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Supernatural: The Animation Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

New takes and new stories with the Winchesters in anime form.

What They Say:
The otherworldly TV phenomenon that is Supernatural makes history entering another world: as the first-ever liveaction television show to be reimagined as an anime series. Madhouse Studios produces the show with the blessing of original series creator Eric Kripke. With storylines mirroring Supernatural’s first two seasons plus supplemental tales derived from prequels and spinoffs, this 3-disc, 22-episode collection expands the dimensions of the familiar Winchester mythology.

Journey down the backroads of America with brothers Sam and Dean as they search for clues to their father’s disappearance, hunt down the supernatural in all its unearthly forms, and enter into the unexpected mystery of their destinies.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid for the English language side of it as we get that using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec and in 5.1 as well. The Japanese side doesn’t make out anywhere near as good as that just gets a standard Dolby Digital stereo track encoded at 192kbps. The series uses the forward soundstage well with some solid directionality throughout that helps to make the mood feel right and enhances the story. The dialogue gets some good placement and the use of voices and spirits definitely makes it a fun show to watch with how the mix is laid out. The music and incidental sounds add to it in a pretty natural way but it never comes across as something that overly dominates or distracts from the actual story itself. Though it may not stand out in a huge way, there’s a lot to like with the mix for both language tracks, though getting used to the English voice actor for Jensen Ackle’s character for a lot of it does take some getting used to.

Originally released 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 twenty-two episodes of the series are spread evenly across the two discs with eleven on each plus a fair amount of extras as well. The series uses a lot of dark colors in general and they tend to hold up pretty well, though there are a few scenes where it has a bit of a grainy look that’s generally done for effect, but it introduces some mild additional noise and blocking in the darker of colors. The show generally has a good look about it since it’s not a high action piece for a lot of it and there’s a solid feeling to it that works well with both the character animation and the backgrounds. There’s a good bit of detail and some very fluid scenes when it gets active and in general there’s just a whole lot to like here as Warner knows how to encode a disc at this point. It avoids any problems such as cross coloration or line noise but those few bits of blocking and background noise get distracting, but aren’t a surprise considering how much they did put on the disc.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard size Blu-ray .case with an a slide in slipcover that replicates the artwork of the case itself. The front cover has a good look at the two leads in their usual attire that lets you know how the actual actors are being adapted and theres plenty to like with it as they generally do a decent design for them. Of course, it’s not the same thing, but you know who is who easily enough and they carry it off right. The back cover goes for a simple approach with mostly dark and murky colors with a decent tagline across the top and a lot of shots from the show that highlights the characters and some of what they face. The premise for the series isn’t gone into all that much but its connection with the live action show and the unique nature of this series is what’s covered. the discs features are clearly listed and th technical information is all over the place and not laid out in an easy to read fashion. The keepcase uses the same front cover as previously mentioned while the back cover goes simple with a variety of colorful shots from the show itself. The booklet enclosed is really nice as ti breaks down all twenty-two episodes and tells you which original episodes they’re adapted from and which ones are anime originals. Add in a nod to the voices actors for the two leads in both languages on the back and you have a good booklet. The release does not have a reversible cover.

The menus for this release are decent overall, though they have some of the usual quirks of a Warner release when it comes to language selection, since it backs out once you make a selection on one thing while still wanting to adjust another. The main menu is a standard static image that puts the two brothers together in a pretty moody piece The colors work well with the darker look but with the bright spots and it has a lot of darkness behind them with some of the key visuals from the series itself. THe logo is kept simple but in tune with the live action series as well, which works nicely. Submenus load up from the bottom relatively quickly but with a touch of lag in some places and everything is easy to navigate. I especially continue to like that they do list the episodes and extras for all discs in the set so you can see what’s on the other volumes.

The release has a copious amount of extras across the two discs that will definitely please fans of both sides of the equation. The first disc has a making of that clocks in at just under thirty minutes which brings in the original creator and the two leads along with the Japanese side of the production to talk about how it was developed and brought to life. The two Japanese directors for Madhouse also get an interview segment that runs about thirteen minutes which has them talking about the adaptation process and keeping the right tone. There’s also four separate interviews that runs about fifty minutes total that has Eric Kripke talking about the differences between the show and then pieces with the two original series stars together and separately talking about their experiences.

