You can leave the village, but the village never forgets you.
What They Say:
When Kyohei Kuga moves to Tokyo to escape the strictures of life in a small town, he thinks he’s left his old life behind. But when he discovers a bloody corpse, he also discovers that the past isn’t so easily left behind – especially when the past is as unusual as Kyohei’s. You see, back in his home town, Kyohei was a “seki”: an individual able to control “kakashi,” ancient wooden gods capable of incredible feats, with his mind. Now it seems that there’s a kakashi loose in Tokyo, and it just may be up to Kyohei to stop it and its seki.
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as we get a pair of tracks in stereo encoded using the lossless DTS-HD MA codec. The show has a good mix of action and dialogue scenes so it balance things out well and each side is well represented. Most of it is naturally dialogue based with some incidental music which works the forward soundstage well as the characters move across the screen. The cast handles the material well with plenty of variance to how the dialogue is handled and it’s well placed and has depth where needed. The action sequences ramp it up a bit more and while it doesn’t go huge, as it’s not quite appropriate for this series, it has some strong scenes and definitely stands out against the dialogue based scenes.
Originally airing in 2011, the transfer for this thirteen episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Brains Base, Kamisama Dolls has a very good look about it with a strong flow to the animation, well done coloring that’s not overly vibrant but has life to it and a good bit of detail throughout with regularly changing clothes and locales. The transfer captures the look of the series just right with mostly solid colors and very smooth looking animation when it really shines. The series was one that I liked its visual presentation during simulcast and in this form it definitely takes it up several notches and provides a strong looking release.
The packaging for this release is really well done as we get a single sized Blu-ray case that holds both of the discs against its interior walls. The front cover, framed by the blue of the case, is all about the white with a blank background that allows the character artwork of Kyohei and Utao to stand out, even against the softer white image of the kakashi. The logo is kept simple and the colors are minimal overall but it has a good flow about it and easily draws the eye. The back cover works the white background as well but it blends in some blue as the white is all about the clouds. The character artwork is decent as we get Hibino and Utao together as well as a few shots from the show itself. The discs extras are clearly listed as is the production credits. The technical grid lays everything out in a clean and clear fashion with everything listed accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for Kamisama Dolls isn’t weak per se, but it’s a touch less in-theme than we’ve had for some other Sentai releases. The right side has the navigation, which doubles as the pop-up navigation, where it has the episode numbers and titles with submenu selections easily accessible at the bottom. The layout of the text is simple and without much to really define it as it’s just a straight down standard font. The left side has a lot of character artwork and open background, with the first one featuring a cute pairing of Hibino and Utaoi outside while the second has them in a more relaxed indoor mode. Everything loads quickly and easily with no problems in setting up languages or access episodes or extras.
The extras for this release pretty good as we get the standards here in the clean opening and closing sequences as well as a selection of the original commercials. The really enjoyable extra here is the inclusion of the original shorts, which are cute 2-3 minute pieces that take a playful and fanservice oriented approach to things, including some slightly awkward swimsuit aspects.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series of the same name by Hajime Yamamura, Kamisama Dolls is a thirteen episode series animated by Brains Based. The manga began back in 2007 and has eleven volumes to date as it’s a monthly title and doesn’t have a huge amount of material. The series here, which we saw previously in simulcast form on a weekly basis, is one that definitely feels like the story from a first light novel. There’s some solid build up here and more than enough room to grow it but you still get a sense of closure to the story at focus here. Coming from a seinen magazine, there’s a lot to like about this show since it doesn’t follow the usual route of weekly battles and little accomplished.
The series revolves around Kyohei Kuga, a university student in Tokyo who has come from a remote village. His arrival there recently has gone well as someone from his village resides there already, helped set him up with a place and he even goes to college with his daughter, an attractive and very busty young woman named Hibino. Kyohei’s your average guy in a lot of ways where he’s one of the good ones and we see how Hibino is the highly sought after one in the school, though she turns everyone down without coming across as cold or distant. She’s simply not interested in that at this time in her life. Because they’re both technically from the same village, though she has little knowledge of it, it gives Kyohei an in to get closer to her, but it can go only so far.
Things change quickly though when they discover a murder near the party where they’re at, which is tied to the village as they soon discover that an escaped criminal from there has come to Tokyo to find Kyohei. It’s from here that we start to learn more of what’s really going on as it turns out that the village protects a secret where there are several “gods” that certain people can control them, which are called Seki. Kyohei was a Seki for some time but gave up that power, while the man whose come to kill him, Aki, was one as well until he lost his. These gods, called kakashi, are interesting wooden devices of sorts that are of a decent size that allow the Seki to view things through them, have considerable strength and a rare Seki can actually cause it to shoot out its power in a forceful manner.
The arrival of Aki in Tokyo is something that definitely puts Kyohei on edge, and starts to clue in Hibino about what’s going on, but it gets a little more out of control with the arrival of his younger sister, Utao. She’s taken on the role of Seki, which is fairly well respected in the village, but she has the young girl aspect to it by being around middle school age, impulsive and definitely possessive of Kyohei, something that makes for complications when she discovers Hibino, her mature and attractive looks and the way she realizes that kyohei is definitely into her even if she’s not into him. Yet. Because of the murder and the arrival of Aki, the pair end up staying with Hibino and her father, made all the more obvious when Aki trashes Kyohei’s college apartment. This sets into motion a sort of back and forth for a good part of the series as Aki has his issues with Kyohei and Kyohei wants to protect everyone.
The series spends its time doing a lot of interesting things with the dynamic between Utao, Hibino and Kyohei as Hibino is drawn into things and Utao works on mastering more of her abilities over her kakashi. The three get explored fairly well while the backdrop of what Aki is up to there, and there’s also some other elements that are orchestrating things that come in towards the end that throws it for a loop. But seeing the main three operate is what makes the show work as it’s relaxed for a lot of it but also deals with some good emotions. There’s a brutal moment where Kyohei comes across Aki and when Aki makes a threatening move towards Hibino, he’s just intense with how he takes him down, so much so that it really shocks Hibino and shows a side of the nice guy that nobody really could imagine.
There’s also some good exploration of the past, which helps explains a lot of what’s going on in the present, as the group heads back to the village to find out more of what’s been happening. Seeing the dynamic between Kyohei and Aki when they were younger is really interesting since there’s so much going on with their being Seki and how it was dealt with by others and their jealousies, and also the deadly impact of it. It goes in some unexpected directions and really feels out of place, but a welcome kind of out of place as you didn’t see certain elements of it coming. With it tying in to what Aki is doing in general, and why so many people are hunting him down after he escaped (or was set free, as the case may be), it explains the reputation he has and makes the actions so many take all the more understandable.
While there is a certain closure that we get here and it does have a feeling of being a first novel kind of thing, there’s definitely so much more that you want out of it but can still feel satisfied about. I enjoyed the series a good deal when it first came out and I watched the simulcast and seeing it in this form helps to tie things together in a much clearer and cleaner form in watching it over the course of a day. The series has a really good look that’s strong and competent without taking shortcuts, the story is engaging and largely deals with characters outside of the usual school age and it layers a few things with some surprising twist and engaging characters. Kamisama Dolls is a solid series worth spending time with and this release does it justice.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Shorts, Japanese Promos, Japanese Commercials, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 19th, 2013
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.