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D-Frag Complete Collection Limited Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

15 min read

D-Frag CoverIt’s hard to be a delinquent in this school, especially when you’re a good guy in general.

What They Say:
Kazama is a wannabe delinquent on a mission to rule the school, but a run-in with the cray cray cuties of the Game Creation Club derails his plan for power. Instead of conquering Fujou Academy with his fists, Kazama is plunged into a hilariously-twisted world where pain is the name of the game.

Ruled by the adorable underground boss Roka, the Game Creation Club is comprised of pretty psychopaths who enjoy snacking, setting things on fire, burying adversaries up to their necks, and tazing the ???? out of anyone who stands in their way! As Roka vies for ultimate control of the school club scene, Kazama scrambles to maintain his sanity and survive the whacked out games these girls play. There’s no escaping the Game Creation Club!

Contains episodes 1-12 in a chipboard art box.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series is pretty solid all around as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo and an English language adaptation in 5.1, both of which use the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series certainly makes out well compared to the streaming and DVD versions because of it as dialogue is stronger, better placed and richer across the board where necessary, while the action side has a bit more impact overall. It’s not one that stretches itself when it comes to the rear channels with the 5.1 mix, but both use the forward soundstage in a very good way with the way the cast interacts with each other across it and with the way the action moves back and forth. Both tracks convey the material well, though the English mix just has a stronger feeling overall. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in winter 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second, which is where all the extras reside as well outside of the commentary track. Animated by Brains Base, the show is definitely a step up here overall from previous streaming viewing as colors are very rich with a lot of pop and depth of vibrancy. The backgrounds are strong and clean as there’s no digital grain brought into it and colors have a solid feeling throughout that lets the richness of it all shine through. The fast paced sequences are problem free when it comes line noise and judder while the quieter scenes with the lower bit rate avoid any noise or breakup there. It’s a very good looking transfer overall that definitely brings the source material to life in a great way.

Packaging:
The packaging for this limited edition version of the series is a solid one that uses some good design and color elements to catch the eye and serve the material well. The box on its main side has the main cast all together leaping through the air, which has a lot of pop and vibrancy to their color design, made all the more so by having a grey and white background that makes them stand out all the more. The back of the box under the insert is even better as it has a shot of Kazama in full in a panic and populates the majority of the background with chibi versions of the entire cast. It’s just so utterly adorable. Within the box we get two Blu-ray cases to hold the DVD and Blu-ray releases in their own case (though mine was swapped as the BDs were in the DVD case). The case design mirrors the box itself and the BD case uses some pink accents and lets Roka take center stage with chibi designs behind her while the DVD case uses green with Takao taking the center stage. The back covers add more character artwork to the right side while the left side breaks down the episodes and extras for each format by disc with numbers and titles so you know where everything is. Each case also has full color artwork on the reverse side that definitely looks great when changed out as it shows off more of the cast.

Menu:
The menu design for this series is straightforward and works well for the most part outside of a poor design choice. The general design is the usual where we get the clips playing throughout which shows off the characters and generally looks good with the choices made. That has the logo in all white along the center top for it done in 8-bit style as expected. The navigation is kept to the lower right where it uses the blue and white that the show is known by as its colors. The problem comes in that the text that’s highlighted is done in an old school green style that ends up making the text you’re highlighting unreadable. This made it difficult while checking titles and doing setup, especially with the pop-up menu during playback even on a larger screen. The menu is certainly functional and works well outside of this, but it was an awkward design choice.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty good overall with a mix of original and new. The English language fans get a couple of English language commentary tracks here by the production team that makes for some fun in listening to them talk about their characters and the show. From the Japanese side, it’s a slew of promotional material, from the pre-broadcast TV spots to the promo videos and all the assorted commercials, which are definitely very cute with some twists.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Tomoya Haruno that began in 2008, D-Frag! Is a twelve episode series from Brain’s Base directed by Seiki Sugawara. The seinen series has been serialized in the Media Factory magazine Monthly Comic Alive and has several volumes out, many of which have been released by Seven Seas Entertainment beginning not long after the anime got its simulcast run. The show is one that definitely knew how to market itself when it first aired and it was one of the few simulcasts I made time for when it came out. I enjoyed it for the most part since it played well with fanservice and silliness, but it also was one that didn’t work too well in the weekly grind format for me. To my surprise, the marathon form of it in this set ended up being a lot more enjoyable than I expected and I think I came out of the season a lot more enthused than I was during the simulcast.

