Bandai // 1989 // 125 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // September 4th, 2003
The Warriors are History?! Does anyone care?
Ronin Warriors is your typical "five young people get special powers and fight lots of monsters and then combine their powers to do even better tricks" type-of-show that was very popular in Japan for a short while -- say, fifty years. This trend has caught on in America, and since then, every single property that could even be remotely sold have been bought up, dubbed badly, and mass-produced onto a reeling, saturated marketplace.
If you are somehow new to the phenomena, this is not the place to start. To everyone else that is actually a human on this planet, you've seen it before, and it's nothing to get excited about -- Ronin Warriors is old, dated, shallow and empty.
Admittedly, though, it's still preferable compared to the Power Rangers, and more action packed than say, Sailor Moon (but strangely, inferior to Captain Planet and the Planeteers).
The battles are over, and the warriors have basically retired, isolated in their own thoughts and anxieties. Then, a book is discovered from the late Edo period in Japan that details the exact struggles of the Ronin Warriors (Legendary Armor Samurai Troopers in the Japanese) in their battle against evil forces. What does this mean for their lives? Has this all been a trick, or a game? Were they predestined to play out their lives, like puppets on a stage? Does anyone care? And who is the mysterious woman who appears to each of them, enticing them with power, and carrying a great burden of sorrow on her shoulders?
This disc is a summation of the entire Ronin Warrior series, a philosophical musing on the inherent virtue of fighting, being Ronin Warriors, and the like, exposing the deep but hollow spiritual center to the show. Five episodes correspond to five Warriors and their personal reflections on being a Warrior. Basically, this constitutes images of reflection and self-examination and a lot of whining.
As OAVs go, essentially, these are clip shows. The footage is recycled from the previous 39 episodes as a backdrop for spiritual ramblings and the occasional new plot development. There is very little new fighting or animation included. The animation is dated, and even kind of ugly at times, but the old footage does blend in fairly well with the new.
Visually, this disc is nothing to write home about, unless you were writing home to insult your folks. There is shakiness to the transfer, where the frame manages to rock back and forth like a drunk man staggering. The colors are slightly washed out in that late '80s Japanese animation sort of way. The visuals would be the weakest part of the presentation, were the material itself not so inherently corny.
The music is a bewildering mix of Japanese instruments, sudden pulses of crystal notes, and thumping synth-bass disco lines and squealing thrash guitar lines. Weird, but not unpleasant.
The English and Japanese audio mixes are radically different -- the English dub is full, loud, ambient and full of punch, and the (badly) dubbed voices come across clear and balanced. The original Japanese track, however, feels like it is coming out of a tin can -- it is weak in the high ranges and there is no bass definition. In short, it sounds terrible.
Goodness me, though -- here is a classic example of how bad dubbing can completely tank a show. The absolute, best, greatest feature on this disc is the inclusion of the original Japanese audio track. Seriously. The English dub is terrible -- don't say I didn't warn you.
Watching the episodes dubbed in English is a bad experience; watching the episodes subtitled is, well...less so. The translations on the subtitles seem to make more dramatic sense than the constant nervous banter of bad English actors. This is obvious when watching the show, dubbed in English, with the subtitles on, both describing completely different things.
And I swear one of the characters in the English dub, for some inscrutable reason, is faux-Australian (a word combination never before seen in print in the entire history of the human species, except for right here and now).
In summary: this disc is a challenge. The English audio track is remixed, punched up, well defined, and in short, sounds decent. However, the hideous English dub that comes out of said track makes you want to change the audio settings on your DVD player with an axe.
The Japanese dialogue and subtitling is far superior in every way, but for some reason, the audio track sounds like somebody taped it from the original Japanese television broadcast with a tiny handheld tape recorder.
Overall, Ronin Warriors just screams lackluster, in the visual, the audio, and the content itself. It's not actually a bad show, and in a dull sort of way, even has its moments. But it's just nothing worth spending money on at the end of the day. And having to choose between the two audio tracks would tax even the most stalwart of fans.
My suggestion? Avoid the mental breakdown this decision would inevitably cause and just go out and buy something better on DVD.
Review content copyright © 2003 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated