What They Say:
After battling dangerous creatures once existing only in legend, Princess Tamaki begins to deal with her uncertain future as the new Tamayori Princess. Once she claims her rightful place as the protector of the universe, high school will seem like a breeze – but whether she lives to accept that future is another matter altogether.
Her five guardians – handsome, powerful young men of great power and undeniable loyalty – have vowed to sacrifice everything to protect her. But are any of them able to deal with a traitor in their midst? And how can anyone deal with such important issues while still maintaining a high GPA?
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release brings us a pair of audio tracks with the original Japanese track and the new English dub both done using the lossless DTS-HD MA codec. The show is one that works the dialogue side well because it’s layered with some good incidental music to make it fairly atmospheric and that leaves the forward soundstage sounding quite good. It’s the kind of show where the quiet scenes can add a lot to things because of the shift to the subtle music along the way. The series works well with dialogue placement and directionality across several instances but it also does a solid job with the action. Though not as huge a part of the show as it could be, it’s an area that definitely shines well when it hits as it has a really good sense of impact and bass to drive home the way it works. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2012, 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 show is spread across two discs with nine episodes on the first and four on the second. The series, coming from JC Staff, was one that really drew me in during its simulcast run and it looks even better here with the colors, depth and vibrancy of so many scenes. The backgrounds are just gorgeous here in so many areas to build atmosphere and it works well because it feels so detailed and striking, drawing you into it all the more. The transfer brings it all to life in a great way here, balancing those quiet and near static scenes with the really well choreographed action scenes that are very fluid and beautifully animated.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with two discs inside that are held against the interior walls. The case doesn’t work too badly with the artwork here, giving it a touch more lightness to it than the DVD case with its blue. The front cover works nicely as we get the six main men of the series together with mostly headshots of them with Tamaki in the middle. It’s a good looking cover overall even if it doesn’t feature the lead character in the slightest. The back cover uses the same darker reds and oranges with a few leaves scattered across it and it’s kind of surprising how easy it is to read the premise over it. We get a small shot of Tamaki and Takuma here and a good selection of shots from the show that highlights the design of it well. The special features are listed clearly and the production credits are easy to read. The technical grid along the bottom is solid as it lists everything cleanly and clearly. Now show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release riffs nicely off of the cover as it uses the red background style where it takes up two thirds of the screen on the right where it’s a fairly bland background that lets the character artwork in the foreground stand out of the characters hanging out together. The left side has the standard downward list of episodes by name and number which are quick and easy to navigate. It also doubles as the pop-up menu and tracks which episode you’re on during playback, something that I continue to like a lot. The layout in general is quick and easy to use and the discs default to English with sign/song subtitles.
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which can be found on the second disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Hiiro no Kakera did a lot the I liked overall in its first season and it was a show that had me enjoying the simulcast a lot, which was reinforced with the home video release from earlier this year. With the second season of the show, which came a few months after the original during its first broadcast, it was a bit harder to pick up the momentum and enthusiasm from it. What slowed things down from the start, and a bit with this set itself, is that the first episode is mostly a recap of the first season. It’s a bit helpful for what it was during broadcast, and it does help here since it’s been several months since the first set was released, but recaps at the start of a season just tend to set me off on the wrong foot since it’s just reminding me of everything I already knew.
With this season, it has a bit of an uneasy and somewhat uneven feeling to it as it goes along because a lot of it is dealing with the nature of the characters themselves. While Logos has managed to acquire the Artifacts, events have ended in a bit of a stalemate while everyone tries to figure out what the next approach should be. Unfortunately, for Tamaki and the Guardians, it’s filled with a lot of troubles that keep them from actually having a plan. So much of it is just defensive for the season as they’re all now guarding their own hearts or trying to explain themselves in a poor way that you do feel for them, but there’s just a good sense that nobody is controlling their own destiny and that they’re simply going along with the currents. The big issue that comes in is the matter of betrayal, something that was hinted at in the first season and comes on strong here.
Discovering that Shinji has betrayed them all by helping Logos throughout the first season in finding the Artifacts is a surprise and it doesn’t sit well with the group, even as he tries to explain away why he did it in a way that makes sense to him. It’s disconcerting enough to see Shinji go through this, but where it goes from there is to double down on the betrayals and we see that Ohmi has decided that his fate is better cast with Logos as well, though he joins them more formally and works with them within the mansion that Aria has and Shinji is sort of just tossed to the side by them. Ohmi is doing it for very, very obvious reasons to be sure so you know what’s going on with it in that he’s likely just working from the inside, but when you have two people down and not trusted and the usual array of general issues between all the Guardians at this stage, it leaves the group very disorganized. Even worse, it has the whole group – and the show – feeling listless.
While we get all these Guardian focused plots working through the show, we also get some good time spent with Tamaki and Takuma. The two have learned a bit more about their connection with each other over the course of the first season and that’s brought to bear even more here in the second. Takumi is doing her best to handle the betrayals and what they mean, but she’s also having to contend with that what they did to see the Onikirmaru wasn’t a permanent thing and it’s going to last only so long. But because of what they’ve done and the power involved, her grandmother and Ashiya have made it clear to her that at this point, the only way to deal with a proper seal is for a sacrifice and Tamaki must go through with that. And Takuma must accept that because it’s for the greater good. It’s a somewhat standard story concept to be sure by placing these kinds of relationships in this kind of trouble and it’s fairly well executed here with some good style and plenty of atmosphere.
Thankfully, while this does go predictably, we also get some really good material with it as the two struggle to deal with what it means to be who they are. Takuma has a lot to cope with because of the demonic power flowing through him that’s only growing in strength, especially when they learn more about his origins as the Underworld God, but it’s the kind of power that can of course be tamed by teenage (restrained) love. You can laugh about it of course, but the team here manages to make it work and work well because of the weight they give it between the two, the design of the animation and the overall atmosphere of it. It’s built well, even if it is kind of empty because of the way the relationship was groomed over time, and you can definitely feel something good coming from the pair as it progresses and they struggle with all the sides that are manipulating them into sacrificing themselves to seal the Onikirimaru.
Everything works towards the larger fight that must happen, though because of the nature of it, we get a two stage fight. The first brings to conclusion the sacrifice aspect of things and brings everyone back together on the same page to go against the real enemy. We’ve had it seeded for much of the show because there’s only so far you can believe that Aria is the real mastermind of everything, so when Drei reveals himself and his age and what they all are truly fighting against, it leads to the final confrontation itself. But as is the case for a show like this, it’s not fought over several episodes and with large drama and angst but rather a single episode or so with some good action, a sense of real power being involved and a more realistically timed conclusion. Real fights tend to not last a really long time, so having something that’s powerful and intense – and brief – plays better for a show like this. Especially since the real focus of a series like this one is to be on the relationship between the lead girl and all the men that protect her.
Hiiro no Kakera lost me a bit in the second season when I watched the simulcast, but seeing it in marathon form here definitely helped to shape it better and provide a more cohesive series. A very good chunk of it is all about the betrayal and the kinds of issues that face Tamaki, with the boys in general and obviously very specifically with Takuma. Each side works well and there a few threads that are woven in throughout it that keeps it engaging and interesting watch, even as it works a mellow and slow kind of style to it that can be somewhat problematic at times. This season definitely holds up better in this form than I expected and the two seasons as a whole provide for a good, interesting and certainly visually appealing work. There are places it could be tightened up, the focus could have centered a bit more on just the two main leads, but in the end it tells the tale well and for fans of this genre in particular, Hiiro no Kakera is definitely a good work.
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: November 5th, 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.