What They Say:
Even though Yuuichi Ezaki is in the hospital recovering from an illness, he’s constantly sneaking out. One day he’s caught by the head nurse, who makes a deal with him: she’ll overlook his future excursions if he’s willing to befriend a new patient, Rika Akiba. Due to a serious heart condition, Rika has spent most of her life in the hospital, and doesn’t really have any friends. As Yuuichi and Rika spend time together and learn more about each other, their relationship soon blossoms into romance…
The audio presentation for this release is done in just the original Japanese language only, encoded in stereo at 192kbps. The show is pretty much all dialogue driven outside of a couple of “action” moments, and the result is one that uses the forward soundstage well, but doesn’t have to do much or struggle with anything. The dialogue is generally well placed when necessary, but most of it follows a kind of full feeling that fits the material well. A few quieter moments here and there are well captured with depth and placement, but beyond that it’s a standard show. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in the fall of 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The six episodes are spread across two discs with four on the first and two on the second, which also has the minor extras. Animated by Group TAC, the transfer captures the simple look of the show well and particularly it’s tone and atmosphere when it comes to the color palette. It’s not a high motion show so there’s no problems to be had in bringing the quality of the animation to life here, but it has that kind of low budget approach that shows through with meager details in the characters and simple backgrounds overall. The transfer handles it well, though some dark blue night sky sequences show a little fuzziness, but enough of it just feels like it’s coming from the source itself. It’s not a show that will stand out for its animation qualities and the transfer captures that.
The packaging design for this release is pretty solid as we get a good use of the clear keepcase here that lets the purple shades of the cover feel like it stands out all the more. With Rika in the foreground, she naturally stands out more, especially since Yuichi is place further back and shadowed a bit, which certainly provides an uneven look at the romantic pairing going on here. The half moon obviously takes up a nice chunk of space and sets the tone, though it’s easy to imagine a casual glance at the cover and title will have someone thinking this is a vampire show. The back cover works the gradients well with a lunar background, but it also does a split across it where the top half is darker, so we get the premise and background with white text that’s easy to ride along the top. The bottom has a few shots from the show and very good character artwork of Rika along the right. The episode count and extras are clearly listed and the technical grid covers it all in a very clean and easy to read form. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design uses the materials on hand well here as the cover art is reworked into this frame well. The first volume does a close-up of Rika for its static background and that lets the colors stand out even more, as well as some of the detail and proper softness to it. The second disc does the same with Yuichi, but the character artwork is more subdued so it still comes across as weaker. The layout is nice as the navigation is kept to the right while the logo and series name is below it, taking up a decent little space of real estate but giving it all a very good look. There’s little in the ways of submenus here since it’s a monolingual release and it all comes together well in setting the mood and tone of the show.
The only extras on this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as the promotional videos that were produced for its original broadcast.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the eight volume light novel series by Tsumugu Hashimoto that ran from 2003 to 2006, Looking Up at the Half Moon is a six episode OVA produced by Group TAC that debuted in the fall of 2006. The show is one that has had a lot of fans over the years and calls for it to be brought over, but with OVAs largely on the wane, it’s fallen through the cracks and simply hasn’t been dealt with prior to this slightly convoluted acquisition. And a lot of that is because it is a slice of life story done with a small budget, some real passion and a lot of emotion with what’s involved. It’s earned its reputation for what it presents to be sure, but it’s something of a hard sell in general because of it as well.
The series takes place in Ise where we’re introduced to seventeen year old Yuichi Ezaki, a young man who has been in the hospital for several months due to dealing with hepatitis A. Because of the severity of it, he’s getting treated regularly and has been working through his school stuff there while dealing with some of the prodding and fun that he gets from his main nurse, an outgoing redhead named Akiko that’s making sure he doesn’t enter into a depression. Yuichi’s rather amusing with all of this as he finds ways to sneak out, hang out with friends at their homes to play video games and to just not spend all his time in the hospital. His main friend while in there though is an elderly man named Tada, who gifts him his massive erotic magazine collection just before he died. That’s one of those sudden moments that makes an impact on Yuichi, both for the emotion of the moment but also because of the small but amusing fallout from his new acquisition.
While any hospital time is difficult to cope with, what makes Yuichi’s harder is that Akiko nudges him to go visit a girl his age over in the other wing where more serious illnesses are dealt with. This is where he meets Rika, a young woman who has some real heart issues and tissue issues that’s inherited from her father, who died from complications from it. She’s weak and has been for some time, and her mindset is one where there’s just a blandness about her in a way, an acceptance that has her simply living her time out in hospital rooms. Naturally, the arrival of Yuichi shakes things up a bit, since she kind of abuses his goodwill at first, but it takes the expected turn along the way of him providing her with glimpses and moments of normalcy that she needs in order to turn around her mindset. It’s all familiar to be sure, but it’s generally well executed in a way that draws you into the blossoming young couple and the challenges they face.
The show is one that may not offer a lot in the way of something new in a sense to the story that we get, but it’s a welcome change from shows where there’s no real issues to be dealt with. We get some decent emotion here and some welcome connection that comes from two kids stuck in a hospital and that is engaging to see how they work through it while not going goofily over the top like a Hollywood show would. That said, there are frustrating things that take me out of it in a big way. The big end “rescue” sequence certainly does, with Yuichi scaling the hospital walls, as even a countryside hospital like this is hard to imagine that windows would open at all. But, another country, different design and regulations, so I can sort of accept that. But his scaling stuff and everyone going along with it was too much. I also didn’t care for the fact that we had nothing from Yuichi’s side visiting him there, and with Rika’s mother not knowing much about Yuichi herself, it felt like she was far too disconnected from the reality of things to keep him at the distance she did when things started to go south. There’s all sorts of possible cultural ways to explain it I’m sure, but in watching it, it just left a sour taste in my mouth as to how it was handled within the show. Of course, add in all the times Yuichi sneaks out, and sneaks out Rika as well, and this place should be written up pretty heavily.
With all the drama surrounding this title, it’s great to finally have a solid product in hand to be able to sit down and take in the content itself. Looking up at the Half Moon is a straightforward slice of life romance with plenty of realistic moments to it, and a number of outlandish pieces that made me cringe as it detracts from the better parts. The end result though is a pretty solid little outing that gives viewers something different than we usually get, which is a big plus for me. It’s not revolutionary or the most heartbreaking thing ever, but in a landscape where there’s no real drama and so much feels forced and contrived, it’s good to have something that feels a little more real. This is a straightforward and simple release, but it’s well put together and should please the fans of it to finally be able to own a copy.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Promotional Videos
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Lucky Penny Entertainment
Release Date: April 7th, 2015
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic 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.