What They Say:
Tada Banri is beginning anew in the busy streets of Tokyo as a freshman student at a private law school, away from the troubles of his former life. While managing to get lost on his very first day of class, he finds himself befriending fellow law student Mitsuo on the way. Things get a little more interesting when a stylishly well-dressed beauty suddenly appears – only for her to slap Mitsuo across the face with a bouquet of roses!
The mystery girl is Mitsuo’s childhood friend and self-appointed future bride Kaga Koko. It seems that more problems are on the horizon for Banri and his new friends with a troubling secret that will change them forever. What kind of new life has Banri stepped into and will he be able to survive the trials ahead of him? Join this group of friends as they attempt to discover themselves while juggling love, life, and a little drama!
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that doesn’t have a lot going on in general as it’s very much a dialogue driven piece, but it’s one that doesn’t use a lot in the way of placement since it’s usually single character focused. But that focus is well done as there’s a lot of great performances throughout with emotion that comes across in a very clean and warm way that’s required. The show does have its moments of placement of course because of multiple characters around and some of the minor “action” pieces work the directionality a bit, but that’s not the focus of the show. What it does do, it does well, and the mix comes across in a very clean and clear fashion here that will work well for fans.
Originally airing in 2013 and 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The first half of the series here has its twelve episodes spread across two discs in a nine/four format. Animated by JC Staff, the series has a really great look here with very appealing and detailed character designs, a real world setting that has a lot of detail itself and a beautiful color palette that often breathes its own life into things. The transfer captures this all very well with what it does as the colors are vibrant and striking in many scenes, the detail in Kouko’s clothing is a real plus and the backgrounds have a very solid look to them that lets it stand out while taking in all the detail within it, especially the building exteriors. The show is one that won me over in its look during the simulcast and the high definition release here takes it up quite a few notches in color quality and solidity during regular playback, making it a great enhancing experience.
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 has a very appealing look to it where we get Kouko in the foreground with Banri behind her to the side and the costume design is good while the characters are pretty good as well. The background is done with an obvious golden hue and we get the floating rose petals that adds a bit more color to it all as well. It may not be the most standout of covers, but it places its focus on the leads here in a pretty good way. The back cover is fairly traditional overall as we get a few shots from the show on the left and some good character artwork of the lead pair. The right side has a punny tagline and a good breakdown of the premise of the show along with the clean listing of the discs extras. Round out the rest with a traditional technical grid and production information and you’ve got all the basics done up cleanly and accurately. There are no show related inserts included nor a reversible cover.
The menu design for the series is one that plays up some really nice design aspects as it avoids using cover materials for it. The layout is standard where on both discs we get the navigation along the left, which is really beautifully done with its white and golds and the roses along it, while the rest of the menu works in the artwork. The first disc has a really great image of Kouko walking along as we see her from the side as it provides a look at a carnival-like town behind her in white shadows against a brown hued diamond background. With her character artwork standing out in a striking way with the reds, it’s very appealing. The second disc uses the same navigation design but gives us an image of a crescent moon that Kouko is sitting on which is appealing. Navigation is quick and easy to use and it looks good when utilized as a pop-up menu as well.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Based on the eleven volume light novel series by Yuyuko Takemiya which ended at the same time that the anime did, Golden Time is a twenty-four episode series animated by JC Staff. The show was one that I had caught during its simulcast run and it was hugely appealing right from the start. With so many shows featuring either middle school or high school students, getting into something with a college age crowd – even freshman – is something that stands out for me. What also helped is that as the series progressed, we got characters that actually talked to each other and expressed their real issues, fears and intentions. There’s a lot of conflict in here, but also a lot of resolution and working through of the issues. That’s a rarity in a world where most series have such simple issues that largely revolve around “do they like me” or not.
The premise for Golden Time is a good one as we’re introduced to Banri Tada, a freshman going to college in Tokyo. He’s going there to get away from all the problems he had back home, which stemmed from the fact that after his high school graduation, he was involved in an incident that caused a severe case of amnesia. When he woke up, he had no recollection of who he was or who anyone really was. That put a lot of strain on family and the friendships he had, so to make it easier for them and himself, he went to a place where nobody knew him in order to start again. This is an issue that is really central to who Banri is, because we see that kind of uncertainty about himself and his place in the world because he feels like he rebooted at this age and is starting from scratch. There’s an appeal to that, but so much of who we are is bound to our childhood experiences that a blank slate is likely to be either wildly outgoing or cautious. Banri is cautious, but he wants to have the interactions of life in order to feel alive.
