tokyo ravens review
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Anime: Tokyo Ravens: Part 1
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: April 7th, 2015
Retail Price: $69.98

Tsuchimikado Harutora, son of a branch family of the Tsuchimikado clan, happens to be in a family of “onmyouji” (specialists in magic and divination). Harutoa is a less-than ambitious teen who hasn’t found any trace of magical powers that his family is well known for. We learn that his ancestor Yakou Tsuchimikado, was an innovative figure to the evolution of onmyoudo (a traditional magic). Yakou’s advances caused great admiration or extreme disdain after leading many victorious battles and ultimately causing the great spiritual downfall. This event is triggered when a onmyouji’s aura or energy, loses balance and can become destructive – requiring an exorcism. Despite his families past with magic, he is seemingly pleased with steering clear of the subject entirely. His childhood friend Natsume, and a daughter of the main Tsuchimikado family, arrives in the beginning to remind him of a promise made years ago, that Harutora would become Natsume’s familiar (protector). As he continues to refute that side of himself, he’s encouraged by his two best friends, Touji and Hokuto who continue to pester him with reinforcement to embrace the potential abilities he could hone.

Harutora is quickly thrown into the fray after coming into contact with Suzuka, a young girl with a wicked mentality nicknamed “The Prodigy” and one of the 12 powerful divine generals. Suzuka sets out to revive her deceased brother with the power of Natsume, causing Harutora to become entangled in the process. After a life changing loss occurs before Harutora’s eyes, he tracks down Natsume in emotional turmoil and commits himself as her familiar, giving him the ability of spirit sight. Harutora and Touji relocate to Tokyo, to enlist into a Shaman academy known as Onmyo Academy. Once you know the story, we are then introduced to a large cast of characters, with main importance on Touji, one of the most developed characters of the series. He at first is the fairly reliable all around “cool guy” but has surprising revelations regarding his past, present, and possible future that make him an instantly intriguing character. Natsume and Harutora’s relationship develops into romantic interests and innuendos, but a main aspect of Harutora is his constant state of being oblivious to people’s emotions. Natsume has a devotion to Harutora, and although he is supposed to protect her, she often shows concern for his safety with a role reversal. The two never actually have much time to discuss the matter, as they are subjected to many magical mishaps, but episode 12 leads to a revelation for one of the two that will cause more to come… Suzuka is a surprisingly interesting character, after being recognized as a crazy prodigy, she is shown to have layers after being repeatedly tested on as a child and tries to integrate herself into some normalcy when she joins the core group. Other supporting characters like Kyoko, the brilliant granddaughter of the schools director, exhibits powerful defensive magic, and is a friend to everyone; he easily scared but gentle hearted Tenma additionally rounds out a loveable ensemble. One character introduced late into part 1 is Suzu, a mysterious girl who asks unusual questions, trembles in random intervals, and portrays a dull expression is one of the most unique characters I’ve seen, even if her appearance is limited so far.

After taking a few episodes to show individual character development and light plot build up, the series takes a serious turn that requires all of the series leads to fight for the same cause against evil. As the series continues, more devotees that follow Yakou (of the crazy variety) begin to surface and hunt down Natsume, which they eventually determine as a unit they won’t allow. The series actions scenes include CGI, animation sequences, and various other methods to attempt different visuals that animes seem to incorporate over the last few years. Aside from the serious backstory and action, one of Tokyo Ravens most commendable qualities, is the humor that it encompasses so effectively. There are several episodes dispersed in the first half that stray from the plot to entertain viewers, with main contributions from Suzuka’s controlling and assertive attitude towards Harutora and Natsume. Harutora’s familiar and fox spirit Kon is another primary source of comedic relief, usually though her commitment to him is constantly shown throughout the first 12 episodes.

During the first 6 episodes, you begin to think you have figured out where the general direction is going but around episode 7, and the episodes that follow, the atmosphere changes and it becomes obvious that a powerful team is dire to the survival against Yakou followers who lie dormant in unknown places. It’s quite impressive that Tokyo Ravens, though very different from other animes, manages to shift between a serious/comedic/romantic plot points over the course of 12 episodes. The voice cast for this dub is definitely a well rounded cast, as each actor brings their character manages to pinpoint what exactly their character needs to convey, especially with Harutora (Clifford Chapin), Touji (Ian Sinclair) and the under-the-radar but clearly powerful homeroom professor Jin Ohtomo (J. Michael Tatum), but there are no weak links in this series; one of the best dubs I’ve had the privilege of hearing in quite some time. Tokyo Ravens provides viewers with a musically enhanced score as well, adding eerie instrumental tunes at the right moments, or the moving closing song that I became more fond of with every viewing. The amazingly packaged series comes with DVD and Blu-ray versions of the series (the cover art is perfect), and features extras that include multiple audio commentaries, and video discussions from the cast to sum up their thoughts on the series as it progresses.

Tokyo Ravens begins with a slow buildup, that begins to blossom as an intricate series with many interesting and intense plot points that could be further explored in part 2. In a world filled with magic, unusual romance (to say the least), and an appealing group of characters, Tokyo Ravens proves itself a sleeper series that deserves a shot from anime fans.

Tokyo Ravens is licensed by FUNimation and is available now for purchase on DVD and Blu-Ray, by retailers everywhere. For more information on Tokyo Ravens and additional series, go to the official FUNimation website.

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

-The supporting characters make the series even more enjoyable

-I can’t stress enough how FUNimation selected a superb voice cast

-I’m very curious to see where the story with Yakou goes next, there has to be more to the story.

-The surprisingly serious transition midway through the series complemented Tokyo Ravens depth as a dramatic anime.

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