Witchblade V1 (2006)
By: J.R. McNamara on September 8, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Madman (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, Japanese DD 2.0. English subtitles. 94 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Yoshimitsu Ôhashi
Screenplay: Marc Silvestri, Michael Turner
Country: Japan
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
During the dark days of the nineties, when so few horror films were being made that even FANGORIA had to put images of Batman Returns and Jurassic Park on its covers, a horrible thing was also happening to the comics industry. A few 'artistic' individuals, who were working for Marvel comics at the time, decided that their parts were greater than the whole, and broke off to form Image Comics, and tricked buyers into parting with hundreds of dollars for multiple, variant covers with limited edition, metallic embossed covers that while nice looking rarely reflected the absolutely awful writing and mostly sub-standard art that was taking place inside. Tragically the bigger groups decided to follow rather than lead, and started doing the same thing!!

This was a bad time for the independent comic industry as well, as the 'indie' name had always been disassociated with superheroes, but no more, now the superhero had completely taken over, and a few black and white titles were left struggling to survive.

Obviously I am using unfair stereotypes in my introduction, but those that read Bloodstryke, Troll or New Men will understand that more shit than shinola emerged from Image Comics in the early days. Thankfully comics buyers woke up to themselves and very few of these titles exist anymore.

Ex-X-men artist Marc Silvestri's initial output came in the form of X-Men clone, Cyberforce, which was a minor hit, especially when compared to absolute chart-topping titles like Todd McFarlane's Spawn, Erik Larson's The Savage Dragon or Jim Lee's Wild C.A.T.S., but it was his 1996 title Witchblade - more fantasy and less superhero - that really put him on the map. The Witchblade comics tell of police officer Sara Pezzini, who has been blessed/cursed as the latest wielder of an ancient weapon known as The Witchblade, which attaches itself like a parasite, becoming a part of a person's body that cannot be removed unless the host dies!

Witchblade has been a pretty good money earner for Mr. Silvestri, now working through DC Comics with his Top Cow Comics, spawning off-shoot comic titles, toys, a live action TV show and this, a Japanese anime, that takes the initial idea of the weapon, but changes it into a whole new storyline. The wonderful thing about a story such as this is that the weapon, not the character, is the focus of the title, therefore, stories throughout time, such as in the times of previous wielders Joan of Arc and Cleopatra, and future wielders, such as Masane Amaha from this anime series are possible.

The story of Witchblade tells of Masane Amaha, a woman whose past is shrouded in mystery. Six years prior she was found unconscious in the ruins of an earthquake ravaged building in Tokyo, with nothing but a baby clutched in her arms and a tattoo on her wrist. She spends her time now on the run from the Child Welfare Agency, who want to take Riko, the now 6-year-old child, off her and put her in protective custody until her carer gets on her feet, with an abode and a job. The CWA catch Masane Amaha and take Riko off her, and her actions, stealing a police car, find her thrown in prison.

While in prison, a fellow inmate starts to act crazy, and his craziness appears to have been influenced by her presence. The inmate reveals a metallic band around his arm, which causes him to transform into a horrifying mecha known as an X-Con (his particular name being Hammer Man) and pursue Masane Amaha, killing several police officers on the way. By the time he gets to her, the tattoo on her wrist has transformed her into the super sexy and ultra deadly Witchblade, and she responds by destroying him.

Meanwhile Riko has escaped from the CPA, and accidentally hooks up with a photographer Yuusuke Tozawa, who reluctantly agrees to take her to the prison where her mother is being held, and they arrive just in time to see The Witchblade burst out of the prison walls…

…and this is all just is episode one.

This disc from those anime experts of Australia, Madman contains the first 4 episodes of this anime. On this disc, the Witchblade has to face more adversaries, including another X-Con known as Microwave Man, and the shenanigans of Doji Group Industries, who possessed the Witchblade before the quake decimated their headquarters… and much carnage will ensue.

This DVD release contains the unedited episodes not seen on TV in Japan. When this series was originally broadcast, most of the skin on the Witchblade's outfit was blackened out, so as to not be as revealing. Thankfully now restored, the buxom qualities of this character remain in full bounce for the viewer!! Fans of Tenjho Tenge's female leads will love her!!
The character designs of this entire anime are awesome, and I am not just referring to the Witchblade and her alter egos gigantic…um… chest assets (which are the cause of several non-PC jokes); the other characters are well designed, and the X-Cons are some of the most interesting, and deadly mecha I have seen in a long time.
Video
This anime is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is a sharp image throughout! No artifacts or damage on this, and nor should there be, considering the anime was only made in 2006!
Audio
The sound is presented in both English 5.1 and a Japanese 2.0, which can also be played with English subtitles. The 5.1 soundtrack is well executed and a pleasure to the ear.
Extra Features
There are some pretty cool extras (and a couple of duds) here for both the fan of comics and anime.

First we have a tour of Top Cow Studios: Marc Silvestri takes you on a walk-through of where the magic of the comics happens, showing off all his achievements based in the Witchblade world, and let me tell you, fans will cry blood when they see some of the stuff in the offices of Top Cow. Interestingly, the anime is only briefly covered as Silvestri shows a cardboard standee of the character (and in the edited for TV costume, at that), and mentions its place on the anime charts for the initial week of its release, which was top 20 by the way!!

There is a Japanese cast interview with Mamiko Noto, who plays the role of Masane Amaha and sings the song over the end credits. There is no way to describe Mamiko Noto other than cute, she has a tiny voice, and is very humble and polite. Her interview doesn't really reveal much, but it is a pleasure to watch, as preproduction character drawings are also shown. Mamiko Noto is well known amongst anime fans from her voice work in animes such as Boogiepop Phantom, Gunslinger Girl and Elfen Lied.

There is a promotional trailer for Witchblade, and textless songs, which are the songs and footage from the opening and closing of each episode of Witchblade, but without the cast and crew credits plastered all over it, so the beauty of the anime can be seen properly. Normally I think these extras are as useless as a slide show, but the footage from this anime is really quite a treat on the eye!!

As always, our friends from Madman have inserted some promotional trailers from other DVDs available, this time from Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad Volume 1, Death Note Volume 1 and Highlander: The Search For Vengeance.

Also in this DVD is an 8 page booklet which features production drawings and staff interviews for Witchblade.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
While I am not much of a fan of the comic, and it certainly doesn't go up against my favorites animes like Akira or Macross, I certainly enjoyed this one. Not just because of the Meyer-esque main character design, but the setting and the actual storyline itself were completely engaging. I look forward to picking up disc 2!

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