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Di Gi Charat Winter Garden Anime DVD Review

8 min read

Winter Garden
Winter Garden
Romance is in the air for Dejiko.

What They Say:
Things have changed a bit for Dejiko, the alien princess who came to Earth to become a famous idol singer. She’s grown up and her teens are practically a memory, though her sidekick Puchiko still has a few years to go before becoming an official “adult.” They don’t wear their cat ears anymore, and the affectation of sticking “nyo” or “nyu” on their sentences got old along the way as well. And the game store? That’s in the past as well.

Instead of cooking up mischief, Dejiko works in a local bakery… and yet, there’s still something strange and mystical about her. But will that be enough to draw the attention of a handsome young man she first accidentally encounters in the park? It had better be, because Di Gi Charat is about to discover the most powerful Earth magic of all.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty simple and straightforward as we get only the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show isn’t like previous Di Gi Charat shows which had a bit of overacting and the like as this one is much more of a simple dramatic piece. That puts most of what we get here as a basic dialogue show with some ambient music at times to add a little more to it. The mix is pretty much a center channel based piece since it goes with mostly one character talking at a time and kept to a way where it doesn’t really leap out since it’s all so conversational. The mix captures the feel of the show well though and it definitely works, but it’s not something that will be memorable in the slightest in this regard. It gets the job done and comes across clean and clear without any problems such as dropouts or distortions.

Originally airing just before Christmas 2006, the transfer for this two episode TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Animated by JC Staff, the show has a very good slice of life look about it while working with a softer and earthier kind of palette. It’s the kind of show where it feels like it’s overcast all the time in the late fall just before the snow will hit, giving it a great kind of atmosphere for the story that unfolds. The transfer captures the look well with a generally clean and solid look to it where the detail that exists, both in the character designs and the backgrounds, maintains a solid feel without problems such as cross coloration or line noise. It’s definitely not the usual kind of show you get from this property but the show looks good here overall.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized DVD keepcase where the front cover gives us a look at the two young women, Dejiko and Puchiko, as they stand amid the trees. They both show how different they are since Puchiko is school age and Dejiko is older and working for a living and it all has a very soft kind of feeling to it that fits with those hazy days of winter, which ties nicely into the logo which at least does include the Di Gi Charat name in it because you would never know otherwise. It’s a clean looking cover and definitely looks nice, but it’s not the easiest of sells The back cover goes with a bit of a winter theme as well, albeit darker, with snowflakes falling and a number of circles showing off various pieces of character artwork. The premise is well covered and we get a clean breakdown of the shows production credits as well as the technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Simple but effective is the theme of the release here as the menu design has a bit more pop than the show itself as we get a purple and white background which works the winter theme well with snowflakes. The character artwork from the front cover makes its way here along the right while the left has the logo and the breakdown of episodes as well as the special features submenu. There’s not a lot to the discs here overall so navigation is simple and easy. The look of the menu definitely sets the mood of the show well and I like the pop of color that it has since it feels more vibrant than you’d expect from the cover artwork, not that the show itself has a lot of vibrancy.

The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the original series that began as a number of shorts back in 1999, Di Gi Charat has been known for a lot of silliness, in-jokes and plain wacky material. Over about four years, we got a lot of inter related material and a couple of side stories and the amusing alternate take on the property with Di Gi Charat Nyo which changed up the setting a bit but worked a pretty good formula. But in the end, the show was always about Dejiko’s selfishness and obsessions and the way others either got screwed over by her or the weirdness of the other characters. With Winter Garden, a two part Christmas special that came a couple of years after everything else had ended, JC Staff ended up going a very different direction with it. So much so that unless you were told it’s a part of the Di Gi Charat property, you’d never know.

The show revolves primarily around Dejiko again, but it’s not the Dejiko we know. She and her sister Puchiko are simply normal young women where Dejiko is about twenty and working in a bakery while Puchiko is going through middle school. There’s no gags, eyebeams or weird costumes and no hint that it was ever part of them either, which turns this into a pretty standard slice of life special. Dejiko isn’t exactly an introvert here but she’s pretty quiet and simply going through and enjoying the basic aspects of work and life while taking care of her sister. She wants something more though as you can see how she craves a bit of love and relationship, but such things are hard to come by since she doesn’t take chances, even as Puchiko encourages her in her own way. For Dejiko, she’s simply takes life as it comes and does her best to enjoy it in that form.

With it taking place just before Christmas, we get the usual excitement of a bakker since there’s cakes to sell and people being upbeat. Dejiko’s life takes the kind of unexpected turn when she walks home from work with some leftover Christmas Cake and ends up falling, causing it to be a bit ruined. What saves her a bit is the arrival of a mysterious young man named Takuro that swaps his brand new cake for hers and she’s just completely moved by it as he disappears into the night. This starts the whole romance between the two, a very restrained thing of course, as their lives intersect a few times over the two episodes from there on out and the start to develop a relationship. It’s all very sudden in some ways and it’s hard to reconcile the couple of dates to something being a lot more intense than it comes across, but it fits the usual kind of slice of life romance narratives we get. There’s a cuteness to seeing the two of them together and some of the supporting cast as they pop in, including a great Rabi-en-rose bit, and it all flows fairly well.

Giving us an older and more mature Dejiko and working this slice of life angle is weird. It even takes awhile before any of the characters use their familiar names and even then that’s kind of weak in some ways. The look of the show is definitely appealing though as we see it play out since it has some good detail to it and I like the mood and atmosphere of it all. It has such a feel of winter in a way, the kind of overcast nature to it, that really hits a sweet spot in making you feel a part of the world. I really liked the various backgrounds to it and how it was designed with some of the little details, but I also really liked seeing these more realistic depictions of some of the characters that we’ve known for years in a new light. There are a few hints of their original designs in them, more with Puchiko than Dejiko, but it’s definitely interesting to see how they would progress and be in a more realistic setting.

In Summary:
I’ll admit that my most basic thing with this show is simply asking, well, why? As a two part special commissioned for a Christmas period, it’s got the hallmarks of the usual dramas that you’d get done in live action form. But I can’t quite grasp why they’d do this with these characters as opposed to an original group of characters. You could easily change the names and not gain or lose anything since there’s no real connection here to what we had in previous incarnations. That said, it’s a pretty nice little special that works the first blushes of romance at a time of year that’s difficult for a lot of people. It has a particular mood about it that I really like, but a lot of it early on was me just trying to reconcile it with what I knew of the characters and trying to understand the adaptation of a familiar property. Once you get past that it’s more straightforward but nicely done.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: February 25th, 2014
MSRP: $24.98
Running Time: 60 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
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.

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