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Ebiten: Ebisugawa Public High School’s Tenmonbu Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

13 min read

EbitenThis astronomy club is dreamy in a whole different kind of way.

What They Say:
Take one group of rabid fan girls with tenuous grips on reality, toss out all rules of proper social behavior, mix them together in a basement with more twisted anime parodies and allusions than you can shake a schtick at, and what do you get? Well, besides a recipe for disaster, if borderline delusional Kyoko Todayama is in what passes for charge, you get the Asstronomy Club, where mayhem rules and the wall between the real world and total fantasy shatters at least once every five minutes!

And as if things weren’t wild enough, let’s throw in a “boys love” manga fanatic who always seems to end up in her underwear, a maid on a secret mission, a ruthless arch enemy whose goal is to have the club disbanded, and a cat as the faculty adviser! And then there’s Itsuki, who inexplicably still thinks this is a serious astronomy club. To be fair, some of the members do seem to be robots/aliens and/or from outer space. One thing’s for certain though: the Student Council will most definitely not approve of what happens!

Contains episodes 1-10 plus the OVA.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language only in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that you would think is largely dialogue driven but it uses the forward soundstage rather well as it works through the parodies and all the action and hijinks that ensues, which keeps it busy and active. That comes across quite well since there’s a good bit of placement with the sound effects and some of the dialogue as it unfolds. The dialogue is what still defines it but the combination of it, the sound effects throughout and the upbeat and bouncy music allows it to have a pretty full feeling as it goes along. The music naturally has the warmer moments across the forward soundstage and dialogue is clean and clear throughout with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this ten episode TV series and OVA is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec It’s spread across two discs with nine on the first and two on the second which is also where all of the extras are located. Animated by AIC Classic, the series has a very detailed and intricate look in a lot of areas as the character designs, small they may be, have a lot going on. And with it parodying so many series and their style while drawing it into the designs here, it showcases a lot of material that really stands out. Backgrounds are full of little bits that’s worth checking out, especially in the parody heavy segments, and the animation in general is very slick and appealing with its fluid nature that it really does draw you in a lot. Some shows don’t have all that much of a difference in terms of look when it goes high definition, but Ebiten makes very good use of it with very appealing colors and detail throughout.

Packaging:
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 gives us a very, very detailed piece with two of the girls from the show front and center in various stages of undress while wearing very different outfits filled with detail. There’s a lot to like with the framing of it all, the little bits, the color and the vibrancy of it. It may not be what the show is about entirely, but there are many moments like it throughout that definitely doesn’t make it false advertising. And frankly, it’s sexy as hell. The back cover provides another shot in a tight outfit along the right while giving us a slice of shots from the show through the middle with some cute and sexy pieces. The bulk of the top third is given over to Very Small Print that has the premises, which it does cover well but just too much. The bottom gives us the breakdown of the extras and a look at the production credits for both languages. Add in the technical grid which covers what the discs are built like cleanly and clearly and there’s a lot to like. Sadly, there’s no reverse side artwork here, which you want since there’s a lot of good stuff to be used here.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works off of the artwork style from the front cover for both discs as we get two different pairings of highly detailed pieces of the girls in sexy states of undress with the usual alluring smiles. The cover artwork is definitely appealing enough but getting it here with a more vibrant look – and on a 70” screen at that – just makes it all the more appealing since you can see so many little details. The logo is kept through the middle since the artwork is a smaller piece along the left while the right has the breakdown of the episodes by number and title that doubles as the pop-up menu. The background goes for an astronomy style background with dark blues against a night sky which sets the mood very well.

