What They Say:
Nowhere may seem like just another Yokohama cafe, but as with many of its employees, this apparently innocent eatery leads a double life. Because Nowhere is also where you can find Hamatora, the mysterious detective agency run by P.I.s who are also M.H.s. That’s M.H. as in Minimum Holders, individuals gifted with extraordinary powers and abilities.
For the right price, you can hire founder Nice, who moves at the speed of sound, and partner Murasaki, whose super strength and near invulnerability are a significant asset. Of course, with incredible talents like these up their sleeves, Nice may not decide to take a case unless it personally interests him. But when a series of serial murders all turn out to involve other Minimum Holders, that interest is about to become extremely personal. Something monstrous is going on, and Minimum Holders as a class may be targeted for extinction!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track and the new English language adaptation in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that has a good mix of dialogue and action with some ambient moments that helps to build some decent mood along the way. With the mix of characters we get and some of the different, if minor, vocal differences that exist due to the powers and the like, the mix comes across well here with what it does in placement and depth. It’s not a hugely rich mix in a sense but when you get the group in different places in Cafe Nowhere, it definitely helps with the placement. The action side has some really strong moments and I like how Nice’s moments come out, especially with the needed clarity of his finger snapping moments. The show provides for some good impact and bass here as well, making it a solid design overall. Neither track had any issues with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 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 for this series are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second, which is also where the extras reside. Animated by NAZ, the series has a really good visual design to it with an interesting little odd quirk about it. There’s like a layer of film over it with red splotches, which isn’t hugely noticeable, but adds an off feeling at times to some of the solid color areas such as people’s clothing. It’s a design choice to be sure and not a flaw in the transfer but it’s one we really don’t see often or used as much as it is here. The series has some really striking colors at teams, mostly with Nice’s abilities going full out, but there are a lot of strong areas in general. It’s given a real world design with a bit more pop of color but it’s filled with detail and some very fluid animation that makes it a standout looking series. Colors are great, detail holds up well and there’s little that I can find issue with here during regular playback.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs inside against the interior walls. The front cover is one that works well with the blue of the case as we get some bright greens and yellows here amid the colors of the character artwork itself, giving it a lot of pop and an almost art deco feeling with the overall palette. It’s mostly just vibrant and really comes across in a good way even if it does feel a bit busy, especially with the logo font/design. The back cover is a bit more traditional with a mostly black background that also brings forth a few pops of color through shots from the show and character artwork. The tagline is a bit mediocre at best without saying much but the summary of the premise covers things well. The discs special features are clearly listed separately and we get the clean listing of the disc and episode count as well. The rest is given over to the usual production and technical segments that breaks it down cleanly, clearly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus here are ones that work well in that it pretty much works off of the color design of the cover but also evokes, at least for me, a comic book feeling. Particularly in the navigation along the left that has the episodes by number and title using bright greens and yellows with a red selector bar. It gives it a lot of pop, especially against the black background with the mix of zip tone colors across it. The right half of the screen is kept straightforward with just character artwork from the show, using different pairings for the two discs, and with some good background colors and the detailed designs of the character it stands out great. Navigation is a breeze and the menu works easily as both the main and pop-up form.
The extras for this release are a touch beyond the norm which is always nice to see. The familiar and always desired clean opening and closing sequences are here and with the quality of them they’re worth enjoying on their own. We also get a few minutes worth of the original promos and I continue to like revisiting how shows were marketed after I watch it to see how far they dug into it for material. The final piece here is something we don’t see often anymore with the disclaimers used to remind people that the DVD/BD that they bought are copyrighted material and some of the watch this in bright light warnings.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Created by Yuki Kodama of Blood Lad fame along with Natsu Matsumai, Hamatora’s first season is a twelve episode series that ends on a brutal cliffhanger. The project got three points to it at the launch with a manga adaptation which was written by Yukinori Kitajima while Kodama did the artwork, an anime adaptation that’s been done by NAZ and a game as well. Multimedia approaches are nothing new these days but when you do see them, you know there’s a fair bit going on with the project and some money behind it rather than just a simple adaptation in hopes of finding the next big thing. Particularly when a game is in the mix with FuRyu developing it for the 3DS.
