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True Tears Complete Series DVD Review

10 min read

A chance meeting puts various potential couples through the chaotic and scary teenage romance grinder.

What They Say:
Shinichiro is a high school student who aspires to be a picture book author. His classmate Hiromi came to live with his family after her father died. Since then, she’s bottled up her feelings and has an aura of melancholy around her. Shinichiro wants to cheer her up but doesn’t know how.

One day, Shinichiro meets Noe perched up in a tree. Noe’s got weird rumors going around about her and now’s she’s adopted Shinichiro as her pet chicken?! A tragic event occurs but Noe doesn’t shed any tears. She explains that she gave away all her tears and she’s searching for someone to give them back to her. Will Shinichiro swipe away Hiromi’s sorrows and find a way for Noe to find her true tears?

The Review:
True Tears only has one language track on it which is unfortunate as it’s easy to see an English language cast really getting into this show. The stereo mix is pretty good, encoded at 224kbps, as it handles the dialogue well and has some moments where there’s really good placement and depth to it. There isn’t any real action in here and even the “big” moments are understated, but as a dialogue based drama, this is a very good piece of work that conveys the characters emotions and the atmosphere well. We didn’t have any problems with it during regular playback when it comes to dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing in early 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is spread across two volumes in a seven/six format with a pretty good bitrate attached to most of it. The show has a lot of strong visuals to it and solid animation and the transfer here really captures it well. Backgrounds are very detailed and filled with lush colors that pop off the screen at the right times while maintaining a subtle and solid look throughout. Interiors are spot on while the exteriors, whether in summer or winter, are striking in their vibrancy. Outside of a bit of noise here and there which is somewhat common, this is a great looking transfer that shines and showcases the quality of the animation.

This release of True Tears comes in a standard single sized keepcase which holds the two discs on either side. The front cover artwork is what’s been used in all the promotion for it since it was first announced by Bandai Visual USA where it has the three female leads together from the opening sequence in the woods with the fall leaves all around them. It’s a bit soft and not as vibrant or as sharp as one would hope it would be, but it’s appealing with its characters and their designs. The cover notes the episode count and disc count along the bottom while also marking as one of the Anime Legends releases along the top. The back cover is very simple with only a very faintly visible extension of the trees and leaves for the background, done in a soft golden yellow. The top half of the cover is all text as it has the summary for the series and a breakdown of episodes by title and number alongside the features and extras. The bottom portion of the cover has three shots from the show, one of each of the girls, before going into the production credits and the technical grid. The focus is more on selling the show through what it is in text form, along with the episode titles, than it is with the actual artwork and style of the show. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menus for this release are very, very basic which is a bit disappointing but not wholly unexpected. The two discs are the same in style as the right side has a single character shot while the navigation is to the left. The first volume has a soft yellow background while the second runs with a soft green. The navigation buttons are bright multicolored pieces that have a black square going over them to indicate the cursor. The character artwork is decent, one of Hiromi and one of Noe, but overall this really comes across as an MS Paint kind of job. It’s hard to explain but it really reeks of a shovelware kind of menu where you’re just slapping something together to get it done. Submenus load quickly for what few there are and getting around is easy enough since there isn’t much on the disc in general.

The only extras included are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as the clean version of the thirteenth episode closing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
True Tears is an interesting series in that it uses the name of the visual novel that it shares its origins with, but that’s about all that it’s taken as it’s shifted to a completely different set of characters and stories for them. The series from P.A. Works is designed to stand on its own which is good since it doesn’t necessitate any familiarity with the visual novel and is essentially an original production that doesn’t have to adhere to structure that comes from either a game, novel or manga series. And that helps a lot as it works through the various relationships that are in a state of flux as these teenagers try to figure out what it is they want, all while additional influences make their impact. This helps to give it a good, fresh feeling.

Ostensibly taking place in the Toyoma Prefecture, True Tears revolves around a high school student named Shinichiro. Shinichiro is your basic good guy that you can easily see getting along with most people, but one that has only a few very close people that he confides in on a regular basis. He’s not bad at school and he has some really strong skills as an artist that come out more as the show progresses. His home life is one that has its challenges to it as he doesn’t want to be compared to his father, a good man but one that has put himself out into the community on a regular basis. Where the difficulty he really has to deal with now is that another student from his school is living there, a classmate named Hiromi.

