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Path Of Blood – Special Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Path of Blood is a tribute the samurai films of yesteryear (A genre I quite adore) from writer/director/animator Eric Power. The film uses the animation style of “cut paper animation” (paper stop motion). Which, you’re right for your mind instantly wandering over and thinking of South Park as they utilize the style as well. The film is a feature version of a short film from Power and took a few years to bring up. Released in 2013, the film is finally getting a home video Blu-ray release in the United States. Synapse Films has brought the film over the high definition format in a Special Edition that was release March 13th (Meaning, you can buy it now). If you’re someone into the samurai films, this homage is something you may want to take a look at. Grab yourself a copy by pre-ordering from the link below.

Film 

War is over. Samurai displaced through defeat or reform wander the countryside as Ronin, seeking work where they can find it. At the edge of a forgotten village lies a path leading deep into the mountains. It is rumored the brave few who make it down the path will be rewarded with a life of freedom and purpose. However, none who have entered the path have returned. When a lone samurai sets his course towards the Path of Blood, unknown danger and terror awaits. Will his great swordsmanship be enough to survive?

Path of Blood is an all to brief, fast paced bit of samurai fun that aims to deliver a lot of the goods that are loved by fans of the genre.  Its told in such a way that feels almost like a highlight reel of sorts. Many fans will take not of characters, story beats and action sequences that will remind them of the Lone Wolf and Cub, Zatoichi and the Inagaki Samurai film series. This movie loves them and goes its own way of making a twist cone or neapolitan ice cream of them.

Sure, the paper animation style is something we’ve seen done in South Park for 20 some years now. They’ve pushed limits and done some zany things. But to see it taken in a more serious approach and driven by a love for its visuals, it becomes quite fresh and full of surprises. What they do with the gore in this movie is absolutely impressive and complete riot. Eric Power doesn’t stick to one simple outcome. He elicits a wide range of reactions; from laughter, to shock and complete gross out. Its really awesome what he is able to pull off with just paper.

With the film Path of Blood, we get a loving, nostalgic riff on the 1950-70s Japanese samurai films. It even opts to have a Japanese cast speaking in full Japanese subtitles to keep it genuine and “done right” as Powers says in the bonus features.  Where its thin on character and plot, it more than makes up with its action choreography, gore and consistently impressive animation. I have a hard time not seeing any fan of Kurosawa, Lady Snowblood and much more not coming away with at least a decent smile after seeing it.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Path of Blood’s paper animation looks quite good here on its Blu-ray transfer.  What’s neat here about this crisp looking image is that you are able to really take in the texture of the different papers being used to bring the images to life. You really get a sense of everything and it has a nice three dimensional appeal to it while being a flat style of animation.

Depth:  Spacing works quite well, with the ability to see the distance between the paper as well as its layering. Movements are quite smooth with no distortions present.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and well saturated, not losing anything in the way of detail. Shading looks quite well and no crushing was witnessed during the viewing for this review.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite natural and true to their look of the paper being used to animate them. Nothing is really meant to pop, but some look rather bold, like the red blood. There is also a great amount of saturation and a fun primary palette utilized.

Flesh Tones: N/A

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): Japanese 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English (hard-coded)

Dynamics: This may be a mere stereo track, but it proves quite intricate and powerful in moments. The low frequencies in the score and some effects like a large bell hit impressively hard. The sound effects are place here with good dynamic range and depth. It features a nice healthy balance that leans just a bit more favorable on the side of the score.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. Its a very homemade film, so the dialogue does come off as a clean recording as opposed to sounding within its environment.

Extras 

Making-Of Featurette (HD, 10:53) – A very homemade featurette by director Eric Powers as he guide us through his history of paper animation, to getting this film off the ground and basically doing almost the whole film himself.

Path Of Blood: Original Short Film (HD, 4:23) 

Original Trailer (HD, 1:29) 

Video Game Trailer (HD, 1:36) 

Image Gallery (HD, :22)

Summary 

Path of Blood is a fun little excursion that impresses in its animation and entertains for its love of samurai films. Synapse Films brings it to Blu-ray with a overly satisfying presentation in both sight and sound. The extras work quite well as you can tell they’ve really provided everything available for this film. Currently priced really low, this should be a very fun pickup for adult animation and samurai film fans.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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