Being anti-love doesn’t always quite work as you’d like. Ah, youth.
What They Say:
Eita Kidou is a high school freshman with excellent grades and a disdain for love. Along with his childhood friend Chiwa Harusaki, a girl who’s nearly a sister to him, Eita lives an ordinary school life concentrating on his studies – until the school’s most beautiful girl, Masuzu Natsukawa, surprisingly confesses her love to Eita. However, her true desire is only to fool the eyes of others and pretend to be a couple.
With a “certain secret” of his in Masuzu’s hands, Eita is forced to play along. Moreover, a fierce battle over Eita begins as his ex-girlfriend, Himeka, and his virtual fiance, Ai, join the fray! Will Eita be able to continue his ordinary school life while maintaining a pretend relationship and dealing with all of his admirers?
Contains episodes 1-13 plus a special booklet.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty basic as we get just the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 384kbps. The series is as you’d expect in that it’s largely dialogue based with a few bits of action and antics that stand out a bit more. The mix works well with this kind of material overall as the dialogue is pretty well placed throughout since we have several characters around at the same time often and there’s some decent placement and occasionally a bit of depth. The silly moments add a bit more life to it all when they hit and the opening and closing sequences naturally have a richer and warmer feeling, but for the most part this is a fairly standard high school romantic comedy design. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this thirteen episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is spread across three discs in a four/four/five format which gives it a good bit of space to work with overall with cramming things in. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the design of the show is quite good with some solid characters and backgrounds that, while not soft, uses a soft color palette overall that keeps it from feeling overly vibrant. Which is a good thing since it works better this way as a slightly to the side real world approach to it all. There’s a certain lightness and airy nature to the animation and color design here that comes across in an appealing way while avoiding problems such as breakups or blocking during regular playback. The softer look manages the detail well and the animation comes across as fluid and clean in this standard definition presentation.
The packaging for this release is pretty nice as we get a simple clear keepcase that holds the three discs. The first pressing editions of this comes with an O-card slipcover that has the four girls laying together with their heads meeting as they’re against a soft white background. With the different colors that each has with their hair designs, it has some good pop to it while showing their personalities and outfits nicely. The back cover uses the four in the corners again though it goes for more of a full length shot of them as it keeps everything through the center. It’s here that we get a shot of Eita for once and a breakdown of the premise as well as a listing of the specs and materials within the release if. the technical grid covers everything clearly and it’s easy to see what this release has for the most part. The case artwork is fully reversible as each panel gives us a great looking piece of individual character artwork with their trademark colors done for the background and the logo. Chiwa takes the front cover while Masuzu is on the back. The reverse side brings forward Himeka and Ai for their own pieces which looks good.
The included booklet is really nice in terms of quality and what it brings to bear as we get the character breakdown with some shots of them, episode summaries and then promotional artwork. Some very fanservice oriented pieces of course are included but we also get some cute ones as well.
The menu design works similar for all three volumes with different character artwork swapping out on it as we get that taking up a good part of the background, which has some soft colors and artistic designs to it. The character artwork is good as we get, for example, Chiwa and Masuzu on the first volume in their school uniforms where the colors have a lot of pop and detail to them that comes across well on a large screen. The logo is kept to the upper right along with the disc number while the navigation is below it that has easy access to everything including turning the subtitles on or off. It’s a clean looking menu that’s not too busy but nicely colorful and focused on the character artwork.
The extras for this release are fairly simple but welcome as we get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as the web previews for the episodes that were used to promote the show online week to week.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novels of the same name by Yuji Yuji, Oreshura is a thirteen episode series animated by A-1 Pictures. The light novels, which literally translate as My Girlfriend and Childhood Friend Fight Too Much, it’s got seven volumes released to date and has spawned four manga incarnations as well. The series is one that gives us a romantic comedy set in high school with a couple of people who most assuredly don’t want to be in a romantic comedy. Which, of course, means that they’ll be in one against their wishes. While it plays with familiar ideas from a slightly different than usual angle, it throws in a lot of references to other shows and properties along the way, including having the two leads being strong fans of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, which is probably one of the more unusual properties to use as a launching point for one’s worldview.
