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Umi Monogatari Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

9 min read

Umi Monogatari CoverIt’s not easy being a priestess when you just want to go to college.

What They Say:
Marin and Urin are sea folk, people who live in a peaceful underwater world surrounded by bright fish and colorful coral. But one day, a beautiful ring falls from the “sky” – that dangerous place above the water – and the two girls decide to return the lovely trinket to its owner. While the surface world holds amazing wonders for the pair, it also hides a great darkness… a darkness that Urin accidentally unleashes when she opens a stone box at a local shrine. Now it’s up to Marin, Urin, and their new friend Kanon to set things right again before that darkness swallows the entire world!

Contains episodes 1-13.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good all around even without an English language dub as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo but encoded at 448kbps. The show isn’t one that’s really big with what it does with it though so we get a fairly standard track just with less compression. The series is mostly dialogue driven outside of some action aspects that hits in a few areas and both of them are handled well. The dialogue, in general, has a full feeling to it without a lot in the way of placement, though, but we get some occasional bits of depth when it comes to how some of the underwater sequences go. The action side of things goes a bit bigger in general, but even that’s still fairly tame. This is a touch more expansive and it plays well for the material itself. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2009, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The thirteen episode series is spread across three discs in a four/four/five format. Animated by Zexcs, the series has a pretty good look to it overall when it comes to the designs and settings, but it also has to deal with a whole lot of sea blues that results in some gradients that are pretty visible in standard definition. There are a lot of good colors to be had here when it comes to areas such as costume design and hair colors so it’s definitely more of a source material problem than anything else. It’s not a bad looking transfer, but it’s dealing with the elements it has. There’s little in the way of problems otherwise such as cross coloration or line noise which gives us a decent transfer overall.

The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized DVD case that holds all two of the discs on a hinge and the third against the interior wall. The front cover is a really nice piece that surprisingly only focuses on two of the main characters with a full-length shot of Marin that goes for the skin/fanservice appeal while Kanon plays the yang to her yin as she’s floating down and upward from the surface to look at Marin. The angle of how they’re viewing each other is awkward, but the overall design works nicely with its nature of both of the characters and just the pop of color coming from Marin that sells it in a big way. The back cover gives us a nice island paradise image that again puts Kanon and Marin together in very close form though we do get a look at Urin and Kanon’s mother here in a couple of shots from the show. The cover looks appealing overall here simply because of the bright colors and the full nature of the shot rather than something that blends into darkness at the bottom. The premise is captured well in a clean way with space to breath and clean print and it also breaks down the extras in a really good we. We also get a nice plug for Sato and the animation studio with other works that will capture some fans attention as potential similarities. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release accents the positive in a good way as we get the full-screen static images that dominates using the colors that really stand out. With lots of blues with the ocean, above and below, it has a lot to like with this as it just pops off the screen in a good way. Combining that with the character artwork that has its own pop, especially with Marin, it definitely sets the tone and mood right going into the show. The navigation is a nicely designed strip along the lower right that has the basic selections you’d expect and it all moves smoothly and problem free. The logo is kept to the left of it with a little more size to it, but overall it’s a well balanced and easy to navigate menu that gets the job done while looking spiffy.

The extras for this release are pretty nice overall and add a good bit of fun and humor to things. We get some of the usual elements here that I continue to find welcome even after all these years such as the clean opening and closing sequences and a good array of web promos for individual episodes, the main promo videos, and various commercials. The bigger extra are the multiple “What is this?” segments, which run several minutes each. They kick off with Marin uncertain about a particular thing, such as pajamas, and then it runs off into other tangents while coming back to it. It’s silly and fluffy to be sure, but it adds some nice color to the series overall.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on a pachinko game, Umi Monogatari is a twelve episode TV series with a bonus OVA that originally aired in the summer 2009 season. An original work that spawned a couple of side manga stories, the anime is directed by Junichi Sato based on the story from Toshihiko Tsukiji. Sato has a certain affection for water based series and these kinds of shows in general so there’s a certain stamp to it that makes it feel familiar. It’s not Aria or Pretear, but you can certainly see touches from those coming across it. The series is one that was fairly under the radar, for the most part, particularly as it aired just before streaming and simulcasts really took off, but it definitely developed a fanbase due to the talent involved.

