Review

by Theron Martin,

Tokyo Ravens

BD+DVD - Season 1 Part 2

Synopsis:
Tokyo Ravens BD+DVD part 2
The Raven Coat is a mystical artifact once worn by Yakou Tsuchimikado, which many believe could revive the spirit of Yakou should it be worn by his reincarnation. Rumor starts to spread that the Raven Coat held by the Onmyou Agency is a fake and the real one is actually at Onymou Academy, which results in Domon Ashiya paying a rather forceful and destructive visit to the school. In the wake of that, schemes both for and against the Twin Horn Syndicate start to coalesce, while Natsume, Harotora, and crew encounter Takiko Soma, a mysterious red-haired girl who claims to be a prospective new student and is keen on gathering new friends. Takiko is, of course, much more than she appears, but the truth about Natsume's real gender coming out during a Spirit Disaster is what really throws everyone who did not already know for a loop, both friend and foe alike. As it turns out, the “family tradition” angle on why Natsume had to dress as a boy was merely another component in a much grander scheme of misdirection, one where the stakes are immense and the players all a powerful lot. And caught squarely in the midst of it are Harutora and Natsume.
Review:

Are you a fan of elaborate magical duels, ones where casters constantly have to throw out their best gimmicks to counter and attack their opponents? Then the second half of this 2013/2014 anime series is worth checking out even if you have not watched the first half, as one does not need to at all comprehend the story to appreciate the spiritual battles which pop up frequently throughout its twelve episodes. In fact, one of the biggest – and arguably the best – starts early on, when Domon Ashiya is confronted by Jin Ohtomo during his raid on the school to look for the Raven Coat. We knew from various hints dropped in the first half that Jin was ex-Onmyo Agency and thus likely quite a bit more powerful than his relaxed demeanor would suggest, but the revelation that he is accomplished enough to stand toe-to-toe with the monstrously strong Domon results in a battle that is a thrill to watch. It is far from the last time that the series impresses with its magical duels, either.

The series has long shown that it isn't just about its battles, though. Character development continues, with Kyouko and Tenma in particular receiving emphasis in various parts of this run, a new character or two being added to the mix, and some of the adults showing some advancement and development of their own in both character and relationships. The trials that some other characters endured in the first half also reveal here to have brought the core group around Harutora and Natsume tightly together, which reaps benefits when even greater challenges surface here in the second half.

However, the predominant element in the series is still its remarkably complicated plotting. In fact, it gets too complicated for its own good at times, as a score card is needed to keep track of all of the important players in the voluminous cast and where their affiliations lie. That the actual affiliations are not always the same as their apparent ones, and that a couple of characters come back in new bodies after being defeated, only further obfuscates things. Watching the second half months apart from the first half without thoroughly reviewing first is definitely not recommended, as unless all you care about is the magical battles, merely keeping all of the many names straight is difficult. Confounding matters further is that some characters have appearances and/or names that are too similar, as well as the fact that in at least one case a character's name in written form can be read two significantly different ways, which means that two individuals who seem to be separate people are actually the same person. On the other hand, seeing the plot fully operating at two different but connected levels – one being the more straightforward level of the teenagers and one being the more complex level of the adults – is a rare treat. This is definitely not a series where only the teenagers get to have their fun, and seeing the key battles mostly fought by clear adults is also a welcome change of pace.

How well the series works visually for a viewer depends partly on how accepting the viewer is of the CG animation of the familiars. The integration is hardly perfect, as there are still scenes where the contrast between CG and non-CG creations is clear, but for the most part the familiar animation is pretty sharp, and the intricate design of some of them (especially the Imperial Pall Bearers) impresses. The magic is also every bit as eye-popping as in the first half, if not more so. Regular artistry and animation is less crisp but not bad, either, and lack of quality control is not a common issue. Fan service content is very limited – really, beyond the scene where Natsume's real gender gets revealed, there isn't any to speak of – but graphic violence is fairly intense if not necessarily bloody.

The first episode of this set continues the original opening and closing themes, but new opener “Outgrow” begins with episode 15. It is a solid but also somewhat generic J-rock number which recycles some of the visuals from the original. New closer “Kimi ga emu yuugure,” which also debuts with episode 15, is such a dramatic visual and audio style change that whether it or the original is better is hard to call. Otherwise the cinematic sound often heard in the musical score remains, making the series an audio powerhouse overall.

The English dub also remains strong; every once in a great while the cadence is ever-so-slightly stiff, but the quality performances more than make up for it. One of the new stand-outs this time is the little-used Michael Johnson, who shines in the couple of episode that Domon Ashiya appears in his old man form. (The role is taken over by Austin Tindle when he appears again in child form.) The rest of Funimation's English production is pretty standard: both Blu-Rays and DVDs in a single case which is designed to fit in the second slot of the artbox offered with the first half's release. The handful of Extras include a spoilerish reversible cover, U.S. trailers, a third installment of “Kon Tells All” which focuses on character introductions, clean opener and closer, and three commentaries; the ones for episodes 14 and 23 are audio, while the one for episode 18 is video, and each features an entirely different grouping of English voice actors.

Although it has some intriguing story elements, the second half of Tokyo Ravens also stumbles a bit on some of its scene transitions, especially around the middle of this set. A few points could also stand further clarification and the ending, despite resolving one major late plot twist, feels unsatisfying. Still, it should not much disappoint those who liked the first half, too.

Grade:
Production Info:
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B-
Music : A-

+ Excellent magical duel scenes, strong English dub
Some rough scene transitions, sometimes too complicated for its own good.

Director: Takaomi Kanasaki
Series Composition: Hideyuki Kurata
Script: Hideyuki Kurata
Storyboard:
Yoshimasa Hiraike
Masashi Ishihama
Takaomi Kanasaki
Tadashi Kojima
Tetsuto Saitoo
Shinobu Tagashira
Episode Director:
Yoshihiro Mori
Atsushi Nakayama
Takaaki Suzuki
Takatoshi Suzuki
Shunji Yoshida
Unit Director: Masashi Ishihama
Music: Maiko Iuchi
Original creator: Kouhei Azano
Original Character Design: Sumihei
Character Design: Atsuko Watanabe
Art Director: Takashi Ichikura
Chief Animation Director:
Atsuko Watanabe
Yuuko Yahiro
Animation Director:
Tomoko Fukunaga
Hiroshi Imaoka
Toshimitsu Kobayashi
Akira Kojima
Yukiyo Komito
Shuji Maruyama
Shinichiro Minami
Yoshiko Nakajima
Reiko Nozaki
Taeko Ōgi
Shosuke Shimizu
Sayuri Sugitou
Atsuko Watanabe
Shunsuke Yamamura
Noriyasu Yamauchi
Art design: Kazushi Fujii
Sound Director: Yoshikazu Iwanami
Cgi Director: Masato Takahashi
Producer:
Michio Kaiba
Kazuhiro Kanemitsu
Saki Kondo
Mitsutoshi Ogura
Nobue Osamu

Full encyclopedia details about
Tokyo Ravens (TV)

Release information about
Tokyo Ravens - Season 1 Part 2 (BD+DVD)

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