Though there are several girls to it and they all make it an ensemble piece as it grows, the show revolves primarily around the characters of Eita and Masuzu. Eita’s a fairly normal guy in a lot of ways but he’s let his inner voice speak a lot in the last couple of years at school where he’s hopeful to have a fantastical kind of life some day. He keeps a notebook that looks like the Death Note book where he writes all the kinds of imaginings he has, figuring that if he keeps coming up with ideas, someday something will click for him. When some of that has come out, being overly dramatic and talking about fantasy lives and things, it’s caused him to be looked at as odd and sort of ostracized. He has a friend or two in a casual sense, but mostly he’s by himself. So when the silver haired beauty named Masuzu transfers into the school, his life will naturally change.
She doesn’t have much to do with him the first two months that she’s there, though she gains a reputation just because of the air of her presence and her beauty and she’s spent most of it fending off advances by all sorts of boys, where she’s practically asked out by someone different every day. She has no interest in any of it since she’s anti-love, something that she discovers she has in common with Eita. That gets her to take a spot next to him in school as she begins her quest to make him her fake boyfriend, so that she can avoid the problems she has while also easing his social issues as well. Of course, he’s not terribly interested since he’s disconnected from people in a simple sense, but she’s smart enough to swipe and copy his notebook and blackmails him into the charade that carries through the entire season here. Masuzu is certainly sharp and has her own issues, which creep in as it goes along, but she has that presence about her that indicates she’s used to getting what she wants and will do whatever it takes to get it.
Though most people are fooled by the situation as they present it, it’s a difficult thing for Eita to deal with as he’s just trying to get the notebook back so he can move on with his life. The first real complication he has is that his childhood friend Chiwa is upset by all of this as she’s obviously had a longtime crush on him and hates what she sees going on. Masuzu actually manages to draw her into the fold by creating a “self recreation” club at the school to help her with her love life. It doesn’t really ease the issues between the two girls, but it keeps them together and starts building the harem properly. From there, we end up adding Ai, a student council member who knew Eita in kindergarten and has a pact with him that he’s forgotten, and Himeka, a girl who has crafted her own self delusions similar to Eita and has determined that she’s his ex-girlfriend from a past life.
It’s easy to see how the dynamic will go as you have Eita trapped and doing his best to get out of it while not hurting anyone’s feelings. And each girl has their issues which he has to try and help them overcome, though in a nice twist he’s not actually able to for a variety of reasons. Eita’s not interested in going the harem route but also doesn’t want to go the full on girlfriend route with any of them either, though it gets complicated because enough situations push him close to Masuzu that you really do think that they’re developing some real feelings for each other. And while they probably are, the portrayal of it comes across as if they’re just trying to out-bluff each other and you can’t be sure that they really are. There’s a sort of realism to that aspect of it of course, and I’ll admit to liking the not really knowing, but it also leaves the show in a kind of weird place, even as they try and go big with it towards the end with him making declarations to try and get Masuzu to be true to her path. But it’s just not clear how much truth is really in it.
The series is one that plays with familiar tropes and executes them well but also does it with a bit of a wink and a nod. The setup for it in pairing two people who really want nothing to do with each other romantically is not new, but it is surprising to see the way the relationship develops and the lack of certainty about it, at least from my perspective. So many shows just make it so obvious that there’s something there that the protestations otherwise come across as flat and unconvincing. Here, I’m not sure. And mixing it in with a good bit of humor and some real quirkiness from the cast across the board, but especially with Masuzu and Eita and their particular fandoms, it just strikes a good chord. But that uncertainty is surprisingly unsettling as it goes on as when it makes the big, grand gestures, you still can’t be sure and even more so with the fallout from it. Granted, it helps to extend the life of the property since it’s not closed, but I find myself wanting just a little more of a clue of where it will go.
With a good bit of material to work with from the light novels, and the various manga spinoffs, Oreshura plays in the harem realm pretty well while trying to do something a bit different. While some of the usual tropes are here and they’re as creaky as they have been for years, the execution generally hits the right notes when combined with the humor and the appealing character designs. A-1 Pictures has put together a good looking show here and story wise it has something with some quirks that leave me feeling a bit unsettled by it all in the end. The dynamic between the two leads with Masuzu and Eita is definitely one that holds a lot of attention because of the uncertainty of it all and I do find myself wanting to see where it would go, though admittedly I doubt it’ll come to a serious conclusion for some time. This isn’t quite the usual material and that makes it worth checking out, though your mileage will definitely vary when it comes to this kind of series.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Web Previews
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: December 17th, 2013
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic 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.