The series revolves around a trio of characters that have to come together to deal with an ancient evil that’s close to surfacing. Two of the three come from under the sea with Marin and Urin, “sisters” that have been together for many years and complement each other well. Marin’s certainly the outgoing and adventurous type while Urin is more about keeping things simple, calm and familiar. So when Marin discovers a ring from the surface being tossed down below to them, she’s intent on heading up there to be among the sky people to find out where it belongs. That doesn’t sit well with Urin, but she can’t leave her to her own devices as that’s how Marin gets into trouble. Such is what leads them to the surface where there’s an island nearby with a pretty good modern world setting, albeit one that’s got that rural feeling to it.

Their arrival on the island brings us into contact with Kanon, a high school senior that’s eager to get off the island for college and away from the path that her family has put her on. She’s not interested in being a fortune teller like others in the family have for generations, especially since she knows it’s a scam of sorts. Kanon’s actually the owner of the ring, but only because it was given to her by her boyfriend and she got rid of it at the same time she decided to break up with him as part of her making a break with what’s here. So having Marin trying to return the ring, sometimes forcefully, makes for some awkward material. All of it does draw the trio together as we get Marin wanting to spend more time on the surface to experience things for awhile. And that has Urin staying with her since she doesn’t want to get separated.

Oh, and we also get an old turtle statue that comes to life to be a guiding force for things. Matsumoto’s kind of amusing as he gets to be an elder and teacher of sorts, but his presence is a sign of the bad things that are happening. Because of an event that Urin triggers, an old evil from the area known as Sedna is now gaining more and more power. The idea of an ancient evil under the sea and a part of the lore of the island isn’t bad and we see a number of elements of it throughout, including a touch with the evil aura that Kanon has that’s been a part of her life since forever. But Urin’s unleashing of the Sedna evil starts turning things from the usual silly kind of story that we were getting into something far more serious as Urin herself becomes consumed by it. It delves nicely into the relationship between her and Marin and why they’re so intertwined, and why Kanon represents such a threat to her. It’s not overstated but rather played in a plain but honest way that allows it to connect well.

Umi Monogatari doesn’t break any new ground with what it does, but it executes it pretty competently. What works well for me is that it doesn’t eliminate the male side of the show entirely as Kanon’s boyfriend does have a role as it progresses and we get some good dialogue and nudges to how relationships operate. There is a lot of fluff along the way so that it can showcase the characters and their connections and that’s something that’s either going to work or not for each viewer. I found some of it working better than others though I found Kanon to be the least interesting of them and Marin the more amusing and fun to watch. The real story that comes from this though is the relationship between Marin and Urin, which does go big of course, but it has a better and more honest feeling about it as it unfolds and we see the struggles that Urin goes through.

In Summary:
Umi Monogatari has a pretty good flow and feeling about it as it plays out though it feels like there’s a lack of real foundations to make it connect in a better way. Particularly with Marin and Urin and their world below. I rather liked the way the relationships play out as it unfolds and the kind of odd situation that Kanon finds herself in, especially as they kind of play towards some feelings that she has for Marin along the way, but at its core is the relationship between Marin and Urin that defines it. It takes time to play out and really make it clear what it is it wants to do, but the end result is pretty decent. I’ve always liked many of the shows Junichi Sato has worked on and this one has its charms though it’s not one of the better ones even with the familiar themes and concepts within it.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Marin’s “What Is This?” Episodes 1-4, Clean Opening and Ending, Web Promos, Promotional Video, Commercials

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

Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: November 3rd, 2015
MSRP: $39.99
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic 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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