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A-Channel Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

A-Channel Blu-rayThe daily grind isn’t that much of a grind for four young high school girls.

What They Say:
Toru and Run have been best friends forever, so when Toru learns that she’s managed to get into the same high school as Run, she runs to tell her… only to find Run in a compromising position with yet another girl, Yuko. Needless to say, that makes things a bit awkward at school, with Toru fending off those who might be interested in Run while Yuko and their other girlfriend, Nagi, have to deal with Run’s own penchant for drama.

But it’s not all angst all the time, and as the school year progresses the four girls and their many classmates find time to laugh, play, and figure out how to handle the unexpected problems life likes to throw at the them. Like bugs in the house, accidentally giving each other horrible haircuts, freezing up at karaoke, or forgetting to put your underwear on in the morning.

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this releases is in its original language of Japanese in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that is very much a dialogue driven piece with little in the way of action, but it has a few cute moments where things get a little bigger and involved, but not by much. The show hits all the basics that you’d expect from a slice of life show and it handles it well. The opening and closing sequences are where things go a bit fuller with the overall soundstage but there are some decent moments within the show as well since there are a number of instrumental musical interludes. The series is not one that stands out overall with its audio design and in some ways you won’t really notice a huge difference compared to the DVD, but there’s a better sense of warmth about it, especially with the music, and things just come across a touch richer in a few areas. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in the spring of 2011, 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. The series is self contained on one disc since it’s a monolingual release and all the extras are on a separate disc. Like a lot of slice of life shows, there isn’t a huge amount of movement here as it deals with the cast sitting around talking but it does have its moments and they hold up well here. The show has some strong moments when it does that since it’s very fluid and stands out against the slower scenes. The transfer captures the look of the show well with its color design as it uses a lot of very good, strong pieces where the outfits in particular look great. What’s most noticeable here in comparison to the previous release is that we get stronger color definition overall, more solid color fields in general and a greater sense of pop and vibrancy to it than I expected, giving it almost a bit of a new life..

Packaging:
The packaging for this release is straightforward with a single sized Blu-ray that holds the two discs against the interior walls. Replicating the DVD design, the front cover is a cute piece that has the four girls together with generally upbeat expressions to their faces as they’re in the classroom and you can see the colorful chalkboard in the background that’s used during the show for its opening title card bit. The layout works really nicely with the characters and general artwork design to make it a cute and appealing show that definitely lets you know what you’re getting just from looking at it. The back cover goes a bit lighter with its approach with softer colors like pinks and oranges and a mix of character artwork. There’s also a good number of shots from the show itself near the bottom that shows more elements from the series. The plot concept is pretty cleanly listed out though it may be just a bit more than it needs to be. The production credits are straightforward as well and the technical grid has everything laid out well. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this is certainly nice enough as it works off the color palette along the right side with the menu navigation the same as the back cover. It’s got some nice pinks, whites, oranges and blues to pull it all together in a way you might not expect, but it does it. The navigation breaks things down by episode number and title and it works pretty well as a pop-up menu as well. The left side gives us character artwork, such as the first disc where it’s the three girls standing in school along the window at Run’s desk talking to her while she’s sitting there.The layout is pretty straightforward as the show disc is just the show with no language options while the extras break down between the three main pieces in an easy to access and navigate way.

Extras:
Due to the amount of extras on here with their running time, all the extras are on the second disc. The essential basics are here in that we get the clean opening and closing sequences which is always welcome. In addition to that, we get the big stuff such as the very cute mini episodes that plays things with a bit more humor for the girls. The big extra is the three part “A Channel TV” segments which lets the Japanese voice actors take the stage with the usual kind of fluffy but fun goofy event stuff that we’ve seen over the years. For those that like the voice actors, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the four panel comic strip by bb Kuroda that began in 2008 and has five volumes to its name as of this writing, A Channel is a twelve episode slice of life series animated by Studio Gokumi. The show lets you know exactly what you’re getting from the show by the front cover alone in that it’s a group of cute girls that are going through their lives. The series has some pretty good animation to it and its designs are solid, though there were many times I looked at the girls and wondered whether their bodies could support their heads, never mind their legs holding the whole package up overall. Still, the designs have a certain charm that gives it what it needs to stand out.

