V-----------V G-----------PG----------PG13-----------R------NC17Why: n, V+, mt, al
There are a number of different schools of combat in the world. Elle Ragu is a member of the Sevalle the "tribe" or "clan" that practice the Kuruda School of combat. This particular school consists of open skills, those which are throws and hand moves, and shadow skills, those which use footwork and body maneuvers. Elle is very good and it all.
Gau Ban is a fourteen year old boy who wishes to become part of the Sevalle. He is also the adopted brother of Elle. Gau must learn both aspects of the Kuruda School to achieve his ultimate ambition of becoming the best martial artists of the Sevalle. In the end, however, Gau must fight Elle.
In addition to Elle and Gau there are a number of other interesting persons:
Shadow Skill has plenty of action to go around with a fairly reasonable story. The animation quality is also excellent.
Shadow Skill Part 2 is a bit different from the OVA. The three episodes tell the account of what happened to Gau Ban, the Black Howling, before he became a famous warrior. That is, it takes place a number of years before the OVA.
In the first episode, Gau is a silent kid, mad at the world. He very much wishes to be a warrior and watches and emulates Elle as much as he can, but he refuses to open up to her. It is not until he learns that to master the shadow skills one must become a shield for those you love that he is able to begin his mastery of the shadow skill techniques.
In the second episode, a young girl named Kyuo Ryu seeks Gau, Elle and Faury's help in defeating a monster named the Moon King. This demon creature is pretty much all powerful when the moon is full, and is quite a handful for the shadow warriors Gau and Elle and the magic user Faury. In the end, Kyuo, the demon hunter, joins the group.
Years before, Elle was accused of killing Faury's master. As was her duty, she hunted Elle down and tried to kill her in vengeance. However, Faury could not kill Elle, and like wise the other way around. The third episode has Elle and Faury pitted against each other, again, in a fight to the death. Faury's "brother", Rui Frasneel, has shown up demanding that this battle take place, however, things are not all that they appear, when it is shown that Rui was the one who really killed their master, not Elle.
The end of the third episode leads into the OVA. As a general principle, the series is similar to the OVA, except that the animation is not quite as good. The characters are shown to be younger, which is expected. They also act younger and on the whole the series is less serious then the OVA.
Both the OVA and the series is simular in some ways to Ninja Scroll, Curse of the Undead: Yoma, and The Dagger of Kamui, in any case.
[David Eisman (firstname.lastname@example.org) had something to say about Shadow Skill and Shadow Skill Part 2. Here is his review]
The problem with Shadow Skill, both the OVA and the series, is you will like it or hate it. This statement stems from the art. I am personally not big on Hentai style animation, but in this case I'm going to give it a break. The stories in both are good enough to stand on their own merit. If martial arts are your thing, especially the very spirit and inner strength oriented type, this is a film you are going to want to see. Both the OVA and series also benefit from some enigmatic characters to help the main character, Gau Ban, who is at the start, a little weak.
However those of you who are annoyed at seeing little kids as the main heroes, I warn you Shadow Skill parts 1 and 2 do not deviate from this genre. These films also bear other stereotypical traits of the "T.V." style animation, complete with catch phrases and power by word association. Which is fine if you like that stuff, but if you don't look out, there is a lot of it.
Overall the OVA is of better animated quality, the characters tend to be more striking, although truth be told I think Elle looks cooler in the series. My feeling is that the OVA would garner an 8. The series, which has its moments, suffers from somewhat erratic art, overly thick lines delineating character boundaries and simple flow problems like walking, although the action scenes are great. These factors are enough to detract from it forcing the best rating to a 7.
In terms of story however I believe, mainly due to the fact that it is a series and has a chance to grow, that the series has the OVA beat. The OVA is just not long enough to allow for a very good story. Sorry but the series beats the OVA 8.5 to 7. Hands down.