The series revolves around a small group of powered individuals that are labeled Minimum Holders who operate as a do it all kind of agency known as Hamatora. They’re people with some abilities that aren’t the norm, though they avoid being superhero style in nature. The Hamatora group works as a kind of jack of all trades jobs group that handles some of the weird cases out there and other requests that come in. In the first half of the episode, we get thrown at a number of different characters and the kind of approach they take as well as the banter and rivalry between some of them as a pair of jobs come in. One job has them trying to stop a serial kidnapper of college girls in the area while the other has them figuring out how to open a large safe that only its own knew how to open before he died. The family wants to get into it, which certainly makes sense.
Not surprisingly, the show works a connection between stories and we see how that unfolds as those working on the jobs start to see the connections and there’s a fair bit of dialogue about it. It’s kind of standard detective fare in a way with some creative little twists because of the conditional powers that exist but it also plays to things outside of the usual high school or younger realm that we see for such things. Unfortunately, the show as it unfolds here really doesn’t offer anything unique or particularly catching when it comes to what it wants to do. We get a nicely animated show with some great backgrounds, decent character designs and solid enough animation when it wants to get active. But it doesn’t offer compelling characters and I’ll easily admit a touch of frustration with the goofy names we get for some, like Nice and Birthday. But the main problem is that after watching the episode, I didn’t get any sense of connection with any of the characters and the two connected stories weren’t all that engaging either. It’s not a good sign when you get to the end of the episode and you don’t even want to bother remembering the names of any of the characters.
The opening half of the series largely revolves around this kind of material where it’s a familiar beat of standalone tales. They’re not bad per se and they’re designed to get you to know the characters, but you can kind of tune it out in a sense because they’re not all that meaningful in the long run. What we do get that’s intriguing here as it progresses is a subplot involving the cop that’s kind of often playing catch-up with Nice and the others with their jobs. He often comes in at the end to do the cleanup from what they solve and develops a kind of decent if minor relationship with Nice along the way. What the detective, Art, is after though is something bigger. All these various Minimum Holder outbreaks are connected to something larger going on as most of them are non-innate users. In other words, they’ve been artificially made. By using the brains of dead Minimum Holders – things that have been kept and studied by the secretive government agency that have kept these beings under wraps for years before it recently became public.
What this does is slowly draw us into the larger fight going on with the man behind it, a mysterious long haired person named Moral who has his own connections to the Agency. He’s playing a bigger game and it’s one that again takes me back to my comic book roots as he’s got a variant of the Magneto complex to him. He views humanity as weak because they don’t take from those weaker than themselves, opting for a survival of the fittest/fiercest approach. In viewing Minimum Holders as the next stage of the strong in the world, he’s using his skills to take the weak and make them stronger so they can take what they want. There’s some chaos aspects to what he’s doing, but there’s also some simple views of superiority as well. This has him engaging in some intriguing discussions with Art along the way, since Art can’t take him in without proof, but it’s made clear that Moral is most certainly not there. He does go classic comic book villain in a way with overly elaborate plans to deal with Nice, but there’s logic and reason to it as well with Nice’s history that’s teased lightly.
With this being the first half of the series, it’s one that has some of that stretched out aspect that could be problematic since you’re waiting for it to get serious. And it does get quite serious with the cliffhanger we get here. But the subplot with Moral that becomes the driving force is what really makes it engaging to watch. Particularly since as it goes along it ends up getting more and more violent in surprising ways. There’s rough moments in some of the early fights, but once we start seeing the floating brains you know it’s going to get creepy. But as it gets into the final arc there are some really violent moments, such as heads being bashed open, that feels out of place. But when you have a sequence where one body explodes all over everyone else and they’re covered in dripping blood, well, you know it’s been building towards being something more serious than the somewhat light and fun show it starts out as.
Hamatora was a show that I easily admit that I didn’t find all that interesting when I watched the first episode as a simulcast since you could track a decent part of it from that. And that still remains true as the structure here is quite familiar. But as it progresses and the subplot with the villain is given time to develop as opposed to being introduced in the final couple of episodes, it hits a much more menacing and creepy tone before it just cuts loose. The final arc has the best moments overall visually and in terms of action and that final episode alone with its cliffhanger makes the second half a must-see release. What frustrates me though is that the character building material throughout the first half or so of this season as it works through the cast just rings hollow. Something about it all simply feels superficial as opposed to getting me really invested in them, likely because of how it just plays it all by the numbers and without anything distinctive. Even more so because of the X-Men/mutant connections that I kept seeing everywhere. It’s definitely a solid show that I think with its second half could be a much stronger work as a whole.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening and Closing, Japanese Disclaimers, Japanese Promos
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 22nd, 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.