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Kobato Collection 2 Anime DVD Review

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The truth of the matter for several subjects is finally revealed, but it’s a case of too little too late.

What They Say:
Seeking the right to keep her magical flask, Kobato has been working as hard as she can to ease the pain in others’ hearts. Unfortunately, there are some jobs that seem to defy even her ability, and one of those has become far more personal than she should have ever allowed it to become.

The nursery where Fujimoto works is in trouble, and nothing Kobato can do seems to make things any better. Worse, while her magic healing flask is filling with kompeitos, the negative emotions she pulls from the others that she helps, she cannot tell Fujimoto about how she herself truly feels, and Ioryogi knows that the time given to Kobato in order to prove herself is rapidly running out. Will Kobato’s time run out before she can ease the heart of the one closest to her?

Contains episodes 13-24.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is basic with just the Japanese language track here in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The series isn’t one that has a whole lot going on with its audio side as it’s mostly laid back and dialogue driven with just a few moments of action here and there, but even that barely qualifies as action. There’s more comedy driven audio moments than anything else with how some of the characters interact with each other. What we do get here is a good sounding track that captures the feel of things well and lets the music shine through just right. It’s not a track that demands a lot but it conveys it well and is free of problems like dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episodes on this release are spread across two discs evenly with six on each. The animation by Madhouse is very well captured by the transfer here with lots of great colors and an appealing amount of backgrounds that gives it a very warm and friendly feeling. The animation has a very vibrant feel to it with a lot of fluid areas that generally revolves around the way Kobato moves, giving it a strong look overall. There are a number of scenes where the noise in the background is stronger though, and some of the faster action scenes don’t hold up as well, which is partially because of some of the gradients used in the color scheme. It eases up for most of the release, but there are some standout moments that just don’t look good.

The packaging for this release has two discs inside a standard sized single keepcase with a hinge inside for one of the discs. The front cover is about as expected with a shot of a very upbeat and smiling Kobato in the outfit she usually wears, complete with hat, in an outdoor setting that adds some really nice colors to it all. It’s a very girly cover with lots of pinks and bright colors but it works well and lets you know exactly how the show is designed, so there’s no trick advertising going on here. The logo looks good and the artwork for Kobato herself is spot on. The back cover has pieces of it with the light colors and the pink along the edge, but it adds a bit of darkness along the top to balance it as well. There’s plenty of shots from the show and a look at the supporting cast from the show that have good but small roles. The summary covers things well enough and the technical grid is clean and and problem free with what it breaks down. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release is simple and clean and definitely on the cute side as it uses a copious amount of pink. It’s split pretty much in half where the left side has cute character artwork for Kobato with the logo behind her while the right side has the breakdown of the menu navigation. The navigation itself is pretty simple with it just being the episode numbers and titles going down as there’s nothing else really here such as language setup since it’s a monolingual release. The first disc has a little more with the extras while the second disc just has the navigation itself.

The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first half of Kobato wasn’t anything that was a big surprise when you get right down to it as it did a lot of basic establishing of the situation and then let Kobato do her thing. Her thing, of course, was to just get out into the world and try to do right by people which invariably helped her kompeito and gave her more additions to her little jar that showed that she was on the right path. It worked well, if a little bland overall, as we saw her get more familiar with the people around her and for the viewer to see more of the CLAMPverse appear, which is definitely cute but is starting to really come off as desperation in milking a brand. But it’s a rarity in anime in general and I have to admit it’s something that’s totally hooked my kids into watching Kobato since they know the CLAMP name and grew up on the stuff. Seeing more of their favorites in a different form has its appeal.

With the second half of the series, there is a bit of a more of the same kind of feeling to it at first as we see a few smaller situations that she helps resolve. But what the set does delve into in a slow but steady fashion is the larger problems facing everyone. And while it is drawn out a bit, that’s what sells the second half well. There are some good stories to tell here, the first one that’ dealt with is the fate of Yomogi Kindergarten. With Sayaka having had a real problem with Okiura and the debt that’s owed on the place, the threats are picking up and she’s starting to get nervous about it since it’s impacting the kids attending the place. When you stick a tough guy outside the front gate, it’s going to have some of the mothers avoid the place. And Kobato is the type that does her best to push back against it, but she is a little girl and certainly the least threatening there. Some kindergarten kids have more presence than her.

But it does start us down the path to understanding more of what it is that happened in the past between Sayaka and her husband who is now the debt collector and trying to do what he has to do. That it is in the end his way of saving her is noble, but the lack of communication is kind of off-putting since it’s something that ended in their getting divorced but still having feelings for each other. I appreciate the way it unfolds, especially at the very end, and shows that the two of them do have a stronger connection even if it’s done in a very hands off and distant way here for a lot of it. Sayaka’s past also has a smaller impact on the story in a different way, one that’s definitely more implied and obvious but not directly dealt with. Fujimoto has been interested in Sayaka for quite a long time and seeing her go through all of this is difficult for him. You can feel for him in this way as we see the lingering glances and the overall attraction, but it’s not something really overt or dealt with. In a way, that’s far more preferable since it’s a love that can never be and isn’t forced or awkwardly brought to bear.

Naturally, the main story that surfaces in the final arc is the one involving Kobato and the way she’s falling short of what she needs for her wish. The story behind it hits at the very end, but it’s not all that important when you get down to it. With her time getting short and all hope being lost, there are some good moments as even Ioryogi gets to begging Ushagi to let her pass on this, to give her more time. What’s brought into all of this is the additional emotion of the kindergarten being closed and Fujimoto coping with all that’s going on that when he discovers that Kobato may leave, it opens his eyes completely to what he’s really been feeling when it comes to Kobato. You can see it throughout a good part of the series, especially in this half, so it’s not surprising nor does it feel like it doesn’t work. It could use some work, but you don’t roll your eyes at the concept.

The show does a really good job of upping the emotional ante with the final episode, since it goes through with separating them and then putting a good bit of time between things. Spending the time focusing on Fujimoto is definitely welcome and necessary here, to show how he deals with his life when Kobato is removed from it entirely and he has nary a memory of her. But there’s that good, somber edge to it that really drives it home even as he does move on and lives his life right. In a better storytelling world, there wouldn’t be the full happy ending here that we do get, but something that has him discovering something else while knowing he had some magic in his life. But having that magic come in was quite good as well and I like how it played out, even if I wanted something more distinct and emotionally satisfying in a different way.

In Summary:
Kobato isn’t a show that really won me over in a big way but I liked what it did overall. It’s a cute show, utterly predictable but there are certain charms to it that work well. Kobato’s not deep but the side stories that work throughout here are fun, slow as it may be with the movement of time. The show is easily accessible for those new to anime but for the long time anime fans, especially those that like CLAMP’s work, there’s a lot to like with the cast that’s used here in a supporting fashion. There’s an utterly wonderful Tsubasa crossover here as the guys and Mocona drop into Kobato’s world and it just makes you smile with the injokes that are used and how it all comes together. And there’s a lot of other little moments like this throughout. Kobato’s cute, fun and largely empty but it also has a good ending couple of episodes as it tries to do things right. It does things mostly right but still within the formula that can be a bit draining.

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

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 11th, 2011
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 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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