Concerned for her daughter, Hakufu's well being, Goei subtly sets into motion her plans to free her daughter. She cheers on Hakufu?s opponent Kakouton as well as arranges for a deep mountain trip to visit Chokou, the caretaker of a hot springs training ground. Even Ryomou and Ryofu learn a little more of themselves at this place. Training there is difficult, so what better way to relax afterwards than to visit the local pool...
The tournament takes a strange turn which allows some infighting to begin while Hakufu and friends head to the co-ed hot springs.
For our primary viewing session we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese, but then we ended up listening to it in English about three times while getting caught up in other things. Both tracks feature a solid stereo mix that makes good use of the left and right channels for both dialogue and action effects. There's some good placement for both of them there while the music comes across solidly in both. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2003, Ikki Tousen is presented in its original full frame format and a very good looking transfer. While the show goes for the traditional color palette used for a school based series, there's a mixture of some very vibrant pieces for the backgrounds, such as setting sun scenes that go beyond the norm a bit. The characters tend to go with the normal almost drab uniforms but even in those there are some real flashes of vibrancy or outright competing uniforms. The series maintains a very solid feel for the backgrounds and avoids any noticeable blocking. There is some noticeable aliasing throughout though and that gets to be very visible in a few scenes where otherwise smooth curved lines instead look like a series of stairs.
Geneon went all out with the packaging for this release. The clear keepcase uses the same character artwork as the Japanese DVD release with a great looking image of Ukitsu in her school uniform being all energetic. The background material looks to be the same as the Japanese box with the flame-like imagery for the borders and the Chinese dragons as light background sketches. The back cover provides a few shots from the show and gives a brief summary of the premise of the series along with the discs features and extras. The reverse cover is much more attractive than the main cover with an image of Goei in her dark kimono while holding her umbrella but giving off that smile that she's got. The insert has a less busy version of the front cover with Ukitsu that opens to a two-panel spread of Ryomou and Hakufu fighting. Due to this being a review copy, no pencil boards were included.
The menu layout is nicely done but suffers from too many transitional animations. The main menu is a decent looking piece that has Hakufu and Ryumou face to face while clips play of the various action sequences under a cloudy filter as the opening song plays along. The menus load fairly quickly but there's transitional pieces going to each of them and they don't look too good since there are a lot of broken lines in the animation. The disc read our player presets correctly but since the sign and song subtitle track is the first English subtitle track it selected that instead of the full translation track.
The extras continue to be different from volume to volume here. This time around, we get a new art gallery with full color pieces as well as one of those promo videos that showcases the series prior to its release to get people interested in it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When watching this series, it's almost like an internal conflict of sorts because you know that on some very basic level you're not supposed to enjoy something like this. The plot is relatively thin but peppered with famous names to make it sound important, the animation is solid but you can see where they took shortcuts and claim it to be stylistic in nature. It just feels wrong in a certain manner that's not terribly easy to pin down at times.
But then it gets past that heavy fanservice opening and it just does it all so brazenly. This volume in particular where it opens on Ryofu and Chinkyu together in bed sleeping soundly. Though Ryofu has some problems once she's awake, both of them are just moving around the room completely naked and talking like a normal "couple" would at moments like this. If it had been a hentai, it would have started a few minutes earlier with a different kind of wake-up. But the overt sexuality, which many find a complete turn off with this series, is just so startlingly different from just about every other regular series that even at its worst, it's like a breath of fresh air.
Take the hot springs episode for example, where Goei takes Koukin and Hakufu up there for some relaxation while she explores some issues of her own. Goei's time up in the mountains is interesting enough since it brings back things from the past that explains why Hakufu is the way she is but it also sets up for the final stage by bringing in someone who will help unleash her true potential, a potential that may make her burn out faster than she should. But wrapped up in all of this is your typical hot springs episode where since it's such an old one it's a co-ed bath. Koukin can't believe his eyes and I'm sure the viewer is surprised as well since we get nearly full shots and the generous inclusion of, you guessed it, nipples. You can understand the frustration Koukin goes through with this experience and he's lucky it wasn't a combination of Hakufu and Ryomou, or even his aunt Goei.
When it comes to the main events with the fights, there's some movement across a couple of the episodes here but the tournament itself comes to a rather abrupt end after a couple of nasty fights that teach Hakufu what it means to lose. The end of the tournament is a power play for the current ruling group to maintain power by using an amusing loophole in the wording of the entire concept. This leads to some of the other schools not liking what's going down and instead of just taking it they start to plan for an actual invasion attack so that they can restore things to the way it should be. With the change in the tournament being downplayed, a lot of the steam built up in the last volume gets taken out of the show but since it ends up rolling into the hot springs episode and then starts moving towards unleashing Hakufu's real powers, it picks up again a bit more as it gets past this change.
With only three episodes here, the show goes by far too fast but at the same time may prove to be a saving grace. If there was more here it'd almost feel like it was too much of the excessive fan service and blatant sexual nature. In smaller doses it becomes more manageable and not quite as over the top as it could be otherwise. This volume has a fairly sizeable change in the direction of things but it manages to provide some really good amusing moments, such as Goei's rooting for the other side and her continual look for young boys to tame, to some good action moments such as Hakufu and Ryomou fighting against one of Hakufu's teachers. This series is definitely what I call a guilty pleasure however.
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Go to the extras menu, and choose the Geneon previews. select the Hanuakyo Maid Team trailer. Just as it starts, press enter and there is a slideshow. - Submitted by Kurtis Cooper
To see the Hidden Outtakes for this volume, put the cursor on extras and then tap enter continuously as done in previous volumes. Submitted by Lemar Green