Residents of Sakura Hall are all a little different, but when one of the new girls asks to be taken care of like a pet, that changes everything.
What They Say:
Banished from normal housing for the crime of adopting stray cats, Sorata Kanda’s life has gone to the dogs and now he’s been impounded in Room 101 of Sakura Hall, a notorious den of troublemakers, geniuses, and weirdos. Meanwhile, Mashiro Shiina in Room 202 is the cat’s meow of the art world. However, she’s so unfocused and dysfunctional that she needs a full-time keeper to survive day-to-day life while she puts her career as a famous artist on hold and studies to be a manga creator.
That’s too big a task for Chihiro, Mashiro’s cousin who lives in the same dorm and also happens to be Sorata’s teacher. But given Sorata’s weakness for taking in small, cute but sometimes not completely loveable creatures, could he be the one destined to take over Mashiro’s grooming, feeding and general, er… domestication? Well, if he’s not, too bad, ’cause no one else is stepping up and he’s stuck with it and her! Heavy petting gets redefined, the dorm’s the only thing likely to get housebroken and hopefully no one will get neutered as who’s on whose leash becomes anybodies’ guess!
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release contains only the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The first of the sub-only Blu-ray releases from Sentai Filmworks, it’s essentially treated the same as all other releases in that it handles the material well and conveys it properly. The series is largely dialogue driven and that works well across the forward soundstage as we do get some solid placement at times with some scenes and there’s occasionally a bit of depth as well, though that’s less of an issue. The show has a few bigger moments during some key scenes and with the videogame that comes into play, but mostly it’s a standard school mix that’s nicely done. 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 twelve episode section of the 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 on the first and three on the second, which also includes a lengthy extra as well. Animated by JC Staff, the series has a great look to it as they really worked some of the more atmospheric moments in a way that draws you in easily with lush colors and some great stage setting as well. With a few different settings and some really great artwork used in various scenes due to the way Mashiro is all about her artwork and manga, there’s a lush feeling that translates well here through the transfer. The colors are solid and clean with no noise or breakup and detail comes through beautifully. Definitely a visual pleaser across the board here.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover is spot on as we get the three main girls of the series in their school uniforms in an illustration style with some great background colors to drive it all to good effect. The character designs are nicely detailed and the colors highlights it nicely. THe logo is kept simple but it has the right kinds of colors and pop to it to stand out. The back cover uses the same colors in different areas with a kind of notebook feeling to it where we get some good shots from the show and a clear listing of the number of episodes and discs. The extras are clearly listed and we get a good breakdown of the production credits and the technical grid, which lays it all out in an easy to read and accurate fashion. The design of it is fairly standard but it stands out and grabs your attention in the right way. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for the show works with some of the expected colors that definitely paints a pretty picture as we get the full color anime image of Mashiro in the center while the background is a line work piece of the exterior of Sakura Hall. The black and pink of it all definitely works nicely and sets the right mood, especially along with the colors of the logo. The right side has the navigation strip that also doubles as the pop-up menu where we get the same mix of colors with a few lighter areas with the episodes by titles and numbers. All the extras are on the second disc and are easy to access and we don’t get a language submenu, though you can turn the subtitles off on the fly.
Though a bit deceptive at first, we have a good bit of extras here to enjoy. The basics here are the clean opening and closing sequences as well as a nice selection of TV spots from its original broadcast. We also get some of the original promos and the extended episode previews that were available online. The big extra we get here is the premiere event that clocks in at 45 minutes which brings out the main cast to do a Q&A with the fans. It’s light to be sure as you can expect from an event like this, but it’s fun watching the cast talk about their roles and the show itself.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series that began in 2010 by Hajime Kamoshida which also spawned a manga adaptation in 2011, The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is a twenty-four episode series from JC Staff, the first half of which we get here in subtitled-only form. Which is unfortunate since some fans won’t get to experience such a fun and well animated series. JC Staff can be a bit hit or miss with the shows they do, but right from the start this show looks to hit the right comedic buttons for me as we’re introduced to the students that live in Sakura Hall.
Sakura Hall is one where it seems that certain problem students are placed in so that they can all be kept together rather than spread weird trouble all over the map. There’s downsides to that though as they can exceed a lot of things by being together. In the midst of this group of unusual students that get by the numbers introductions quickly at the start is a young man named Sorata who seems to be quite simply normal. His whole goal is just to escape from this hall at this school and get back to a normal life. There are those that know him that understand he’s not the type that really belongs in there, which we see at the start of the school season, but he’s just plain out of luck in how things have conspired to put him there.
