What They Say:
Sawako Kuronuma has always had a difficult time fitting in. Some say it’s her jet-black hair, others say it’s her hushed manner of speaking, and still others claim it’s due to her name’s similarity to Sadako, a character from a popular Japanese horror series. On her first day of high school, Sawako meets the one boy who treats her like a normal girl: Shota Kazehaya.
Through his selfless aid, Sawako slowly learns to come out of her shell and even begins to make friends for the first time in her life. However, with a new social life comes social pressures. Rumors begin to circulate about her, her friends, and even the kind-hearted Kazehaya. As she grows into her new identity, Sawako must learn to deal with such pressures as well as start to understand the unfamiliar feelings inside of her – especially in regards to the boy who made her new start possible.
Contains episodes 1-12 plus a full-color, 28-page hardcover artbook featuring character information and Sawako’s most cherished memories in premium showcase packaging.
Please Note: The technical portions of this release covers the BD side of the DVD/BD combo release.
The audio presentation for this release is just in its original Japanese as no dub was created for ti and we get a Linear PCM stereo track for it encoded at 1.5mbps. It’s a solid track that captures the design of the show very well since it’s mostly dialogue based with some cute music cues and a few acting out moments to give it a bit of fun and life. The opening and closing sequences are the strongest parts of it simply because of the larger, full sound that comes from the design of it, but the show itself is no slouch either, especially with some great incidental music and all sorts of background sound effects to make it a lived in world at key times. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with 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 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second and it generally has a bitrate that’s in the high twenties and low thirties. The transfer looks really great overall as it captures the soft look that a lot of scenes have and the overall beauty of the slice of life piece that it is while handling all the cute shoujo moments just right. The color design is really good and watching this on a large screen with the high bitrate just shows a whole lot of impressive looking work that creates such an engaging atmosphere. There’s nothing to see in the way of braekup or noise in the backgrounds as it has a wonderfully solid feel throughout.
The premium edition release of Kimi ni Todoke is another solid high quality presentation from NIS America. The heavy chipboard box is fantastic with its soft, pale colors for the background with the falling petals that go towards the indistinct green background along the bottom. The main focus is on the character artwork that has the full length shots of the two leads. And unlike what we’d get on a keepcase, having it this size really drives home the visual design all the more, making it richer and more engaging. The back cover uses the same background but does upper body shots of Sawako and her two friends as they hang out together, nice and close, with great smiles that sells it well. Inside the box we get the long hardcover book, entitled “My Memories” and it fills that role well. It gives each episode two pages through which there’s a lot of shots from the show done with text from Sawako’s perspective that’s really fun to read. There’s also a couple of good pages given to just the backgrounds which I really appreciated.
Of course, we also get a pair of clear thinpak keepcases that holds both the Blu-ary and DVD releases spread across them against the interior sides. The first volume has a great pairing of Kazehaya with Sanada while Pin is behind them pulling them together with his usual grin. The second volume puts a nervous Sawako next to a cute and outgoing Kurumi that works just as well in a different way. The back covers use different scenery shots to set the mood right while having a small piece of paper that lists the episodes and which discs they can be found in. The technical grid along the bottom is very nicely laid out with both the BD and DVD technical information in a clear and concise way that handles both formats just right. No show related inserts are included nor are there reversible covers.
The menu has a nice, simple and effective menu design as it goes with something that’s girlish but also a little generic as well, but playing to the strengths of the way Sawako wants to be. Done as a bit of a scrapbook page, the background has a mixture of paper designs to it that are appealing while over it there are multiple pictures that are taped. The pictures are various clips from the show that goes over different aspects of the characters and cast overall so it’s not all just focused on the two primary characters. The navigation strip along the bottom fits in well with some cute colors that matches the scrapbook pages and is easy and straightforward to navigate. The navigation strip also doubles as the pop-up menu so it blends in nicely with the show.