Extras:
All the extras are on the second disc and there’s definitely some fun stuff to be had here. The fun extra that takes up a bit of time is the five part hot springs special that runs about four minutes each. These are short pieces use some of the same structure to start with how it gets going but they all go for various fanservice bits, lots of breast groping and more. We also get a good collection of commercials that covers the web pieces and the home video releases and various promos. We also get two music videos that run for about five minutes total as well as the clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name, Ebiten is a curious beast in that it’s an ONA show that aired during the summer of 2012 online but got reworked episodes with extended footage for the broadcast which also got the simulcast through Crunchyroll. We’ve seen this happen a little bit since then with a couple of other web shows that are expanded upon and it’s an interesting approach since it can get repeat viewers. Like a lot of school based shows, there’s something traditional about it to be sure with the whole club angle, but it garners a little additional love from me simply because it’s all about an astronomy club.

The show has the basic group of girls one would expect here that are certainly small and cute in the AIC Classic animation style that works well. Maybe not small exactly bit whisper thin to be sure. The girls belong to the “struggling” astronomy club where it’s just shy one needed member in order to continue its existence. Amusingly, the club is in the basement and it tends to be more about perverted events as one of the members, Kyoko, has a lot of fun toying with the doujin loving Kanamori. While the real main focus of the opening episode is to introduce us to the girls, it’s also about putting the latest applicant to the test to join the club. It’s almost a given that she’ll be admitted since she’s needed.

The problem is that the new girl is actually a guy, Itsuki, and Kyoko only wants girls in the club so she forces him to dress as a girl in order to do it. He’s so intent on joining though that he’ll actually do it and works his way through seemingly bizarre and meaningless tests in order to become a member. There are some really fun bits, including an extended Saint Seiya series of events, that hits some good parodies and actually fits within the context of the show. The fight is more fun than I expected, but everything comes down to Kyouko as she pushes back against any new members at all. Not that she has any good reason really, but that’s just how she is until she’s overruled and Itsuki is brought in. You do have to wonder what really drives Itsuki to be a part of all of this considering the trial itself though.

While the first episode was kind of spastic in some ways and played to the stereotypes, it did win me over in some minor ways, especially with the whole Saint Seiya parody. The show has the basics here that one would expect with cute girls, a struggling club with a limited number of members and a sense of silliness about it that can work sometimes. There’s something to be said for the self aware nature that it has at times, such as when Kanamori at the start here comes across a cat and does the whole hopeful dream of becoming a Sailor Moon type because of it. It’s the kind of wish fulfillment that many kids go through when they view the world and there is a charm to it, if you open yourself up to it.

While the astronomy club has acquired Itsuki as a new member, they’re still looking to expand a bit and Kyoko takes advantage of Kanamori to do this. It’s rather cute, and full of awkward intense fanservice, as she gets her dressed up in a skimpy Santa Claus outfit to try and draw in new members. You have to admire the attention to detail from the animators in making it as awkwardly sexual as possibly. The show does get a little disturbing at one point though when Itsuki gets to wear the same costume and it just looks awful on him. For Kanamori, she’s just in a whole other place mentally at this point and escaping everything is what she has to do. The view from the others, especially Kyoko, is hilarious as she envisions her as just a flasher, but only in front of cats.

Kanamori’s Sailor Moon fetishism is really amusing as it goes on and it really hit a high note for me when it did the transformation sequence in an eight bit style format, giving us a classic videogame style one that works beautifully. The show does what it pretty much did in the first episode by giving its focus to the parody once it gets rolling in the second half, complete with the whole “movie magic” reality being shown at times. It parodies the Sailor Moon series really, really well and gives the girls amusing costumes, the right lines and the overall music and feel of it is just spot on. While some shows may do the quick 15 second parody, they go to town with it here and take Kanamori’s doujisnhi fetish and view of the world to a very fun level here, making this a lot of fun to watch. As much as I did enjoy the Saint Seiya parody, this one steps it up even more.

