When you put a bunch of high school girls together, something will happen.
What They Say:
Ever have a crazy best friend? The kind who jumps out of windows, makes robot clones of herself, and (accidentally) punches teachers in the gut?
Torako does all these things and more. She’s a force of nature, and thanks to her, nothing at Kamizono Academy ever goes quite as planned. Looking for the right classroom turns into a comical case of breaking and entering. Sketching fellow students in art class turns into a racy photo shoot. No one can predict what Torako will do next, but wherever she and her friends go, laughter is sure to follow.
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this series is kept simple as we have just the original Japanese language in stereo encoded at 192kbps. The series is a pretty straightforward high school comedy show with a few outlandish moments here and there that’s ramped up a bit with the sound effects. There are usually a fair number of characters on the screen at any given time and with a few internal monologues along the way, you can have a few voices going at any given time. The mix handles it easily enough and nothing stands out in a bad way as it plays out, but it does give it a decent flow overall. There isn’t a lot in terms of depth or placement as it works rather standard forward soundstage design but the whole thing comes across clear and clean overall without any dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2008, 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 episode series is spread across three discs in a four/four/five format, giving each disc plenty of space to work with overall. Animated by Nippon Animation, the show has a pretty good look about it with some solid colors, a good bit of vibrancy in a few places and a smooth look overall as the fast action sequences play out. There’s a lot of standing around kind of comedy to be sure, but they go the extra distance in terms of animating the flow of the girls skirts and some hair flips here and there. The show has a good transfer overall and the colors look great between both the foreground character animation and the background designs.
The packaging for this release is pretty good as we get the three discs inside a single sized keepcase where all the discs are against the interior walls. The front cover has a good bit of orange to it in the background alone with some black and white starbursts across it, but there’s also the “photograph” style applied on top of it where we get the four main girls in their school uniforms, which has a fair bit of orange throughout it because of their uniforms and the sidewalk itself. The logo is small and simple as most of the focus is on Torako’s big smile. The back cover does things a little different as it’s a sideways piece with more orange drawn over from the front. Torako takes center stage here with hands out but there are others that show up in more manga-like form in the background done in just blacks and oranges. There are a few full color shots from the show that are cute and a decent summary of the premise. The shows features and technical grid lays out everything clearly and accurately as well. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the series is pretty cute and properly themed as we get a plaid background, orange on the first and third volumes and blue for the second, which has the logo overlaid on it and a white block that has the menu navigation, which is kept simple. The left side features different character artwork configurations for each volume that looks really nice and adds some vibrancy and fun to it while also including the volume number. Submenus load quickly and it’s easy to get where you need to be, whether it’s episode selection or the extras themselves.
The extras for this release are pretty good as we get the clean opening and closing sequences and a healthy selection of liner notes, which are always great to see. They don’t go into a huge amount of detail but there’s some good fleshing out of things across the series run that we learn here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Haruaki Kaot which began back in 2007 and has six volumes to its name so far as it’s still ongoing to this day, Hyakko is a thirteen episode series that aired at the end of 2008. The show didn’t have a ton of material to work off of so it has an interesting mix of original and adapted pieces here since it goes with the different length segments to work with. What’s really interesting is that when we get the episode titles throughout the series, they include a number with many of them which indicates which chapter of the manga that it was taken from. The show works out of order when it comes to these chapters – the last episode does a prequel story of sorts as well – so Hyakko becomes a show where it’s best to just enjoy the characters and the situations of the moment rather than look for anything substantial story wise.
The series introduces us to a high school in Kyushu called Kamizono Academy, which takes an interesting approach of being a massive school that holds all the grades from elementary through high school on its campus, which results in something like three thousand students that go there. Not that you see a lot of them as it focuses just on the high school segment with some mild nods towards a future subplot with a couple of younger kids that get a few scenes here and there. The size of the school is interesting because as we see in the first episode with some of the newer students that have transferred in, and those that have been there since first grade, That does give it the right feel and it helps to expand what the setting is like in a good way without overstating it.
The show revolves around four primary characters and a number of supporting characters that add to the fun, though pretty much all of them work off of standard archetypes that aren’t expanded that much in this short season. Everything is ostensibly told through the eyes of Ayumi, a new student there who gets lost early on and is just doing her best to fit in and make friends. She ends up meeting Tatsuki early on and realizes she’s just as lost as she is. Tatsuki brings in the well bred student archetype with lots of money that doesn’t realize it, but doesn’t overplay it either as she is just who she is. The two of them find themselves eerily drawn to Torako, an outgoing and vibrant girl who leaps from a second story window. The pair end up in her thrall in a way as they end up bonding into a decent group along with Torako’s longtime friend Suzu, a character that marches to the beat of her own drum.
With the structure of the series, they run through a variety of standard high school gags that are certainly familiar enough. What makes it fun as it goes along is the way that it doesn’t run a particular story into the ground and just lets it run its course without overstaying its welcome. The characters are what defines it as they joke and mess with each other, particularly with the introduction of Andou, the class president who has dreams of becoming student council president after seeing the current one being so involved in the student body. Of course, part of her interest is that she’s very, very into women and has a certain flair and sense of style about her that lets her take things just a notch above. Andou has plenty of fun bits throughout as she tries to be dominating and controlling but often just gets caught up in the girls and how they appeal to her that she can’t stop the nosebleeds or the drooling that comes along with it.
The show doesn’t exist with just girls though as there are a few guys that come into play a swell. Yanagi is the profiteer of the series as he takes lots of pictures of the girls to sell and that ends up getting his friend Shishimaru a bit hooked on Torako when he finds out about her, though at first Ayumi thinks she’s into him which leads to some silly moments. The real troublemaker for the guys though is Kitsune, who looks a lot like a fox so there’s no surprises about his personality there based on both that and his name. But he brings a little more to the table in that he’s Torako’s older brother, and the pair have an older sister in school as well. That provides for some of the drama in the second to last episode which is a bit out of place overall as it goes with what a lot of series do when it comes to comedies in trying to shoehorn in some serious material just before the end so that there’s more there than just comedy. But with the family issues that Torako has, it’s something that works in the manga because it can be explored, but in the context of just this one season it was pretty much just wasted space.
One of the things that helps to elevate the series a bit is the work done by Nippon Animation here with the look of the show. There’s a good vibrancy to it, particularly through the character designs uniforms with the black and orange mix that we don’t often get, but also just in the backgrounds with the school and the grounds themselves. It doesn’t overdramatize it or make it more atmospheric than it should be, but it’s a bit above average and is certainly noteworthy overall. When the show runs through some of the more active scenes, the colors and fluidity really stands out even more. But there’s also the way the character designs work in that we get some really big eyes here, very dominating eyes, and they’re just so full of life that you can’t help but to enjoy looking at them.
With a series of this nature, it’s hard to really pin down something about it in a way beyond it does what it sets out to do, which is to just have fun with the characters and situations. None of the small stories are mindblowing but there are a lot of cute and fun bits along the way because the characters make it so, particularly when Andou gets involved and pervs up the place a bit. Torako is a bit much to take at times because she is that outgoing character that gets involved in everything and she is pretty dominant throughout the show, though Andou gives her plenty to deal with. The characters are fun overall and the gags silly while still kept to real world situations, such as dealing with finding a club to join or just coping with the day to day existence in high school, teachers and all that. What helps to make it a bit more enjoyable beyond the norm is the animation and designs as they are quite engaging and simply fun to watch.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Liner Notes, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Lucky Penny Entertainment
Release Date: April 2nd, 2013
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.