What They Say:
What started as a simple assistance program has escalated insanely out of control, and now Medaka Kurokami finds herself exposed as something far more than human. But that’s only the beginning of a new series of shocking revelations that lead towards a dark secret plan that not even the unbelievable power of her War God Mode may be able to withstand. Still, Medaka’s proving to be good at thinking outside of the box, and if she needs the full backing of every hidden resource of the Student Council to meet the challenge, then that’s what she’s going to get. Even the Abnormal ones! Get ready for action, violence and gorgeous girls the way only Studio Gainax can make them as the hits, grins, jiggles and girls gone wild enter the berserker stage in the incredible: MEDAKA BOX ABNORMAL!
The audio presentation for this release gives us the original Japanese language in stereo as well as the English language dub, both of which are encoded using the lossless DTS-HD MA codec. The series is one that works a good balance of action and dialogue to it and the action side really uses the forward soundstage well. There’s a lot of back and forth and a good array of different types of combat that has a surprising amount of impact at times. The forward soundstage is well balanced here as it moves across it while also having some of the dialogue work in the same way. It’s a solid track that really works well and reminds you of how different a mix can sound when going from streaming to a full lossless piece like this. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2012, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first dual layered disc and three on the second single layered disc. Animated by Gainax, the look of this show is one that has a somewhat different than usual approach where it comes across a little more rough around the edges because of the line work and detail but definitely has a solid and strong look here. The color palette accentuates that by going with something a little softer and not quite as vibrant as you might expect but it again maintains a very distinct and solid feeling about it with how they come across. It’s not noisy or blocky but it’s also not going to leap off the screen in a huge way. This is an appealing transfer here all around that captures the source material well with its representation.
The packaging for this release comes with a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover gives us a look at Medaka from later in the series where she’s in her shredded outfit with a serious and powerful look about her. The colors are light overall and her design definitely plays well against the indistinct and light-blurred background. Add in the good looking normal which has the addition of the Abnormal scrawled across it definitely gives it a good feeling. The back cover provides a nice and happy shot of Medaka and Zenkichi together while also providing for a few good shots from the show. The majority of it is given over to the premise block which doesn’t go too far into detail and covers it well enough. The discs and episode count are clearly listed as well as the extras on the disc. The remainder is given over to the usual production credits and the technical grid for the series. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release gives us a pretty active and energetic piece even for a static screen and that’s surprising and rather welcome. The left side has the navigation strip going down with the episodes listed by title and number with a black/blue and yellow approach with some lightning striking down it. The right side is given over to the character artwork, which has Medaka and one of her opponents side by side with the logo between them. The background provides the energy with some blue and red colors that definitely pumps it all up nicely. Though the character art may not be the most appealing, it sets the mood for the set surprisingly well. Submenus load quickly and easily and language selection is a breeze.
The only extras included in this release are the clean opening and closing sequences as well as five minutes of trailers/promos for the series.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first half of Medaka Box finished its run, it wasn’t a surprise that Gainax would be back with another season to get to what fans called the better material. Based on the manga series by Nisio Isin, which completed last spring at twenty-two volumes, the first half of the run gave us a look at Medaka as the student council president, the things she accomplished in that role in dealing with student problems and the way she drew a lot of people to her, some serving on the council and others that she either helped or defeated along the way. It went big at the end with Unzen and how that changed the dynamic, really putting Medaka through her paces but also solidifying the way her choices for the student council worked. While things moved in a standard and expected way, it went very big at the end and opened up events to where this half of the series goes.
Because of the way things went with Unzen, the school director is doing his best at the start here to move Medaka towards the next stage of what he needs. We know he’s nudging her towards where he wants her to go in order to deal with a problem in the school, but it’s hard to believe he doesn’t have ulterior motives as well. The premise that he presents to her is certainly interesting as he wants her to handle the true problem has in the school with a group called the 13 Party. This special class of students, of which there’s over a hundred, are among the most powerful of the Abnormals out there, something that Medaka now realizes that she’s truly a part of. Though there are this many students, most don’t come to school and there’s only a smaller sized group that spends time there. And with Unzen defeated, there’s going to be some jockeying to take his position now.
