Reviewby Theron Martin,
Ranmaru has learned the truth about the symbiont within his body and that his seems to have a connection to Sakura's, a circumstance which the two get to explore further when Ranmaru starts to lose control. Everything he and the rest of Tokko has learned about what's going on seems to link back to Taishi, who may be directly or indirectly responsible for the defining catastrophe at Machida, and it seems that he has a spy within Ranmaru's former unit, too. The situation only gets worse when Ranmaru's sister Saya and Sakura's long-comatose brother Hiroshi get drawn into Taishi's evil plot, a situation which also puts the lives of two of the Tokko members at stake.
Tokko has always aspired to be a dark, sexy, bloody supernatural action series with a decided “cool” factor, but more often than not it has ended up being a mess of dull, cheaply-executed action scenes, shaky plotting, and lackluster character development. It does not escape any of those problems with a concluding volume which feels less like a conclusion and more like a transition into the greater part of the story; it even introduces two significant new characters in its next-to-last episode. Going into the last few minutes of the final episode the series has yet to build a sense of anticipation or movement towards some kind of climax, and the horribly rushed climax it does have lacks intensity. The denouement which follows leaves more questions and plot points unanswered than it resolves, which begs the question of whether or not this was originally intended to be a longer series and unexpectedly got shortened. If the whole thing was planned this way from the beginning then it's a shoddy piece of planning.
The central concept of the series – warriors possessed of demonic essence drawing upon that for the power to fight full-fledged demons, with the danger being that they must ultimately be slain by their fellows if their demonic side gets the better of them – is actually not a bad one, and has been used to great success in other anime series. What lacks most here is execution. The storytelling desperately needs female lead Sakura to be a tragic, sympathetic heroine who connects with hero Ranmaru on a deeper level, but the writing never manages to make her that compelling or establish much of a convincing emotional link between her and Ranmaru; indeed, it fails to give her much personality at all. Those flaws show up painfully clearly in a couple of key places in this volume. Choppy pacing and mostly ignoring one of the key Tokko members under the guise of making him the silent type does not help matters, either, nor does unveiling a key revelation about power increases for symbionts so late in the game that it feels like a contrivance to allow the climax to work. One must also consider the introduction of a brother/sister phantom hunting duo who seem like they should be important but appear with so little time left in the series that little can be done with them.
Not everything is bad, though. The series has never failed to provide a colorful array of supporting characters, especially Ranmaru's crusty former boss Kunikida, the sassy blonde minx Suzuka Kureha, and Ranmaru's adorable (in an adult way) sister Saya, and the last four episodes certainly provide ample graphic action content. The fan service screened out of the summer broadcasts on Sci Fi Channel's Ani-Monday programming block also returns in unedited form here, providing some actual nudity to complement the scandalous dress of Kureha. (Anyone else wonder how she manages to remain decent when moving around while wearing that top?) A heavy, inventive soundtrack sprinkled with all manner of weird electronic sound effects works well when it has material worth working on, and the catchy beat of the rock-themed opener pairs with a pleasant love ballad closer to form the series' greatest strengths.
The character designs remain interesting and distinctive (and avoid disproportionate figures), although the discolorations on the tips of Ranmaru's bangs may annoy some viewers. Phantoms distinguish themselves less, taking on more generic designs. The hellish “other side” in the pit at the Machida complex has a suitably horrific look but does not dazzle, while other background designs are merely adequate. Some of the best artwork can be seen in the blood-splattered looks of certain settings, and those expecting ample blood spray will not be disappointed. Those expecting quality action scenes will be, however, as they take nearly every imaginable shortcut in minimizing the requisite animation. Because of that they never develop the dynamic flow necessary for them to impress, and mediocre special effects don't help matters. The choreography of the fights could also use some work, as they suffer from a serious lack of inspiration.
The English dub script spices the dialog up with a lot more crass language in some places (especially by Kunikida) and more playful language (especially by Kureha) in others, and occasionally does the adjust the wording quite a bit, but never strays too far from the main points. Uneven performance quality in the English dub has been a regular problem throughout the series, and does not improve much here; while performances like Doug Stone as Kunikida, Tara Platt as Kureha, and Megan Hollingshead as Saya consistently hit the mark, Phelice Sampler struggles to hit the right attitude and tone as Sakura and Michelle Ruff sometimes sounds stiff as Ibuki.
The third volume features two Extras: a gallery of screen shots and a 35 minute “Making of Tokko” special, which involves several key seiyuu and production personnel as well as series clips. Its most interesting comments concern comparisons to the manga and what had to be changed or developed further to make the anime feasible. Those inclined to criticize the accuracy of the anime version compared to the manga should see this special first. Also hidden on the Extras menu is an Easter Egg in the form of a rather funny blooper reel, which is mentioned on the packaging but not listed on the Extras screen. It can be accessed by going down to the “Main” option, clicking left to a barely-visible black symbol, and hitting Enter.
Manga Entertainment was fortunate to get a Sci Fi Channel broadcast for this series, because it does not sell itself well enough on its own merits to recommend buying it. It simply has too many deficiencies that it never overcomes and only sporadically shows competent execution. The rushed and entirely too open-ended conclusion also ranks as a major disappointment. If you want to see a similar concept done much, much better, watch Claymore when it gets licensed and brought to the States.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C-
Animation : C+
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Good opening and closing songs, interesting supporting characters.
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