What They Say:
In Japan, it is said that if you pray to a deity with sincerity, you will surely feel the divine presence. However, as the successor of the Saeki Inari Shrine, Makoto Saeki can do more than that. She’s been seeing and speaking with spirits, kami and other messengers of the Gods since her mother’s funeral. It can be difficult, especially when her classmates can’t know about her latest “issues” with Gintarou, the irritable fox-like Herald who’s protected the Saeki shrine for hundreds of years. But at least Makoto’s father, who runs the shrine, knows that Gintarou is more than an imaginary friend.
Between them, the shrine maid and mystical Herald can usually manage to cooperate long enough to help those who need it. However, when a young man with a similar “gift” to Makoto’s arrives with his own shrine and Herald issues, it’s going to take more than just prayers to sort things out. After all, if there’s one thing that both human and supernatural can agree on it’s that the Gods often work in convoluted and mysterious ways. Just because you’re working for a higher power doesn’t mean you always agree with their intentions.
Contains episodes 1-12.
THe audio presentation for this release comes in its original Japanese language only and is encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec for its stereo mix. The show is one that is very much all about the dialogue and ambient sounds, so it doesn’t come across as a terribly rich show in a lot of ways, but it hits some very good notes along the way in setting the atmosphere well. By and large, it’s kept to one or two people at most talking at a time and that has it feeling very center channel in its layout since they’re generally placed there on the screen. We get a few areas where things get a little busier, especially with Gintaro or Haru flitting about, but for the most part there’s not a lot of variance here. The background sounds come across well and help to set the mood throughout, as does the quiet from time to time as well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in late 2013, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The season ran for twelve episodes and since this is a monolingual release without a lot of high motion, it all fits on one disc pretty well. Animated by Diomedea, the series has a very appealing look to it that’s captured by the transfer well with lush colors in backgrounds and in character designs that gives it a good bit of pop without being too vibrant that it distracts. The series is one that’s pretty much a slice of life so it captures the animation very well with the transfer and outside of a touch of gradients visible in the source animation itself at the very end, there’s little to complain about here and a lot to like. The color design is great and the movement of the animation is captured without problems like blurring or blocking. It’s a very appealing looking series from top to bottom.
The packaging for this release is done up simply as we get a standard sized Blu-ray case to hold the single disc inside. The front cover uses one of the more familiar images from its broadcast run with Makoto sitting on the shrine steps while Gintaro is next to her and her father is off to the side with it all done in a fall setting with a good sense of cool about it that you definitely appreciate the added element of at least her father’s breath being seen. It’s a cover the definitely plays to the core aspects of the show and it has a good look about it with its muted colors but also the oddness of the herald being there. The back cover goes with some traditional imagery for the background with soft colors that’s broken up by a number of shots from the show itself along a strip through the top section. The premise is covered decently as well, though again I’m not a fan of these things being done in circles with how it’s laid out. We get the nod towards the episode count and a cute chibi version of Haru and Gintaro that’s just adorable. The remainder is given over to the usual as we get the production credits and technical grid, both of which lay things out cleanly and clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release goes for a very simple approach overall, but that makes sense considering there’s little here beyond the show itself. The layout has the navigation along the right that goes with an older approach in sparseness and design with soft pinks and oranges as it breaks down the episodes by number and title while the left has a good full image of the cast from the end arc of the series with them all dressed up. It sets the tone well and has a good bit of detail to it and color to bring it to life well. There’s no submenus here outside of the special features, so it’s very simple to navigate and we didn’t have any issues doing any of that at startup or during playback.
The only extras included 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 manga of the same name by Sayori Ochiai, Gingitsune is a twelve episode series that aired in the fall of 2013. The original work began in 2008 and is still going on with eleven volumes so far, so there was a decent bit of material to work with when this series got the green light. Animated by Diomedea, the production captured the right sense about the show in that it’s all about the characters and the more serene aspects of life that they live. It’s a very laid back show that follows these characters through their days with a few changes along the way, but it avoids the problem a lot of shows have by introducing some big arc at the end to shift the tone. Instead, life simply continues on here, though we do get an event of sorts.
