What They Say:
She runs through the flaming building seeking escape. She struggles in the water, desperate to keep afloat. She wakes in the hospital, with no knowledge of how she got there or memory of who she was. People she doesn’t know come to visit her, but only the one whom no one else can see, the spirit boy who calls himself Olion, seems to understand what has happened to her, and he tells her not to let anyone know of her amnesia.
As the Heroine struggles to recall her past and connect the random recollections in her mind to form memories, one thing seems sure: time is no longer a constant, and the date of August 1st – the day she keeps waking up in the hospital – is somehow significant. So are each of the people she meets, though the stories that link her to them seem to shift like sands in an emptying hourglass. Will she be able put the pieces of the puzzle together, and what will she see if it becomes complete?
Contains episodes 1-12.
Our final product review copy came from the first batch of releases out there that contains a significant glitch. Episode six doesn’t have the original Japanese language dialogue subtitles, only the sign/song subtitle track for the English language dub.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and the new English language dub, both of which are in stereo and encoded with the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that is very much a dialogue driven piece that works a very quiet mix for the majority of it. This puts more of the focus on really clear dialogue since it can vary in level with the way certain whispers are important, and the mix definitely handles that pretty well. It does have its bigger action moments along the way, particularly in the final episodes, and that definitely shakes things up nicely. That and the music side of it gives it a bigger platform to work with and the opening and closing sequences definitely notch things up a bit more with the warmth and the fuller feeling. It’s not the biggest mix you’ll hear by any stretch but the series comes across very well here throughout.
Originally broadcast in 2013, the transfer for this twelve episode TV series 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 three on the second. Animated by Brain’s Base, the series has an absolutely gorgeous design about it with the colors, the amount of detail in the costumes and backgrounds and the smoothness of the animation when it really does get moving. There’s not a lot of heavy movement or fluid animation here for this kind of series where it’s all about the dialogue and interactions, but what we get is something that’s so visually engaging and striking with its design work that you can’t help but to be drawn in. The transfer definitely captures this in a big way, a series that really needed a high definition transfer, and the whole thing is hugely appealing as it plays out. Few shows really have this kind of look and design about it and it stands out in a beautiful way.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case where the two discs are held against the interior walls. The front cover is a bit divisive in some ways because of what it does, but it definitely stands out in a great way for me. With the logo through the middle, we get an array of characters around it with a fractured look to it to play up the amnesia aspect, all of which has distinct colors associated with them. It’s probably one of the busiest covers out there but it manages to work beautifully for me. It even works well with the blue of the case providing a border around it to keep it all contained. The back cover has a lot of these splashes of color as well across the background, though the main character focus is on our Heroine. The premise makes up a nice spot of space here without being too much as it covers what’s going on and we get a good clean disc and episode count as well. An array of character shots populates the center area that looks good and we also get a simple listing of what the extras are, which is sad since we don’t get the clean opening and closings. The remainder is given over to the usual production credits and the technical grid that lays everything out clearly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release takes some cues from the cover but it also ratchets it up several degrees. With a static screen, the first one gives us our Heroine and Orion amid a large splash of color using pieces from the back cover that just feels so rich and engaging that it’s impossible to turn away. The second disc works the same approach but uses Ukyo for it, so it goes for darker blues and other shades of purple and the like to really make it work for the character. The navigation strip is kept to the left where it has a whole lot of great style with an off white background that breaks down the episodes by number and also puts the various card suits are matched alongside it in different colors that really gives it some great pop. Submenus load quickly and access times are nice and fast.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the visual novel game that was released in 2011, Amnesia is a twelve episode series animated by Brain’s Base that gives us the whole reverse harem style romance once more. The original game did well in Japan and sequels have followed, but it also gained a good following through merchandise and drama CDs. Brain’s Base is the kind of studio that definitely picks up some interesting things to work on and while the stories may not always sell me, the animation generally makes it worth watching. And from the designs here and the general level of animation, it easily draws you in just to see what it’s all going to be about, whether it’s from the dark and murky scenes at the start to the brighter and more colorful aspects later. And the opening sequence certainly sets the right mood as well.
The series revolves around a young woman who has experienced a traumatic event that has left her without her memories. The panic that comes from it is felt early on as we see her waking up in a break room where she doesn’t know her name or anyone that comes in to check on her after she supposedly collapsed, especially the strangely dressed floating person who pops in and out that only she can see. Our nameless young woman tries to figure out who these people are, Toma and Sawa, as they walk her home after she refuses to go the hospital. But it’s only when she gets home and is alone that she starts to get answers, namely from the mystery person who is actually a shinigami named Orion that’s been watching over her for the last four days since her incident.
With her memory loss, things would get a lot worse if more people find out about it, so much so that she’d forget how to drink, eat and even breathe. But she has a path to getting her memories back, which Orion will help with if she can believe him enough to do so. What she discovers is that in going through parts of her life, such as her work at the restaurant where she’s a waitress, we see how doing certain actions trigger minor memories that may fill in the blanks. She has to be careful since she has to hide how she doesn’t remember anything, which is complicated when it comes to making certain orders that come in. Through all of this, we get a look at the restaurant itself and the people that work there, as well as a few customers that are certainly curious, and we get an idea of what our Heroine’s life is like, even if she can’t seem to remember it well. And that is, well, pretty much it.
