What They Say:
Himawari Hinata is NOT your typical Japanese school girl. In fact, ever since being rescued by a ninja when she was younger, her greatest ambition has been to become one herself. Now, finally, she’s got her shot at her dreams: the opportunity to study at Shinobi Gakuen in the Village of Mist, the elite academy where kunoichi, female ninjas, are trained. Unfortunately, Himawari isn’t as prepared as some of her fellow candidates and, on her very first day in the village, she ends up being saved by one of her teachers! To add to the embarrassment, the person who rescued her isn’t even a ninja. He’s Hayato Marikoji and HIS duty is to teach the ninja how to act like a normal person like himself. With that inauspicious start, will Himawari ever be able to gain entrance to the school? And if she does, can she meet the rigorous standards demanded by her teachers? And why does Hayato remind her so much of an important person from her past? With a whole school full of ninjas, there’s certain to be more going on than meets the eye!
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty straightforward with just the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. This series has a mix of dialogue and action to it, but the action is along the kind of comical lines so it’s not a heavy mix with a lot of impact but rather plays to the near silliness of it all. It does bring in some decent directionality at times with what it wants to do, especially when it involves flying and other outlandish pieces that have the characters moving around a lot. The dialogue is well handled overall as it’s mostly center channel oriented but the minor moments of directionality and placement are alright, but not really a strong suit. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs in a six/seven format with an average bit rate to it that does jump around a bit when necessary. The show is mostly filled with light colors and simple designs, there isn’t a lot in the way of detail to the characters or most of the backgrounds, but it has a solid feel to it and a generally clean look. Some of the darker scenes show off a bit more of the noise when it comes to the backgrounds but in general it’s a light and appealing transfer if you don’t look too closely and realize there isn’t much there. It avoids most of the basic problems like cross coloration though there are a few scenes where some line noise and jaggies come into play.
Released in a standard size keepcase with a hinge inside to hold the two discs, the Himawarai packaging is pretty busy and active and almost belies the show itself in some ways. The front cover has some very soft and earthy tones to it where the background has a variety of the characters against the village backdrop while the foregruond brings in a couple of the lead characters in fuller and more vibrant colors, but still softer overall. There’s a lot of detail here and plenty to look at when it comes to the background which definitely gets you to give it all a second and third look. The back cover wraps around with it a bit for the right half which adds another character in the foreground while the left breaks down things for the release itself in whites and oranges. The disc and episode count is made clear and we get a good summary of the premise along with a look at several small shots from the show. Add in the discs extras and the standard production credits and technical information and you have a standard looking but good release layout here that gets everything cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design uses the layout from the back cover in reverse here where the right side breaks down the episode numbers and titles in alternating white and orange with black text that stands out and looks good, avoiding being too vibrant. The left side features the artwork from the show with the two main menus using different pieces of showing off various character configurations/ The layout is simple but effective and very easy to use with quick access times and all the basics where they need to be. It’s not flashy but it works well and does the job. And being a monolingual release, player presets are a non-issue though you can turn the subtitles off on the fly during playback.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original series by Studio Genco as created by Shigenori Kageyama, Himawari! is a thirteen episode series with its first season that goes to the light and simple approach to comedy and characters. In a lot of ways, it feels like a show that could have easily been done a decade earlier and fit in just fine since it’s largely an episodic work with a strand or two that carries through its entire run as a subplot that’s very lightly touched upon. That light nature is both a boon and a hindrance to the series since it never really does anything meaningful but if you’re looking for something light and fun you can definitely enjoy it without feeling like your brain is being taxed in the slightest.
The series revolves around the titular character of Himawari, a young woman who has spent her life watching ninja shows on television and aspires to be one. She’s dedicated herself to it for a long time and can quote the show Shinobi and knows everything about it when it comes to the popular (and apparently accurate) representation of what ninja are like. What she’s done to get to the next level though is to find her way to the Village of Mist, a hidden place deep in Japan where ninjas from all over the country come to train more in order to excel at their craft. What Himawari learns upon getting there though is that she has some significant competition as everyone else were basically bred to be as skilled as they are as they’re all test-tube babies. With that kind of advantage, Himawari has a huge obstacle to overcome in order to stay there for any length of time.
What she ends up with early on is a surprising booster for her participation there. When Himawari arrives at the school, it’s at the same time as a new teacher named Hayato. Hayato has a huge financial issue that has caused him to take this job in order to pay off a big debt so he’s the standard broke young guy trying to do right. What he didn’t know upon taking the job was that it was for a secret ninja school. The school wants one normal person teaching there so that the students can be used to being around your average nobody as the headmistress puts it. Hayato isn’t keen on staying there but his attempts at getting out don’t go well and the financial burden just makes it all the harder and he ends up stuck there. He and Himawari don’t really hit it off, but she’s intent on doing right by him since he manages to help her stay there and she intends to be his servant as is the norm.
With that setup, we’re introduced to a group of other ninja girls who operate in this girls only academy as the boys school is elsewhere since they need to be kept apart for basic and obvious reasons. The other girls are very much stereotypes, so much so that name retention is a difficult thing because they have no real personality that you can’t discern beyond their appearance. Short and cute girl. Glasses girl. Chesty girl. That says everything that needs to be said. They’re not interested in Himawari being in the school and while they don’t actively try to get rid of her, she doesn’t get much help from them even as Himawari is nothing but friendly, helpful and polite herself. Naturally, they start to see things her way more as the series goes on and it all firms up by the end, but even across the whole series, you never know anything about these kids besides how they exist in the school itself and all the goofy little ninja tests and challenges.
And this gets to be a problem in trying to connect with them because they’re such ciphers. Hayato gets the most time as we understand his background through a flashback that lasts a minute or two at most and that’s what you could call highly detailed here. When you get to the rest of them, there’s nothing about them. Himawari has a couple of meager moments where we see her watching the Shinobi show as a kid and one brief bit about how she used to take hot baths, but over thirteen episodes there’s nothing to clue us in to who they are. At least with the other girls it makes a little bit of sense since they’re test-tube babies, but really, you expect more.
When it comes to the ninja school material, it doesn’t really do all that much that’s exciting as it’s the kind of show that pulls things out as it needs to without making much sense. One episode focuses on Himawari helping an old ninja that got stranded in a gully, another has giant monsters stomping through the night causing trouble and then there’s various tests they undergo. Hot springs, Valentine’s Day chocolates, White Day gags and more. It doesn’t play to standard school material in a way at least, but it also doesn’t play hard when it comes to the ninja side of the schooling either. The majority of the adult cast is even less defined than the girls and that just helps to highlight that the show has no depth to it. The comedy is what it has to survive by and that’s just as light and unfilling as the rest of it. There are cute moments, such as chocolate shurikens, the way Himawari does her best to make Hayato happy and even the quirkiness of the headmistress, but it just kind of washes over you for the most part without making an impact. You may get a giggle here and there, but that’s not enough to sustain the show over the other weaknesses.
Himawari! has a cute concept to it but the execution to it just doesn’t work well overall because there’s no real substance to it. It’s pretty much filled with flash but even the style itself doesn’t register that well because it doesn’t have anything to differentiate itself with. The characters are cute but empty and the stories simple both with the humor and the action. It’ll make you smile a fair bit with what it does, but it’s not a show with anything that will really draw you in. In a way, it’s almost the kind of show you hate to call out for being what it is because it’s not trying to be anything but fun, but it doesn’t succeed there. Shows like this come and go every season, some resonating better than others, but this one left me feeling distant from it.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: October 25th, 2011
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
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.