What They Say:
From the moment Hiroshi and his family arrive in Jouga, he senses something odd about the isolated village. It’s not that the people are cold and aloof; except for his beautiful class president, Nemuru, most welcome him quite warmly. But some also simply disappear.
Students transfer out of his school without any notice, and Hiroshi’s next door neighbor Isuzu, who seems quite infatuated with him, warns him to stay away from the old part of town. The upcoming Haasaku Festival, which celebrates the town’s unique oranges, seems to be generating an unusual level of concern, and groups of masked people roam the streets by night, hunting… something. Could the legends of man-sized wolves roaming the mountains surrounding Jouga be real? Who is the girl with the scythe? What is the real purpose of the festival? And how does this all revolve around something called a Temptation? Hiroshi and his new circle of friends have little time to solve these riddles before the answers will become far more dangerous and personal than he could ever imagine!
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty decent as we get the original Japanese language track only, in stereo, encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless audio codec. Having watched the show previously on DVD with an obviously much lower rate, there’s definitely improvements to be had here, though it’s in small doses. The show is one that has a bit more action to it than the usual school setting series and that helps to utilize the forward soundstage well at the times that it does, but it’s never something that really stands out in a strong or engaging way. It covers the bases well and serves the material right, but you won’t mistake it for a big production. Dialogue is still the name of the game here and that mix is very standard with an almost full feeling to it where placement is minimal at best and there’s little in the way of depth to it. What we get here in the end is something that’s definitely stronger overall with more depth and clarity to it, with the opening and closing segments standing out the most, that is very clean and well presented.
Originally airing in 2010, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs with eight on the first and four on the second, which also has the minimal extras. Animated by AIC, the series has a very simple look to it with by the numbers kinds of backgrounds with mild amounts of detail. The show has a feeling like it didn’t have a good budget to it and went with a particular approach, but it’s generally a clean looking transfer without much in the way of problems outside of some noise. The standard definition presentation we had seen before was one that had some hard times here and there with the black levels and some of the red saturation, but that’s pretty much cleaned up here with more solid black backgrounds and the reds in particular have a better hue about them and more delineation across the design.
The packaging for this release is presented in a standard sized Blu-ray case that uses the same artwork as the DVD case, but looks pretty decent while framed with the blue of the cast. The cover design is pretty moody and very appealing with its colors and the way it teases some smile while having a strong bit of darkness to it. It plays up the mask side well and the innocent nature of the kids. I love the look of it overall even with the heavy moon imagery in the background. The back carries over the moon motif which is where it wants to keep all of the text, which makes the premise very easy to read and accessible. The premise covers everything well and it’s balanced out nicely with a look at the extras and the episode count. We get some good shots from the show of different sizes that highlights more of the characters while the remainder is fleshed out with the production credits and the technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty nice with what it does. The layout is one that lets the bulk of it be a static image, where the first disc has a bright and outgoing daytime image of the main group together in their school uniforms outside while the second has them in an array of other clothes inside with a kind of classic party atmosphere about it that’s not quite as bright in a way but still pretty colorful. The navigation along the right gives it all a bit of weight as it has a black background to it with the episodes by number and title going down in white and red with a crescent moon for the navigation icon. It also has a kind of rough off-white border that wraps around the entire screen to give it an almost photographic kind of feeling. It’s not noticeable much as a static menu, but when you pull it up during regular playback as a pop-up menu, it frames it all in a pretty neat if simple way.
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the PlayStation 2 game of the same name that came out in 2009, Okamikakushi is a twelve episode series animated by AIC with the man behind When They Cry involved in the overall creation of the game. If you didn’t know the creative team behind it, it’s something that comes across as a bit of a poor mans version of that show. It’s easy to understand why they thought they’d have something more here considering the talent. With Ryukishi07 behind the game design which influenced the series, it also featured the character designs from Peach-Pit, which always draw in fans because of their cute looks while knowing there’s more underneath. While Okamikakushi has a lot of good ideas in general to it, they unfortunately suffer from poor execution and way too much familiarity. Enough so that you wonder if Ryukishi07 can do anything but this.