What starts to change things for him and his view of staying in the hall is the arrival of a new student named Shiina, a very quiet but appealing young woman who takes a liking to him in her own particular way rather quickly. When we get the basic group of residents in the hall together for food and lighthearted fun, it works well to show the dynamic at play here. It also doesn’t hurt in a way that Sorata is essentially assigned to making sure she gets to school safely and set up right. Where it gets complicated for him in a bigger way though is when he goes to her room to get her for school and discovers she’s quite the artist and has done up a very romantic manga of their encounter and what she may really want out of it. It’s girly to be sure but it’s also something with a lot of appeal that’s thrown into a huge amount of sex appeal when she ends up appearing naked before him. Her almost disconnected and mildly naive nature here makes her an ideal pet in a way as she’s just looking to be told what to do by Sorata. Which makes his problems all the more involved since she also seems rather inept.
While Sorata is doing his best to get out of Sakura Hall and away from all of this, he’s stuck there and getting a fair bit of grief. Amusingly, some of the girls are manipulating Shiina in order to make her play up her naive nature even more with him, especially in how she dresses, but it just serves to make him want to get out all the more. Being saddled with being the one responsible for her, it’s definitely a burden and is taken the wrong way by others, which just further complicates the situation. It’s cute if familiar in the manner in which she talks where the line of clarity always comes after someone has always left so that they end up just getting the worst of the conversation and not the real meaning.
Thankfully, the show doesn’t keep Shiina latched onto Sorata as she gets out on her own and starts to make “friends” with some of the other girls, though it’s pretty passive as one might expect. It does help to show that she can get into other situations, but things take a drastic turn when she gets back with Sorata and asks to see him naked. Not surprisingly, once you get the full story, it’s a different interpretation, but one that’s certainly cute and fun to work with. Using the manga work of hers as the reasoning, she makes a lot of progress and things get pretty dirty in a nearly clinical sense that’s just hilarious and somewhat unexpected. With her demeanor, it’s really amusing to see how it all unfolds since it’s such a conflicting situation for Sorata.
As the show expands and starts to develop the characters around the two leads, we get a good bit of back and forth. The most instrumental one in this part of the series is Nanami, a young woman who obviously has quite an interest in Sorata herself and even orchestrates things so she ends up as a resident in Sakura Hall as well to keep an eye out for what he and Mashiro may be up to. Mashiro is completely an innocent here, so naive in so many ways, and Nanami really does understand that after a bit and it helps to make it a plot point that works since she just tries to help Mashiro grow and understand her position a bit more. But you feel badly for Nanami as it goes on because all she can see is the one she likes becoming more and more interested in Mashiro without realizing it. She’s like the audience in a way but she has a greater investment emotionally in it and that transfers out to the viewer, giving it a bit more impact.
Naturally, the show plays up the awkward situations a lot as we get the naive character in Mashiro as we see her saying things without proper context, trying to understand the human heart and more. Sometimes it does feel a bit forced, but the more we get to know of the character, the more sense it makes. Mashiro is a pretty shallow character at the start, but she grows a good deal as we learn about her past back in England, the kind of work she wanted to create and why she gave up painting to come to Japan to do serialized manga. This also plays well with the arrival in the final arc here of Rita, a friend of hers from England who is trying to bring her back for her own selfish reasons. This turns the relationship complicated between her and Mashiro because Mashiro is just oblivious to things, but through those in Sakura House, she gets to learn what’s really going on and Rita finally reveals her own deep heartache with how Mashiro left. A good part of it just comes down to the kind of impact we have on each other and the strong way Mashiro can affect others in her slight way.
Not surprisingly, she also has a big impact on Sorata. While her presence gets him to stay in Sakura House when he was originally trying to just get out of there, her dedication and focus on her work and passion also seeps into him in a great way. He has his own dreams (something we don’t often see from many male leads in these kinds of shows) and seeing her she pursues her goals inspires him to do the same with video game design. He has a lot of struggles with it here in this part of the series and the frustration he feels with all the roadblocks compared to his view of Mashiro having it easy provides for a good dynamic between the two until he understands what she’s really going through. With her blank expression, it is admittedly hard to read her at times. Sorata by contrast wears it all on his sleeves and having him work through the problems with his dream, going through a number of stages with it, and coming out the other side definitely works well. Mashiro brings out some good stuff with him, frustrates him and makes him feel awkward.
The Pet Girl of Sakurasou is a series that kept a lot of people away simply because of the title, but it was one that kept me quite interested when I watched the simulcast. Revisiting here in marathon form helps to shape the themes of the first half of the series well where we see such a talent and driven but naive person trying to follow her dream but ending up in some awkward situations. Mashiro draws in some good friends as it goes on and the early focus on some of the members keeps it from being an overly sprawling show, though I know some of the supporting characters get their due in the second half. With what we get here, the focus on Mashiro, Sorata and Nanami is solid while making it an ensemble work overall with beautiful animation and great character designs. Everything feels like it’s tighter and more engaging here and it’s definitely a show that brings a smile to my face with the fun of it and the situations that come up.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Promos, Japanese TV Spots, Extended Previews, Japanese Premier Event, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 17th, 2013
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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.