Seriously. That’s it.
Well, not exactly. What the bulk of the series does is to put our Heroine into situations with each of the guys in her life, and a few with a couple of the women that are either mildly friendly or outright hostile, as she tries to navigate figuring out what happened that August day that ended up causing her situation. At first, everything seems to get overly complicated (made worse by our Heroine not having a name, which makes for some very awkward dialogue at times) as she tries to figure out why everyone acts so different from time to time and how her own experiences and understandings don’t line up with what’s going on either. Each new interaction with the men in her life leads her to finding out more about them, and their connections to her, and it seems like there’s just so much going on that you can’t help but to wonder how it all figures and connects because it becomes too much. Which is why they introduce the trick of how she’s essentially moving across to different worlds when things get to a certain point and it essentially provides a reset, albeit with those around her not being the same as they were. Which makes it easy for each of them to be in love with her in their own way without truly competing with each other in the same space.
Across these interactions, once you know the trick of it, you can enjoy the variety a bit and how it all plays out. But there’s also that disconnect because you’re waiting for it to get “real”, for the trick to move beyond that into the meat of the story. And that happens in the final couple of episodes as a new character enters her life that confounds even Orion. Ukyo, a sharp young man who stands out even among the beautiful characters that populates this series, is the one that’s orchestrating all of this for his own reasons that he keeps secret but can’t help but to let slip out little by little. Our Heroine has a hell of a time trying to understand the situation and why it’s happening, but as Ukyo goes into it and we see that he’s truly cracked because of the situation he’s found himself in, you can sympathize in a lot of ways but also find him to be a pretty terrifying character because of his unpredictability.
When it’s made that he’s pretty much nuts because of his split personality, he’s dealing with the situation in the way that one would expect here as he got our Heroine out to where he wanted her to kill her and set everything into motion. Yet just as he was closer to dealing things out, the glass shatters and he’s back to his normal and calm self, surprised to find himself where he was and that she’s there as well. But he also has a lot of clarity that he finally brings into things, revealing what happened to her really in the past where she died after being in a hospital for twenty-five days after a fire at the university cost her everything. That set Ukyo on a path to find a living version of her somewhere to bring back, but it also caused a problem in that each of those worlds didn’t have a version of Ukyo and that means it tries to kill him.
Hence his bringing her back here to try and have her in his world only to realize that his world is now trying to kill her like a foreign body in the system. What’s made things complicated more so for Ukyo is that the only way for him to survive is to kill her off, but each time he does so it ends up causing his “normal” self to become beyond despondent over it and the cycle starts anew in a different world as he goes there to find her. With a reveal from Ukyo, offhandedly about a man named Neil that gets Orion’s attention because of what he stands for, there’s some decent back and forth in the first half as Ukyo alternately tries to kill her and tries to save her before things simply go south for him in general. But our Heroine is who she is and she’s kind, gentle and considerate right up to the end of his existence.
When that happens, we get a bit more detail as Orion starts to do a bit of exposition about things and explains why events played out as they did, bringing Neil into focus a touch and what that side of the involvement meant for our Heroine as she was pretty much tossed from world to world where her amnesia would kick in because of the accident. Though we don’t see a literal Neil, Orion provides the context through him and is ready to set everything right after so long, but it’s something where you know that our Heroine is just simply uncertain about getting them back after all she’s seen and done. There’s a nice little montage as things settle out between the two and as she makes her choice about going back to who she was, and it’s kind of nice to cement the relationship between the two a bit, but it was just so threadbare overall during the series that it’s hard to really be moved by it.
Amnesia is a series that proved to be one hell of a challenge for me when I watched the simulcast, from the very unlikable way that it never names our lead character to the uncertainty about what’s really going on as it kept the viewer too far out of the loop for too long. With what it does towards the end once it introduces Ukyo, it feels like it’s just pulling so many thing out of thin air (hah!) in order to tie it all together and wrap it up in a neat little bow. The series is one that kept me interested just because of the animation and to see how many unlikable male characters they could introduce and pair up with a blank slate girl that had zero personality and no motivation. Revisiting in marathon form was something I was really curious about to see whether it would all connect better, but it still feels like a Groundhog Day series that doesn’t make it clear early enough and in a clean enough way to make it work. There are some structural issues to how this series works, which does work in a visual novel game mode, and that makes it a very difficult show. In that way, it can definitely be a fascinating watch because it’s not like everything else even as it feels like it’s playing at it. It’s a beautiful show with a great idea that doesn’t quite come together as well as it thinks it is. For fans of the game, I’m sure it’s a really great piece to see come to life, but I’m betting it’s a lot more divisive for those outside of that audience.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Lost Diary Entries
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A+
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 3rd, 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.