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Tactics Volume 1 
Written by: on June 15th, 2006

Theatrical Release Date: 2005 (OVA)
Director: Hiroshi Watanabe
Cast: (Japanese) Kouki Miyata, Takahiro Sakurai, Tomoko Kawakami, (US) Blake Shepard, Chris Patton, Luci Christian

DVD released: June 27, 2006
Approximate running time: 140 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Japanese Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, Japanese Dolby Stereo, English Dolby Stereo
DVD Release: Anchor Bay / Manga Video
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95

“My name is Kantaro Ichinomiya. I am a folklore researcher. But I should tell you, there is another side to the work that I do. It’s a side job, if you will, an applied field. Rin… Pyo… Toh… Sha… Kai… Jin… Retzu… Zai… Zen! [...] Begone! O Raging Spirit!”
Kantaro Ichinomiya (English Dub)

There was a time when Japanese villagers were actively transforming to a  westernized mindset, foregoing the myths and legends of the past and preceding into the future of science and reason. This change of reasoning and beliefs makes modern civilization unsure of the handling the ever present spiritual uprisings. Kantaro Ichinomiya, paranormal investigator and steadfast exorcist travels the country side unraveling these mysteries of the spiritual realm. Kantaro prys into the haunting spirits past discovering ways to release tensions between the real and spiritual worlds. When strong spiritual energy crosses his path, A scar running along Kantaro’s chest flares in pain causing him to double up in pain.  This is the first sign that trouble is afoot.

Kantaro’s folklore knowledge grants him the ability to control demons and other spirits once he names them. Yoko is one such spirit. A female fox demon who serves Kantaro and imagines her master to be an aimless poor decision-maker. The female youth Suzu Edogawa is enamored of the masculine Hakura and therefore joins the troop by default.

The colors and the shading in Tactics are striking and vivid compared to other animes. Motion and blur effects are layered upon each other, giving it a touch of realism. Many of the anime characters are drawn traditionally, with less masculine features, short bodies wider builds and round eyes (Yoko, Suzu, Kantaro). Tactics intermixes more westernized versions of anime characters, with very masculine features, tall narrow bodies and oval eyes (Haruka). The cast of characters increase as the series continues.

Although not rated, the subject matter of Tactics is safe and tame for all audience members. Even when geishas are the topic of discussion, the whole subject of their real work isn’t spoken of. The first episode is questionable in subject matter when a female spirit falls in love with another female, yet doesn’t draw enough attention to itself to be crude. Tactics is a detective story with a paranormal story on top. Discovering the root of the problem and uncovering the solution is the crux of each episode. Don’t expect to be shocked or horrified, Tactics is plotted out like a drama. The anime Pet Shop of Horrors comes to mind, subtracting the horror and adding in more traditional and tame anime elements.

The DVD:

Reflecting to the past, Manga Entertainment had a somewhat tarnished reputation in the realm of animes, offering no frills discs with lower than average transfers. On the contrary, the transfers of Tactics appear to be pristine digital transfers from masters with no signs information loss or edge enhancement. Manga improves on its shady past by including extras, which is rare in the anime arena. To this, I applaud Manga’s due diligence.  On Tactics, this extra effort payed off.

I’m somewhat disappointed to report with the back of the keep case states that the DVD has 150 minutes when I was only able to find 140 minutes of total video (119 Minutes + 15 Minutes Extras + 6 Minutes Trailers). Either this disc has an Easter Egg or perhaps the picture gallery accounts for some of that time. Every minute of Anime is precious, as anime unlike most other genres is an expensive commodity. In Manga’s defense, placing five anime episodes on one disc and topping that off with extras on a first printing of an anime is an impressive feat that deserves attention.

The interview with the voice cast is an affair unlike no other including the Japanese voice actors of Kantaro and Haruka. Note that this is Vol. 2 Bonus Footage in the translated English subtitles. At the beginning of the interview, the voice actors mention their favorite episodes. Things get very bizarre as they go off into tangents. They talk about their valentine memories and their love/hate relationship with candy. At times, there frank talk and candor sometimes feels a bit too personal. For the most part, they’re just being goofy.

Some of the extras are in Japanese only. Merchandise Information and Merchandise Ads are all in Japanese, interesting, but adds little to the affair unless you know Japanese. Trailers for other Manga titles include Karas, Street Fighter Alpha, Street Fighter Alpha Generations, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig. The trailers are not of the same vein as Tactics, but still enjoyable to watch.

Offering Japanese and English dub options in both 5.1 and Stereo was refreshing yet the differences between Stereo and Surround isn’t drastic. Besides this, the sound had no flaws and was professionally mixed. The US edition of Text Openings with credits felt pointless when there is a credit roll at the end of each episode. The textless versions included in the extras would have worked just as well for Tactics.

There’s a few extras that are shabby. The motion menus for Tactics are nothing special to be mentioned, it’s whats expected of any DVD authoring job. The photo galleries are lifeless low resolution screenshots. Virtually anybody with DVD Player Software could produce better results. On the upside, the player cards that display each character and a short quote was wonderful and should be an extra for every anime series. 

All and all, Tactics is a great anime release, enjoyable through and through with characters and background that mesh well together. Tactics uniqueness marks it an anime worth buying. Some improvements could have been made on the extras. On the flip side,  Tactics has more extras than other anime offerings. For a first run DVD, Tactics riveting storyline beats most other series cold. Tactics is not for the gore-hound or fright-mongers, instead it’s for the plot.

For more information about Tactics Volume 1 visit Manga Video here.

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