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Tokyo Ravens: Season 1, Part 1
Tokyo Ravens is a fantasy anime series from animation studio 8-Bit. The series originated as a series of Japanese light novels which were written by Kōhei Azano and featured illustrations composed by Sumihei. The series revolves around the fantasy world of onmyouji, who are beings capable of connecting spirit power and who can battle negative spirits who cause problems within their world. It is up to the onmyouji to help keep the peaceful balance.
The central character of the series is Tsuchimikado Harutora, who at the start of the series isn't aware of even having spiritual energy to work with. The path to being a onmyouji is a long one with a lot of training. The road ahead of Harutora will be a challenge. Thus a journey begins for Harutora when he and his friend Tōji run into a strong sprit-energy fighter named Hokuto at the festival they are attending.
The action of the series ramps up quickly and the spiritual energy grows within the befuddled Harutora. It isn't long before Harutora learns his friend is a shikigami (a familiar), which is someone with strong spirit-energy with a direct connection to someone else. In this case, the friend was the familiar to Harutora. The onmyouji adventures begin.
As the story continues, Harutora moves to Tokyo and enrolls in a magical spirit-energy school specifically for onmyouji. At the school, students learn about and train in the craft of using their spirit power. Harutora and company encounter new adventures as their classmates are met at the onmyouji magic school, spirit battles ensue, and educational journeys through onmyouji training ensues.
The series is written by Hideyuki Kurata. The story for this series is frequently convoluted and nonsensical. The dialogue is iffy at best when it regards exploring the magical elements of the series. The plot-line itself is fairly standard fare. This premise has been done a bunch of times and the elemental shift of moving the story to Tokyo and with a magic-school premise is not interesting. The characters are largely one-dimensional. This is a standard fantasty-action-comedy anime which relies too heavily on genre expectations.
The direction is by Takaomi Kansaki, Kazuhiro Kanemitsu, and Michio Kaiba. The direction is action-heavy. The animation quality works with the direction for a fluid stylized series which should impress some action-anime fans looking for complex action sequences. In that regard, this production is handled effectively. If you are just hoping for some solid action set-pieces combined with quality animation, the show might impress. Unfortunately, the characters on Tokyo Ravens are not well presented through the writing or directing and the dramatic tone disappoints.
The animation quality by Studio 8-Bit is effective for the most part. This is a slickly produced series. The animation is fluid and seems ambitious for the action scenes. The level of detail is reasonably strong. Background artwork is somewhat minimalistic for this series and doesn't stand out much but the attention to the spirit elements impresses.
Tokyo Ravens is a bit of a mixed bag. The action is generally solid but the story and characters fail to be of much interest. The storytelling mainly tends to offer viewers convoluted fantasy concepts. While some anime fans might appreciate Tokyo Ravens as an action series those hoping to find compelling characters and storytelling will be largely disappointed by this production as it lacks solid originality and contains a smorgasbord of convoluted fantasy concepts.
Tokyo Ravens arrives on Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded image. The presentation quality is superb with strong color reproduction, clarity, and detail. The image is preserved with high-bitrate encoding. Funimation has done a superb job with this series and viewers will find this to be an exceptional HD presentation.
The audio is presented in lossless Dolby TrueHD 2.0 English and Japanese w/ English subtitles. Either option should please fans. The clarity of the audio is good and the dialogue clarity is excellent. Though the series doesn't feature surround-sound, the show has a good stereo sound mix that offers strong immersion. Whether viewed in Japanese or English, the lossless audio boost is considerable.
This set includes the following: Audio Commentaries on Episode 5 and 12, Episode 7 Video Commentary, Kon Explains it All! #1 and #2 (10 min. total), in which one of the supporting characters relays background information about the series which is not presented in the main story , textless opening and closing songs/credits, and trailers promoting other anime releases from Funimation.
The set is also housed in a collector's art-box with space for Season 1 - Part 2 to be added on release.
Tokyo Ravens - Season 1, Part 1 contains the first half of the season. The series offers a fantasy world filled with a lot of action and some magical-school comedy. The series is unfortunately disappointing and it lacks interesting characters. The action element might be worthwhile for some anime fans. The animation quality is generally strong.
Funimation has done a solid job with the presentation quality of Tokyo Ravens and fans will consider the Blu-ray set worthwhile. Everyone else should give the series a rent first.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.