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Sabagebu: Survival Game Club Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Sabagebu Blu-ray CoverSurvival games with a whole lot of cuteness.

What They Say:
Momoko’s family moves a lot, so she’s always “that new girl” and the schools she’s attended have all blurred together. Until her first day at Aogiri High, that is, where she’s rescued by an armed vigilante, assaulted by a platypus, and coerced into joining a secret organization of gun-toting female commandos. Okay, maybe that last one is really just the school’s survival club, but the platypus is real and so are the extremes that club president Miou is willing to execute to recruit Momoko.

Can uber-jaded Momoko’s body armor-clad heart resist the charms of a girl who’s all too ready to whip out her twin Desert Eagles in defense of another girl’s virtue? Especially when it turns out that Momoko has her own talent for air pistols and senseless violence?

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track only, which is in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that works a decent balance between the action and dialogue sides so that each is handled well. The action component is not one that really goes big or anything, but it does have some areas where its playfulness works well to make it fun and engaging across the forward soundstage. It’s not going to stand out in a big way, but it scores the right points as it unfolds. The dialogue side is certainly basic enough since it’s not dealing with a lot in general, though again when you get the characters doing the action elements they get to do a bit more placement and depth. The dialogue side in general works well as it’s clean, clear and problem free while feeling appropriate to the material itself.

Video:
Originally airing in the summer of 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 episode series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. The second also has the six short OVAs as well on it. Animated by Pierrot+, the series is one that definitely makes out well in a general sense with a high definition transfer because it works with good colors that have some nice pop to it and a lot of clean smoothness to it all. The show isn’t a high-end work, but there are a number of very good sequences that come across quite well here where they step up overall. The series has a solid look and design to it that’s consistent through where it plays to an old school kind of comedy but with modern techniques so the backgrounds are appealing, the set designs strong and some really good detail to expressions and smaller movements, all of which the transfer captures well. It’s not a series that will be big in terms of how it looks with its animation, but it’s a good one overall.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard-sized Blu-ray case that holds both of the discs against the interior walls. The front cover is a bright and colorful piece that doesn’t go over the top with what it wants to do as it gives us the pairing of just Momoka and Miou. It’s surprising that we don’t get a full cast shot but this works well as it has a good mix of standard school material, fanservice, and a touch of the weapons in some nice if sometimes subtle ways. The angled design even works well for me, which isn’t always something that does. The back cover flips the angle and goes for a rich blue background with a layer of shadowed but brightly colored types of weapons across it. The top gives us some good shots from the show while the left has some fun cosplay moments that really don’t represent the show itself all that much. The premise is well covered though I found the text/color combination with the size to be a touch too small for my tastes. The special features are what’s’ problematic as they’re at a severe angle and hard to read with the color/outline combination. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is pretty bright and colorful with a massive pink infusion that lets it have a lot of pop on the screen. The design is standard with the navigation along the left that doubles as the pop-up menu while the rest of it has the static image material. That brings together the cast in different ways/configurations but is appealing as they’re all cute and their designs have some nice detail. Placing them in front of the pink camouflage may be a bit much but it’s standard material overall and it certainly stands out in a good way here. The menu navigation has a deeper pink for the various boxes where we get the episodes by number and title with a green and white approach. The episodes have two to three stories per episodes so there’s a lot of text here in a small font which makes it a bit difficult to read at times. But overall the menu design works well with a clean look that sets the tone right and is definitely functional and easy to use.

Extras:
The extras for this release are pretty straightforward as we get the clean opening and closing sequences and a few of the original promos used ahead of the broadcast. There are also the six OVA episodes, which aren’t technically listed as extras, but they were bonus pieces for the Japanese releases and are a welcome inclusion here as they have a bit more fun with the property. Since they each run just about eleven minutes each, it’s like we get a combined three additional episodes. And on the plus side, outside of some meta acknowledgment of how OVAs go for series, they really do just have a lot of fun with it while not going deep into the fanservice/sexualization. It’s played more for laughs than actual titillation.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the shojo manga of the same name from Hidekichi Matsumoto, Sabagebu! -Survival Game Club!- is a twelve episode series animated by Pierrot+. The manga itself began back in 2010 and has six volumes to its name so far, so there wasn’t a huge amount of material out there when it got the green light to be made into an anime series. But with its use of mixed length stories within each episode to tell its tale, there’s a lot of room to be able to expand on the original works in good ways so that it can give it the room it needs to breathe. The series is a cute one in that right from the start it tells you to not expect too much in the way of survival club material, but it actually has a good amount of it throughout. What it doesn’t want is to be applied to how these clubs are in real life as it’s just having fun, so it’s trying to get the viewer to not take it seriously and criticize it for not being 100% accurate. I get the frustration people would have with that, but it makes it easier to just enjoy the character silliness.

