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Kimikiss: Pure Rouge Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

11 min read

Welcome to the anime where the oxymoron “spectacularly average” is amazingly descriptive.

What They Say:
Kouichi always thought of Mao as his little sister, but when she returns after living in France for several years, she’s definitely not his little sister anymore! Which makes the fact that Koichi’s mom has invited Mao to stay at their house while she attends the same high school a path fraught with peril. Especially since Kouichi’s been trying to build a relationship with Yuumi, and the revelation that the cute new house guest is a non-related girl may become a full blown disaster by the time his best friend Kazuki, her sister Nana, her best friend Narumi, Asuka, Eriko, Mitsuki, Megumi, Eiji and all the other kids at school get overly involved.

The Review:
KimiKiss is a show that was licensed and for whatever reason- age, potential market or just the financial situation of Sentai at the time- was judged to not be a good investment decision for getting a dub. As a result of this the only language track present on the release is a 2.0 Japanese one. The series is a quieter type overall then a number of other romantic comedies and as such the range of the scope needed to cover the audio in the release doesn’t have to have as broad a reach as some other tracks. The series is often a bit quiet and mellow which the audio track does a fairly good job of reflecting as it solidly delivers the dialogue without any drops or distortions or without having some parts be so quiet the only reason anyone knows something was said was because of a subtitle.

There was one translation slip noticed as the subtitle reads “Godzilla” as opposed to Gorilla-despite the gorilla costume being in picture but it was the only flub that stood out while watching.

Originally airing late in the 2007 television season and then carrying over to the early part of 2008, KimiKiss is presented here in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and it receives an anamorphic widescreen encode for this release. KimiKiss is a closer to reality type of romantic series and as such it tends to move at a less frantic pace which limits the need for the series to use a lot of quick animation to convey the pace. In conjunction with that pace, the series gives off a bit a more tempered aproach which is accentuated by the series use of more soothing and pastel colors than the bolder and more striking side of the color spectrum.

Unfortunately this is the extent of the positives as the authoring of the disc leaves a good bit to be desired and there is also at least one flaw that looks like it is materials related that serves as a major negative. First, the stuff that maybe more authoring related- in the release there is a rather uneven level of noise that ranges from not very noticeable to outstandingly distracting at times which tag teams up with some blocking, combing, banding and aliasing to throw a bit of a wrench in the works.

On the other side there are some ghosting, obvious CGI moments that don’t blend well, background environments that can bleed through foreground characters and a softness that is almost certainly intentional given the color scheme and pacing which could be split as to if the authoring of the disc of materials are to blame. What isn’t easy to track down though is the bizarre and often incredible distracting aliasing that can make characters look like they have serious jaggies or outright dashed lines rather than solid ones for their outline. When talking with some people they pointed out not all the episodes had this (by the later episodes it was so distracting I forgot the early on lack of problems) and given that a few episodes on the same disc don’t suffer the same fate this flaw is probably not Sentai or their replicating companies fault (at least entirely) but that doesn’t make it any less distracting.

The packaging for this release uses a Stackpak case where all four of the series discs stack on a center spindle type holder and which also contains a foam piece that is used to help keep the discs from slipping off the spindle during transit. The cover for the release uses a good deal of pastels and white that show off the softer side of the release while also mixing in three rather large images that include the main girls, including a “photo” of the lead four on the front and a large image of one of the girls on the spine and back. The discs also play off the photo look as each one features one of the main girls caught either in an environment or pose that helps demonstrate their character.

*A note- whoever wrote the copy either didn’t see the series or figured that the idea of making Mao seem like a little sister to Kouichi played better somehow in creating a narrative for selling the series as Mao is in fact a year older than Kouichi and he refers to her as “big sister” in the anime.

The menu for the release tries to continue with the high school-ish feel as the right side of the menus use a lined pink stationary design to list the episode titles and the “sheet of paper” is then laid over a pastel purple background with some pink shapes to help give some color. The left side of the screen each feature an image of one of the girls (sometimes with an item that they are associated with during the series) against a reddish pink “card” to help their headshot stand out while the series logo is placed below them. Though somewhat simple in design due to the lack of submenus the menu mechanics themselves aren’t skimped on and the menu responds quickly to changes in highlighted selections and the selections themselves are implemented with minimal delay.

The only extras present are the somewhat standard clean open and close.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The roots of KimiKiss Pure Rouge date back to the Playstation 2 system and a dating simulation game released on the system by the company Enterbrain. The game obviously touched a never as it has spawned its own little media franchise with light novels and manga adaptations having been added in addition to the anime.

The series starts out with the return of Mao Mizusawa to Japan from France where she has been living after her parents moved there. Mao has convinced her parents that it will be easier for her to enter college in Japan if she attends her final year of high school there and to aid her she will be staying at the home of childhood friend Kouichi Sanada who is entering his second year of high school along with Kazuki Aihara and once again the three childhood friends are reunited after a fashion.

