What They Say:
Opposites may attract, but putting them together can result in chemical burns, electric shocks, and explosions. Enter Hachiman Hikigaya, a pessimistic high school student with no friends, no interest in making any, and the firm belief that everyone else’s cherished high school experiences are either delusions or outright lies.
Hachiman finds himself coerced by his well-meaning student advisor into joining the one-member Service Club. There he encounters club founder Yukino Yukinoshita, a smart, attractive, walking superiority complex who looks down on the entire student body. These two negative personalities are quick to attract Yui Yuigahama, who’s cute, bright, cheerful, and needs the Service Club’s help to… bake cookies? Is this a recipe for romance or the precursor for a nuclear meltdown? Will there be cookies, nookie, or a reason for everyone to play hooky?
Contains episodes 1-13.
The audio presentation for this release is certainly an increase over our previous DVD experience as we go from 224kbps to 2.2mbps on average for the original Japanese language stereo presentation. Sadly, the bump to Blu-ray doesn’t get us a dub as well, which would have been fun to hear how they handle Hikgaya. Overall though, the show has a fairly standard high school oriented design to it where it’s all about the dialogue in the classroom and some exterior events that doesn’t have much of an opportunity to go big. It does do it a couple of times towards the end as we get the school culture festival, but by and large it’s a dialogue driven piece that keeps it casual and simple if not with some internal dialogue that’s kept at an even conversational tone. The show handles all of this well with a decent bit of directionality to it when needed and it gives us a clean and decent presentation that doesn’t stand out much overall. The opening and closing sequences add a bit more warmth to the events and it’s certainly noticeable, though not a game changer. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in the spring of 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 thirteen episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/four format. Animated by Brain’s Base, the transfer for the show definitely reminds you of the difference high definition can make in a lot of ways. Having gone from the HD simulcast to the SD DVD and now to this, this is definitely the best US presentation of the show. Colors have some great pop to it in many scenes, they’re rich throughout with some great shades moving across various areas and detail is well managed with clean linework and more. The show doesn’t go for a lot of high action moments, but when it does it comes across very well here with no noise or breakup associated with it. It’s definitely a solid increase in quality, quite noticeable in many areas, though more so on larger displays than smaller ones..
The packaging design for this release essentially mirrors what we had before on the DVD, but adjusts it to fit in the slightly smaller and wide Blu-ray case. The front cover goes with some familiar artwork as we get the main trio of characters with a heavy focus on the girls in the foreground while Hachiman is in the background and pretty small in comparison. It feels like Yukino gets more of a nod for style overall and a shot of her legs while Yui is all about her popping out of her uniform since it’s not button up, and she’s all full of smiles in contrast to the flat look that Yukino gives. There’s some nice colors to be had here with the background as we get blues and pinks with white to make it pop while also tying into the color scheme of the dialogue bubble for the logo. All of this figures into the case itself in a way that really ties it together in a great way. The back cover uses the same color scheme to good effect as the center has another large dialogue bubble where we get the premise covered nicely while surrounding it is a series of shots from the show itself. We also get a small bubble that breaks down the discs extras. The bottom section brings out the production credits in decent form and the technical grid covers everything smoothly and accurately with no issues. The show doesn’t have any inserts nor does it have a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release plays off of the color design of the main cover but also gets a whole lot busier. The right side features the navigation with episodes by number and title which is done with a good sized font and some solid colors that makes it appealing and it doubles well as the pop-up menu. The rest of the menu changes with each disc as we get various configurations of the lead characters in appealing costumes where it’s full of detail and striking in design. That’s made more so by some very splashy colorful backgrounds that just busies it up but works because it has a kind of visual intensity that works. Submenus are few and far between as it’s basically just for the extras but the release as a whole is quick and easy to navigate with no problems in getting done what you need to do.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As we see pretty much every season, high school series are obviously a dime a dozen for the last decade or so but there’s always some that shine through with what they do. Sometimes it’s just a name that can draw you in to see what it’s all about, and this one certainly has an interesting one that catches the eye and makes you wonder a bit more about it. Based on the light novel series by Wataru Watari that began in 2011 and has nine volumes so far, we get this new thirteen episode series animated by Brain’s Based. And that’s something that doubly catches my attention as they tend to produce some interesting looking shows, even if the stories don’t always fire on all cylinders.
The series revolves around a high school student named Hachiman, a young man who has absolutely no love or interest in high school and sees the whole thing as just one big trial to get through in order to get to something better. He has a certain disdain for others that makes him seem superior in a way, but you get the feeling that it’s not quite a superiority he feels over everyone else but rather just a complete disinterest in playing the game that is high school to him. Unfortunately, he crosses the wrong teacher with an essay that he’s written and she forces him into a club in order to try and socialize him a bit. This brings him into contact with Yukino, a somewhat solitary student herself who runs the Service Club as its only member. She’s definitely an attractive young woman, but it’s made clear that she has a cold personality that keeps others at bay. It certainly makes the two a difficult pair to get along with each other.
