Synopsis: Shadow Skill the OAV series is comprised of two main parts:
Part 1 - When Gau was 10 years old, his parents were murdered by bandits and a young woman named Ella Ragu took him in as her adopted brother. Every year, Gau and Ella journey to Gau's parents' gravesite to pay their respects. This year, Gau has just turned 14 and Ella is determined to see just how powerful a fighter she has trained him to be. Gau must defeat Ella in single combat -- and to do that he must unlock the secret of the Shadow Skill!
Part 2a - Ten years has passed, and Gau has grown into a formidable warrior. He now faces Scarface, the undisputed champion of the Shadow Skill. Looking back, we are taken to the events that took place a decade ago -- the turning point which awakened Gau's true power.
Part 2b - Shortly after Gau's awakening, he and Ella are joined by a spellcaster named Fowari and a young warrior named Quo. Together, they pursue a ferocious demon known as the "King of the Moon". But there is a growing rift between Ella and Fowari -- and ultimately, a fight to the finish will be the only way to resolve things.
Review: As a whole, watching Shadow Skill was something of a wearisome experience. The episodes jump from one timeline to another, each with different plot points.
Part 1 introduces the two main characters of the series, Ella and Gau. After a brief rundown of their backgrounds and situation, non-stop fighting action ensues -- which is probably the main reason why this anime is worth anyone's time. Part 2 starts with a confrontation between Gau and Scarface, subsequently turning into a trip down memory lane with flashbacks of the past decade's events. We come to know how Gau gets started on the road to becoming a great warrior, and more of Ella's true nature is revealed. There is a catch though -- the story never goes back to Gau and Scarface, and I think you'd have to watch the Shadow Skill TV series (which is still unreleased in the US) in order to gain a full understanding of what transpired in this OAV.
The art and animation are quite good for part 1, and so-so for part 2. There is a noticeable difference in the drawing styles employed between parts 1 and 2. Part 2 sports the more inferior artwork, trading in the clean character designs of part 1 for more lines and shadows which project a more unkempt look. Fighting is where SS truly excels though (but then part 1 does better in that aspect as well). With Shadow Skill being a deadly and mystical form of martial arts, a lot of the moves are almost acrobatic, requiring great agility to execute. It's pulled off beautifully, and the resulting battle sequences are fast, furious, and smooth as silk -- similar to the stunts you see in Chinese kung-fu movies. All the action is accompanied by voluminous amounts of blood and gore to boot.
The English dubbing is below par, especially for part 2. Some of the voices are just plain annoying, especially Ella's. What's more, the characters sound like totally different people in part 2, but I was just not interested enough to compare the credits to see if the same voice actors were used in the two parts. Basically, what this OAV series does is set the stage for something bigger (which I presume is the TV series). It's not very satisfying on its own (unless all you care about is action), and I'd recommend it only if you are an avid action / fighting anime fan, or if you actually plan to catch the TV series
Miscellanies: The DVD release contains all the OAV episodes. The first screenshot from the left is Ella in part 1, and the second is Ella in part 2 -- note the difference in the art style.