What They Say:
When the world is under attack by a monstrous and seemingly unstoppable enemy, the only way to fight back is with warriors who have already died! Sidestepping a gruesome fate in a subway crash during an earthquake, two young men and a girl find themselves recruited into the ranks of the Devil Summoners and given the ability to literally call up demons to battle against the mysterious Septenriones!
Can Hibiki, Daichi and Io survive in a war where demons face demons under human command? Where a person’s death can be seen in advance? Where every living being is just a game piece to be saved or expended? And where each clash comes with a clock counting down to Armageddon? Get ready to be immersed in the in the ultimate conflict between good and evil as the living, the dead and the demonic combine forces to send the invaders straight back to Hell!
The audio presentation for this series is pretty good as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that has a decent balance between dialogue and action and both tracks work it well in conveying it. The dialogue side is more prevalent for obvious reasons but we get some good design choices used throughout to make it work with some of the non-human side characters in making it otherworldly, and there’s some decent placement to be had in general with it. The action has a fuller feeling to it as it tends to focus on overall destruction which dominates the forward soundstage. There’s some decent directionality at times and a bit of depth as well, which in the end brings the whole thing together well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in the spring of 2013, 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 nine on the first and four on the second, giving it a solid bit of space to work with overall. Animated by studio Bridge, it’s a show with a good look to it and design elements that I liked in the simulcast that come across richer and more solid here overall. A lot of it takes place in darker and murkier scenes than usual, or sunset hued sequences, so it’s not a bright, vibrant piece in the traditional way. But there are some striking colors to be had throughout that does give it some good pop. There’s a lot of detail to the various backgrounds and the character designs are good as well, not too overdone nor too simple, and the end result is a show that’s a step above the average and comes across well. The transfer captures all of this outside of a touch of banding in noise in some backgruonds that comes from the source itself with the color palette it uses. Most of the release is very solid and appealing with no problems such as line noise or blocking causing issues.
The packaging for this release replicates what we got with the DVD release last year as it has an O-card over the standard sized Blu-ray case. The card is certainly eye-catching as it features a good image of Hibiki in a central position but uses a silver and black background that can mess with your eyes if you look at it too long. It definitely draws your eye to it, which is the point. The back cover uses the same background but gives us an image of Nitta along the right in a red and black outfit that works well for her. Working less well is the text on this piece because white text on this background going over the basic premise is definitely hard to read and even the larger red tagline over part of it is just as rough. The technical grid is kept to the top this time around and is blocked off so it can be ready easily at least. What works better is the case cover itself as we get a striking illustration image of Yamato in his uniform against a black background with a burst of pinks and whites that provides a hue for the whole piece. It’s serious looking and strong overall with the darker aspect and the illustration itself combined with the logo and its text done sideways along the left. The back cover gives us all the same information from the O-Card back cover, but done against a black and gray background that makes it far easier to read. It also gets a few shots from the show and a different character piece instead of Nitta. The production credits are clearly laid out and the technical grid covers everything cleanly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release does work in a straightforward way but it has an appeal to it because of the colors and that it does connect with the visual design of the show itself. The main layout is the standard navigation strip along the right that breaks down the episodes by number and title, going with a black background and white text for the titles and a purple text for the episode numbers, which has both standing out pretty well here. The rest of the menu is given over to the static image design, with the first disc bringing together our two male leads in their standard attire. They stand out well because of the white aspect of it, and Hibiki’s eyes, and the gray/black checkerboard background gives it all the more ability to pop out. The logo is done in the hot pink/purple shading that adds a little more vibrancy to it and ties into the navigation panel itself. Submenus are simple as it’s just language and extras so they load quickly and easily. Language selection is a breeze and the pop-up menu looks solid during regular playback, almost but not quite a part of the show.
The only extras included with 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 Nintendo DS game of the same name as part of the larger overall Shin Megami Tensei franchise, Devil Survivor 2 is a thirteen episode series that landed in the spring 2013 season. Animated by studio Bridge, it was a show that I saw as a simulcast but ended up waiting awhile to see it on Blu-ray since it was one that had a hold back on it since the DVD release came out last year. I had enjoyed the show a lot when it first aired because it had an interesting concept to start with and ended in the kind of big way that I like with anime shows that try to go the distance. Unfortunately, like a lot of them, it had a kind of muddled feeling throughout the middle half where it attempted to do a lot of the explanations.
