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[email protected] Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

7 min read

Sasami-sanWhat could go wrong if God decides she doesn’t feel like being God anymore?

What They Say:
In Japan, the term hikikomori is used to describe people who’ve become so socially withdrawn that they refuse to leave their homes for weeks and even months at a time. For Sasami Tsukuyomi, a shut-in attempting to pass her first year of high school, it’s more than just a word. Fortunately, she lives with her older brother Kamiomi, who just happens to be a teacher at the exact school Sasami is supposed to attend.

With the help of her “Brother Surveillance Tool,” Sasami is able to view the outside world via her computer, theoretically allowing her to readjust to interacting with people once more. In reality, it reveals her brother’s interactions with the three very odd Yagami sisters, whose looks and motives are deceiving, and have various types of interest in Kamiomi. That’s when things start to get really weird…

Magical powers? Everything turning into chocolate? Has life via the web warped Sasami’s brain, or is it the universe that’s going crazy? It looks like Sasami will have to take off her pajamas and go out into the real world to set things straight!

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
Audio:
For this release, the only language option is Japanese, which is offered in 2.0. While this is a show that depends mostly on dialogue, there is enough action in it that a 5.1 mix would have been nice. There is some good directionality present in the sound effects, and there is no dropout in any of the tracks or channels.

Video:
I really like the visual design of this series. While the three Yagami sisters are fairly generic, they still are designed well, and Sasami is fairly unique in both hair and dress. But there are some really nice effects too, as colors occasionally go “off,” almost as if the scene is being seen through a patterned watermark filter (that’s a really poor description, but it’s the best I can come up with). The whole show wasn’t like that, but it makes for a really unique look that I liked.

Packaging:
The three discs for this release are housed in a single amaray case with center insert to hold two of the discs. The front cover has a picture of the Yagami sisters piling on top of Sasami, with the series logo along the top. The back has another picture of Sasami, sitting alone, with the summary to the left, and screens and technical details along the bottom. The design is colorful and matches the series well.

Menu:
The menus for this release are fairly basic. The left side of the screen has a picture of one of the girls with the series logo along the bottom. The selections are set to the right in a series of tiles made to look like a computer/tablet layout. The cursor switches between a clapperboard and a mouse pointer and stands out well against the background. The design is functional and easy to follow.

Extras:
All that is offered on this release are clean versions of the OP/ED.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sasami Tsukuyomi is a hikikomori—her social anxieties are so bad that even stepping outside of her home causes her to get dizzy and faint. Her only access to the world outside is her computer, with which she has set up an elaborate surveillance system so that she can watch the world beyond her door. In particular, she constantly spies on her brother, Kamiomi, who lovingly takes care of Sasami and accedes to all of her demands, whether it be feeding her, dressing her, or even bathing her. She is his entire life, and she likes it that way.

Of course, that is also Kamiomi’s job. In ages past, the sun goddess Amaterasu decided she needed to take a break and temporarily granted her powers to a human, but before she could take them back, the human worked out a plan to pass the powers onto her descendants. Sasami is the current holder of Amaterasu’s power, and she has spent her entire life in training to use her powers for the benefit of mankind.

As her brother, Kamiomi is charged with being Sasami’s protector as well as her eventual mate (they want to keep the powers in the family, after all). So he cheerfully, and diligently, carries out his duties as well as he can. But his duties are made more difficult as Sasami has decided that she no longer wants to live at the Tsukuyomi Shrine, existing to just use her power as necessary. She wants to live her life, and so she has run away with her brother, enrolled in school, and set about to live as normally as she can. Now, if she can just make it out her front door.

I spent much of the first episode of this series wondering what the hell was going on. Sasami gives her brother chocolate for Valentine’s Day, but he in turn passes it on to a hungry Tama because he doesn’t realize what it is and thinks it is a bento lunch. This makes Sasami jealous and she wishes that Kamiomi would realize the trouble she went through for him. Suddenly, the entire world turns into chocolate, and the Yagami sisters are called into action to fight off some monsters. When Kamiomi returns home, he finds Sasami solidified in chocolate in a seductive pose.

The reason I had no idea what was going on was because the reality of Sasami’s situation doesn’t begin to be revealed until the second episode, so when things get weird in the first episode, it’s hard to justify what exactly is happening. Once we do learn what is happening, and that the whole chocolate incident is Sasami’s inability to control her power, then it makes a little more sense (a little). And at that point, I was completely on board with whatever weirdness that [email protected] could throw at me.

I really enjoyed the characters in this too. Sasami is really interesting as the all-powerful but shy and reserved protagonist, and her brother is a lot of fun as her doting, but fairly perverted brother. The have a great relationship, as it is easy to see that behind the goofy façade, Kamiomi has a strong grasp on the realities of their situations and is doing everything he can to protect his sister. And Sasami goes through a pretty dramatic coming-of-age character arc as she develops from the spoiled, easily overwhelmed hikikomori she is at the start to a young woman capable of standing on her own two feet and protecting those around her. It’s a terrific progression for her character, aided by Kamiomi and the Yagami sisters—a trio of women with deific powers of their own who often enjoy tweaking Sasami but quickly become the best friends she could ever have.

But while I really loved large parts of this series, I found it lost its way sometimes. Its irreverence and oddities are fun and charming, but there are times that it puts that irreverence aside and gets serious as Sasami and her friends are forced to deal with demons and other elements that try to undermine her powers. It begins when Sasami’s mother returns from the underworld, disgusted that her daughter would abandon her duties, and attempts to return Sasami to the Tsukuyomi Shrine.

When Sasami’s mother reveals her true intentions, [email protected] stops being silly and gets very serious in a hurry. It is a jarring shift, and one that I don’t think does the series any favors. To be fair, I have never been much of a fan of anime series that shift in this way. I get used to the story going in a certain direction, and it flips a switch and essentially undoes everything that I felt it was doing well. That’s certainly the case here. Once I understood what was happening (to the extent it can be understood), I really found myself enjoying it. I didn’t need demons, and dark gods, and whatever else coming up and challenging Sasami’s power and will. That’s not what made the series so enjoyable in the first place. To be fair, it’s not that the shift made things bad, it’s just that when it got serious, it was almost a completely different series. I just did not find things as compelling as when they were doing silly things.

In Summary:
While I enjoyed [email protected], I also found it to be somewhat of an uneven series. I loved the concept and the characters, but I found it really jarring when it decided to get really serious. When it was being irreverent and weird, I thought it was a lot of fun, but when Sasami and her friends are confronted with a great evil they have to defeat, it ruined a lot of the charm. The more serious moments certainly weren’t bad, but I found myself just counting the minutes until the more silly stuff kicked back in. Either way, I still enjoyed it overall. Recommended.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening and Closing

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 8, 2014
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 anamorphic widescreen

Review Equipment:
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System

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