Naturally, it’s going to take some convincing and it’s actually a couple of episodes before things get to the point where she realizes she does have to venture in to deal with them and their misguided Flask Plan. That plan, to find a way to turn normals into abnormals, is problematic for a lot of reasons and because of the way most of them come across as fairly evil or corrupt, it’s not something you want to be in their hands. Even more so before it gets to the point that she goes in after them as Oudo makes his play for her as a king of the world, something that he definitely comes across as seeming like it’s very much a truth down to the core of his being. We do get a bit of his back story later in the season and it actually worked better for me than I thought. I really didn’t care for Oudo, his style or his presentation in the simulcast run of the show, but he manages to work a lot better for me here when watching it over one session and seeing more of the threads of the series coming together.
What frustrated me when I watched this when it aired was that it basically turns the remainder of the show into a series of fights with varied opponents that it’s hard to care about. It was like that already when it came to some of those they faced in the first season, but here it’s just a bit more blunt in a way. In their push to get down to the bottom floor in order to deal with their larger goal, they have to face the powerful array of opponents that all have specialized Abnormal powers of their own. Some of it is interesting, but it’s all done in a quick and shortened manner that it’s kind of awkward. But it does manage to achieve the primary goal of throwing Medaka against people with powers so that she can learn them in the way she does, which in turn makes her more powerful and a tougher opponent.
While the larger story is one that doesn’t do too much for me, even though it achieves its goals in the short term, it was some of the character stories that definitely click for me. The first is bringing Maguro into it as we see how he is as an older brother when it comes to Medaka. He’s over the top but it fits so perfectly in the context of the series that it made me laugh instead of cringing. His story and path takes a few small but intriguing turns as it goes on and he’s not quite so one-dimensional as you think from that first meeting. This also dovetails nicely into the introduction of a 13 Party member named Naze, who is actually Medaka’s younger sister with her own Abnormal that has set her down a dark and lonely path. She’s flat out aggressive towards Medaka for her own reasons but similar to Maguro, we see how much of their family history has twisted both of them into who they are. Which is also well covered when it comes to Medaka as her true, full past is revealed and you see just how difficult it is to be an Abnormal like they are and to have everything in their reach to deal with.
And this in turn brings us to a better look at Medaka and what’s really motivating her to be the kind of person she is. We saw a good chunk of it in the first season where she was working to make the school a better place and help people with all their needs. That’s taken further here as she sees how the Flask Program is something that could be detrimental to people and there’s a need to take care of it. It definitely makes her a lot more appealing since you get down to the root of what makes her tick and seeing that covered in different aspects over the course of both seasons work. I just wish this half didn’t have quite so much of the classic shonen fighting feeling to it where they’re going down the stairs, level by level, dealing with stronger and more varied opponents along the way. Especially since some of the good student council characters that get sidelined along the way.
The second half of Medaka Box hits a lot of good notes across it when you can view it in the full context rather than breaking it down piece by piece. Medaka herself didn’t do a lot for me in the first season and in some ways she gets sort of sidelined here as well because of the array of characters she has to face. But with some of them being relations which in turn explores their past and hers as well as that of abnormals themselves, it ends up fleshing out a good part of her that explains her motivations a lot better than was done before. There’s a good appeal to the show here in the action with its style, impact and choreography and it’s well animated in a way that has a certain roughness to it that fits, but in the end I’m surprised that it’s the characters that won me over. The supporting cast is awkwardly used at times, but with people like Zenkichi and Oudo, it manages to draw out better material for Medaka herself. I had a rough time with this show during its simulcast but it definitely worked much better for me in this form.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Japanese Trailers
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 21st, 2014
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.