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Japanator Review: Tokyo Majin DVD Vol. 1

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"Tokyo. A wave of mysterious deaths ripples throughout the city. Corpses of the un-dead, controlled by monstrous creatures; scour the urban underworld at the bidding of their dark master, seeking a power that could bring about the final apocalypse."

Before watching any dvd, its common sense to read the back description. This particular quote came off of ADV's recently released Tokyo Majin, and its a tad bit deceptive. Click the jump to figure out how.     

Tokyo Majin, Volume 1
Developed by the Majin Production Committee
Released by ADV films on December 11, 2007

Five episodes in, and only the first one had any "un-dead" in it. Sure That was the first episode, but the guy who created them is gone. As an avid lover of all things zombie, that synopsis sold me a bill of goods that wasn't quite delivered.

The plot is played out by the numbers. Mysterious transfer student shows up around the same time as some unexplained deaths happen. Mysterious transfer student (Tatsuma Hiyu) and four school friends accidentally tap into an ancient power. Using these "dragon veins," the high schoolers begin trying to help the general population. Completely cookie cutter plot, and the cast starts off as one dimensional tools. Despite how unoriginal each characters seems to be, their emotional development is promising. By the end of the volume we begin to see enjoyable glimmers of personality inside the female cast. Hopefully successful volumes actually have the men tell us their dark, forboding pasts.

   

Then again, this brings up another criticism. In general, the episodes fail at setting up a truly dark and foreboding environment. Even ignoring the slapstick comedy of zany reporters, nothing notably dark really happens. The show would have you notice its somewhat grittier violence, but all of that's happens to faceless pedestrians. Since no one with a personality dies, my heart strings remain unplucked. Ignore my cynicism, but something needs to happen to intensify the action or the audience gets bored. 

Considering that everything about this show is ambiguous, Coming up with a definitive opinion is taxing. Are the characters jaded and complex, or is the writing bad? Were the humorous bits meant to help play down the show's serious moments, or were they something that just looked good on paper. At this juncture, I really can't decide, and its frustrating to be five episodes into something, and yet not know if I like it.

Another example is in the soundtrack. The show has an eclectic collection of music. The violin heavy orchestrations (especially the sequence in the first episode) are well done, but seem out of place compared to the rock and electronica. Was the composer attempting to show of his or her diversity, or just unable to create a unified vision? 

The dubbing itself proved to be quite capable. In particular, Brittney Karbowski soaks up the laughs as Kyoko Tohno, the high school reporter with no concept of privacy. Also, I enjoyed David Wald's slightly more approachable portrayal of the emotionally aloof Kyouichi Horaiji. To contrast how these actors aided my consumption of the series, Andrew Love's portrayal of Yuuya Daigo took me right back out of it. Daigo, captain of the wrestling team, is the image of masculinity, but has an incredibly sensitive side. Clearly a complex character, the moments where Daigo tries to court the obviously uninterested Sakurai should be engaging, not painful. Love's delivery wasn't terrible, it just ended up sounding incredibly artificial at what I felt were pivotal moments.

In the end, Tokyo Majin is a decent show that has yet to set itself apart from other magical high school series. When completed, it'll be worth the price of admission just to see the character development, but the availibility of only one volume will probably leave audiences too hungry to be satisfied. If you're prone to make quick judgements about shows, I'd recommend waiting for at least the second volume before taking a look.


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reviewed by John Martone

 

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