The second disc has the second making of feature which runs a solid forty-one minutes and goes into a lot of detail and exploration of how the adaptation process went, the voice cast and even the music side of it to try and capture the same tone as the live action series. The two main Japanese voice actors get their own separate interview segments which totals another thirty minutes and we also get the original Japanese trailers for the series. There’s a lot for both the English and Japanese fans to get into here and a lot of educational and interesting aspects to how the series was made.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The existence of the Supernatural anime series is something that is quite surprising. While the TV show that airs on the CW network has been going on for several seasons, it certainly struggled early on and during part of when this was made, making it a dicey bet in general that I’m not sure if it actually paid off or not. Yet with as many seasons as the show has run, I’ve seen more of it in tumblr fandoms than the actual show itself, which never really drew me in. But my daughter has been scarfing down the seasons so I’ve heard about it a lot in the last few months. What this season does is interesting though in that it adapts stories from the first two seasons of the live action show while also doing quite a few original stories as well.

Supernatural deals with the brothers Sam and Dean Winchester as they’re part of a tradition in their family of being hunters that deal in the surnatural. Their father was a hunter and the older son Dean was brought into it early after the death of their mother while his younger brother Sam stayed out of it for the longest time, trying to have a normal life. Unfortunately, things went south for him with the loss of his girlfriend along the way and he ended up working with Dean and their father. But the show doesn’t keep John Winchester in the show often, but he has some solid appearances throughout working with them together, individually and a good episode on his own as well. But mostly we get a lot of episodes with the brothers together going through their stories where they deal with various sorts of supernatural elements, some that are episodic and others like the multi-season background threat of the Yellow-Eyed Demon that has long been the bane of John Winchester and his sons. The show also works to explore the characters pasts decently enough, connecting it to the present and tying it to the hunt for the Yellow-Eyed Demon well enough, giving it a very well rounded approach overall.

The nature of the show itself is certainly interesting as a good number of the episodes are adapting the original live action show in half the time with some twists and different focuses, but also an obviously different approach to how the supernatural aspects look in animation form. Having not seen the originals, I can’t say how well they rework them, but there’s something to be said for taking a live action episode and cutting it down in half and tightening it up. What we get is something that deals with the core of the stories but removes some of the charm and humor from it, the more laid back aspects that come from a longer running show. This gives us a show that’s more focused on the core story itself and the larger elements of the Supernatural world. And that does work pretty well overall, though it definitely plays some of the usual structural elements that anime episodes work with.

Since it is working with a lot of established material, the anime original episodes have a different flavor about them since they’re not trying to compress and rework what has come before. Instead, they’re a little slower paced and allowed to breathe while trying to dabble in the American settings and largely getting it right. But we also get a couple of very Japanese things here, including an episode in Vegas focusing on the god of poverty taking an interest in Dean and causing his life to suck for awhile, which I think was my favorite of the episodes. We also have some kappa material that comes into play which actually tells a really nice story about one of the supernatural aspects and that not everything supernatural is evil, which is one of the underlying themes of the series.

In Summary:
While the show does deal with some of the key moments of the first two seasons with what it adapts and how it reworks it, it does in the end basically stick to standard supernatural anime fare. We get varying combinations of leads dealing with supernatural issues and the fallout from it and the underlying larger things that are going on with the connections that crop up to the brothers and there’s definitely a familiarity to it if you’ve watched any amount of anime. The series doesn’t really drive a great connection to the characters, but part of that comes from the way it jumps around with original episodes from the first two seasons and the mix of original ones. In the end, I liked the show a good bit and enjoyed the stories, but it didn’t compel me to want to start watching the live action series. By all appearances it doesn’t have quite the charms of the actors in the series simply because of the tightness of the episodes, but there’s plenty to enjoy here with the titular aspect of it as the supernatural side is fun to watch unfold.

English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, , English subtitles, Spanish subtitles, French subtitles, Thai subtitles, Chinese subtitles, The Making of Supernatural: The Anime Series, Interviews with Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Series Creator Eric Kripke, Directors Shigeyuki Miya and Atsuko Ishizuka and Voice Actors Hiroki Touchi and Yuuya Uchida, Episode Introductions by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, Trailers, TV Spots

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+

Released By: Warner Home Video
Release Date: July 26th, 2011
MSRP: $54.97
Running Time: 499 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
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.

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