The only extras included with this set are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which are in high definition.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Karuho Shiina, Kimi ni Todoke is a twenty-four episode series that deals with high school romance and the situations that arise from it. With these kinds of romances and series essentially a dime a dozen, this series managed to really impress me over the first half of it that we get with this set as it gave us interesting characters, solid pacing to tell the tale and sense of self that worked very well. While most series have some elements that take you out of it, this one is the kind that feels not just plausible, but you can pretty much see variations on it easily within your own life and those you know. While it may get a little “too romantic” in some ways, a lot of it is in the characters heads and that fits perfectly.
The show revolves around first year high school students and the things they go through over the course of their lives. The primary focus is on that of Sawako Kuronuma, a young woman who has a pretty big problem overall. In her early years, she was accidentally called Sadako by a friend and it ended up sticking. This became even more of a problem over the years as she basically grew into that look of the character from the Ring supernatural horror movies. Bit by bit, she became ostracized from others and it carried through the schools, which now has her being completely alone and with difficult expressions that only freak people out. And that reputation goes a long way into the creepy realm when it comes to the way people get hurt when they’re near her and so forth which just reinforces the whole Sadako image that’s been foisted on her.
What changes Sawako’s life is when on her way to school, she comes into contact with Kazehaya, the generally popular kid in her class who has plenty of friends and usually has the girls interested in him, though there’s some amusing subplots involved with that. The chance encounter brings him closer to her as he takes notice of her, something that others generally haven’t, and that movement brings more people into her life. His simply sitting next to her in class, helping with the clean up and so forth draws her out because she gets a taste of what having friends is like. And while they do start to touch on the way she realizes she’s having romantic feelings for him, the more important part is that she gains a pair of female friends in Yano and Yoshida, two girls with their own reputations from middle school that causes all of them a problem or two along the way.
The progression of their relationship is just fascinating to watch since it’s not forced and it definitely moves in that direction, but with all the usual insecurities and cultural isms that you’d expect. Kazehaya is definitely interested in her, but he takes a very slow approach that’s hard for her to figure out what’s going on, not that she has any real experience or knowledge of “feelings” that start hitting her. She’s so caught up in people being nice to her, which starts to go in small waves as she becomes more outgoing and that first group helps to make her realize how people want to know her. While I do enjoy the romantic aspect of the series that is worked over with the challenges that comes up with it at times, I’m far more impressed by the way it works in telling the tale of a young woman that was ostracized and begins to come into her own, realizing who she is. Having gone through that experience myself, it resonates really well and the flow of the story here worked really well.
A lot of what helps this is that the show has such a great visual design to it, both in the character animation and the backgrounds. Production I.G. really outdid themselves here when you get down to it as it handles the atmosphere in a way that’s definitely girlish in its own way but avoids going over the top or comical with a lot of the cliches. And it avoids going the Key/Visual Arts approach of being so overdone and blunt that it can dominate the scenes too much. With the character designs being as appealing as they are as well, keeping to the very Japanese look without the varied hair colors like blues, reds and purples, it builds the whole feel in a great way. While I do like the shows that go strong with its visual design, and it does here when you get down to it, there’s something very impressive with this show that kept me drawn in to just about all the scenes.
The first half of Kimi ni Todoke really won me over in just about every way. I had no knowledge of the show beforehand but the characters proved to be thoroughly engaging and the situations real world enough to be enjoyable with enough little twists to give it the tension and drama it needed to not feel overly forced. The lead characters definitely define the show but the supporting cast is critical to it as well and they help to expand the situations and make it feel like a fully lived in world. While this covers just the first half of the run, it’s made me a huge fan and has me wanting to re-watch it already to see the relationship play out again and view the characters through the hindsight I have now. This is a really fun show and the kind of romantic comedy drama series that hits all the right notes.
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: a
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Readers Rating: [ratings]
Released By: NIS America
Release Date: January 10th, 2012
Running Time: 273 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.