The series revolves around high school student Makoto Saeki, a young woman whose family is tied to a local Inari Shinto shrine that’s devoted to the god of agriculture with Ukanomitama. Makoto has the ability called the Sight that allows her to see and interact with the Herald of the shrine for the god, which is a fox spirit in anthropomorphized form that’s been there for ages. Usually there are two Heralds for a shrine, but the other Herald went off some time ago and has not been heard from since. Makoto’s ability is interesting in that only one member of the family can have it at a time, and she has it as her mother died when she was just four years old. That made it easy for Makoto to connect with the Herald, Gintaro, and she’s grown up fairly close to him. Though his position as a Herald always has him a little aloof simply because of the differences in the passage of time between them and man. Makoto also gets a little help at the shrine as her father, who married into the family, has taken over as head priest while she goes through school until she decides what it is she wants to do.
What we get with the show is essentially a following of Makoto’s life as she kicks off a new school year, makes new friends and has a few other changes come into focus as well. Makoto handles things well enough at the shrine and she’s one of those kids that just seems like she’s stable, steady and happy and that translates into her time at school. She has a bit of a reputation there as she does fortune telling at the shrine through Gintaro, though things are lost in translation from time to time and Gintaro’s not exactly the most enthusiastic or detailed about such situations. Those interactions has people wanting to come to her for things, but it hasn’t translated to friends. In fact, a poorly executed fortune at the start causes problems with a girl named Yumi, though the two eventually turn to being friends.
Makoto’s small circle is nice to see grow as it progresses since Yumi strikes you as the fun and popular girl, but one that’s grounded and not overcompensating in any area really. She’s definitely interested in guys and that comes up regularly, but not in an annoying way and not really in competition with anyone else in the group as it expands. We also get Makoto befriending Hiwako, the smart and little more introverted type that’s the vice president on the student council and comes from a family of wealth, hence having a driver that takes her to and from school due to her father being a politician. That doesn’t enter into the show much beyond a surprised expression or two, but it helps to expand on Hiwako as it goes on because we see her through her drivers’ eyes, a man ten years her senior that has been with her for some time and is fighting off his own growing interest in her as she becomes a woman. It may be uncomfortable material for some, but it doesn’t progress anywhere beyond his blushing and self restraint as she’s mostly oblivious to it.
While we see the growth in friendship between the trio that do largely accept what Makoto can see, though they don’t comment on it much, the real fun is the arrival of Satoru Kamio from the Kamio shrine. He’s in the same position as Makoto as he can see the Herald from his shrine as well, and hers, and what get there is another fox spirit named Haru. Haru’s a lot younger and smaller, and more insecure, and not terribly pleased by the fact that Satoru has transferred to Makoto’s school for its kendo offerings and is residing at Makoto’s shrine. Since their parents were friends years ago, it’s an easy thing that isn’t thought over much by them, but it has some mild complications for the kids from time to time. There isn’t a strongly brewed romance or even many moments where they look at each other and realize there’s something more, but there’s a slow growth of familiarity about each of them that lets them get to know each other, from a distance in many cases, which makes it feel more honest and meaningful.
What the series largely does is to move through the days and lives of these characters with a surprising ease for a show that doesn’t have long to really invest in them. It doesn’t dive deep and you don’t feel that you really know them in a strong way, but the superficial side is done well enough that you can enjoy the interactions, the silliness and the more earnest moments, whether it’s school related aspects or just having the girls getting to know Satoru or the more interesting areas of Makoto working with Gintaro, and eventually Satoru and Haru, to help and meet other Herald’s in the area. There’s some simple commentary on the state of worship these days and what’s involved in being a priest from a couple of angles, but it’s all done very gently and without a strong stand being taken. More just an admission of various things. And that works, because we’re not dealing with adults for the most part but rather high school kids who are unsure of where they really want to go in life.
I hadn’t seen Gingitsune when it was simulcast, so I go to go into this show with clean slate about it. While I can see that this might get a little tedious on a week to week basis, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it as a whole over the course of a day as it explores the characters with light touches but with a solid approach. There’s plenty of familiar aspects to it here, a given considering where it’s operating from, but it’s not trying to be more than a story of a group of kids growing up and getting to understand more of themselves, their friends and their world, but with the added touch of the Heralds of the gods that some of them can see. It’s beautifully animated, has some solid performances throughout and an overall arc that starts to tell a great story. The familiar trappings are here, but it’s executed in all the right ways while avoiding some of the more familiar traps. Definitely far more fun than I expected it to be.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 31st, 2015
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.