I’ll splatter your guts!
Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: VIZ Media
Running Time: 300 minutes
Rating: T+ (Teen Plus)
Release Date: Available Now
Kazuki Muto is dead.
He died one night as he was walking home from school late one evening only to discover an unusual creature attacking a mysterious yet pretty girl wearing a school girl outfit and sporting a scar across her face. As this half-human threat attacks the girl, Kazuki jumps in the way and is killed in a most violent fashion. The following morning, Kazuki wakes up wondering if all of what he experienced was a dream. That is, until the girl he rescued tells him that it wasn’t a dream and that he was killed and brought back to life. And so begins the first few chapters of Buso Renkin as told in the Buso Renkin, Box Set 1 original and uncut collection.
The box set includes the first 13 episodes (in 3 DVDs) of the series that was first introduced as a Shonen Jump manga by our favorite manga-ka … Nobuhiro Watseka (the man behind Rurouni Kenshin). It follows Kazuki Muto who is brought back to life by an alchemist warrior in a school girl outfit named Tokiko Tsumura who is part of an army that combats a homunculi threat conceived by those who use alchemy for their own sinister end. Kazuki is brought back to life by Tokiko who inserts an ancient alchemist artifact known as a kakugane into his wound. With this, Kazuki unwittingly becomes a warrior himself.
The first few episodes basically deal with Kazuki and his new relationship with the determined Tokiko who is amused by Kazuki’s noble yet misguided nature. Kazuki also discovers that the kakugane inside him activates a weapon known as Buso Renkin that is released when his life is in danger or when things start looking bleak. In Kazuki’s case his Buso Renkin comes in the form of a huge lance with a colorful banner at the end of it. Tokiko’s Buso Renkin comes in the form of a weapon she calls the Valkyrie Skirt – a number of blades that form within her thighs.
At first, Tokiko is reluctant to let Kazuki help her combat the homunculi enemy but the young man quickly comes to make good use of his Buso Renkin and it isn’t until Tokiko is infected with a homunculi parasite that she comes to rely on him. Tokiko’s main quest was to find a villain known as the Papillon creator and it just so happens that this person is actually a student in Kazuki’s high school. Papillon’s reasons for delving into alchemy goes well beyond his family’s history but his intentions are also to use alchemy to keep himself from dying of his illness. In the sixth episode, Papillon becomes a homunculi and kills his father and brother be devouring them. It is in this episode that the real Papillon is born … and, well, it isn’t pretty or manly.
The series strength, particularly in the anime series, comes in the form of Tokiko herself. She practically steals the show with her interesting personality, her Valkyrie Skirt and even her ruthless motto. “I’ll splatter your guts!” is so much cooler than Kazuki’s weak “Pierce through my Buso Renkin!” It’s always amusing to see Tokiko’s reactions to Kazuki’s insistence in putting his life in danger as well as the tomfoolery of Kazuki’s three school chums or his bubbly sister Mahiro. The problem is that Kazuki isn’t the most coolest hero and you won’t find yourself cheering for him. If anything, he can be a bit annoying at times … which is vexing considering he’s an Ok character in the manga.
Buso Renkin’s other problem is that the fight scenes are rather boring. Compared to other Shonen Jump anime, the fights in the series are rather dull and they’re over before you actually realize just what happened. Secondly, the villains leave much to be desired even with their interesting appearance (Moon Face being the most off-the-wall of the League bad guys). The stand out villain, of course, is Papillon and his unfortunate choice of wardrobe (a butterfly mask and tight ballet dancer outfit). He’s zany and flamboyant and – dare I say it? – hilarious in an unintentional sort of way. Then there’s introduction of the Warrior Chief (AKA Captain Bravo) who aids the two. He is, without a doubt, one of the most charming and amusing characters in the series.
Although the box set comes in three discs, there is plenty of content worth checking out. Some episodes have Mahiro making observations of key characters in the series. Then there are the audio commentary from English dub actors such as Tara Platt (who wonderfully voices Tokiko) as well as a few others who offer great observations on their craft. Even the Behind the Scenes feature is interesting. The episodes aren’t all great but the good ones really shine through down to the very last episode that is among the best of the bunch.
In the end, Buso Renkin Box Set 1 is a series that has its highs and a number of lows but fans of the manga or series will find themselves liking the series just enough to warrant a purchase. I, for one, dug Tokiko and the way she deals with the annoyances in her life and that alone is worth a peek at this box set even if you have never picked up a volume from the manga.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Even if you loved the manga, Buso Renkin’s 13 uncut episodes aren’t bad at all but not stellar either. Kazuki isn’t the most likeable of heroes but it is Tokiko and the flamboyant Papillon that steal the show. Some episodes are better than others – like the episode where Captain Bravo and Papillon are ordering burgers in a fast food restaurant.
VIDEO QUALITY: B+
You get a sharp picture that holds up will on any screen but you can’t help but think that it could be a lot more crisper than, say, the Naruto box sets. Still, the colorful animation looks good enough to please Buso Renkin fans.
AUDIO QUALITY: B+
The Japanese voice cast certainly does a magnificent job and it’s the way I watch this particular box set but the English dub cast (particularly Tara Platt) does a good job as well. I can’t say the soundtrack is particularly likeable but at least it’s not bad either.
The box set comes packed with three collectible post cards that are actually nice collectibles but the real star of the extras happens to be the audio commentary on three episodes from the voice cast and the Behind the Scenes feature. Anyone interesting in voice acting for anime should most definitely check these out.
There are moments when Buso Renkin really shines and there are times when it is bogged down by it’s shallow main character and uninteresting battles. Still, this series isn’t without its good moments and this box set should be among your collection if you’re a Buso Renkin fan.