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Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

Image Entertainment presents
Kodo (1999)

"For me, beating the Taiko drum is all about 'passion.'"
- Eiichi Saito, Kodo member.

Review By: Dan Lopez  
Published: June 08, 2001

Stars: Yoshikazu Fujimoto, Yoko Fujimoto, Chieko Kojima
Other Stars: Motofumi Yamaguchi, Eiichi Saito, Masafumi Kazama
Director: No credit given.

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing offensive, musical performances)
Run Time: 01h:08m:39s
Release Date: May 29, 2001
UPC: 014381960228
Genre: music


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-A+A- D-

DVD Review

Kodo are an interesting phenomenon. They are internationally known by millions of fans, but yet you could probably ask 10 people on the street who Kodo is and they wouldn't know. Such is the odd fate of a group of artists who are both well known and unknown. Kodo is a musical group based in Japan who originally came to light in the early 1970s. When the their structure changed, in 1981, they changed their name to Kodo and since then have risen in the international scene. Although they are mostly known for their performances of drumming on large, traditional Taiko drums, they have also sought to preserve certain traditional elements of Japanese artistic culture.

Setting themselves up on the Japanese island of Sado, the members, sub-members, and staff of Kodo live in a communal village, where they devote the majority of their time to training. Playing Taiko drums is a skill that requires years of training, mainly because of the intense concentration and physical skill required to properly use them. Their facilities are isolated enough to offer them privacy and complete focus on their work, but not distant to the point where they are cut off from other people, and in fact the local people have embraced Kodo quite deeply. If you have heard of Kodo, but know very little about them, or if you have never experienced their work, Image's new disc, simply titled Kodo, is for you.

Kodo is a documentary, recently produced for Japanese television, that goes inside the group and their workings. Primarily covering Kodo's work for the 1999 Earth Celebration (a regular Kodo festival held at their village on Sado), the program exposes the viewer to how they work and live together. There are interviews with most of the central members, sub-members, and apprentices. We see footage of their rehearsal and training sessions, and a little bit of their lives outside of Kodo. Kodo, as it turns out, are a very well tuned, philosophical group of people, who seem to share similar views on the spirituality of using such traditional, ancient instruments. At the same time, however, they are dead-serious performers who harshly criticize those who perform under their potential.

The style of the documentary is impressive, as there are no unnecessary interludes, concentrating on the group and their activities. There are emotional moments, especially segments involving Kodo's trip to Croatia, where, before performing, they educate themselves to the centuries-long war going on in that part of the world. There is also a sub-story about an apprentice member who may have to leave Kodo before achieving her goal of full membership. But there is no exploitation or intrusion into people's lives; this is all very natural and at ease. There also a great section where a group of Native American performers from New Mexico (from a pueblo not too far from where I live) are invited to work with Kodo for Earth Celebration 1999.

If there is any downside to this superior piece of film on the group, it's that there isn't much performance footage. This isn't really a concert DVD at all, more of a straight documentary. You still learn a great deal about how they work and perform, though, and I certainly wasn't disappointed with anything presented here. Kodo are in the elite of musical performers and this disc does them wonderful tribute.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1:33:1, Kodo is a pristine transfer. Every detail comes across in fantastic definition and resolution. Free of any compression problems, all colors and subtle details are completely brought out. There are quite literally no flaws in the image, and it looks as if perhaps the original program was filmed in digital video or cropped high-definition video. Reference quality work here.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japaneseyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 audio is quite immersive and impressive. It has a very broad range of effect and uses the front soundstage very well for a variety of functions. There's a lot of ambient sound and stereo music during most of the program, which is mostly interview, but it's a very clear, crisp sound mix thanks to the fact that it doesn't try and cram everything into the center channel, but lets it all come out of all 3 front channels. All channels (including surrounds) are used to great effect during the brief moments where you see Kodo perform, with amazing acoustics and general tone. You'd swear a Taiko drum was in your house when you hear them banging on them in concerts. The LFE channel takes some of the heavy bass generated by the drums as well, creating a very vibrant, "realistic" mix that never sounds exaggerated. The 2.0 audio just didn't really match up in terms of clarity and spatiality, but it might go over better, musically, with Pro-Logic systems.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Sadly, there are no extra features. Although English subtitles are provided (with a very spotty translation that, at times, goes into 'Engrish' mode, making little sense), there's nothing else on the disc at all. This surprised me since even a discography would have made sense. The disc is quite literally the definition of bare-bones release.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Kodo have long deserved recognition for their work, and this superb documentary works very well. Now if only their concert films would come to DVD in this quality, that would be grand. Check out this disc, though, if you want something a little different in your musical collection. If you're interested in learning more about Kodo, they have a rather impressive English website at www.kodo.or.jp (select the English option). It's very interesting to see some of the sub-members from the film achieve full member status, as evidenced by their photos in the group roster.

 


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