The series revolves around a first year students and three second year students that all get along well. It’s not often you get the differences in years like this when it comes to the primary cast of characters but it helps to keep them from being constantly in each others faces when at school which is where a large part of the series takes place. The first year is Toru, a dark haired and almost violent looking young girl who is fiercely protective of the spacey blonde second year student Run. Toru can often be seen holding onto a baseball bat as she’s ready to take down anything that causes trouble with her or her friends. She’s not exactly the lead of the series but she has a personality that lets her dominate at times with how she forces situations and deals with problems.

Run is definitely the kind of character that has others looking out for her since she moves to the beat of her own drummer and kind of almost spaces out at times. She’s bright and outgoing though which has people drawn to her easily. She’s one of the obvious types to have in this group and her close relationship with Run makes them both fun to watch. The show also brings in the serious glasses type who has her self body image issues named Nagi and then there’s the taller and bustier Yuko, another dark haired beauty who is also self conscious about things but generally is a decent young woman who handles things well. She’s not exactly the rock of the group but she’s the one that comes across as the most normal. But none of them are anywhere near extreme personalities, even Toru.

Being that this is a slice of life show, it falls into that hard pattern of not having a whole lot to say about it. Some shows are very distinct in how you can talk about it where they have strong personalities to it that stand out and has them going through more than just the usual routines. What the girls go through here is pretty unmemorable when you get down to it, but it’s also the kind of show that is enjoyable as you watch. The four are good friends and they spend plenty of time together both in school and out, and because of the split of them in different classes, it lets them interact with other kids and that helps. The things they do are what you’d expect, from going to classes, hanging out after school or at lunch and the summer activities like going to the beach and swim lessons at school itself.

While the four girls are tops here, there are a couple of other characters that come into play. In general, there are no men of significance beyond the new school doctor that comes in after a couple of episodes and has a strange and almost unhealthy attraction to Run that ticks off Toru. He has some back and forth with another of the teachers in the school but it’s more that the two are better suited for each other than anything else. When it comes to schoolboys, there almost none here and the few that do show up don’t get a name and just gain Toru’s ire. The lack of a decent supporting cast does impact the show a bit since it keeps things to the main girls and while they have personality, you can start to feel like you’re spending too much time with them.

What frustrated me the most with the show is how each episode would spend a little bit of time with a musical interlude. They girls would be involved in something and it’d essentially get a montage of whatever it is they’re doing. It’s not bad and it works to do what the show aims to do, but it takes you out of things more than you’d expect sometimes. The show is very much about creating mood and atmosphere and I’ll readily admit that it works in doing that, showing the simplicity and innocence of the girls lives where there’s no real stress or problems to deal with as it doesn’t have anything truly impact them negatively. But at the same time, because things are so good, doing these kinds of montages really is a good bit of overkill.

In Summary:
A Channel has some good designs to it and a definite sense of personality with the leads and the kind of atmosphere it wants to create. I wasn’t exactly downbeat on the show the first time I saw it, but it didn’t really do a lot for me. So I was surprised that this time around I found myself enjoying it more, chuckling and smile more at some of the antics and situations, and generally just enjoying the laid back experience. The situations are simple to be sure and it’s obvious it’s coming from the four panel background in what it’s doing, but it fleshes the kids out decently enough and lets you enjoy their relaxed days, silly situations and mild infatuations as it progresses. The high definition aspect certainly didn’t hurt either as everything just feels like it has more pop and vibrancy to it, giving it what feels like a fresh coat of paint almost..

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Mini Episodes, A Channel TV, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 27th, 2015
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 300 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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