What They Say:
Kiss kiss, bang bang! The arms race takes on a startling new development when the arms come with heads, legs, and very feminine bodies attached! Yes, at Seishou Academy every girl is literally a lethal weapon, and they’re all gunning for the top shot at getting their own personal serviceman! Needless to say, it’s going to be difficult for newly recruited human instructor Genkoku to adjust to working with a living arsenal of high caliber cuties with tricky names like FNC (Funko), M 16A4 (Ichiroku), L85A1 (Eru), and SG 550 (Shigu). Especially since many have hair triggers and there’s no bulletproof vest that can stop a really determined co-ed!
Genkoku will have to rewrite the operator’s manual on student/teacher relationships, and pray that his job description won’t include having to field strip and reassemble one of his cadets in the dark. But unfortunately (for him) FNC’s already thinking about becoming his personal weapon, and she usually gets what she aims for! Get ready for explosive situations, amour-piercing rounds, cheap shots galore and one very shell-shocked homeroom instructor!
Contains episodes 1-10 plus the OVA
This series really surprised me in that it gets to go the bilingual route so we get a pair of tracks here with the Japanese in its original stereo format as well as the new English language in the same, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that does do a whole lot of dialogue to it but it’s punctuated with some real detail to the sound design during the action sequences. When the guns go off, it doesn’t sound like the same weapon being fired every time and that has a certain appeal to it. There’s some good impact to it and a bit of aural heft that’s pretty nicely done. The directionality works well across the forward soundstage when needed with shots whistling by and some of the other action effects and we also get a good sense of that with the dialogue in terms of placement and depth, which is well used during some of the action scenes. It’s not a striking sound design, but it feels like it’s a bit more than the show deserves but certainly warrants. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally broadcast online during the spring season of 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The ten episodes and OVA included here are spread across two discs with nine on the first and the final two on the second. Animated by Xebec, the series has a very good look about it with lots of bright, vibrant and appealing colors that maintain a very solid feel to them and a good amount of detail in both backgrounds and characters that looks great and solid. The character designs are certainly smooth and appealing in how they look and combining that with the weaponry side with the detail given to those designs, the end result is a very strong looking show that definitely benefits from the high definition presentation. It’s bright, solid in design and the smooth animation sequences really stand out here across the board.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case and they make the choice to go for the heavy fanservice route, which really isn’t that strong of a part of the show, even in the OVA. The front cover gives us a bullet riddled dark background while the foreground has the main girls together in very, very tiny bikinis as they hold up their respective weapons. It’s definitely playing up the girls with guns aspect and it does do it quite well. The back cover goes with a mostly white background to it where it’s big on the premise with a lot of material written there that covers it well, as well as the obvious tagline about the girls being guns. The artwork is definitely appealing as it goes for them in their tank tops with underwear on which means a whole lot of skin and curves – and they definitely make these girls curvy – but it again kind of paints the wrong picture. The same can be said about a number of shots from the show that are included as well, though I suspect it’ll definitely get people to take a second look at the show. The discs features are all listed clearly and we get a solid breakdown of the production credits and the technical grid which lays out all the details of the discs in a clean and easily understood way. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release plays a little lighter than the cover in a way because it goes with a lot of bright pinks in the background with the logo of the school and camouflage that gives it a busy but pretty fun feeling. It also uses the artwork from the front and back cover, with the back cover piece first, so you get the girls in a much larger size wearing very little and it’s a kind of amusing juxtaposition. The navigation is kept to the right where we get the breakdown by episode number and title with it having a quasi-military feeling and it goes for darker colors with a black and sort of worn gold. Submenus load quickly, which is largely just language selection and everything is easy to access with the show defaulting to English with sign/song subtitles.
The only extras for this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sometimes a series plays within a familiar genre that just first impressions can make you leery of it, especially with the regular weapons fetish we get with a lot of anime shows that seems to hit every year. With this Original Net Animation series, Upotte!! is cutely fun with an interesting premise, albeit one never really gone into functional detail about, about it as it deals with a school whose focus is heavily on guns, among other things. It’s an all girls school at that which just heightens what it can do, giving it a mild Strike Witches feeling from the start because of its quasi-military aspect. The show comes from the manga of the same name by Kitsune Tennouji which began in 2008 and has a few volumes under its belt now, which also gives it a reason for not going over the top wit hits episode count.
The school that it focuses on, Seishou Academy, is pretty specialized as the girls that go there are given a variety of classes and skills taught to them that are meant to highlight how special they are as the girls are drawn from around the world. The series lead is from Belgium and makes note of that when she comes across a new male teacher at the local festival and helps him find the school. Amusingly, even though we do see his face at times, it’s all done with shadows for the most part and that gives it a curious feel. His introduction to the school grounds with the principal is comical to be sure since he finds out that the students carry weapons on campus with live ammo at all times and go through shooting range practice and so forth. While they get taught quite a few things, this one is definitely a standout aspect of the school.
The trick to the show is that the girls really are the guns, just human form versions in a sense. They talk about things like the feel of the hammer going off and we have a sequence where the school nurses checks one the girls by pressing on her stomach and you hear the spring inside her go off. The girls are normal girls in a lot of senses but they’re boind by their mechanics as well, such as Funco (aka FNC), who has an awkward moment with the new teacher when he sees up her skirt and notices she’s wearing a thong. But it’s not her fault as that’s how she was designed, pointing to the butt end of the weapon itself. These quirks are certainly interesting to watch as the girls gossip about each other and go through their training but it also has a somewhat surreal feel to it.
