What They Say:
They say look before you leap and make sure you can swim before you go in the deep water, but when a picture of his late grandfather falls into the ocean, Shima jumps in after it without thinking. Nearly drowning as a result, he is instead saved by a very perfect stranger… one whose strangeness extends to only being human from the waist up!
For Shima, who’s always felt like a fish out of water himself, it’s more than just a revelation, and the young man and merman quickly begin to bond in ways neither anticipated. And yet, it’s going to be far from easy sailing. After all, Shima and Isaki aren’t just from opposite sides of the tracks, they’re from entirely divergent species, and swimming in separate gene pools may make maintaining a long term relationship a whole different kettle of fish!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is not one that uses much to its mix when you get down to it but there’s a welcome ethereal feeling to parts of it that works well across the forward soundstage. The show is one that is pretty much all dialogue driven outside of a few areas of music that gives it a bit more life and the result is a show that lets the voices With some pretty good performances delivered here, the mix brings it to life well with some really good clarity and placement. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout an we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2012, the transfer for this short is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show has a distinct look about it in terms of its color choices and there’s a few areas of softness to it, but it’s more from the design of the animation itself as it wants to have that semi-experimental look about it with some rough looking sections. The general look is very strong and the backgrounds are quite solid and look great with the hues that are applied throughout it. When the show shifts to its high motion moments it maintains things well and has a lot of warmth to it because of the design choices made. The transfer captures it all very well here and it lets the particular look fo it all stand out well.
Presented in a standard size Blu-ray case, the front cover artwork here is really nicely done as we get some beautiful character artwork with a lot of styling about them and the background itself that makes it quite striking. The colors have a lot of pop and there’s some really good detail to it as well. The logo is kept simple along the bottom segment of it and the mixture of the blue of the case with the artwork helps to define it well. The back cover brings a few design elements from the show itself for a colorful background and we get an extensive look at the premise of the show. A few shots from the show are included and there’s a good breakdown of the production credits and a solid technical grid that covers everything clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the release is simple but effective as we get the character artwork in the foreground of Shima and Isaki which is bright and colorful when set against the blue undersea look behind them. The menu navigation is kept small and along the lower left that’s easy to use on startup and during playback. The release doesn’t have much to it beyond the show itself so languages and trailers are about all there is, which is quick and easy to access.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After checking out last year’s release of This Boy Can Fight Aliens which was done by Soubi Yamamoto, I was definitely intrigued to see what would come next. We get a few bits of experimental style anime here and there out of Japan, but very little of it is ever licensed for release since it often crosses out of traditional anime stylings. With this release of This Boy Caught a Merman, we get another dip into Yamamoto’s stylings that’s all about the dialogue, emotions and visual design. As a single length episode that runs just a touch longer, we get a rather good self contained story that delves into emotions more than you’d expect based on its run time. And it’s all done with a lot of good style and just two characters to it that are of note.
The show revolves around highschool student Shima who has had a rough time of it as of late, having lost his grandfather who had taken care of him after his parents divorced and forced him to choose who to go with. As he goes through his days, he’s found himself on the beach where he ends up meeting a merman that he eventually calls Isaki. Isaki, it turns out, has been watching him for a long time from the sea and has long wanted to meet him and spend time with him. That gets Shima to bring him home, pull out an important kiddie pool that he had as a child, and to spend his time hanging out with him. Amusingly, they watch This Boy Can Fight Aliens along the way as well, which makes for some nice referential material. Within the show itself, we get some good time as the two try and figure each other out a bit, especially from Shima’s part since a merman obviously isn’t normal and he’s just not sure what to make of it.
Because of the length of the show, it can obviously only go so far, but as it progresses we get a lot more background on Shima himself as we see the suffering he’s gone through and some really great exposition by him about the troubles he had when it came to being a young child and dealing with his parents. As it goes on and he gets more and more expressive in the present, there’s some wonderful emotion there as he delves into what tormented him, why he’s so lonely now and the way that Isaki forces him in his own way to experience more of life, more with friendships and those around him. But it’s when Isaki returns to the sea that it twists really well and Shima becomes such a force of emotional nature, passion and intense but with a certain layer of control, that you just like him all the more and realize there’s more to him in this single episode than a lot of other shows do over a season.
Similar to This Boy Can Fight Aliens, the show has a real strong sense of style about it that’s very, very appealing. While I liked that show, I did find that it felt a bit flat with some of its visuals and colors. With this one, everything has a whole lot more pop to it. It’s not exactly a lot more animated or anything, but it feels like some serious progression here in terms of visual storytelling that makes for a far more engaging world that the characters inhabit. The colors of the skies with the sunsets, the blue of the sea and the shimmering nature of a lot of it simply hits all the right notes, especially here in high definition.
Soubi Yamamoto’s works are hard to pin down in a way as there’s a lot going on under the surface, but they’re definitely works that I’m enjoying. With This Boy Caught a Merman, we get a show that deals with two men who find different levels of comfort in each other during a difficult time and each suffers in their own way before the truth beneath the surface is revealed. With the run time of just over a normal TV episode, there’s a lot going on here overall and when you dig into the emotions and feelings, especially for Shima, you can come away with a great appreciation for it and what it’s trying to convey. The beautiful visuals definitely help a whole lot as well in making this a very appealing show that you’ll want to share with others.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 10th, 2013
Running Time: 30 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.