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Coffee Samurai / Hoshizora Kiseki Review

7 min read

Two short stories from Comix Wave brings Korean and Japanese storytelling in different directions.

What They Say:
Hoshizora Kiseki (Starry-Sky Miracle)
Kozue, a young girl who loves astronomy, encounters Ginga, a boy with a mysterious ability to understand the stars that is being exploited by others. As her friendship with Ginga grows, Kozue realizes that she must help him learn to make his own decisions, but that do that, he must remove the protective suit he always wears.
Coffee Samurai
For Hemi, a boyfriend in a protective suit would be an easy thing to deal with compared to her own problem: she’s in love with a Coffee Vending machine! Of course, it all makes perfect sense once you realize that he’s actually an ancient Samurai who wished to be reborn into an indestructible steel body. But it certainly makes the dates uncomfortable and somewhat prone to scalding!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release keeps both shows in their original languages with no dubs available for either. Coffee Samurai gets a standard stereo Korean mix while Hosizora Kiseki is in its original Japanese language with both of them encoded at 192kbps. Neither show is much of a stretch for what it does as both are largely dialogue based with Coffee Samurai going a bit further with a few light action sequences. Each of them has a more whimsical feeling with how they’re portrayed and the audio track tries to capture that. With it being largely dialogue based, the material here works well as it’s kept to just a couple of characters in each episode and they’re talking in conversational tones so placement is simple and there’s no real depth to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally released in 2006 for Hoshizora Kiseki (I can’t find much information on Coffee Samurai for when it came out and who is behind it), the transfer for the two separate OVAs included here are presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Each episode runs about thirty minutes though they’re very different productions and have very different looks. Coffee Samurai has a very light look about it where it’s more of a fantasy adventure in the tradition of something like the Little Prince. Hoshizora Kiseki is a really beautifully animated piece that’s rich in detail and design with some great colors that makes it feel like a lived in world. The transfer captures each of these very well with all their differences and it’s a pretty problem free release. There’s some noise to be had in some of the backgrounds, especially the darker ones, but that’s not all that noticeable depending on how things are setup and size of screen.

Packaging:
Because of this release containing two different shows, the cover goes for the obvious route of having it split down the middle, though it’s nicely creative in the white space to tie it together while adding a bit of information about it containing the two features. The left side has a nice image for Coffee Samurai that shows off its charming nature while the right side for Hoshizora Kiseki has a definite space feeling about it that is reminiscent of other Comix Wave titles like Voices of a Distant Star. Both of them look good and they do mange to tie them together well enough overall. The back cover takes the white space and general layout and expands it to allow the white through the center so it can talk about both titles in a clean and very easy to read fashion. The two sides are given over to a small black strip that has shots from each of the shows so you get a good look at both of them. The technical grid covers things well and does make it clear which language tracks belong to which shows and what they are. No show related insrts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
One of the things than fans have learned to fear over the years is that the single episode one off OVAs are very hard to bring over for a number of reasons and many of them are simply lost to licensing potential. Where licensing can work out sometimes though is when a production company has a few titles that they can license together since it’s able to make it work as a license and as something that can actually be sold. We’ve seen a few cheap one-off’s released before in the US market, but they’re few and far between and rarely end up being all that big for a number of reasons. Sentai’s managed to grab a couple of Comix Wave titles together and that means we get to see two very different features for a decent price in one collection that feels like it at least has some value to it to make it worth a purchase.

The first piece on here is Coffee Samurai, which seems to have little information out there on the internet to find. This Korean production reminded me a lot of what a short-form Studio Ghibli piece would be like as it definitely has some whimsy to it. We’re introduced to a samurai from centuries ago who was the best at what he did, but even he found opponents that were too tough for him and he ended up dying wishing he had a body of iron that would have allowed him to be invincible. Flash forward to the present where he’s reincarnated as a coffee vending machine and is fully aware of who he was. Because of all of this, he’s able to transform into a normal person at times, but he’s also accepted as a walking vending machine too, which helps when he falls in love with a young woman that works near where he’s stationed. The two get close in odd ways, and the former samurai still retains his sense of honor which makes it an amusing courtship that occurs as foes of his from the past have reincarnated as zebras and polar bears to seek revenge on him. It’s very cute and charming in that fairy tail kind of way that makes it work very easily, but it also pushes up against being a bit too long even at the running time it has.

Hoshizora Kiseki is the same length as Coffee Samurai but it feels like it’s riffing heavily off of what Makoto Shinkai did with Voices of a Distant Star. The story introduces us to a girl named Kozue who is in the countryside looking for where she believes a meteorite might fall as she has learned over the years that there’s been a secret kept about where they say they fall and where they really do, and she believes something important is related to all of it. It’s during one of these trips that she meets a young man named Ginga wearing what is in essence a space suit. She relates this to him and has a feeling there’s something more to it. It’s an interesting short story that deals with the feelings of what it’s like to be a connected part of the world and about our connection to the universe as a whole. There are some interesting parts to this, but it’s the kind of story that really needs a fleshing out as the short form doesn’t do it justice because of the pacing it has to work with.

Each of these shows brings something different to the table and they’re the very kinds of shows you want to be able to pull out at strange times, especially Coffee Samurai, to show someone different kinds of animation that don’t fit into what you’d call the traditional anime mold. They’re short but they’re accessible to animation fans in general. They both have a clean look about them, and obviously I liked Hoshizora Kiseki’s more because of the style it used, but there’s a lot going for Coffee Samurai as it’s very much a show that speaks to our inner child. I kept coming back to feeling like this was a Korean animation based on a European short comic with its style, both in animation and the actual story, just with the Eastern aspects. I hate to overuse the word, but charming really does sum it up.

In Summary:
Combining two short form works can be a bit of a gamble for a fan, especially if you’ve never seen either of them, because you never know what you’re really going to get. You can like one, you can like neither, but chances of liking both when they’re very different in the same viewing session can be rare. I spread this out over a couple of days so that each stood on its own and there’s definitely a lot to like about both, from animation to story, to make it worth checking out, especially considering some of the discounts out there. There’s a lot of great single episode stories out there I continue to hope that more get picked up to see some of these odd little gems. Sentai did a pretty good job with this release and fans of the kinds of slightly non-traditional stories that Comix Wave is known for will definitely enjoyed this.

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Running Time: 60
Video Encoding: 480p MPEG-d

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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