What They Say:
Romance is a funny thing: you hear about it, read about, and dream about it, but it always seems to elude you… until it actually happens, in a way you never imagined it, and knocks you off your feet! At least, that’s how it seems to feel to young Ayumi and her friends, all just entering the eighth grade. One by one, they discover that love is infectious and you can catch it from anyone! Now Ayumi’s torn between two brothers, Koyoi has an altogether different kind of brother issue, and budding theatrical impresario Sumire seems ready to do anything to land her leading man.
Then there’s tom-boy Rika, aspiring artist Nao, Kei, who’s very “mature” for her age, and older girl Misaki who really is more mature. Oh, and the guys? They’re just as clueless and entangled in the complex web of relationships that’s called growing up!
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is standard in that we get the original Japanese track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. No English language track is available unfortunately. The show is pretty much dialogue driven with not much else outside of some good music cues and a few blurbs of action that’s just from sports of overactive moments. Because of this nature, it’s not a mix that really stands out once you get past the opening and closing sequences but it’s solid and serves the material well. 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 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs evenly with six in each. JC Staff did a very good job with the look and colors of this show, giving it a soft but defined look with the combination of line work and color palette to make it look very appealing. It’s not overly moody or atmospheric and keeps to a real world kind of look but it has a certain design to it that really hits well. The transfer captures these details and colors very well and makes it very easy to enjoy as there’s hardly any issues with it. Colors hold together well, line noise is nearly non-existent and cross coloration doesn’t exist.
The packaging for this release is standard in a regular keepcase that holds both discs with a hinge inside. The front cover is definitely making itself apparent with a look at three of the girls in the costumes that come from one of the episodes where they definitely look older than they are. It’s a very good look at the character designs that populates the show and the general color and style of it. The back cover uses light colors as well with a look at most of the girls as they ring around the piece. The center keeps to the summary which does its best to cover the concept of the show while also providing a look at the episode count and disc count along with the extras. The bottom section is standard as it brings in a look at the production credits for both sides of the equation and the technical grid which is clean and accurate with its information. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for Hatsukoi Limited is pretty good in the same way that the cover is as it’s split into a two thirds/one third layout. The left side has a look at the girls which gives us another view of their designs and the colors. The right side breaks down the episodes by number and title as well as the special features section. With the soft and natural colors, it really has a good look to it and I liked the addition of the little heart as the cursor. Submenus load quickly and easily and with the show being monolingual there’s no language selection. You can change the subtitles on the fly though.
The extras for this release are pretty good as we get the original brief shorts that the Japanese releases had which are a lot of fun as well as the clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the four volume manga series by Mizuki Kawashita, who was also responsible for Ichigo 100%, Hatsukoi Limited is a twelve episode series animated by JC Staff that ran during the spring season of 2009. The series is one that quickly reminded me of Boys Be… in many ways and that was highly appealing. From a story stand point there was a lot of allure but it was also made a lot more enjoyable through the use of the character designs and general color palette. There’s something almost a little nostalgic, rose colored and whimsical about it as it deals with a group of middle and high school student girls and the boys that cross into their lives, as well as a few siblings here and there.
A series like this is one that I’ll admit in some ways is difficult to talk about because it’s very well designed in how it shifts from one couple, or potential couple, and introduces us to the girls while expanding and showcasing the connections everyone has together. The series stands out well from the start by giving us a group of girls that are primarily in middle school but also focusing on a few that are in high school as well, bridging things through siblings that lets some of them know each other and to continually expand things. The opening story for example introduces us to Ayumi, a middle school girl who gets a confession from the scary high school boy that has fallen in love with her. While she copes with the fear of it all, we also see that there’s a connection to him through his brother who is in the same grade and class as some of her friends.
With a slate of girls to deal with, Hatsukoi Limited covers a lot of ground as one segues into the other, sometimes in the last few minutes, as you see others come into play. The various groups of girls are fun to watch as they’re all different. In the middle school group, I rather liked Kei. She plays the mature one of the group and is in a lot of ways, so much so that the one guy she’s seeing at first is twice her age and makes a lot of money. She drops him fast though when he proposes since that’s not what she wants. What becomes one of the main focuses of the series is the cold relationship she ends up developing with Kusada, a boy in her class that she continually calls a kappa and insults him regularly. It’s the kind of relationship where there’s interest on his side, but he knows he can’t go after her, and she’s focused on pretty faces and fights against herself with the way she’s warming up to him even if she can’t believe.
I also really liked Yamamoto, a high school girl who has no interest in guys at all and just doesn’t see herself as ever getting involved in a relationship in any way. She’s so oblivious to guys at one point that she crawls through a window and over a couple of middle school boys without realizing just how much of a thrill it is for them. She ends up sorta tricked into a relationship later on in the show, but I really enjoyed her kind of disaffected approach to things While she’s not that much older than the rest, she seems more mature in a lot of ways and seeing her maneuver between the various kids and their connection is just a lot of fun.
With some good romantic drama and comedy situations that come from all the pairings, some that are quickly arrived at and others that take the whole series to get to, what I liked even more is how they approached the character designs and fanservice for the show. While some of the outfits are a touch short and we get a couple of upskirt shots, it’s all done in a way that generally feels natural and realistic. Some of it obviously is just camera angles, but there’s more to it than that as we get the girls as seen by the guys where the girls are sometimes oblivious to how guys look at them. With some shows just shoving the boobs and butts into peoples faces, the approach here may be a little old school, but it feels fresh and well done, properly fitting for the ages overall and the target audience.
I knew nothing about Hatsukoi Limited going into it but I had liked the few pieces of artwork that I had seen. The show definitely hits all the right buttons from me with what I want when it comes to romantic comedy/dramas like this. It’s a series that delves into a variety of relationships, hidden feelings, desires and interests in a fun and engaging way while not making anything obsessive. You can get behind some more easily than others and they do kind of wrap some things up a little too neatly at the end, but all in all it was a great marathon session to get through over the course of a day. It left me smiling and enjoying the way it unfolded. And best of all, no supernatural elements, no science fiction and nothing else out of the ordinary for a welcome change of pace. Not even any childhood marriage promises! Hatsuoki Limited is the right kind of sweet with a good dose of honest sexiness about it as well.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Hatsukoi Shorts, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 31st, 2012
Running Time: 300 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.