What They Say:
Narumi Fujishima isn’t your typical high school student. He’s never really fit in and has become increasingly more isolated from his fellow classmates. But he’s not alone, and when Ayaka, the sole member of the Gardening Club, introduces him to the reclusive girl who lives above the ramen shop, Narumi enters a whole new secret world. Alice is a NEET, someone who is Not Employed, being Educated or in Training, but as Narumi quickly discovers, that doesn’t mean that she does nothing all day.
In-between tending to her small army of stuffed bears, Alice is an expert hacker and a very exclusive private detective. To his surprise, Narumi finds himself drafted as one of the strange-but-elite team of associates that Alice has assembled from her NEET acquaintances. Together they’ll battle gangs, thieves, murderers, and drug lords. And in the middle of it all, Narumi will find his life changing forever!
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release comes with the original Japanese language track and an English language adaptation that are both presented in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that is largely dialogue focused with its design but it has some good moments of action that stand out well when they hit. But it’s more that they stand out compared to what surrounds it so it comes across a bit bigger and more noticeable than it is. The dialogue side of the show is very well handled with its directionality and placement along the forward soundstage with a few areas of solid depth as well when multiple characters are on screen. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread over two discs with eight episodes on the first and four on the second, though it’s worth noting the first episode is a double length one. Something we rarely see. This JC Staff series has a lot of really good detail to it as it works the real world environment in the kind of slummier side of town. There’s a rundown look to most of the locations and that makes the atmosphere of it work really well. Colors are muted but never murky as it retains the detail in the shadow aspects. The animation has a lot of fluidity to it when it runs in that area and the show has a high bitrate to help it avoid any problems such as cross coloration or macroblocking.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case to hold the two discs, both of which are against the interior walls. The front cover artwork is pretty good, though you can see it keeping a few people away from it as it shows off Alice in her standard otufit for the show looking over her shoulder. Her design is good but it definitely plays up the lolita angle and can make some people a bit uncomfortable. The blue hues used with the color design gives it a very cool feeling and it works very well with the case color itself. The back cover uses a lighter shade of blue as its main background piece which does make the small black print for the summary a bit hard to read. The use of the shots from the show is good and we get another shot of Alice that fits in with the show to some degree. The extras are clearly listed and the production information fills out who’s involved clearly. The technical grid covers everything accurately when it comes to the way the disc is designed. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty solid with a nice little twist that I like to its navigation structure. The overall look is straightforward with the cool blue filtered background that uses some of the key items from the franchise in general, such as the bear stuffed animal on the second disc. The color comes in some good looking shots from the show and the characters in general which is appealing and shows off a variety of backgrounds and characters in illustrative form. The navigation strip along the bottom, which doubles as the pop-up menu, has some nice layering to it and uses the large episode numbers that shows the episoed title when highlighted. Add in the “L” and “E” letters for language and extras as a short form and you have a good looking and very functional menu.
The only extras included on this set are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the ongoing light novel series by Hikaru Sugii and illustrated by Mel Kishida that began in 2007, Heaven’s Memo Pad is a twelve episode anime series that ran in the summer of 2011 from JC Staff. The show is one that plays with the NEET angle a bit, “Not Employed, being Educated or in Training” that impacts a growing number of Japanese. That’s sort of just a trapping through as the story is a more traditional detective stuff, just with a few more people involved that don’t really have a heck of a lot going on with their lives. With some very strong animation and designs, it’s a series that has a particular look under director Katsushi Sakurabi, no surprise there considering his other efforts, but it’s also one that goes only so far.
The series introduces us to Narumi, a sixteen year old high school student who has perfected not being noticed at school much and the ability to talk to others without knowing their names and getting away with it. You get the impression easily from the start that he’s hugely superficial when it comes to interacting with others, just a shell that helps to cover his more introverted personality that resides inside. And it’s one that is quite adept at many things, from design to interaction and even physicality, as these are all elements that get drawn out of him. What helps bring him out of that self imposed shell is meeting Ayaka, a fellow student that’s been interested in him for some time and nudges him to help her out in her Garden Club where she’s the only member. She also gets him to spend a little time together on the outside world, where he discovers something quite unexpected.
What this becomes, through a curious accident that occurs with Ayaka, is meeting a young girl named Alice who lives over a rundown ramen shop. Alice, who looks like she’s in middle school, has a lolita-ish look about her as she resides in this small, cold room where she has quite a lot of CPU power and a dozen or more monitors that ring a mattress and her stuffed animals. She’s of a peculiar personality, partially from the age to be sure, where she proclaims that she’s a NEET Detective, one of two classes of people that are the real historians of the world. With her skills in uncovering the truths of things that happen, to the pain of both the living and the dead, she sees herself as allied with the writers of the world who give life the things that have happened. Not that the writers have a place in this series though as it’s focused entirely on the detective side.
Narumi ends up becoming wrapped up in her dealings as a detective since she rarely leaves her room and uses a number of NEETs that inhabit the back alleys there and the ramen shop that helps to keep her fed, creating an amusing little family of sorts. They’re unfortunately more defined by personality quirk than name and there’s no time really given to their background, so they’re not really proper supporting players in the scheme of things. They do have their moments to shine and contribute a lot, but they feel undervalued overall. One of those that doesn’t get undervalued is the introduction of Soichiro, a young adult who is a co-founder of a NEET yakuza group that’s looking to stretch its wings into real business and not just the kind of standard yakuza stuff. His group factors in heavily and provides both action and humor along the way that works really well and helps to “man up” Narumi as he becomes bonded with them in a big way that doesn’t feel forced or done for comedy.
The series is an interesting one in how it works its stories as they tend to go over a couple of episodes, sometimes three or more, as it layers the different aspects of it. They’re not hugely engaging detective stories, dealing with a missing father who is involved in some drug issues, another arc that deals with a drug dealer and even an episode that spends its time letting the gang play baseball. That one worked out better than I thought it would since it uses some amusing detective skills. With the stories stretching out and not confined to just one episode, they’re not condensed and worked over quickly, instead having time to breathe and explore while letting the lead characters shine more. A lot of the focus really is on the relationship that grows between Narumi and Alice, especially since she gets easily embarrassed by the way some suggest (and her own mind suggests) there may be something more there, but a lot of it does come back to Ayaka as well, which has a lot of potential.
Heaven’s Memo Pad was a series I didn’t catch in simulcast form, so this marathon session was my first exposure. The show has a good deal of detailed style about it in that it’s crafting a particular low-rent world with some fun twists to play up on the whole NEET aspect. Alice herself has a lot to offer but is kept under control, to the shows advantage, instead letting it be more about Narumi and how his life works once he meets this diverse group of people and gets caught up in some of the requests that come to Alice. He has his own issues which are touched upon, too lightly I think, but we see someone who is really coming into his own that has a variety of skills and a personality that many would want to have in someone as a friend. Heaven’s Memo Pad may have less than memorable stories, but it creates a distinct detective story by focusing on the NEET crowd, the unusual yakuza group that aids them at times and the whole ramen shop structure in which they operate near. I liked the show a lot, but it’s one that either needed more episodes to really come out stronger or needed better detective stories itself in order to be more memorable. The cast is spot on but they’re almost a bit wasted in the mysteries they have to deal with.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: October 9th, 2012
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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.