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Buso Renkin Vol. 2
With words like alchemy and homunculi being thrown around in the description for Buso Renkin you'd almost be given the impression that it's similar to Fullmetal Alchemist. For all intents and purposes the comparisons stop there. VIZ's latest release is its own entity and the fact that it comes from the mind of Nobuhiro Watsuki, esteemed creator of Rurouni Kenshin, definitely gives the show it's own legs to stand on.
Rather than tackle individual volumes and play that game VIZ has made a wise move in releasing Buso Renkin in a boxed set. Way back in April we were able to sit down with the first boxed set, which contained episodes one through thirteen. Our impression was positive enough to warrant a recommendation, but I can't exactly say that I was blown away entirely. The set proved to be entertaining though and it had a lot to offer, so naturally when I was pleased when the second set arrived. This set has some nice material to offer, but in all honesty I enjoyed the first half much more.
Buso Renkin follows the exploits of Kazuki Muto who is your average high school student. He doesn't really stand out in many ways, but at the beginning of the show he gets wrapped up in bizarre events that bring about his death, as it were. Basically he's impaled by a giant snake while trying to protect some girl who was being chased. What happens after that is more than he ever thought possible.
While Kazuki thought what happened was a dream, it turns out to be reality as the snake creature appears at school and tries to kill him again. The girl from the previous night appears once again, but rather than flee herself she busts out a bizarre weapon and saves Kazuki's sister in the meantime. As it turns out Kazuki has been resurrected through the power of alchemy and thusly our hero is inducted into the ranks of alchemic warriors who battle against homunculi. In retrospect it all kind of happens too easily and it disconnects you from the storyline somewhat, but the lighthearted fair and blend of comedy helped the lacking areas of the first thirteen episodes.
With episodes fourteen through twenty-six the show's dynamic shifts somewhat. The focus is still greatly on Kazuki, for better or worse, and the secondary cast of characters is still as endearing and robust. The biggest change this time around comes from the tone of the series itself. The first boxed set featured a Buso Renkin that was mostly lighthearted and goofy at times, but the second takes it down darker, more dramatic paths. This is a blessing and a curse, because as the show gets more serious in nature the flaws of its protagonist become more evident.
During the course of this installment Kazuki's relationship with Tokiko grows in predictable and inexplicable ways, but Kazuki finds himself in something of a role reversal. With his alchemic powers in full swing he winds up having to power up to his Black Kakugane state in order to beat Victor, the king of homunculi. This simple thing seems well and good, but considering it's a big no-no in the alchemist community Kazuki soon finds himself being targeted by his close allies. That means guys like Captain Bravo are all over Kazuki, who suddenly is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
I found the twist in direction refreshing for the series and really appreciated the sudden change in venue. However, Kazuki simply isn't interesting enough, or strongly developed enough, to handle such a change well. It becomes hard to care for the guy and right up through the final moments the secondary cast provides more dramatic flare than we get from the lead. It's a shame really because it leaves Buso Renkin's second boxed set at odds with the first. To make matters worse the ending for the series is a big let down as well.
It's unfortunate that the altered tone of the second half of the series changed my perception of the show itself. The first thirteen episodes proved to be a borderline parody of anime and the genre with a wild sense of humor mixed liberally with action and storytelling. It was enjoyable and easy to swallow. The final leg of Buso Renkin's journey, however, isn't as smooth due to the darker tone, more serious nature, and poorly thought out plot devices. There are still some rewarding moments and some of the fights are cool, but all around this set just isn't as entertaining as the first. If you REALLY liked the first set then you could pick this up, otherwise consider it a rental.
Originally broadcast in 2006 Buso Renkin hits DVD with an anamorphic widescreen transfer. VIZ did a wonderful job of bringing this show to the states and the technical quality of this release is equal to some of their best work. With only brief glimpses of aliasing and grain to be found, each episode receives a fine compression rate and an appropriate amount of attention. One thing about this series that I didn't mention before was the artistic design. Coming from the mind of Nobuhiro Watsuki there are some truly outlandish characters to be found and some striking design elements. This coupled with some decent animation makes for a nice looking show all around.
Buso Renkin comes with 2.0 stereo dubs for both English and Japanese. Technically speaking the quality for each is roughly the same and about what you'd expect a stereo presentation to sound like. The audio has a decent presence on the soundstage but it certainly isn't immersive and there is only some slight separation among the front channels. What's here is decent but underwhelming just the same. As far as the dub quality is concerned both the English and Japanese casts do well though I fell that the Japanese one takes the prize here. That may just be a matter of personal preference but there's no denying a certain element of cheese in the English dub.
Included with the second release of Buso Renkin is a booklet which has information about the series and characters as well as some blurbs by Director Takao Kato. On the DVDs themselves you can find an original behind the scenes featurette for the series which actually provides some decent information. You typically don't get to see this kind of material with regards to anime so having this particular offering was very welcome.
Once again, I have to say that I appreciate the way VIZ released this series, but as far as the series itself is concerned that's another story. The first set was much better than the second, and in the end Buso Renkin is kind of a letdown. The shift in tone for this installment is quite jarring compared to the jovial nature of the first one, though I did appreciate Kazuki's turn from hero to mark. If you saw the first set you should easily be able to get by with a rental for this one, unless of course you're a big Renkin fan in which case you probably already own it.