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Ghost Slayers Ayashi, Pt 1
I don't know about you, but I have really enjoyed the way Bandai has approached some of their series as of late. With some high profile shows being released in parts, it allows those of us who want more than just one volume at a time to dig in and save a bit of money upon release. I have been watching Code Geass in this manner, and having enjoyed that I figured it would be worth giving Ghost Slayers Ayashi Part 1 a spin as well.
Consisting of the first two volumes of the series, the first part of Ghost Slayers Ayashi packs in 10 out of 25 episodes, so you really get a good sense of what the show is about. Released in Japan between 2006 and 2007, there's no denying that the show took some time to make its way to our shores. Considering the posthaste mentality of Bandai regarding some of their other licenses, this made me wonder whether or not Ayashi was prime material. I had heard good things about the programming, but nothing overwhelmingly positive, or at least not enough to give me the impression that it should have been localized immediately. After experiencing the first ten episodes I can honestly say those initial feelings hold true.
Ghost Slayers Ayashi takes place in the 1840's which is the Tenpo era in Edo. This is a fascinating time period, and in all honesty it's not one that is explored often enough in anime, probably due to the depressingly gloominess that surrounds it. With the drab historical setting in place, Ayashi tells the tale of a man named Yuki, who is older than most anime protagonists. Yuki is about forty when the series starts, and as the show progresses we learn that he left his hometown 25 years ago. He has become a wanderer, and as is the case with many wanderers he's seen some interesting things. Unfortunately for Yuki, one of those sights involves the Other World and some monsters known as Youi.
While Ghost Slayers Ayashi may be historical in its trappings, the fact remains that this show is very mythical in its execution. There're monsters and magic in this world, and Yuki finds himself trapped somewhere in between the two. While he's attempting to live life somewhat below the radar, Yuki comes across a woman and her son. This encounter ushers old memories back much to Yuki's dismay, and soon enough he's once again face to face with a Youi. This leads to his being pursued and employed by the Office of Barbarian Knowledge Enforcement, which is kind of a secret government organization of magic users who combat Youi. Naturally this isn't something Yuki is very happy about, but it's through this connection that he's able to help the youngster troubled by the monster.
Yuki and the other enforcers who use the power known as Ayagami join forces to rid Japan of the Youi once and for all. The ten episodes in Ghost Slayers Ayashi's first part come together quite nicely to give us an extensive look not only at Yuki, but the other Ayagami users such as Saizo, Ogasawara, and Abi. Each of these characters adds something to the show and they fill in blanks left by Yuki's personality and influence as the protagonist.
During these ten episodes, it also helps that the show isn't necessarily episodic. There are many story arcs that come about during this part, and these storylines last for multiple episodes. That really helps the pacing and development of Ghost Slayers Ayashi because it gives each plot a chance to grow. I'd say that the presentation of Ayashi is similar in many ways to other shows which feature a group of heroes trying to rid the land of evil. That is to say that something bad happens, Yuki and company find out about it, they come to fight the Youi, and all is right with the land until the next incident. This isn't necessarily always the case here, but even in these ten episodes you can see that pattern developing.
For what it is Ghost Slayers Ayashi is unique and interesting. The elder protagonist adds some nice layers to the show, and the rest of the cast is equally as entertaining. I will say that I felt a little under whelmed by this first part, mostly due to the extremely depressing atmosphere. Everyone in this show has been having a rough time and if you subject yourself to all ten episodes at once, you'll definitely walk away feeling a little depressed yourself. I suppose you could say that the producers got their desired effect, but the quality of the show isn't quite enough to overcome the dismal backdrop. I'd consider it recommended, but if you're looking for an upbeat or lighthearted series, this definitely isn't it.
Ghost Slayers Ayashi is presented on DVD with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. The show looks good overall and Bones really nailed the gloominess of the time period. The series bears an authentic look, but the problem with that is the show isn't very inviting. The earthy tones rarely pop, the contrast is dark, and all around there's very little outstanding about the way the show was designed. The transfer itself bears quite a bit of noise due to the darkness, and there are several moments where blocking and compression artifacts are identifiable. Neither of these flaws is quite enough to tarnish the show completely, but they definitely keep it from looking as good as it could have.
Unsurprisingly Ghost Slayers Ayashi hits DVD with 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo tracks for both the English and Japanese languages. As far as the presentation is concerned both tracks performed admirably, and offered quality on par with what you'd expect a stereo track to provide. The range of the sound was a tad flat at times, but there were some scenes that had some nice depth. The dubbing quality is good as well with the English and Japanese teams doing a very good job with the material.
The first part of Ghost Slayers Ayashi includes some previews and textless animation as its bonus features.
Ghost Slayers Ayashi has a lot going for it. The unique time period, the interesting cast of characters, multi-episode stories, and some quality writing all come together to make a show that feels genuinely original. With that being said I must admit that the disheartening tone and drab atmosphere wore thin after a while. Some formulaic content also didn't help matters, but with only ten episodes under its belt, Ayashi could change its direction in its next part. I'd recommend this show for anyone with an open mind looking for something different, but it's no an enthusiastic recommendation.