DVD Title
Samurai Banners
International Title
Samurai Banners
DVD Length Original Length
166 Minutes 166 Minutes
Company Year of Manufacture
AnimEigo 2005
Language Subtitles
Japanese English
Region Number of Discs
1 1
Aspect Ratio Sound
2.35:1 (Anamorphic) 2.0 Mono
Extras
.
Menus (English)
.
Chapters (16)
.
Trailers: Samurai Banners (Teaser, #1), Demon Spies, Samurai Assassin
.
Program Notes (English)
.
Image Gallery
.
Character Biographies
Captures
Review

AnimEigo, a company who (at the end of the 2005) has released more Toho films to region 1 DVD than any other firm, has garnished a very uneven reputation of late. A lot of their early discs looked extraordinary in terms of video quality, while the presentation on their following releases began to wane quickly until hitting an all time low with their Samurai Assassin title. Thankfully, this disc is one of the better titles from the firm, as the video quality is generally great, the audio is good, and the extras are at least worth one's time to mill over, even if they won't last the viewer long.


 Video: Star Rating

A disc that harkens back to the old days when AnimEigo had some of the best looking Toho discs on the market, Samurai Banners' video presentation is good nearly across the board. The colors, for example, are pretty distinct, and make director Inagaki Hiroshi's vividly colored battlescapes come to life, although they still can't touch the excellent depth seen in older discs from the firm like Zatoichi the Outlaw. As for digital inconsistencies, they are handled extraordinarily well here, as there is no hint of compression while the film looks sharp without halos or other indications that edge enhancement was utilized. The print used in the transfer is impressive as well, especially considering the 36 year age of the film. Overall, there is a near miniscule amount of grain and almost no scratches. The exceptions are any scenes with superimposition, such as text, or segments that feature a slow fading transition. During these parts of the movie, the color is often faded and the amount of grain becomes noticeable. This isn't very surprising, though, as it's a rather common problem with most discs for Toho films made in the 1970's or prior, with only a few companies manufacturing releases that avoid it altogether, such as HVE with their excellent Hanzo the Razor box set.

Samurai Banners is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is Anamorphic for widescreen TVs.


 Audio:

Another fine audio presentation from the company, although some more options, specifically an added multi-channel stereo or surround track, would have been nice. The one track that is present is a 2.0 mono track in Japanese, which is Samurai Banners' original audio format. The quality of the track is pretty good, with no hisses or pops, while the dialogue comes through crystal clear. Some of the music sounds a little harsh, specifically the main title, but this is likely more to do with the source material than the job AnimEigo did in creating the DVD.

The audio can be accompanied by, removable, English subtitles. Like other AnimEigo discs, the subtitles are color coded that make it easy to tell when multiple characters are speaking in the same scene. The subtitles are available in two types: a general one and one that only subtitles onscreen Japanese text.


 Extras:

Not a great selection of extras, but AnimEigo is slowly showing improvement in this area. For Samurai Banners, the disc has a collection of trailers that include one for Demon Spies, one for Samurai Assassin and two for this film, one being the normal trailer and the other a teaser. The disc also includes a short, but nice, image gallery. The gallery contains numerous production stills, 15 in total with 7 in color, that run for a 2 and a half minute duration. The quality of the photos are generally good, with only a few of the colored ones being washed out. The DVD also has a short character biography section, although the information is very generic and really isn't worth the time (perhaps AnimEigo should look into at least citing which actor played the part to make it more worthwhile). The program notes round out the supplements on the disc, which is a lengthy text compendium on the era in which Samurai Banners takes place. The extra is generally informative, if one is looking for a history lesson on feudal Japan, but sitting through the 41 screens of text, which move at their own pace, is very cumbersome.


 Overview:

Bottom line, Samurai Banners is one of the better AnimEigo discs out there. For those looking to experience Hiroshi's 1969 film, there really is no better way. Unfortunately, the retail price is still in the $30 range, and the disc's amount of extras, while decent, does little to warrant the escalated price. Although the near three hour duration of the film does makes the price marginally more tolerable.

This disc is also featured in the box set: Toshiro Mifune: The Ultimate Collection.

- Anthony Romero  
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