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- Published on Amazon.com
This was first a comment on Tim's review, but it sort of grew...
I don't own the DVD, so I don't think it is fair of me to review the DVD itself; I have no insight into the extras, any easter eggs, or the menu utilities, or any of that. However I watched Tactics when it was broadcast on SciFi channel, and again in a fansubbed version online; from this I'd recommend watching in Japanese with subtitles if your household viewership is old enough to read. The Japanese voice acting and casting are better than the English dubs, in which I find the main character, Kantarou, to be a bit whiny.
This is an anime worth viewing, but a bit slow at first. The first episode is a little obscure to western audiences because it features mythological creatures familiar to Asian audiences but not to westerners, and some early episodes are entertaining but not memorable. The series improves as it goes on.
It is aimed at 11-14 year olds, I think, but is suitable for school age kids. There are some mildly suggestive scenes that will go completely over young-kid's heads, as when in the first episode a girl sucks the finger of the icicle-making goddess in fond reference to sucking on an icicle in the winter, but which to adult eyes looks a bit erotic. There's also a two-part episode (10-11, or is it 11-12?) with a pair of creepy 12 year old girls who shock the (20-something) protagonists by attempting to seduce them. But in general the light-spirited ghost stories are fun and suitable for school age and up.
Woven in small bits throughout the 'fluffy' ghost stores there's a very endearing (filial? romantic? platonic buddy? master-pet? who knows...?) love-story between the two male leads that I think is what keeps adults interested. I think if this latter had been more prominent in early episodes the series might have had more staying power and stayed in production longer.
Kantarou, a human, fights only those yokai who cause trouble for humans, but unlike other monster-hunters his goal isn't to destroy his opponents, but to destroy their hostility (which reminds me a bit of the philosophy from the martial art Aikido). Occasionally he has to exorcise a ghost that clings to this world to push it into its next stage of existence, but his intent is for the ghost's own good. His goal is truce or even friendship between ordinary beings and the spirit world; his religious affiliation appears to be Buddhist.
Kantarou is one of the few characters in anime who reminds me of real people--he likes to sleep in, would rather play than work, is constantly scrambling for money, is basically a good guy but often does the expedient rather than 'what's right'. But all this plays to the comic elements of the series, and sets viewers up for a few surprises when despite his flaws he rises to the occasion. (In one early episode Kantarou says, 'Leave the dangerous stuff to me', to which Haruka somewhat sarcastically agrees. Kantarou more than proves himself later.)
I'm always disappointed by translations of the Japanese word 'yokai', which usually translates as 'monsters' or 'phantoms' but also includes critters that are more like elves and gnomes and such in western myth--they are 'magical' but not necessarily aligned with any 'higher power' or moral standard. More specifically, the character Haruka is a 'tengu', a word translated as 'goblin' in the dubs. He's an enemy of ogres; his name in a prior time was 'ogre-devourer' (onikui); the dubs translate this as 'demon-eater'.
A tengu is a pretty standard critter in Japanese myth, like elves or werewolves in western stories. Unfortunately, the current Japanese vision of a 'tengu' looks a lot like the western vision of an 'angel', so westerners--including western characters inside the story--tend to get a bit confused about what Haruka actually is. A quick read about 'tengu' on wikipedia will get you straight on this.
For the most part, the stories are, essentially, situation comedies. I am reminded of some silly 1950's shows like 'My Favorite Martian' and 'Mr. Ed'.
The biggest problem with this series (other than the annoyingly cloying-cute Suzu)? It is too short; it seems to end just when it has hit its stride. The 25th episode is clearly an attempt to provide some closure to a story which, in anime form, stopped somewhere in the middle. I'm told in Japan the story continues beyond this point via the Manga, but it hasn't yet been released in English; the English version of volume 7 of the tactics Manga is due out in early December and I think that volume will catch up the Manga with the Anime. (Amazon sells the Manga...) I hope there's more after that...