Amusingly, Hachiman does his best to ensure that he’s not falling into a rom-com trap by being aggressive with her in a way that sets him as an alpha, but she’s just as harsh as he is and pushes back easily, enough so that she actually manages to dominate him for a bit through her personality. There’s some interesting interplay between the two as they spend time together, but it gets more complicated when another student is sent there named Yui. She’s a bit more outgoing than Hachiman and Yukino but as she watches the way those two interact, she finds herself intrigued by this club. The group has an odd feeling to it, a real mishmash of students when you get down to it, and that’s something we’ve seen in other series. But there’s something a little different here with how they come together and their personalities in that it doesn’t feel quite so cookie cutter. At least not yet.
While there are similarities between Hachiman and Yukino in the way they look at the world, though there are different level at work here for her, bringing Yui in certainly adds something different as you see she’s certainly interested in him but is doing her best to play it right. Yui gets some decent time here early on that’s not focused on Hachiman but rather her social life in general as she’s doing her best to try and fit in with the popular girls, but she’s continually given some push back on because of the way she handles herself. It’s interesting to see that kind of bullying being shown as it is here, and how Yui is handling it, but also the way that Hachiman wants to get involved but is so easily kowtowed by the way the Yumiko snaps at him. Seeing Yukino come to Yui’s aid isn’t a surprise, but seeing how Yukino handles the situation is what makes it interesting since she’s forceful without being aggressive and is capable of making inroads not only with Yumiko, at least superficially, but more so when it comes to Yui and Hachiman as they see how she operates.
Where the show goes a bit off the rails for me is the introduction of Ashikaga, a white haired young man who knows Hachiman and has weird delusions of being an incarnation of the man that his name is from the past, a shogun from ages ago. He essentially lives his fantasy in a way and just runs with it, much to the annoyance of everyone else – myself included. What helps is that as Hachiman goes on, noting his own name connection, we get a look at his own past and things he’s pushed himself away from over the years, which is pretty damning in its own way. The show feels like it kind of spirals out of control here, going in unusual and not altogether clear directions as everyone deals with this new arrival and it ends up going more for some wordplay and bits of history that, while interesting to some, doesn’t do much for me.
Thankfully, Ashikaga is used sparingly in the show, though he does show up at some key times to be useful. What the show wants to do is to focus on the relationship that exists between the main trio though as they try and find their place while coping with the structure of school. The events that impact them over the course of it are a little familiar as we get a few episodes that deals with the culture festival and an episode that deals with field day. We also get a small arc where the trio are sent off during summer by their advisor to work at a camp with younger kids alongside some of the more popular students. It works the familiar story arcs but it does some interesting things in them because of the characters themselves, and that’s often what helps to set it apart. A lot of this comes down to Hachiman and some of his internal dialogue because he makes it clear that he’s just not that interested in most of this.
But by being placed with Yui and Yukino, and the three of them sharing a moment from before the show started that’s sort of an unknown between most of them, it has a larger idea it wants to work with that comes into play towards the end. I like the hidden connection that they have and the kind of innocence that’s behind it, removing a malicious intent, so that it doesn’t become forced in a bad way but it does force the kids to struggle with it and understand themselves and each other. But this can only happen towards the end of the season after they really get to know each other well and how they interact with each other. And with the kind of sort of but not completely triangle that’s forming here as we know Yui likes Hachiman and that there’s something going on inside of Yukino’s head all while Hachiman is kind of oblivious to it all and is just struggling with having friends at all after becoming such a social outcast.
What works for me the most here, exaggerated a bit as it may be at times, is that while we get our core trio, they are not the whole of the series. They exist, interact and help out a few others as part of being in the Service Club, but they’re also regularly forced to interact with the popular kids in the show and deal with the kinds of social class issues that comes from it. Yukino could easily rank higher due to her family and her sister’s own time there and you have Yui desperately wanting to be a part of the cool kid club. And you have Hachiman who just wants to ignore it all but is finding it harder to do so because he now knows Yui and Yukino and gets drawn into helping, defending or working with them for whatever they get into. His forced socialization is amusing when you consider his darker angle at times, but it helps to show how these difficult days and experiences does shape him and add to a larger and more positive experience overall that’s making him a better person without even realizing.
I had really enjoyed this series when I had watched the simulcast and it was fun revisiting it in marathon form on the DVD. Going into it again, while not yet seeing the sequel season, it proved to be just as enjoyable the third time around, this time in beautiful high definition form. You can really delve into the nuggets of what’s going on with how Hachiman thinks and the kinds of interactions that exist when it comes to bullying, social anxiety and class issues that exists between students. When you marathon it, it feels like it loses some of that, but it may also simply stem from it being familiar. It’s a fun show with a kind of quirk and off-kilter aspect to it that lets it stand out and be its own thing, though you can’t quite tell just by looking at it. I wish it was a bit more thoughtful and explored the issues a bit more, but as an adaptation it works well and by and large is a pleaser for even attempting to do something with a bit more meaning to it and with more interesting characters. For those that held off on the DVD release, this is pretty much as good as it’s going to get as I don’t expect a dubbed version down the line. That said, it looks great here and definitely pleases across the board.
Japanese 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: September 1st, 2015
Running Time: 325 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.