TOKKO: Volume 2

Ranmaru Shindo’s job isn’t getting any easier as the demon attacks continue to escalate. As Ranmaru probes deeper into Section 2, the dark truth behind the hidden war is finally revealed. Ranmaru faces the choice to either join Section 2 or walk away, but the choice is his alone. From Manga Entertainment comes Toru Fujisawa’s (GTO) dark look into the near-distant future with TOKKO: Volume 2.

DVD: TOKKO: Volume 2
Release Date: 6/26/2007
Release Studio: Manga Entertainment
ADR Production: Bang Zoom! Entertainment

MSRP: $24.98
Audio: English 5.1 DD, Japanese 5.1 DD, English 2.0 DD, Japanese 2.0 DD, Spanish 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English
Episodes: 4
Runtime: 100mins
Extras: Image Gallery, Making Of featurette, Trailers

Notes: Review is based on a Screener copy of the final product.

Episode six opens with Ryouko Ibuki revealing her thoughts that Ranmaru Shindo carries a symbiont within him after seeing how well he fought against a demon. Meanwhile, Shindo finds himself under heavy scrutiny from his buddy Ichiro Hanazono as the man probes for details of the hot girls Shindo has been seen with. Shindo tries to brush off the questioning, but he’s saved when Muramasa needs a word with him. Ibuki meets with Kureha Suzuka to discuss what to do about Shindo. Kureha is a little surprised that the final decision hasn’t been made yet and offers to find out if Shindo is a symbiont in her own special way. Ranmaru finds himself baby-sitting a drunk Chief Kaoru Kunikida while Kaoru is on “vacation” from Ranmaru’s section. The investigation into Section 2 has been nothing but trouble for the Chief, and it doesn’t get much better when Kureha shows up asking Shindo to join her for a ride on her motorcycle. Ranmaru is a tad weary, but a hot blonde in black leather biker gear is always better than a drunk cop.

Kureha takes Ranmaru out to some romantic locales and treats it more as a date than as two friends hanging out. Naturally, Ranmaru is a nervous wreck as she flirts and teases him the entire night, and they stroll through an amusement park where couples are making out. As Kureha gets ready to take him home, Ranmaru asks her what is going on and why he was told he’s a symbiont. The time for the ugly truth has come. The pair ride to a cemetery where Kureha introduces Ranmaru to the grave of her dead brother and explains what is going on. Like Ranmaru, Saya, and Sakura, Kureha and her brother were survivors of the Machida incident and ended up becoming symbionts. The strange tattoo that Ranmaru discovered is a sign that a person has a symbiont demon within their body, and each member of Section 2 carries one.

Takeru Inukai finds himself saving a girl in a park at the start of episode seven. However, while the girl may live, Inukai is stabbed several times in the back by the demon. Inspector Ibuki asks Shindo out to lunch to discuss something, but decides against it after the meal. As she leaves in a taxi, the ground shakes as another demon attack begins. Sakura and Kureha manage to fight off the demons, but the number of attacks is growing; without Inukai’s skills, it will only become harder to repel the demon forces. A mysterious call to Ranmaru drags him out later that night to where the attack was, but waiting for him is a powerful demon. Section 2 is collecting the pieces of the Box of Druj, which was used to open the demon hole in the Machida incident. Regular demons are simply ghouls, but powerful demons carry a piece of the box within themselves. Ranmaru is at a disadvantage against the demon Number 13 on his own. Luckily, Inukai and Sakura manage to arrive in time.

Episodes eight and nine follow Ranmaru Shindo as he decides what he’s going to do in this hidden war. As he continues to seek out Section 2, threats are made by two unknown men. However, Shindo isn’t deterred from searching and Saya pays the price for it. Shindo faces the choice to join Section 2 or walk away, but Shindo is prepared to become a member. As the ritual to unlock his symbiont unfolds, the most powerful demon symbiont yet is found inside him. Meanwhile, Ryouko Ibuki is having trouble as she finds there is a leak inside the council. Rebuilding the Box of Druj to seal the Machida hole isn’t what everyone wants, and her life is now in danger as they start to get closer to this goal.

TOKKO had a terrible beginning but a solid middle so far as we finally focus more on Section 2, as was hinted when the series began. Ranmaru still needs to grow some as a character to be more interesting, but the series does have a hope of salvaging the end after such a slow start. Sadly, we do end up with less Sakura to enjoy. The horror aspect isn’t bad, but I still find myself scoffing at any suggestion that TOKKO is mind blowing and scary; it’s just more blood added to the demon slayings. Character designs from Toru Fujisawa are similar to his other work, but I simply love Kureha’s black-leather-biker-jacket-and-nothing-else look and the occasional flashes of her tits. The Japanese cast has a very average feel to it overall with little hope of improvement at this point. Kenichi Suzumura (Ranmaru Shindo) has improved over the last volume, but he still can’t provide convincing emotions. Kana Udea (Kureha Suzuka), on the other hand, is as playful as her character and really shows what she can do during the date scenes to tease Ranmaru mercilessly. But most of the cast ranges from rather dull to quick, phoned-in performances. The English production by Bang Zoom! Entertainment hasn’t faired much better between scripting and direction, leaving this as a title on auto-pilot heading for a mountain side. It improves occasionally, but quickly loses ground again during the following scenes. Tony Oliver’s Ranmaru Shindo works a bit better than Suzumura’s performance, but it can’t save the very poor production.

TOKKO: Volume 2 starts to put this series on the right track with a mixture of plot and hack-and-slash demon fighting. If you’re still curious about it, I would suggest renting volume 1 and then buying volume 2 afterwards because this is where it gets interesting. The video is clean and the subtitles contain no errors. The chapter stops, on the other hand, are dreadful and only skip between the four episodes. Get ready to fast forward a lot if you want to get to a certain spot in the middle of an episode. The DVD extras are a screencap gallery and a 36-minute “Making of” featurette with the Japanese staff and cast of TOKKO. TOKKO: Volume 2 is a vast improvement over the beginning of the show and I hope this continues into volume 3. TOKKO is far from perfect, and a complete re-write of the series would be interesting. But for the moment I’m enjoying the middle, even if Sakura Rokujo’s skills with a sword aren’t featured enough.