The exploration of the character over the series, and this half of it, is fantastic. He has some real trauma going on here to deal with and we see his fears coming out as he talks aloud by himself but also with others that he trusts above all else. Having him truly reveal his fears, deep seated things about being alone, fighting against the feelings that surface within him, are really engaging. He has a key moment for me where feelings from a past almost-relationship surface so strongly that it makes him want to drop everything in the present and just try to get that back. But it’s without context for him. It’s just the powerful emotional feeling, not the real connection to that person. The only downside to this is that at times in this season, which doesn’t happen until about halfway through, is that we see a ghost-version of the old Banri watching over the new Banri while feeling ineffective in trying to get his life back and to go back to who he was. That internal conflict is a little awkward visually in what it’s trying to represent, but it does start the real conversation about the kinds of internal conflicts that he has.
Banri’s arrival at college doesn’t go so well at first, but he ends up making a friend named Mitsuo, who has his own issues to contend with. He came to this college instead of the prestigious one he could have through the elevator system as he was trying to get away from a girl he’s known since elementary school. She’s made his life hell over the years by devoting herself to him at at the exclusion of nearly everything else and that’s made for a rough high school life because he has no real romantic interest in her, especially because of her super clingy ways and the jealous side of it all. Simply put, the girl had an unhealthy attachment to him and saw all her worth tied up in him. So it’s little surprise that she’s followed him to this college and is still trying to pursue him. That makes for some spectacularly embarrassing situations to happen early on in getting settled into college, but it also introduces Banri to her. Kouko Kaga is quite the young woman, as she’s the daughter of a hospital administrator, comes from money and is definitely the kind of elite young woman that you’d expect. But you also see the personality issues that drove Mitsuo nuts, making it clear why he’s been trying to ditch her as long as he can since he never really dated her.
What makes the show works so well is that over the first half dozen or so episodes, we see how she tries to insert herself into his school life and ends up spending time with Banri along the way. Banri is a peacemaker type personality and he tries to see the good side of her while making Mitsuo understand that he doesn’t have his baggage with her, so he’s not going to be so frustrated by her. In fact, because of Banri’s own issues, he and Kouko are pretty well suited to each other as she’s able to throw herself into him as they discover they have feelings for each other and that helps him to feel cemented in who he is. That he matters. For someone that feels as ephemeral as he does in a lot of ways, this is crucial for him. Kouko’s clingy nature and hands on approach grounds him in ways that he can’t really verbalize.
So that the two end up in a relationship is a given, and we see that others have varying issues with it, some because of connections to both of their pasts. There’s a lot going on here as we get to know some of the supporting characters, notably Linda, who was a classmate of Banri’s prior self, and that adds its own kind of tensions and subplot material that affects the relationship between Banri and Kouko. But at its core, it’s the relationship between Banri and Kouko that really drives this show. I was thrilled episode by episode during the simulcast as it progressed and we saw the way that the two really communicated with each other. There are terrible things they think of themselves based on their lives and what they’ve gone through, negative thoughts that grow and feed on themselves, but articulating it and trying to connect with each other through them is fascinating to watch. While I see a whole lot of shows, few characters really feel like they’ve got faults and issues that seem real. While the ghost-Banri annoys me, what he represents is supremely valid in this situation and is explored well. The same can be said for Kouko, who starts off coming across in the worst way, but as we learn more and more of her past and her issues, it reminds you of the old adage of not judging a book by its cover. The more pages you read of these two, the more you care for them and thoroughly love how they help each other through their issues.
Golden Time is one of those series that comes along once or twice a year that reminds me why I fell in love with anime in the first place. There are issues to be had with the series as there are with any series, but what the show does with its characters, motivations, interactions and emotions is fantastic. So few shows make you think and feel beyond the show itself, to make you think about your own relationships, the things that drive you and make you feel, that you can probably count them on a single hand. Golden Time is one of those shows. In dealing with its character issues, it can make you dredge up your own and connect you to the characters in a fantastic and frightening way. Marathoning this half of the series reminded me exactly why I fell in love with this show the first time and it has me excited to see the second half again as well. With beautiful character designs, great character arcs and fantastic set design across the board, Golden Time is a crown jewel for me that I know I’ll revisit every couple of years.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: b-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 30th, 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.