What They Say:
Get ready for another wild and very untraditional trip down the Way of the Ninja as student kunoichi (female ninja) Himawari and her fellow ninjettes return for another set of insane lessons. Are they painful and embarrassing? Have you ever seen a ninja “lesson” that wasn’t?
Of course, Himawari’s a little older now and a little more experienced, so she’ll be doing some “teaching” of her own this time around. But she still doesn’t know what the connection between her teacher Hayato and the ninja who saved her life is! Are they the same person or are things even more convoluted? Himawari won’t have much time to think on it, unfortunately, in between fighting alien menaces, bubblegum maniacs and some very, very bad broccoli! Did we really say broccoli? With plots as insane as this, will Himawari ever achieve her goal?
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 2007, 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 foreground 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.
Unlike the first season, the second season has a lot of extras, so much so that they’re on their own disc, making this a solid three disc edition. The basics are here in that we get the clean opening and closing sequences as well as two of the original promotional videos. A fun and interesting extra is the 24 minute long Making of Himawari feature. At least once it gets going. Nearly most of the first ten minutes is material from the show itself which drags since you just want to get to the actual behind the scenes stuff, like the offerings from the voice cast, the announcement event and so forth. Once that material hits you get the usual light and fluffy but fun press junket material. The cast recording sessions are fun as well as I always enjoy watching the way these come together. Another big extra is the nearly thirty minute Ninja Mind Training piece which brings in several of the voice actresses doing simple, goofy things ike putting together a meal, joking and just playing around. If you’re a fan of the actresses, its definitely a lot of fun to watch. There’s also another twenty-three minute extra with a different pair of voice actresses that get together to talk about ninja training as well. It’s similar in design to the first in that it’s all focused on food but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t cute and fun to watch the pair go at it.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a light and fluffy first season that at least got to spend some of its time just working through the basic setup and character introductions, the show took a six month break and came back in 2007 for another thirteen episodes. The first season had its moments to be sure but it was also the kind of show where you do wonder how it got a second season greenlit, either at the start or after the end of the first season. You have to wonder how well it did in order to do so. On a technical level, the second season is essentially more of the same so there’s nothing in the way of significant differences there if you liked what came before. The story itself shifts things a fair bit though but not in a way that’s actually positive for the series.
Life has pretty much gone on as normal for Himawari and the others as she managed to be fully accepted there at long last over the course of the first season, but little else has changed otherwise. The other girls are who they’ve always been, though they’re more accepting of Himawari now, and Hayato himself is just as problematic as before with his meager funds, mooching off of anyone and everyone for food and generally coming across as pathetic in the least likable way. School continues on for everyone and they’re doing well, picking up in their abilities and accomplishments, but there’s nothing significant of note going on. Life has simply continued on for everyone.
What shakes things up for the season,and takes a few episodes to get rolling, is that there’s some other force out there now that has large designs on the world. Seen mostly as a floating high tech fortress that’s hidden in the clouds. They’re largely kept to a mystery for a lot of the show, but they start teasing out a few answers and more ideas about them around the halfway mark when their plans become more apparent. The early thrust of it though is that they’re taking down a lot of ninjas out in the world and even the boys school that accompanies the girls one that Himawari goes to has been taken out entirely. A few nuggets of information about the shows just how bad things got there which has everyone on edge. And naturally, it doesn’t take long for the school and village she lives in now to come under pressure as well, though it feels very off as the teachers simply disappear as do many of the townspeople.
Leaving the core group of students with Hayato now on the run, the show ends up working a fairly listless and directionless approach for most of the second half as they try to stay ahead of the forces that are after them while dealing with the stress of it all. It brings in a few little character moments here and there, and reinforces how Himawari is different from them all since she’s the only one who wasn’t born to all of this and actively wants to be a ninja, but it never does more than scratch at the surface without cutting through. There’s a greater focus on the bond between Himawari and Hayato as it progresses as well, but it’s never something that’s really dealt with in a way that feels like it resonates, especially from the age and personality differences.
When things do finally go big with the reveal, it is kind of goofy and yet has some appeal as well as it goes to the heart of what the academy is all about as well as all of the main characters. The sad part is that it lacks the kind of emotion and meaning to it that it should have because there are big things happening here simply because the characters have been so one dimensional from the start. Even worse is that the show squanders the energy it has at times by going into slower material after hitting some highs, leaving you feeling deflated from it. It is good to see Himawari being more proactive ont hings and getting a better understanding of her origins and why she is as she is, but the larger storyline itself here is one that just takes too long to be told and doesn’t have enough meat to it to make it engaging for the whole run. If the revelations had come earlier, it might have forced them into some more creative directions for the second half of the season that would have made the characters more interesting to watch.
Over the course of the two seasons, and this one especially, Himawari felt more like a chore to get through than anything else. The series features basic stereotypes for all of the characters and there’s no real depth of complexity to them. That’s not always a bad thing, but the whole series has felt so light and superficial that it works against it since they’re not characters you can get into easily since there’s nothing there. This season does try to change things up with a bigger storyline and more grandiose plans, but the character issue is big and the overall execution is haphazard and drawn out, leaving you feeling disinterested early on as you can see so many of the plot points quickly once certain things come up. It has some decent moments and I liked the reveals as they happened, but the reactions were so one-note and bland before they moved on to other things that it killed the energy from it quickly. Himawari has a decent concept behind it but the overall execution here leaves a lot wanting.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Making Of, Voice Actress Segments
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: December 27th, 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.