Tokko: The Complete Series, Volume 1-3 DVD Review

Tokko - The Complete Series Box

Worst. Ending. Ever.

Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: Manga Entertainment
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 319 minutes
Genre: Action/Horror
Rating: Unrated
Release Date: Available Now

I wanted to like Tokko … a lot. It had, after all, all the major elements I look for in a series of this particular genre. Supernatural monsters that can turn their victims into deadly zombies? Check! A super secret organization that uses cool swords to tear said monsters to pieces? Check! Sexy naked (or half naked) girls that also kick major tail? Double check!

So why oh why does this series not deliver despite the interesting premise, good main characters or the delightfully gruesome violence? The fault can be placed firmly on director Masashi Abe who brought Tohru Fujisawa’s 3-volume manga series to life. Manga Entertainment was kind enough to bundle the 13-episode anime into a box set containing three discs and has presented them well enough. It’s the way Abe tells the tale that just doesn’t work. Even the ending (if you can call it that), just plain sucks.

Tokko introduces Ranmaru Shindo, the recent graduate of the Special Mobile Investigation Troops First Division Police Academy and the survivor of an apartment complex massacre in Machida. He’s a young man who lives with his attractive young sister, Saya, who is uniformed police officer and something of a mother-figure to her brother. You see, Ranmaru is haunted by dreams of monsters and a mysterious naked woman. What these dreams mean are a mystery to him … that is, of course, until an incident has him meeting the redheaded woman in her dreams.

The first few episodes of the series have Ranmaru not only investigating the recent string of strange deaths and attacks but also wondering what the secret division known as TOKKO is up to any why its officers carry around swords. He is more drawn to the mystery of the redhead who turns out to be a girl named Sakura Rokujo who is also connected to the Machida massacre. TOKKO is comprised of an attractive Commanding Officer named Ryoko, the dashing Takeru and a hot half-naked blonde named Kureha.

The series takes awhile to explain what these monsters (called Phantoms) are and what they have to do with a puzzle box created by an alchemist during the Middle Ages. Ranmaru’s insistence in discovering the truth behind his dreams, the monsters and Sakura’s teammates have him digging around until an incident causes Ranmaru to awaken a “symbiote” within him. This symbiotic element appears as a tattoo that runs across his arm and gives him the power to combat Phantoms. It is then that TOKKO takes a keen interest in him and asks him to join the division.

While watching the group slice through Phantoms into bloody pieces is fun to watch, it’s the lighter moments in the series that do give the characters deeper meaning and personality. It’s amusing to watch Ranmaru’s sister try to hook him up with various girls, one of which ends up giving him background information about the puzzle box and the legend that it might just open a portal to hell. There’s also a great moment where Kureha (a girl who doesn’t seem to believe in shirts or bras) takes him out on a date to a cemetery.

By the later episodes, a fearsome enemy becomes the series’ main bad guy. He is powerful enough to order Phantoms to kidnap Saya and do some major damage to TOKKO. Sakura’s brother is turned into a henchman that not only eliminates a member of the group but also reminds Sakura that it was her fault he was turned into a killing machine. In the end, a climactic battle takes place in Machida and things end rather briskly and with viewers scratching their heads wondering “What the hell happened and who ends a series like this?”

Yes, who ends a series like this? The ending leaves viewers with questions rather than tying up all the loose ends and mysteries. There are some good moments in the show and the characters are actually third-dimensional. Precinct head Kaoru is a riot and Kureha constantly flirting with Ranmaru is a hoot. Still, the set looks decent enough and the series voice acting (both Japanese and the English dub) are fine. I even loved the ending theme song “Cherry.” It’s just not a story that’s told well.

Tokko is not a bad series. It has it’s entertaining moments that do manage to shine through the appropriately gritty yet disjointed supernatural theme. I’m all for the classic sword-swinging-bloody-spurting-action formula when it’s done right but Tokko just seems to go through the motions just for the sake of it. And, yes, I hated the ending that brought no closure to viewers who invested their time too see the story to the very end. Rent this one if you can but I seriously consider turning elsewhere for a good supernatural action series.

DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
MOVIE/EPISODES: D
Some memorable moments aside, the series – as a whole – falls flat thanks to some poor direction. The characters are enjoyable but don’t stand out and who decided to end the series with a non-ending?
VIDEO QUALITY: B+
As far as the video quality is concerned, Manga Entertainment comes through with a clear picture for all three discs in this series. The colors really stand out well enough but the editing needed some help.

AUDIO QUALITY: B-
The sound comes through decently enough, although I found myself pumping up the volume a little for this one. Still, the Japanese voice actors are good and the English dub is just decent.

EXTRAS: D
There’s not much here to speak of since this package comes with the discs that sold individually when the series was first introduced.

OVERALL: D
We like action and we like monsters but Tokko just doesn’t bend them both together in a very interesting way. Sadly, the series does have some great moments and Ranmaru isn’t a bad character at all. It’s just that the story as a whole isn’t told well and, man, don’t get me started with that awful ending.

 

 

 

 

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