Tokyo Underground Series 1 Boxset

UK Distributor:  Manga Entertainment (DVD Only)

BBFC Certificate:  PG

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  39.99

Episodes:  1-26 (of 26)

Audio Options: English DTS, 5.1, 2.0; Japanese DTS, 5.1, 2.0

Subtitles:  English

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


If anyone ever had any doubt that Manga Entertainment had changed their outlook in recent years then Tokyo Underground should dispel them.  A few years ago pretty much any fantasy action series aimed at an early teen audience would have seemed set to grace ADV Film's schedules, whilst Manga would have stuck to the tried and tested older teens and adult market.  However, this is no longer the case - ADV Films have long since broadened their horizons into the more adult markets with titles like Elfen Lied, and Manga have now done the same with the younger-teen orientated Tokyo Underground.

The premise of Tokyo Underground is simple.  Years ago scientists created a massive underground facility underneath Tokyo in which they conducted experiments into the elemental powers inherent in certain people.  The scientists experimented on humans to strengthen these powers but gradually became fearful of the power users they created, until they eventually abandoned their research and sealed the underground world and its inhabitants.  In present day Tokyo schoolboy Rumina Asagi has a shock when two strange people appear in his house seemingly from nowhere, the two - Ruri Sarasa and Chelsea Rorec - have escaped from the underground world but are being hotly pursued by agents of the company who now rule there.  Chelsea has the rare ability to harness the power of gravity and is sworn to protect Ruri, a girl who has the rarest power of all, a power which has led to her being referred to as the Maiden of Life.  The company needs her and her power for some unknown end, and will stop at nothing to retrieve her.  However, in order to do so they will not only have to go through Chelsea but also Rumina, whose hidden power to control the wind was awakened by his meeting with the pair, and his intelligent but geeky friend Ginnosuke.

Tokyo Underground is an entertaining fantasy actioner with plenty to recommend it.  It is action packed with a huge amount of well choreographed fight scenes and plenty of interesting villains.  CGI and standard computer cel animation are blended together effectively, with some intriguing visual effects used for the elemental powers, whilst both the English and Japanese dubs are equally good.  The story doesn't really stand out at first but really picks up as the series progresses, building up with some interesting developments and really coming into its own when the action takes the characters to the underground itself.  It is also interesting to see that Rumina isn't the standard anime hero, instead of being a failure, a kind hearted loner who finds friends and uncovers latent ability, he is in fact a heroic type from the outset and a skilled fighter even before his wind power awakens.  Unfortunately though this is one of the only things that really goes against type.

Whilst Tokyo Underground is enjoyable and very watchable, it really lacks originality.  The characters, apart from arguably Rumina (and even for him it's debateable), are extremely stereotypical - violent tomboy with a secret feminine side?  Check.  Geeky bespectacled comedy sidekick who becomes heroic over time?  Check.  Sweet and innocent girl who hides an awesome power?  Check.  The characters aren't bad, but you've just seen them so many times before - Chelsea for example is basically exactly the same as Love Hina's Naru Narusegawa - that there is no depth to them.  The series follows a similar path to many fantasy action series and if you watch a lot of anime you will find much of it very familiar, it establishes an interesting world and premise but doesn't really have the originality to really explore it or take the story beyond the norm.

It may be because of this that Manga have decided to release the entire series at once, and to be honest it's this decision that makes the series more desirable.  It starts off slowly, not really kicking in until the second disc, and some viewers may have lost interest if each disc was released individually, however, the value for money this set provides is difficult to ignore.  Manga have really pushed the boat out recently to make anime accessible to larger audiences and an entire series for just 40 is a clear sign of that.  It may not break the mould in terms of imagination but it is enjoyable and the combination of bloodless action, straightforward story and value for money makes for an extremely accessible release.

The series isn't bad despite its lack of originality and will certainly appeal to younger viewers or those relatively new to anime.  Visually it is easy on the eye, with a good use of CGI and some interesting visual devices that gives it a style of its own.  It is great value for money and is good entertainment, but older viewers and those who have watched a lot of anime will find it a shallow experience.  As it is Tokyo Underground is an enjoyable action series that doesn't really tax the grey matter, which is fine as far as it goes.  Its price makes it well worth new fans picking up as it's certainly entertaining, but if you are a hardened anime fan you may find the lack of depth and originality a bit disappointing.


A host of Manga trailers on disc 6 are the only extras the DVDs themselves have, but the exclusive 'digipack' packaging contains a fold out A3 poster and a booklet containing a foreword from anime expert Jonathan Clements.  Not bad stuff for a budget boxset.


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