The series revolves around a high school group that’s part of the Game Creation Club, which is facing its greatest challenge yet in that it’s about to lose its status as a club. This is because they haven’t really done anything noteworthy. So they have the struggle of finding a new member since the deadline is today and they’ll be out of luck otherwise. What luck falls into their laps, in an awkward way of course, is one of the small group of “delinquent” students named Kazama that is trying to conquer the world with his fists but is finding that the school is just too well balanced and happy of a place to really be dealt with in this way. He wants to be the bad guy, but he gets involved in the club by doing something good as he races to help out when he thinks there’s a fire there as opposed to the illusion that they’re running. Before he and his associates know it, they’ve been friended and amusingly conquered by the all girls club members that are there.

This encounter gets the club president, the pint sized Roka, to push Kazama into becoming a member. And not in a friendly way as it’s all quite threatening and dark as she basically kidnaps him, which plays against her small and cute nature for bigger laughs. That gets Kazama trapped into joining the club, though he has thoughts of ways out of it before discovering that they’re truly got him cornered into it. Not surprisingly, he has to start coping with the diverse personalities of the club – and an advisor that looks about the same age as a lot of them – while hoping to find his way out of it. There’s some good slapstick action that runs through it and a lot of verbal back and forth as well that goes on which is comical since we get the delinquent side trying to find an out for him while the girls in the club are likely more violent and dangerous than they are. It’s a cute dynamic that, with some time and exploration of who the characters are beyond the archetypes here, could lead to some good humor and situations.

While we start to get to know the cast of the Game Creation Club, it doesn’t take long for others to show and try and drive a wedge into things. Amusingly, this group claims to be the real Game Creation Club and tries to convince Kazame to leave the one he joined, the fake one, and join theirs instead. It’s a comical group right from the start as the girls aren’t exactly the best at handling situations like this and you can see Kazama just tiring of it all kind of quickly, especially since he didn’t want to join the other club to begin with, never mind there being this kind of confusion thrown into the mix. It ends up running all over the place and just gets louder and flails more as it progresses, which does work to some degree in just being fun to watch as it settles things out.

When Kazama deals with his own group, there’s a lot going on there as they’re talking about what to do with the upcoming festival and what kind of game to create for it, which actually surprises Kazama since he figured they didn’t really do much. This brings the conflict of the two groups into the forefront since the girl from the other club comes to accuse the Game Creation Club of being the problem and we see how one of them has a long standing issue with Roka, which caused the split in the end. Takao isn’t a bad character as we see her from her calmer days, but it’s the kind of issue where we see how some people just can’t handle a different person like Roka and her ways and it can cause some serious rifts and problems as it goes on. Can it all be solved with just a little bit of talking between everyone with Kazama as a mediator? That would kill some of the comical tension of the series, so you can guess how it all plays out.

Because of this, there’s at least an attempt to find out what the other club is doing and that’s just as amusing to watch since they obviously don’t feel threatened in the slightest. And they really have no reason to be since the “fake” club isn’t actually involved in making games for the most part. For Kazama, he actually gets a nice introducing to how games are made during it, though there’s some cute fanservice thrown into it as well that he’s actually oblivious about because of his hairstyle. It’s a weird little quirk but you have to laugh at how it unfolds. Not surprisingly, the fake Game Creation Club is more an exercise in weirdness than anything else and Takao does her best to convince Kazama in a rather natural if slightly forceful way that he’d be better off in their club anyway.

After seeing the porn related board game the fake club comes up with, the arc moves easily into the festival itself, bringing in a number of cute minor characters that are alumni checking out the place and what’s going on. While Takao is all set to lord her victory over everyone, the fake club actually manages to build a huge attraction by doing all sorts of sports rooms outside that draws a huge crowd and lots of visitors. Takao naturally doesn’t feel that’s a fair competition – sports aren’t games in her mind – and there’s the analog/digital issue as well. But it plays out cute and you have to like how Kazama is rather proud of what the club put together. Things do ease down, now that you really feel for any of the characters, but there’s a good sense of fun about everything here.

Though things tend to revolve around a primary group of characters, later on in the season we’re introduced to a new character to alter the dynamic as Hachi Siou is brought in. He’s one of those son of a wealthy conglomerate characters that has a huge love for Roka and views it as his lifelong mission to pursue her to bring their relationship to fruition. He’s kind of soft and odd in a way with how he presents himself but he’s also popping up at odd times to throw off Roka. When he ends up meeting Kazama amid an attempt to get closer to Roka, he starts to talk to Kazama and that allows him to reveal his back story of how he ended up falling for Roka more than anyone else. It’s simplistic but also the kind of thing that definitely makes sense for the simple mind that is presented for him here. The whole thing just turns worse though when after spending some time with Roka and Kazama, he declares that the three are now in a love triangle. You have to feel bad for just about everyone involved at that point.