As it progresses, we get a decent bit of variety to what it wants to do, including an Earth Defense Force parody that takes up a good chunk of an episode as well as some other fun ones such as Fist of the North Star. Amusingly, when the show gets to the seemingly more normal school material, we see that Izumiko has been here for more than just dealing with her sister. She’s actually here to find a certain man named Itsuki. And yes, it’s the same Itsuki that’s in the club that she hasn’t realized is the person she’s looking for. She got so caught up in events with her sister that she didn’t realize it, especially with all the crossdressing that’s forced on poor Itsuki. He’s pretty oblivious to everything as well and is just kind of a real blank slate, but that gets dealt with a bit here as well as we get a bit more background on him, such as showing when he joined the club. Which was, as we knew, done in a pinch as they needed another member but everyone wanted to keep it just to girls.

The show takes an amusing turn now that she’s found him and she insists that he calls her Elizabeth Margaret and takes on a maid role for him. A smothering role, that is. It’s amusing to watch since she’s so cruel with him and he’s just so sheep like in how he goes along with things without realizing what it is that’s going on. While the show does let Izumiko have a lot of fun with poor Noya, it does get to a point where the girls of the club just won’t let “their property” be manhandled like this for all too long. It’s a good bit of back and forth fun that involves an incredibly fun sequence involving Kanamori’s panties. There’s just so much goodness when it comes to her that I wish the whole series was about her.

Familiar material is familiar when we get the arrival of Yuka, the student council president, who has decided that the club must be closed because they don’t actually do anything. She can get away with saying this a bit since she was a member the previous year and she has quite the history with Hasumi, which is explored well when they go on a stargazing club trip that delves into the girls past and how they came to their passion for astronomy, and the way it changed along the way. Though Yuka isn’t utilized much after that, it works well to humanize Hasumi even more and it provides a good impetus for why the club continues to exist and the way that Hasumi builds that bond with the others in her own way as the months go on.

The parodies do dominate though as we get an amusing K-On one that covers an episode as they get into the whole light music band thing and some of the gags associated with it all, but it’s too tame of a parody when you get down to it since there’s not a lot of meat to K-On itself. This also leads into the weaker part of the series for me as it deals with the kind of control that Itsuki has been under with medication for quite some time, which when stopped causes him to basically go all villainous and controlling. There’s some good Dragon Ball Z bits to this, but since it runs a couple of episodes it just feels drawn out and without the right kind of focus. It’s amusing to see Itsuki stand out in this way at times with the evil nature and how he torments some of the girls, but all in all the last couple of episodes before the end fall a bit flat for me.

Thankfully, this is made up for with the final episode and the OVA. The final episode does a full on parody of the second Urusei Yatsura movie, Beautiful Dreamer, with so many spot on homage pieces and the spirit of it all captured so well that you can’t help but to love it if you’ve seen the original. With the film being one of my all time favorite features, this was a real treat since older shows tend to get ignored in parodies. That closes out the series well and the OVA takes it to the next level with a MegaZone 23 Part 2 parody that has the kids realizing that the world they’re in is not the real world and they cross into the “real” world of animators, or at least the editors, which causes so many problems for the girls as they can’t believe they’re not real. When they meet their voice actors, especially for Itsuki since he’s a she, it just takes the show to a whole other level and makes it greatly self referential. Some shows can pull this off better than others and Ebiten does it in a really great way.

In Summary:
I had watched some of Ebiten when it first came out and I was amused by it, but not enough to continue on with it. Revisiting the show in marathon form certainly changes my view of it to some degree as there’s a lot of very fun material here that definitely shines well. I had originally really liked the animation style and the parodies, but disliked the lack of real character being used here. That’s still a problem as nobody is really heavily dealt with, but there are some good background pieces that come in and the way the club operates together. It’s a show that definitely plays the parodies very well and layers them in a great way, either through strong pieces that go big or ones like the Saint Seiya piece where it’s basically a high school production. It goes very smutty at times and definitely knows character design and costume design in a great way. Not everything works here, but there’s some simply beautiful stuff and a great OVA that definitely ties it all together and proves to be a stronger work than I expected it to be, making me regret not following through on the simulcast.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Heart Throb Hot Springs, Japanese Commercials and Promos, Music Videos, Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 1st, 2014
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

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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