The series takes place in a fairly standard modern day Tokyo setting where we’re introduced to the best friends of Hibiki and Daichi, two high school kids that are closing in on the end of their primary education and are trying to figure out what the future holds for them and what path they want to take. What changes their lives, and the lives of everyone in the world, is a sudden series of calamities that begin to occur that causes a lot of destruction. While we don’t see much of the rest of the world, it’s something impacting everyone. Through these two, we see it in a creative way as one of the things that’s a sign of the end is that there’s a Dead Face app out there on phones that’s kind of viral, wherein it shows the owners what kinds of deaths they face. The two of them see their own fate suddenly in a rain crash, and before they can react to it in a meaningful way, they and a girl they know named Io Nitta end up crushed by the subway train.
But the app is special for certain people that it can reach if they have the will to accept a restart on their life, to be brought back but to accept certain terms and conditions. Naturally, this trio does and they discover that the real dangers facing the world are surreal. With the fate of the world, and existence in general at stake, they discover that there is a kind of otherdimensional alien race that’s treating humanity and Earth as a virus by sending all manner of weird things to attack. But there are those that disagree with this plan, or at least the method, and they seeded the Dead Face app to people which allows them to summon demons to fight back against the race known as the Septentrion. Our trio is able to do that, though Daichi is the weakest of them, and Hibiki is something on a whole other level that’s having his potential slowly unleashed through the app and his discoveries of what’s going on. It does present us with the young man with the potential to save the world trope, but it’s layered well with the friends he has, the scale of the enemy, the tight nature of the amount of time it all takes place in and some other expansive elements.
In particular, it’s good to learn that there are others that have these kinds of abilities as well to summon and have been pushing back against the Septentrion for some time. In a way though, most of them end up just becoming fodder along the way in order to heighten the intensity of the fights by having losses as it goes on, after getting to know them decently. But what complicates the situation is that as we get to know this government sanctioned branch, the secret JP group that takes over situations as the calamities pile up, is that there’s a resistance group as well that’s against their methods and do what they can to convince Hibilki and others to work with them. But we also get the human-form Septentrion with Alcor, also known as the Anguished One, that are just curious about everything in general and are watching to see how it all plays out. What the Septentrion are doing is essentially a huge trial, at least in the eyes of those that look at things on a grand scale, but it’s one that involves a whole lot of death. There’s a kind of galactic natural beauty about what’s going on here that’s appealing to see unfold, even if it’s only lightly touched upon.
Something that we get with shows like this, and have for decades, is that it wants to play at a philosophical layer in the end to give it an extra air of importance. This is something that some shows do better than others, and Devil Survivor 2 does its best. Particularly since everything takes place over the course of several days overall rather than an extended period with lots of down time. It also present a solid threat as it goes on in a way that defies basic human expectations. When the truth is revealed to Hibiki, he has a hard time grasping that the fight against this enemy is not something that will be a war, but rather just the wiping out of all human existence, making it so that it never really existed. That’s a lot to grapple with, especially when you see it melting away in front of you. It’s made well in this regard through with the tone it’s set, the mood and atmosphere of it all, and the color palette that creates the feeling of the sunset of humanity and Earth.
The first third of the series does a lot to setup the basics of the property, though it’s interesting that a lot of those trappings are dropped along the way. It works to establish the characters though and sets the tension and that there’s loss to be had here, which helps a lot in making it feel weighted. It’s the middle segment that left me less than interested, the first time around and this time around, as it plays at what it thinks the real issues are before everyone’s eyes are opened fully to the reality of it. When we get to the eighth episode and Alcor reveals the truth of what’s going on and just how real the threat is, it does still play in a mellow way for a good chunk of it, but the shift towards the real fight to save humanity while spending enough time talking about the real meanings of so many things works better for me than I expected. A lot of the reason really is just the tone of it and the way it’s presented with the destruction and what they have to face. It feels old school in a way with the scale and style of it all as it tries to make it feel real and scary.
Though I’ve not played any of the Shin Megami Tensei games since… the PS1 days?, I do have a certain enjoyment of how various RPG games like this work in their adaptations. Devil Survivor 2 starts with an interesting concept of the Dead Face app on peoples cel phones but then shifts gears to a threat not just to the world, but to the very existence of mankind in general in all senses of the word. With a decent start and a bit of a muddled middle, what sold me on the show the first time around and this time are those final episodes where it just presents something hauntingly beautiful as humanity faces the end of all things. In a lot of ways, this is the kind of show that I would normally say doesn’t work for me, but somehow it manages to and I can’t quite pin down why exactly outside of certain thematic elements. But it does work, especially with the design of the show from Bridge and the atmosphere it creates. It’s a solid show overall and it goes big in a way that I like, that so many shows tend be afraid of. I’m definitely glad we’ve got it on Blu-ray and that it got such a solid dub as well to bring it to life for English language fans.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: April 21st, 2015
Running Time: 325 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.