ADV Films // 2003 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // October 21st, 2004
Blinded by revenge, anger and determination...
Peacemaker is yet another anime tale of revenge set in feudal Japan. Tetsu and Tatsu Ichimura have lost their parents to the Choshu rebels. Tatsu joins the Shinsengumi, a group of swordsmen sworn to protect their region's capital. Tetsu also wishes to join the warrior band, but in a different capacity. While his older brother will act as the group's bookkeeper, the teenage Tetsu hopes to learn the skills necessary to avenge the deaths of their parents.
The story here is rather ordinary, and so are the characters. How many times has this revenge plot been employed? If you're going to use such an old device, you'd better put a spin on it, but there's pretty much nothing here we haven't already seen before. Tetsu is an incredibly annoying protagonist; I was constantly reminded of Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace. (Yep, he's that bad.) Souji Okita, one of the Shinsengumi's sword masters, is portrayed as fey and meek, until he goes into battle and becomes a killing machine, but this comes off as being rather silly. There far too much unfunny comic relief, particularly in the form of Okita's pet pig, and some of the worst instances I've seen of male characters in drag since Tango & Cash; at times I thought I was watching the road show version of M. Butterfly. (In its defense, though, many of these problems exist in the manga on which the show is based.) There is also much discussion of many of the characters' sexual preferences, which could have been interesting, as there's been some scholarly debate about such matters, but here it's presented in a rather facetious manner. The pace of the series is plodding; not much happens in the four episodes contained in this release. The characters spend far too much time sitting around talking; I'm all for story development and world building, but not in the form of endless exposition. The creators are obviously trying to provide some historical context, but it could have been better integrated into the actual plot. I still don't know what to make of the red hair on many of the characters, though. That doesn't seem too historically accurate, nor does the theme song, which sounds like it's performed by J-Pop's answer to the Red Hot Chili Peppers (and the wrong answer, at that).
The video quality of this release is good, but there are some problems in the second and third episodes, during which there are signs of what appears to be moisture damage in the original elements. Other than that this is another respectable ADV transfer. The original Japanese audio track contains a nice stereo spread, especially in the music. It also contains some of the most realistic sounding rain effects I've ever heard. The English dub has a wider soundstage, but the voiceover actors seem to think they're in an episode of Gunsmoke, except for the one guy who sounds like Darrell Hammond impersonating Bill Clinton. Neither mix contains much bass activity. Extras are along the lines of what we've come to expect from ADV, and include clean opening/closing animation, production sketches, a handful of Japanese television spots, and previews.
Peacemaker is too ordinary to recommend; there are far better examples of this genre on the market. If you haven't already, check out Ninja Scroll or Samurai X, both of which are far more worthy of purchase.
The creators of Peacemaker are guilty of boring their audience. Let their sentences begin immediately. Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Production Fold-Out Insert
* Clean Opening/Closing Animation
* Production Sketches
* Japanese TV Spots