Sgt. Frog gets a bit of a surprising release when it comes to at least the English language track as it’s done in 5.1 encoded at 448kbps. The Japanese track, in its original stereo form, is encoded at 192kbps but does come across well. The English language track doesn’t stand out terribly much in terms of its actual presentation – it’s mostly just louder overall – but there are some minor throws to the rear channels and directionality seems a bit more precise with the forward speakers. The Japanese track is quite good as well though as it uses the stereo channels to good effect when needed, but the show is primarily dialogue and then explosive fast paced dialogue, and both tracks capture this well and free of problems.
Originally starting its run in 1999, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This series is being released in small chunks of thirteen episodes which are spread across two discs in a seven/six format. With the age of the show, I was really surprised at how new it looks, to the point where it could easily be a new series starting up in the last couple of years instead of one that’s ten years old as of this writing. Colors are bold, vibrant and clean outside of a bit of noise/grain that shows up. The animation is very smooth and free of problems like cross coloration and major aliasing, leaving a very good looking transfer and viewing experience. My only dislike is the swapping out of title cards, but since this was being pushed more for a broadcast run it’s not a surprise.
Sgt. Frog gets a pretty cute package for its release as it follows the traditional new show model for a FUNimation title. The slipcover holds two thinpak cases and is done with lots of green, which is really a given. The front of the slipcover has a cute shot of Keroro on top of the world with many of the other lead characters floating around him on other planets. The logo looks good, providing a mix of military and sci-fi, though the pink/purple coloring for part of it just doesn’t look good. The back of the slipcover has a very cute picture of Keroro riding the vacuum cleaner but is mostly filled with text as it describes the premise of the show and having a big logo and tagline on it. A few small shots from the show flesh it out a bit more while the bottom is a very small section with the technical grid. Production credits are actually moved to the underside of the slipcover, which we don’t see often.
Inside the slipcover we have two clear thinpak cases done with the same kind of framework as the slipcover itself. The first volume has a great picture of Tamama in his power suit with other characters around him while the second has a stern faced Giroro ready to do what needs being done as the comedy-action plays out behind him. The back covers are laid out the same but with different artwork pieces as it lists the episode numbers and titles for that respective disc. The reverse sides of the covers are pretty slick as well as they feature their respective characters on one side with a big pose while the right side has their rank and name. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for Sgt. Frog as pretty minimal though in the same theme as the packaging so there is some good consistency there. Each disc has the same layout with different artwork, pieces used from the cover such as Tamama in his full on gear, with the quasi military style font used for the navigation. As is usual, there isn’t any top level episode access which keeps the menus looking minimal but easy to navigate. Submenus load quickly and the basic design keeps it free of problems. The discs don’t read our players’ language presets and it doesn’t highlight changes made either to ensure selections were accepted.
The extras are on the second disc and are fairly basic and expected. In addition to the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, there’s a bit of a “database” that talks about various items and such that the invaders deal with during their stay.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the third season back on track and a bit of a lull, we decided to jump back into Sgt. Frog to see how its held up since we first watched it back in 2009. Based on the manga by Mine Yoshizaki, Sgt. Frog is an impressively long show that’s at just under three hundred episodes as of this writing. The broadcast adaptation of the show began five years after the manga began in 1999, and the manga is still ongoing with almost twenty volumes at this point. Suffice to say that there’s plenty of material to mine and the anime staff has certainly strayed from the original to produce as many episodes as they have. Add in four movies as well and Sgt. Frog is a veritable cash cow for Sunrise in Japan with all the merchandising that such a show creates.
Sgt. Frog is very much a simple premise show, but the kind in the classic tradition of something like Urusei Yatsura in that almost anything goes with it. Taking place in 2004, the world has just narrowly and unknowingly avoided an all out invasion by the forces from the planet Keron of the Toad Nebula. Several members of the invasion force have been stranded on Earth, all part of the same platoon, and the show opens with having the various members of the five man platoon slowly coming back together and ostensibly planning a new invasion with the resources they have.
Unfortunately, their leader, Sgt. Keroro, is far more interested in lazing about, reading magazines and building Gundam models. Keroro has found himself living in the house of the Hinata family where he’s managed to hide out with them by doing chores. That includes all the cleaning, something he alternately seems to love and hate considering the way he rides around on the vacuum cleaner and pays such close attention to detail in getting everything truly clean. Though he does live in fear of the eldest daughter Natsumi, Keroro gets along well with her younger brother Fuyuki who is into the occult and their mother Aki, a manga editor who finds the whole situation to be great fodder for stories. She enjoys Keroro so much that she actually gives him quite an allowance – after she deducts for his living expenses.
Keroro has managed to snag himself quite the place with a little room that’s down in the bottom of the house, almost like a fallout shelter. From there, he ends up building it into quite the snazzy little frog pad and eventually into an elaborate and massive headquarters for the platoon members where they have a target range, research labs and more. And those other members of the platoon do show up with varying stories as to how they’ve survived. While Keroro has become domesticated in a sense, especially with his love of building Gundam models over everything else, the others have had different experiences. Each of the other members have such different personalities, though they do feel like they’re fleshing out a Sentai team, that they build up quite the fun cast. Tamama is the overeager eternal “newbie” as they call him, Giroro is the hardened corporal who is serious about finishing the mission, Kululu who fills in the scientific side as well as something of a practical joker and eventually the “quiet one” known as Dororo who basically is the ninja frog of the unit.
Thankfully, these members are introduced over the course of the first thirteen episodes and not one right after another in the first five episodes. This spacing out works well as we get to have a bit of humor building off of each introduction, though I admit that Tamama is my favorite so far because he blows as the wind does and is kind of your slightly stupid member that means really well but invariably screws up. And when you have Kululu eventually introducing all sorts of weird weapons, including one that reduces your age, everyone is going to get into a lot of trouble. Sgt. Frog relies heavily on situational comedy as it runs through its episodes – often half episode stories that aren’t directly related. There are odd aliens that show up, events revolving around model kits and the way to go out into the world without being dissected. The comedy here is spot on and has a really good flow to it that works well and makes you laugh.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the English language adaptation. Frankly, it’s too localized with the mindset of getting it broadcast. Within the first thirteen episodes, it already feels dated in certain jokes and some of the humor really falls flat. Comedies can be hard to adapt, that’s a certainty when dealing with a language that plays heavily to idioms and other word games, but so much of the original jokes are lost here that at times it’s almost a different show. The biggest offense to me isn’t the change of the jokes, something I can agree with at times as long as the original is preserved, is the amount of added material. The narrator certainly has a role in the Japanese language version, but in the English adaptation he’s far more present and has a lot more lines that aren’t in the Japanese. When you watch the English with subtitles, it’s almost jarring how different they are. This show was localized too heavily for my tastes and while my kids certainly enjoyed listening to it, the differences were very apparent to the one that could read along to the subtitles I had on and commented on it.
Getting back into this show with the third season getting closer to coming out reminded me just how much I missed it. While the first set from the series is a bit slow at times as it has to go through all the basic introductions, it does spend time with each of the characters and we get to know their core personalities pretty well. Sgt. Frog is certainly a very mainstream show, but one that appeals to fandom as much as it can to your casual viewer. With all sorts of geeky in-jokes to shows like Gundam, Galaxy Express and others, there’s a lot to like with the small stuff as well as the big stuff. At its core though, it’s following the Keroro platoon as well as the Hinata platoon and the people that know about the invaders and have taken them into their homes. Each episode brings something new and wacky to the table and provides plenty of laughs. It has its own internal rules of what will work and what won’t, but it’s the kind of show where anything is possible and the kind that reminds me of the humor of Urusei Yatsura in some ways. There’s a lot of material out there and hopefully it maintains and builds on this level of humor – and that FUNimation can keep releasing it for years to come.
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: September 22nd, 2009
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.