Hiromi lost her mother some time ago but it was in the last year that she lost her father, who was a very close friend of the family and to Shinichiro’s father in particular. Because of that relationship, Hiromi came to live with them instead of going out on her own, which she could have very well done. In the year since she moved in, she’s almost like two different people. At school, she excels at playing on the basketball team and she’s kept up her grades, smiles a lot and has friends. But when at home, she’s somewhat sullen and disconnected from it all. Part of it comes from the way Shinichiro’s mother treats her, as she’s concerned about him and Hiromi ending up getting involved. So much so that she actually informs Hiromi that the two of them are related once she sees things potentially progressing in that direction.

Shinichiro has been interested in Hiromi for a long time and living with her hasn’t helped minimize that. He gets grief about it from people since she’s so popular and attractive and his reputation gets another hit when he finds himself becoming the object of affection of another student. Noe is a bit more childlike and less refined in a way than Hiromi, but she’s bursting with life and a curiosity that’s infectious. When she and Shinichiro meet, it starts them on an interesting path where she talks about wanting to bottle up the tears of others for herself. Having lost her parents and her grandmother, she lives with her older brother that attends a different school. She spends most of her free time outside, often at the small chicken coop that they have on the school property. It’s from here that the relationship triangle starts to grow and even becomes something more.

What complicates matters is that there are friends thrown into the mix. Shinichiro has been friends with Miyokichi for a long time and the two guys are pretty close. Miyokichi is head over heels when it comes to Aiko, a very adorable young woman that he’s been seeing in a very limited sort of way. The two act more like friends, but he’s very interested and she’s sort of teasing him along in a way. What’s causing the problem is that Aiko has long been interested in Shinichiro but hasn’t acted on it or shown anything about it up until now, and that’s partially as a reaction to Miyokichi trying to get more serious with her. When she makes a move on her desires, it throws a lot of things out of whack but proves to be an enjoyable subplot to the show, though it does elevate Shinichiro a bit higher than maybe he should with so many people interested in him. Toss in that Noe has a brother that ends up wanting to date Hiromi and you’ve got a number of relationship combinations at work here that are all over the place in how far along and realistic they are in actually being followed through on.

True Tears comes at a time when there are more and more shows of this nature out in the US market, also based off of visual novel games. Though True Tears only takes its name from the visual novel, it does feel similar to a lot of them and it’s easy to make comparisons to the popular ones that have arrived here from Key such as Air, Kannon and Clannad. And as much as I enjoy those shows, this one has the same kind of visual quality that I want out of it without the structure or the supernatural elements. True Tears looks quite beautiful to me with lush colors, beautiful settings and locations as well as some very appealing character designs. The fluid and smooth nature of the animation is quite good and there’s something about the colors that I find very captivating. True Tears is a show that delves into the real world outside of the usual cities like Tokyo and Kyoto and gives us a beautifully rich locale that feels real and inhabited. If there’s anything that felt off about the animation and design it’s the use of background CG characters in certain scenes. Watching from above or the side from a distance, their movements are unnatural and stuck out too much, drawing attention where it didn’t need to be. It wasn’t used heavily, but more than a lot of other series and it was quite distracting at times.

In Summary:
Revisiting this title after a couple of years was a lot of fun since I had forgotten about the nature of the relationships and the fun of the whole chicken and rooster subplot. It is, at its core, a straightforward romantic drama for the first half of it, but it’s not much more than halfway through the show that it turns more into how will they really become involved, can they become involved and what problems do they have to overcome to find their happiness. The search for the answers through young, awkward and uncertain love is always interesting to watch when done well and True Tears is just that. It feels real and honest, not forced and obvious. It’s beautifully animated and done in a way that makes you feel like these places are just outside your grasp. Though in some ways it is predictable, it’s a solidly enjoyable show that moves beyond the norms of high school romances and goes for the real action – resolving issues instead of spending the whole show leading up to a revelation of feelings in the last scene. The best romantic drama material to me comes when the leads are involved and having to experience the relationship, not the lead-up to that. True Tears isn’t quite there, but it’s better than most.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: C-
Extras Grade: B_

Released By: Bandai Entertainment
Release Date: August 18th, 2009
MSRP: $39.99
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

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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