As it goes on, it ends up turning into a competition of sorts as you’d expect and it just rolls into all kinds of silly situations, including a hilarious one where Takao attempts to zip up her sweat jacket, which is a hugely difficult thing considering her dimensions. That it takes on such an epic feel is just perfect. With it turning into a huge school event overall, it just has a lot of back and forth and plain slapstick material involving the ring that they’re in and the silliness from there. It’s very content free for the most part and it’s easy to just watch it and not really take much from it other than to see how everyone sort of just waves and gesticulates a lot without anything really happening.

Another character that enters the picture later on to very good effect is when Noe arrives at the Game Creation Club (Provisional) itself as she’s intent on finding out what’s going on there that’s taking up so much of her brother’s time. Kazama isn’t one that you’d think would end up in this club, which was half the early gag for the show, and bringing his sister into play here definitely works as she tries to understand the club members when he’s not around. Amusingly, the club members are far more interesting in the fact that she has the same hair color as him and the hair is just as hard as his is, something that has made for some fun gags earlier in the show. With all the girls together and Noe getting caught pin their quirks, it definitely makes for some laughs, especially when Takao has to cover the reason she and Kazama were in line together before anyone figures out there may be a bigger reason.

One of the more amusing parts as it goes on is that we get Takao later doing her best to try and befriend Nao since she’s trying to be nice in general but there’s also the subconscious – or not so subconscious – idea that if she gets closer and friendlier with her, she’ll have better luck with Kazama if she can get things a bit more serious. Nothing can go smoothly or easily though for Takao, since it wouldn’t be a comedy otherwise, and while Noe is wary of her and her intentions, there’s also Roka in the mix who causes a fair bit of trouble since she tends to be a catalyst for things to go badly at times. There’s some cute bits with how the girls are all interacting with each other but once again you have to really feel for Takao while getting a bit of an understanding of what makes Noe tick.

There’s a lot of standalone pieces of silliness along the way for this series that works well as it expands the relationships – even if I don’t see Roka as being right for Kazama in comparison to Takao. When the series moves into its end arc, it does get a little more serious, but not in the dark way some comedies do. The series has brings in a few new senior class characters, something it didn’t really need to do so quickly, and it’s worked with some decent physical humor and other gags along the way that hit the right mark as they kidnap Kazama in order to establish that even as outgoing student council members, they’re memorable and superior. I especially loved the whole Princess Pinch joke that really does define Kazama in so many ways. But the main thrust of recent events have revolved around the issues with Tama and Chitose, a struggle that goes back to their childhood. Which, thankfully, we see in very cute form here early on with a playground fight that comes into play between the two.

This also brings us the first meeting between Chitose and Roka, which is utterly adorable, though you can see how Roka hasn’t really grown all that much of the years and has largely remained the same in so many ways. All of that serves as nice bit of foundational material and humor as it segues back into the present and we get closer to the actual showdown itself. Not that it goes smoothly since there are so many reactionary personalities in the mix here, and with Kazama getting abused along the way, but he does manage to fulfill the role of being something of the grounded personality in all of this. Particularly since he wasn’t involved in all of the childhood drama itself, making it easier for the others to accept what he suggests and getting to the actual showdown itself.

While we get this kind of back and forth going on, we get a few smaller pieces along the way with some of the supporting cast getting involved, though mostly superficially just to make sure they have an appearance in the episode. It is mostly kept to the core three here, especially with Tama whipping her hair around, and it makes for some cute gags even as it falls flat in the larger sense. Naturally, you can see how things will end (i.e. everyone is friends! The club continues on!) but that wasn’t quite the point of it all. The point was to have fun. And in its own way, D-Frag certainly accomplishes that here as Chitose and Tama have some really amusing moments going against each other as Kazama gets caught further and further into it. But as amusing as it is at times, it’s also just pretty.

In Summary:
I find it interesting in that rewatching this series after the simulcast that my opinion changed as much as it did overall. I liked D-Frag! when I saw the simulcast, but I felt like I wanted something with a bit more substance out of it. Going into this time and knowing what I was getting, it proved to be a lot more amusing, the character interactions and arcs a bit cleaner and more engaging, and the tone of the show overall just hitting a better spot. There are series where the weekly side works against it, but it’s rare for comedies like this to feel like that since marathoning a comedy can be too much of a good thing. D-Frag! definitely has its own style and intention with what it wants to do, but it doesn’t stray too far from reality. It has fun and pokes itself and others in a cute way, and it goes beyond reality in several ways, but not so outlandish that you just roll your eyes at it. This release comes together very well and is a really solid package all around. Very enjoyable and fun to watch, which means it succeeded at its artistic goal for me.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode Commentary (1, 10), Textless Opening and Closing, Pre-Air TV Commercials, Promotional Video, The New DVD/BD Cheer, A Commercial within a Commerical, Mobile Rally Commercial, U.S. Trailer

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

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: April 28th, 2015
MSRP: $69.98
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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