The series introduces us to the Kuzumi family as we see fifteen year old Hiroshi, his wheelchair bound twelve years old sister Mana, and their father move to Joga City, a rather secluded mountain/country place where the dynamic between old and new couldn’t be more profound. The appropriately labeled New City is full of people, shops, modern buildings and a sense of life to it, which is in stark contrast to Old City, where it feels like it stepped out of another century, feels run down and pretty much like a ghost town. As Hiroshi gets introduced more to the way of Joga, he’s warned away from spending time there because of the way the few residents are and the simple fact that there’s nothing there worth going to see or spending time on. There’s certainly no cute girls there to be sure, something that New City has in abundance.
What Joga City has going for it, that’s not quite as well known outside of it as some may think, is the whole Joga Wolf jingle and mascot which helps promote the rare fruit that grows there. A fruit that factors into the creepy nature of the town as it goes forward. But for much of the show early on through the first half, we’re getting to know the various high school students that inhabit the place, which is pretty unusual and made only more so because of the character designs where they’re so tiny, fragile and innocent looking. But hide more dangerous things under the surface, of course. Hiroshi is pretty much attacked hard by Isuzu, a very cute girl who finds herself hugely attracted to him and plays it almost like a grade school girl with how she is with him. But part of it is that she’s being protective of him from the things that exist in the town.
While we get a lot of school stuff with the various characters that are introduced, such as Nemuru and Isuzu’s older brother who gets positively creepy at times, it’s all done with this layer of leaving you wondering what the gimmick is. We get a lot of nods to the Joga Wolf and what it represents and there are moments where we get tales, hints and minor visual cues about the things that exist in the town that are human yet not human, such as when one student is attacked and is killed for the viewer to see, but everyone the next day at school just knows that he moved away in the middle of the night and accepts it since they know the deeper truth. That deeper truth, involving the way there’s a separate strain of humanity of sorts here that can be viewed as cursed, is stuck in a patient, quiet and long term battle with those that guard against it spilling out into the rest of the world. But it’s all so obliquely defined at times that it’s very hard to get into it and it’s done in such a roundabout way that you can’t embrace it strongly enough.
The series brings in another plot point along the way as well to complicate things and to try and bring it to something bigger as it progresses. Using the adult character of Sakaki, someone who knows there’s more to this town and is intent on gaining its secrets for biomedical use, works to win over some of the elders and acquire the data he needs for his own goals. It’s so by the numbers that it really is boring and while it does advance the big ending aspect of the show, it’s just dull in that regard and practically feels shoehorned in. When the show does get to its end of the main story, it’s all rather anticlimactic and just left me feeling empty about the whole experience. And then it decided to do an epilogue episode, which does cover some things a touch with what happened, but mostly just seems to be fluff. Which is fun for some series, but here the characters are so one dimensional that it was almost painful to watch at that point.
Okamikakushi has all the right pedigree parts behind it with its game origins that was designed by Ryukishi07, character designs by Peach-Pit and animation by AIC here. But the show suffers from some terrible execution and pacing with what it wants to do, leaving it feeling far too dragged out and without enough progress or engaging characters to make it interesting or engaging. It tries to be moody and you can see plenty of similarities to When The Cry – even when they talked about flooding the village – that it’s easy to write off as a copycat that just doesn’t succeed. And unfortunately, it really doesn’t succeed. It’s a premise that I like overall, but it’s by the numbers and without anything that sets it apart to give it a life of its own. Revisiting it now over a year after I had first seen it, I found myself largely in the same position once again. Okamikakushi has plenty of potential, but it just had the wrong team behind it from pretty much the get go. At least this time it looks and sounds a bit better. Fans of the show will definitely be pleased in having a proper high definition version of it though.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: December 9th, 2014
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen