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The SoulTaker:
The Monster Within

Soultaker DVD cover WARNING: this review contains information which some may consider to be spoilers.

The SoulTaker: The Monster Within is the first DVD release of the SoulTaker series, containing the first three episodes of the series: (1) the Crest of the Devil, (2) the World is an Illusion, and (3) the Skull and the Maiden.

The SoulTaker is the story of Kyosuke Date, a teen boy who is stabbed by his mother and rescued from the grave by Maya, a young nurse. As he recovers, Kyosuke learns that his mother has been killed and that Maya is not fully human, but is a "Flicker" - a fragmented soul. To make things even more complicated, Maya is a Flicker of Runa, Kyosuke's twin sister he never knew existed. Maya is soon kidnapped by the Kirahara, a powerful industrial group bent on world domination. It is hinted that they are collecting Flickers for some kind of research.

Another group, the Hospital group, would also like to possess the Flickers. (While not explained in these episodes, the Hospital is made up of mutants who would like to be plain ordinary humans again.) The mysterious Shiro Mibu helps Kyosuke search for Maya, all the while explaining to him that Maya is "just a Flicker." Shiro is out to get the Kirahara, and tells Kyosuke straight out that he will use him as a stepping stone if need be to reach that end.

While trying to rescue Maya, Kyosuke is injured, and in his pain, he mutates into the SoulTaker. We hear Shiro mutter something about Kyosuke being the most powerful mutant ever, but have no indication as to how he knows this. As the SoulTaker, Kyosuke is a formidable opponent, although in these three episodes, the extent of his powers are not made clear. In the first two episodes, he is repulsed by his transformation, but by the third, he realizes that his mother had stabbed him in order to kindle the transformation. (This leaves the viewer wondering: how did she know?) With this realization, he becomes determined to use his powers to track down his sister and her Flickers and protect them as best he can.

The animation itself is a mix of overwhelming colors (lots of red) in some scenes with other scenes being nearly black and white. The use of color adds to the mood and makes up for some scenes being all but static. In particular, the scene where Kyosuke finds Shiro while he is eating is like looking at an animation cel rather than actual animation. We hear them talking, but the picture stays the same. The "camera angles" are never dull: some are sideways, some are aerial, some are looking up into the air.

Being just the first three episodes, this DVD will leave you scratching your head a bit, as many things are left unanswered, with some questions barely even hinted at. There are characters introduced in a way that we know they are important, but not seen again in these episodes. However, this is the "nature of the beast" in releasing groups of episodes, and at least the first three episodes move quickly enough that you do want to learn more, unlike some series which develop so slowly that you could care less what happens in the episodes on later DVD releases. Future releases are:

  • Volume 2: Flickering Faith (April 23, 2002)
  • Volume 3: Blood Betrayal (June 11, 2002)
  • Volume 4: the Truth (August 13, 2002)

The SoulTaker Volume One DVD is in letterbox format and is bilingual - it has a Japanese track and a dubbed English track, also offering the option of English subtitles in the Japanese version.

The extras on the DVD include a gallery of character drawings (33 line drawings with notes in Japanese), creditless openings and endings, and scene access. You can also play right through all three episodes without returning to the menu.

The DVD also includes a 16-page SoulTaker encyclopedia booklet. (Our review copy did not have the booklet, so we cannot comment on it.)

Of note to toy collectors: the second series of "3D Animation from Japan" action figures from McFarlane Toys (released in 2001) included an action figure of the SoulTaker. The figure is about seven inches tall and features Kyosuke in "mutant form" with his wings spread out behind him.

Rating: 16 UP (mature themes, violence, adult situations)
Running Time: 75 minutes
Distributor:  Pioneer Entertainment (USA)
English-language web site: http://www.soultakerdvd.com/
Official web site: http://www.soultaker.net
Suggested retail price: $29.98 USD

Amazon.com: The Soultaker - The Monster Within (DVD)

TowerRecords.com: Soultaker Vol. 1: The Monster Within (DVD)

TFAW.com: Soultaker Vol. 1: The Monster Within (DVD)

TFAW.com: 3D Animation From Japan 2
Soultaker - Soultaker Action Figure

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