Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
MSRP: $59.98 US
Running Time: 288 minutes
Rating: TV 14
Release Date: Available Now
This one could have used a lot more magic.
Kazuma Yagami is the black sheep of his prominent and powerful family. He’s enough of a black sheep that he was immediately disowned by his family and tossed out like garbage left for the garbage men to pick up the next day.
No, he didn’t knock up the neighbor’s daughter or sold his mom’s jewelry to buy drugs. He didn’t insult his father or hit his kid brother. Kazuma’s crime was not mastering the Kannagi Clan’s fire magic that has been passed down from family member to family member for centuries. Understandable, Kazuma grew up angry and even changed his last name to Yagami. More importantly, he made a pact with a powerful force that granted him Wind magic so powerful that it trumps fire magic.
This is the only background information you’ll get about Kazuma in Kaze no Stigma, Volume 1: Wind. We don’t learn a lot about this young man. In fact, we don’t learn much about any of the other characters in the series and that’s what makes them all so one-dimensional and uninteresting. Kazuma, though, does have one thing going for him … he’s something of a bad ass from the very start of the series and that sets him apart from other protagonists like him.
Kaze no Stigma begins with Kazuma returning after his long absence to accept a paid job to clear a dangerous spirit from a house. His cousin from the Kannagi clan is there but isn’t able to rid the house of the spirit so Kazuma does it for him. Yes, he’s clearly more powerful now that he has the stigma of the wind. So when his cousin and other clan members are slaughtered by wind magic, all fingers point at Kazuma.
At least, this is what her beautiful young distant cousin Ayano Kannagi thinks and she takes it upon herself to exact revenge. Ayano is what you call a hot-headed girl who yells a lot. She also possesses powerful fire magic and has the ability of calling up a sword. Even with all this, however, she isn’t able to take Kazuma on or beat him in a fight. It doesn’t take the clan too long to discover that Kazuma isn’t a murderer. He might hate their guts but he wouldn’t slaughter them because there’s no money in it for him.
The series follows a short story arc of the Kazuma and Ayano working together to not only uncover the real culprit but also find out why they want Kannagi family members dead. When they do figure it out and close the case, Kazuma stays to help the Kannagi family with other matters … but for a fee, of course.
We follow Kazuma and Ayano as well as Kazuma’s young brother Ren in a small series of cases. One case involves his brother after he is kidnapped by the Fuga clan that has served the Kannagi family in the past but now harbors a secret grudge against them. After being invited to stay longer, Kazuma is attacked by the family servant that wants revenge for the death of her brother that occurred in the first episode of the series. This is actually one of the more interesting stories in the series as Misao, the servant in question, turns to a supernatural source to gain enough power to slay Kazuma … even if it means that innocent people have to die to get the power.
The series also has a lighter side, such as the assignment that takes Kazuma and Ayano (along with her two classmates) to Ayano’s school where it is said that a ghost haunts the halls. In the final few episodes of this 12-episode volume, Ren meets a cute girl his age who is running away from her prominent family. She holds a shocking secret that is connected to a woman whose family is responsible for protecting Mount Fuji.
If any of this sounds interesting and fun then that’s because some of it is interesting and fun. Sure, the series doesn’t offer any room to really get to know the characters better and the action scenes are handled quite lazily to the point that they’re not exciting but the stories are actually really good. Even the obvious crush that Ayano has on Kazuma is actually fun and Ren taking the spotlight for a sweet romantic twist to the final story arc is enjoyable. These positives show that this series has something promising to offer in Volume 2 … if it doesn’t follow the same path as Volume 1, that is.
Kaze no Stigma isn’t a bad series at all. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that it’s actually an entertaining show with a lot of promise but it just doesn’t quite make the grade thanks to a number of elements that hold it back considerably. For starters, the show fails to make the characters interesting and by the end you won’t really care a whole lot about them. Still, there are some fun moments to enjoy in Volume 1 of Kaze no Stigma if you give it a chance.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
After having been disowned by his family for not mastering their clan’s fire magic, Kazuma returns with a new magical mojo that suddenly puts him in the spotlight when family members end up dead. Teaming up with distant cousin Ayano and his little brother named Ren, Kazuma takes on a number of problems that pop up.
VIDEO QUALITY: B-
Like most animation we’ve seen from GONZO, Kaze no Stigma looks really good and the characters are equally great to look at as well. The problem with this series in particular, though, is that the action sequences are handled lazily and thus they are quite boring.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
Don’t blame the wonderful cast for both versions, they did a marvelous job and display a lot of energy. Blame the awful dialogue that makes them sound just as one-dimensional as their characters make them out to be in this series. The music is really good as well including the opening and closing theme songs.
There are a few trailers to be found in the second disc’s Extra section as well as the textless opening and closing songs. The most interesting extras has to be the three-part promotional feature called Ayano’s House Call: All-You-Can-Eat Cakes that features the Japanese voice actors Ayumi Fujimura, Shizuka Itou and Yuka Inokuchi out promoting the series as well as sampling food in places like Kobe.
We really wanted to like Kaze no Stigma for all the reasons that make this flawed series also a fun one to watch with some entertaining moments that manage to push its way through its imperfections. Had the series had better character development and more visceral action scenes, this would have been a great anime series but – as it stands – Kaze no Stigma’s first 12 episodes could have been better. Consider this one a series well worth renting.