ADV Films // 2003 // 55 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // February 17th, 2005
Into the demon's den...a race against time!
I don't know what I was thinking. I pretty much abhorred the first volume of this series, so I'm not sure what led me to believe this release would be an improvement. Needless to say, it's not. In fact, it's even worse.
The plot -- what little there is -- revolves around Kenshiro's quest to round up some serum for the ailing Bista. Kenshiro must travel through the Clifflands, a barren wasteland inhabited by a secretive sect of warriors. As can be expected, Kenshiro gets into plenty of fights, and quite a few heads explode. There's also a mysterious stranger named Seiji; Seiji comes to the fortress of Last Land after having left the Clifflands, sets himself up as the new ruler of Last Land, gets into a couple of fights, and causes a few heads to explode.
The plot of the first episode borrowed quite heavily from The Road Warrior, and this volume one-ups its predecessor by swiping from a wide variety of sources. Kenshiro's journey to Cliffland is reminiscent of Wages of Fear, although I suppose there's a chance the sequence was lifted from Sorcerer. The true nature of the Clifflanders reminded me of plot elements from, of all things, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and there's a completely gratuitous rape scene that plays out like the infamous scene in Straw Dogs.
As was the case with the first volume, this installment is nothing more than an excuse to stage an endless series of fight scenes, most of which culminate in a series of exploding heads. I'm still not exactly sure why a guy who can cause his opponents' heads to explode at the touch of a finger feels the need to involve himself in long, drawn-out fisticuffs; Kenshiro always ends up blowing up some heads, so why not just cut to the chase? I'm also not sure why people even bother to fight Kenshiro; he gets recognized quite a bit, and word about his abilities has spread, so why mess with him? Yeah, yeah, I know, there wouldn't be a series if that were the case (like that would be a bad thing), but there's only so much of this I can take.
I was impressed with the technical aspects of the first release, but I was a bit disappointed this time. This disc boasts an above average transfer, although it's not as sharp or bold as that of the original volume. The audio options aren't as dynamic, either; there's a nice spread to the front soundstage, but there's very little surround action, and almost no low-end activity. Extras include a press conference featuring the actor who provides the voice of Seiji (considering the way the crowds fawns over him, I would guess he's a major celebrity in Japan), footage of members of the English voice cast recording their lines, an interview with the owner of a martial arts school here in the U.S., and previews for other ADV releases.
The climax of this release is a cliffhanger, but I have absolutely no desire to sit through the final installment of the trilogy. I've had enough, and I'm tapping out of the match.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 55 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Gackt Interview
* Michael Zang Interview
* Behind the Scenes: ADR Footage
* Character Bios
* Volume 1 Review