn't found its way onto DVD until recently. The show is based off of a few OVA from 1995 and 1996, but essentially follows the same characters and core concept. The tone has been changed a little bit to offer up a more lighthearted affair, but fans of the various OVA will appreciate the similarities between the two. All of this of course got its start as a manga, which was created by Mugumu Okada.
In case you aren't familiar with the show as of yet you should know that it takes place in a fantasy world and could be compared to Rune Soldier quite easily enough. There's plenty of comedy; both physical and spoken, lots of action, and a party of characters that build a relationship as the show moves forward. The series focuses on a fiery woman named Elle Ragu (not the spaghetti sauce) who is a revered warrior known as the 59th Sevalle.
The Sevalle are an honored rank among the Karuda people thanks to their prowess in combat and manner in which they represent themselves. Unfortunately Elle doesn't do herself any favors while she's traversing the countryside. Her penchant for drinking and getting into trouble has damaged her wallet and on more than one occasion she and her brother had to recoup some financial losses. Other companions get roped into their plight along the way including the demon hunter named Kyuo and a mysterious woman known as Folli.
The last volume brought things to a climax almost as invigorating as when Gau stepped up to the plate to defend Diaz. Three of the four episodes involved a former, thought to be deceased Sevalle known as G. With a chip on his shoulder and a plan in place he stormed Karuda in an effort to knock it and its leadership down a peg. Fire engulfed the fair city and Kyuo was injured during a confrontation with the villain. That particular even sent Gau over the edge and with brazen haste he made his way to the location of the king in order to put a stop to G.
That particular story line concludes this volume and features the battle between G and Gau. The action is fast and furious though it's probably a little too fast for Gau to handle; at least at first. As the battle continues G reveals that he can only give off seven attacks and that the last one would be the end of Gau. It turns out to be a load of hooey though since Gau is able to take and survive the dreaded strike. He turns the tide and overcomes G's attempts and in the process we learn more about the character and what drove him to the point of madness.
In the next episode Elle fights a figure from her past while the mysterious character that has shown up from time to time keeps on messing with stuff. If you've been following the show the guy I'm referring to is the one that keeps his face covered and wears all white that was responsible for Karuda blowing up. Well, he seems bent on causing a ruckus all over the world and killing as many people as he possibly can. It should come as no surprise that he steps in and intervenes with Elle's battle, though his motives are unclear until later in the volume.
It seems that the mysterious fighter is out to prove that his style of combat is the best, though he's taking orders from a superior. In the meantime some of the Valle (Scarface mostly) comes forward with plans for Gau's future. It seems that in order to awaken the beast within Gau he has to confront Darkness, though in doing so he straddles the line of death. Lucky for Gau, Diaz steps in to save him before things go too far south.
This volume was almost as dramatic as the previous one was and what is happening to Gau's character is certainly interesting. Scarface and Darkness have an agenda for the boy and what happens here changes the future of the series. Granted there's only one more volume left, but things are totally different now than when the show started. At this point it's hard to say how things are going to end for Elle and company but at least the ride up to this point has been pretty exciting.
With production of the show being done in the late 90s, the quality is obviously not going to be as strong as a title put together now-a-days. The DVD is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio, which is fine, but the image suffers from several artifact flaws. There is quite a bit of grain, speckle, aliasing, cross coloration and some blur to be found in the picture. The color palette for the show appears to have been washed out over the years since most of the image features a faded appearance. The series almost looks as if the production predates the time that it was actually put together and it's not a look that is really beneficial.
Both soundtracks available on Shadow Skill are presented with 2.0 stereo, so if you were hoping for a 5.1 English dubbing, you're going to be left out in the cold. As it stands the voiceovers are very good for both tracks though the English selection offered a couple of poor dubs. I also preferred the original Japanese language, because at times the English sounded like it was coming from a tin can. The quality is decent for a 2.0 audio presentation, but even so there's little to no directionality and everything comes across at the same volume.
The fifth volume of Shadow Skill features the textless animation sequences and another batch of ADV previews to take a look at. The treat here for fans (just like the last volume) is the inclusion of a commentary with Marty Fleck, Jay Hickman, and John Swasey. Just like the last commentary for the series this one is more about having a good time than shoving information down your throat. Fans looking for a laugh will appreciate it more than those looking to find out more about the show.
Things are amiss in the land of Karuda as Gau's inner beast is beginning to awaken. The series has really shifted its focus from Elle to her little brother and at this point it's unclear how things are going to turn out. Will Gau get to the point where he can become the 60th Sevalle? Will the world be destroyed by the mysterious figures plotting to see it done? It all ends in the sixth volume due out soon but in the meantime this one was just as good as the previous.