The premise of the show is straightforward enough as we get Momoka Sonokawa transferring to a new school and discovering a whole new world. Momoka is your straightforward girl for the most part in that there’s nothing that really stands out about her. She’s excited about the new school and new possibilities, but it doesn’t take long for her to get caught up in one of the more unusual groups that exist in the school with the survival club. It’s your standard kind of club with just a few members ranging across the three years, including an eighteen year old third year named Miou who is excited because she gets to handle the real things elsewhere outside of school. Momoka ends up kind of getting tricked into the club thanks to Miou’s efforts, but the fix is basically in because she’s actually really good at all of it. Not a savant per se but she has a natural talent for it and the others see her huge potential.

Sabagebu introduces a lot of the familiar elements quickly. With Momoka and Miou out of the way, the rest of the club is fleshed out with standard types. Maya’s a second year who works as a model and likes participating but ends up not really getting involved a lot. Urara is a really outgoing first year who is totally smitten by Momoka in a way, calls her my lady constantly, and essentially will do anything to help her. But she also harbors a dark side that makes for some fun moments. The least developed of the characters though is the other first year Kayo. She’s the cosplayer of the group and it’s really the only reason she’s in it. She has a few fun moments here and there, but largely she’s the type that doesn’t make much of an impact on the show at all. Hell, the mascot character, a cute yellow platypus named Platy, has a bigger role in the show in general. At least he doesn’t talk. I’m not usually a fan of mascot characters like this that take you out of the show as much as this one does, especially with a “cartoony” design, but Platy has a couple of really good bits through that makes it worthwhile.

Suffice to say, with the structure at hand you can easily see how the season as a whole will go. Each episode is made up of two or three stories of various lengths that really have no greater impact throughout it. It’s very of the moment though we do get some passage of time happening throughout it as the series progresses. The main thrust of it is that the group slowly becomes good friends over the course of it. Ah, who am I kidding. They’re practically best friends by the end of the first episode because who wants to spend time figuring all that hard stuff out? The show, and the manga, just wants to have fun. While they do joke early on that there’s not much survival game material to it they do have a decent amount and there’s a lot of silliness to it. The actual survival matches are few and far between yet the use of the guns and situations with them get creative. Including a huge extended dream sequence towards the end that lets them really go over the top. The thing with it is that they’re so free with it, shooting each other with the pellets, that it becomes more than enough of a silly gag in and of itself and that just makes you laugh with the simple creativity they have with it.

Not surprisingly for a series like this, the male quotient is exceedingly low. While we get some with a few other girls that peek into the series from time to time, such as the one-sided rivalry the student body president Yayoi has with Miou, it’s mostly just the core group. The big change to this comes in along the halfway period where we get a survival otaku named Lemon that gets himself humiliated by Momoka since she’s such an utter badass when provoked. This makes him completely loyal to her going forward, though not with any kind of romantic or sexual overtones to it. He’s just in awe of her and becomes her defender in things she’s not aware of, such as the creepy photographers that take things far while also trying to come across as sympathetic. It’s a mixed bag with them overall, and the smattering of other male-ish characters that come into play a few times, so they’re mostly just there for the jokes and not real character material. Which is fine since it’s all about the club girls themselves.

But even they don’t have a lot of definition to them. Momoka’s the only one that feels like she really gets a touch more story about who she is and that largely comes from some time spent at her house where her mother gets involved. She comes across as a really well-oiled machine when it comes to using guns yet she plays the housewife/mother aspect to a hilt when it comes to taking care of Momoka. That makes for some great gags throughout when she just pops into the scene like a breath of fresh air. Particularly as she’s really one of the only adults of note that’s consistent in the show. But beyond this there isn’t much in the way of really getting to know this group. They’re mostly first year’s so there’s not much about them and their futures, but there’s also not much about them outside of what they do hanging out or playing up the survival club side. That keeps them one-dimensional, but I really don’t expect much more than that from a simple gag comedy kind of series.

In Summary:
Sabagebu! is a fun series. It’s light, silly and it works a number of stories into each episode so that nothing is really run into the ground in a way that’s detrimental to the show. This release brings us what’s really about fifteen episodes worth of material and it left me with a positive feeling about it, albeit one where I know it won’t leave a lasting memory of it because it’s such a straightforward comedy. Everything is well executed and it hits all the right notes, the animation is spot on and the character interactions keep it moving well, all while playing in a fairly fertile area that allows for some exaggerated interplay with the guns. But it also doesn’t give us strong characters in terms of depth or interest, which limits what it can do. But I get the sense that it captures the original manga work well and gives it a good kind of life and representation here. The release is pretty solid throughout and is problem free while also ensuring that it has all six OVAs, which is a lot of additional content compared to what we usually get with bonus OVA episodes like this. That alone really increases the value of it for the fans of the show to get them together and in high quality.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening and Closing, Japanese Promos.

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 22nd, 2015
MSRP: $59.98
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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