As the show gets underway, one of the things that helps to smooth things out a bit is the recently arrived teacher, whose name we never learn, who is struggling with this whole concept alongside the audience. He’s managed to at least befriend Funco and that means a slow but steady path to accepting what they all are in being weapons. His knowing her a bit better also allows him to have more conversations with the other girls, including some of the older ones on campus that he spends a little time with. It’s kind of a strange situation in having them explain the meanings of their names based on the technical aspects of it all and to have him just sort of accept it along the way.
While we’ve focused on Funco and her group as well as some of the older students there, we also get the nod to some of the elementary school age kids as well. With Funco and friends coming to work with them on a clean up exercise, it’s kind of surreal to find out that all these little kids are essentially submachine guns. It sort of makes sense in a lot of ways, though you might think they’re pistols at first, but with how they can just keep going and going… well, it does work. This group of kids can get pretty overwhelming for Funco and the others and even they know it’s happening themselves sometimes. The little kids quirks are kind of amusing since they can fire off hundreds and hundreds of rounds but are then empty afterwards. Some of the episode just focuses too much on the gun side, but that’s the real appeal here.
Like any school, exams are a part of it, but what the girls go through here is a little different. They pretty much get to do field exercises, which builds on their regular lessons and training in marksmanship and so forth. The exam phase goes on for a good bit here as Ichiroku and Eru have to go up against some very strong opponents in the form of Galil and Sako. The downside is that because of her view about Eru and the way she’s just a knockoff copy, she refuses to actual partner up with her in a real way to fight. That works out fairly well at first but as the shooting match gets even further underway, she ends up in some tough spots and really does need help as things get worse and worse. There’s an early match here where we see just how well she can do on her own even in a very tight spot, but you can’t help but to feel that if she did things as she was supposed to, as part of a team to help balance each others weaknesses, she’d do better.
As the match goes on, there is something twistedly wrong about the show as one of those hunting down Funco gets so intense about the situation and so aroused by it that she’s got her hand between her legs and has plenty of fluid visible as part of it. It’s an odd situation because in one way you want to be glad that a show will go the distance while on the other hand, they’re guns. And it’s just too weird. Funco is definitely taken down hard by her and that just keeps the intensity of her arousal up, but the whole exam just feels weirdly stilted and in a way kind of pointless. But there’s a general lack of definition about the series and what it wants to be that I’m still not surprised by this feeling.
The exam phase has some interesting moments to it, especially as we see how Sako is essentially transferring to different schools in order to take down various leaders and build a strong follow. It also brings the regular group a bit closer together, which helps since as the show goes on we get a lot of the usual school kind of material, including a bit of time in the winter, which isn’t always a welcome season for some weapons. Being that it’s winter and they’re enjoying all their warm time together, it’s not a surprise that things turn competitive as it goes along and a snowball fight is the order of the day. It’s not so much that they’re young girls or anything, they’re just kids having fun and they do have some good fun with it as they get very aggressive but playful with each other. It does start to get big and over the top as it goes on, especially when one of the teams brings in one of their teachers to help out their side. Any time he actually gets involved with his students since coming there, it goes badly. But it sets up some of the additional fun that’s to come since everything goes over the top and most of them are taken out pretty hard by the cold snow.
When the girls discover that he’s been out and about buying up lots of instant ramen and not looking well, they figure it’s best to head to his house and take care of him since he’s alone and still pretty new to the area. Seeing this group of girls going out shopping is mildly comical since they are just like regular girls with how silly they can be together, but there’s also some of the usual oddness to them as well since they’re truly normal girls. The whole thing has its cute moments, especially as they find his girl mags, but mostly it’s just to be a kind of sweet thing as they try to help him as the cold has worn him out completely.
The ups and downs of the girls at the academy are fairly well covered over the course of the series and it brings in some real information about the origins of the weapons, some of the quirks of their operation and, of course, the quirks of them being in human form. That doesn’t always make sense, but it does lead to some amusing bits along the way. The show brings itself to a conclusion with a battle against other students from a different school that goes down with some intensity, but also the revelation that the bullets that they shoot don’t hurt regular people, which is a weird but key moment. There’s no real conclusion here, since the original four panel comic is still going on, but there is a sense of closure for the time being. Which gets capped off with a light and surprisingly pleasant OVA that involves the core group going camping in the mountains, bonding together and running into a little trouble along the way. It could be a huge fanservice festival, but it’s pretty tame outside of a couple of small areas and I was glad to see that they took that approach. It is all predictable, but it does it nicely and that really does help.
Upotte!! was a series I struggled with to some degree during its simulcast run because wrapping my head around the logic of the world was not easy. The series simply does not want to engage in it in the slightest when it comes to the girls as guns. It does want to be real world in terms of how they work when firing and their structure, which you can definitely appreciate. That they managed to tie it to some interesting personalities, conflicts between the girls and the view of the whole scenario from the nameless teacher definitely surprises. While I had struggled before, I went in with slightly different expectations this time around and found that I enjoyed it a lot more than I did before, taking it for what it is and simply going with the flow of the larger narrative and focusing more on the characters, the mechanics of it all and the appealing animation in general, but particularly when they get to doing field exercises. This is an unusual series and a hard sell one in some ways, but it’s one of those really curious projects that isn’t as simple to figure out as Girls und Panzer or Strike Witches. And sometimes a challenge like that can be worth it.
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: March 18th, 2014
Running Time: 250 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.