The school trimester starts off in a speedy fashion as Kouichi discovers he is again in the same class with the girl he has admired from a far during the previous year and whose mannerisms indicate she might have feelings for him. Not to be left out Kazuki sees a paper airplane floating through the air and when he opens it he sees a test score of “o” on it but which he can’t believe as the girl whose name is on it is rumored to be a genuine genius. When he tracks the airplane back to the science lab it came from he discovers a bored Eriko Futami who claims she is going to perform an experiment and then proceeds kisses him, catching him completely off guard. Meanwhile Mao also finds a bit of romance as she meets a quiet and very tall young man in her class who she becomes drawn to.

But love isn’t easy at any point in time and it can be particularly difficult when it isn’t just two people’s affections to take into account but also the introduction of a third can appear. In Kazuki’s case this comes in the form of Asuka Sakino who is one of the more talented (if not most) soccer players in the school but who is at a disadvantage as the school doesn’t have a girl’s team so she can only scrimmage with the boys. During one of these matches Kazuki managed to strip the ball from her and she has become determined to bring up his skill to a competitive level, though this determination may also be a mask for her deeper feelings.

And love doesn’t get any easier as people start to watch others fall in and they realize just what their heart truly wants when they feel the twinge when talking to that person about their new love interest or when meeting them walking as a couple on the street. As realizations bloom decisions will have to be made which can be made even more difficult as they will bring pain to someone else they care for.

Along the way the series also introduces a number of other characters who will fill out the roster and grant a bit of depth to the illusion that this might be like a real high school with its numerous other students, some of whom will interact with the characters and become more than just faces in the crowd. To this end the audience will meet Kazuki’s younger sister Nana and her friend Narumi Satonaka who meet thanks to similar interest in plush characters and form their own Udon club, the film club president (and only official and voluntary member) Akira Hiiragi who will drag the characters into his plan to film a movie for the schools cultural fest, Eiji Kai who finds himself smitten with Mao as well as a couple other characters who fill in some holes (though saying they round out some tropes would also be a fair description as well).

As events build to the school’s cultural fair emotions will be laid bare as a deadline looms in a number of ways for some characters, not just in terms of the need to perfect the talents they will be showing off for their club activities but in the form of the kinds of things that can spring up on minors who find themselves subject to the decisions and working situations that their parents have to deal with in their world. With the stage set and the curtain set to fall who will be able to discover their true feelings and follow through on them with all their heart and who is going to find that they are going to wind up with a bitter-sweet memory of love that never was meant to be?

One of the inescapable realities that comes with being an anime fan is the knowledge that a good deal of series are based off titles that made a splash in another format, with manga, light novels and video games being among the leaders when it comes to what anime gets based off. For the most part though this isn’t necessarily all that different that Hollywood with its rather sizable collection of remakes, book adaptations, the occasional video game and as of late more than a few comic books or cartoons. Original can be overrated as well as it doesn’t necessarily mean good, it can just mean this is the first place the idea has been trotted out so it really all comes down to the writing.

KimiKiss’s writing team sends up a bit of a warning sign right from the start though as rather than try to pick a single route from the dating simulation source they split the main character into two characters so they can cover more ground. While this can work in theory, when applied in practice here it works to lower the amount of time the audience has with a specific couple and while it may mean a bit more face time for the other girls it feels like an emotional copout-and certainly not the only one the writers go for.

As other series have shown far more successfully what can help an audience connect with a character is the flaws the character has and what really brings the emotional impact is when the characters extend themselves out of their comfort zone which can both leave them open for the pain that can follow but also risks the chance that they may reveal a side that can cause the audience to turn away from them. KimiKiss’s writers seemed to want to avoid this though and few of the characters ever show an incredible passionate side and the few times they do they seem to move on with little indication of the deep pain that should accompany such a result if they truly felt like they claim to.

It is in this emotional disconnect that the series just fails to resonate. With characters who seem to be distant (other than the one who is written to be so intentionally) the whole series just comes across as a work that is solidly written (with the exception of the incredibly unnecessary film club movie that telegraphs much of the second half of the series) and solidly acted but which lacks a place for the audience to connect with the characters in more than a surface kind of way. Sure one might feel happy for a couple, or kind of sad for the rejected character but it never manages to grab the emotions and deliver a feeling of triumph for the people who come to realize their love or pull out tears from the viewer so they can share in a character’s loss. This lack of provoking a passionate response is probably the biggest element in the series falling short as without a desire to empathize with the characters a special bond can’t be formed.

In Summary:
KimiKiss Pure Rouge is a series that is remarkably solid in most of the aspects it brings to the table from character design to story to acting (leaving aside the bizarre animation flaws most of the series seems to have picked up somewhere). It presents a tale of three childhood friends and the loves lost and found among them and some of their friends as the journey through the better part of one year in their high school lives. While the structure is sound, what is presented here is largely a series that takes no chances as if afraid the audience might come to hate some characters and as such never fails but never wins either as it never manages to reach a point where it actually elicits some of the deeper emotions that these type of shows can create. It is the kind of show that one can point to and say “this is an example of how to do particular parts strongly” but “strongly” isn’t the same as “well” and it certainly it doesn’t rise past that to exceptional as it just lacks emotional resonance and given that is the point of a romantic themed show it means the target has been missed.

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

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: D+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 6th, 2012
MSRP: $69.98
Running Time: 625 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung 50″ Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.

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