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If Her Flag Breaks Complete Collection Premium Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

12 min read

If Her Flag BreaksAn unusual premise takes several very strange turns.

What They Say:
Sota Hatate is a new student at Hatagaya School. His cold and impersonal manner draws the attention of Nanami Knight Bladefield, a princess of a European nation, and she confronts him about it. He reveals that he is the only survivor of the sinking of the cruise ship Premium Ambriel. On that tragic day, he received a special power from a mysterious stranger: the power to see people’s fates in the form of flags sprouting from their heads.

Some flags are simple things like “friendship” flags, but others are more ominous, like “death” flags. Over the next few days, more and more classmates and friends are drawn to him and live with him at the Quest Dorm, and Sota must occasionally use his powers to alter their fates. He and his new friends and dormmates get up to all kinds of fun adventures. However, he eventually discovers that there is more to his power, and the world itself than he realized…

Contains episodes 1-13 plus a 64-page full-color hardcover art book with character art, sketches, behind-the-scenes manga, and interviews with the cast and crew.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo using the uncompressed PCM format. The show has a fairly standard design to it with a good mix of dialogue and mild action, at least until the final arc of the series where it ramps it up a bit. The bulk of the show works a decent mix across the forward soundstage to have things moving around with some decent placement at times and occasional depth. The dialogue is mostly kept simple but effective while the sound effects and action elements get a little more impact and notice. The opening and closing songs are where things sound the best and warmest, though, which is par for the course with series like this. Though not a show that steps above and beyond with its design, it is a solidly competent one with no problems during 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 thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with ten on the first and three on the second while the extras end up on the second. Animated by Hoods Entertainment, the show has a solid enough look and design about it but isn’t one that takes it to the next level. There’s a kind of flat color palette used with it that gives it a distinctive enough look on its own, but it’s not one that works to make it stand out in a positive way. The transfer does capture the look of it well though with solid colors throughout, clean lines and clearly laid out details where they exist. The show definitely hits the right notes in terms of the transfer, but the source material just doesn’t stand out much against the competition these days.

With the premium edition releases of any NIS America show, you know you’re getting a solid release. And this one is no exception. The heavy chipboard box again just feels right with its weight and heft and even more so with the great full cast artwork we get on the main panel with everyone on top of a huge pile of small flags. It’s so colorful and pretty that you can just soak up a whole lot of detail from it for awhile, with all the flags themselves, the character artwork and just the way they run the main flag through it with the logo. The back panel goes for one of the familiar promotional art pieces that puts Sota in the background but as a primary focus with the flags ringing around him. This brings in a touch of darkness that in turns allows all the other colors to pop even more. With more flags here and all the detail from that as well as the colors, it just looks great and is wonderfully eye-catching all around.

Within the box, we get the pair of DVD sized keepcases that holds the two Blu-ray discs that we get here (no DVDs are included). The first piece goes for a really nice illustration shot of Nanami from above set against a pink and white background that lets her color design really pop well. The second disc gives us an image of Ruri in her two forms against a pale yellow background, and while the character design has the same colors as Nanami’s it just feels softer here, not quite standing out in the same positive way. The back covers are similar here as they wrap the backgrounds around on it as we get a breakdown of the episodes by number and title and extras where appropriate. There’s some nice shadowed character artwork along the bottom as well that hits a very good note with me. Both cases have fully reversible artwork that brings us four more character panels in the same style as the front ones, but with just empty pink and yellow backgrounds.

The big bonus with any of these premium editions has been the hardcover book and this one is no exception. Done up as a guidebook that looks like a really good book in general, we get a lot of material. Character breakdowns and illustrations are wonderfully laid out and look great and we get some really enjoyable cast interview material as well. These are spread out throughout with a solid structure to it so that it’s not just a block of artwork or a block of interviews. It also mixes in some recording session mini manga that’s just far too adorable, an extended interview with the director and some really great pages that show off the eye-catches, though I wish each one had its own page or separate postcards because they’re very appealing.

The menu design for this release is pretty nice as we get a colorful background that matches the keepcase design to tie it together nicely. The layout has the character artwork on the left with Nanami on the first volume and Ruri on the second while the right side has the unfurled flag as the pole itself runs down the middle. It’s within the flag that we get the nice touch of colorful and outgoing pieces of animation playing through it which gives it a good bit of activity within the static nature of the rest of the screen. The very colorful logo is kept to the lower right where it stands out well while the left has the navigation, which is made up of smiley faces that have flags on top of them. These are actually very quick responders overall and look cute during playback in a good way as you move across them. Menu navigation continues to work well though I dislike the inability to cycle through from bottom to top again and vice versa to get where I’m going in some of them – notably in episode selection.

The extras for this release are pretty familiar pieces but are definitely welcome. We get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, which I love to revisit when all is said and done to just enjoy, as well as other promotional pieces. These come in the form of the brief character trailers designed to promote the show ahead of the broadcast as well as the other commercials. Add in the commercial bumpers and it’s a nice if a small mix of material.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the ongoing light novel series written by Tōka Takei with illustrations by Cuteg, If Her Flag Breaks is originally known as Kanojo ga Flag o Oraretara? and often shortened down to Gaworare. The original work began in 2011 and has had a trio of manga series spin off from it that are ongoing before this anime adaptation arrived back in the spring of 2014. Animated by Hoods Entertainment, it brought Ayumu Watanabe in to direct based off of the composition and scripts by Takashi Aoshima. Sadly, an OVA was produced in late 2014 that did not get licensed by NIS America, so we have the full TV series and that’s it for it.

The series revolves around Sota Hatate, a newly transferred in student at the Hatagaya school where he’s intent on just staying away from people and keeping a low profile. That’s not an easy thing to do as the male lead in an anime series and Sota is no exception. He makes an impression on a fellow student named Nanami before his first day where he’s seemingly involved in saving her and several others from a truck that was about to overturn on them. This sets Nanami on the path to figure him out as something just feels off about him. As it turns out, Sota has a very unusual ability about him in that on the tops of peoples heads he can see tiny flags of different natures. These flags range to pretty much everything under the sun to represent emotions and intent at any given time when it’s strong enough, from friendship to love and to other cute little bits. But we also see early on that he can see the Death Flag as well, which is a pretty grim one that he does his best to try and help out with. Essentially, when Sota sees a flag it can either indicate a path he should take or something he needs to help that person with.

With this kind of concept in mind, the show works through a number of familiar ideas and concepts here as we see how Sota has to settle into the academy and deal with the various characters that populates his life. The familiar angle is here in that he ends up moving into Quest Hall, an abandoned dorm area that’s in pretty bad shape until he and everyone else work to clean it up. This allows him to take a corner room and for all the girls that end up aligned with him to move into their own rooms as well in tried and true fashion. This lets us keep the cast in one place without too much variation overall and for them to interact with each other. The place also has a few secrets along the way that get explored as part of the larger and stranger plot that unfolds.

In a traditional way, we get the usual kind of diverse crowd that ends up around him. Nanami sets the stage as the intense blonde girl that’s actually a princess from a small place in Europe called Bladefield. Interestingly, she drifts off later in the series for awhile with a lesser role that’s kind of unexpected. The other primary young woman is Akane, a granddaughter of wealth with a bouncy and fun personality and body that makes her a pleasure to watch. She’s the one that feels the most in sync with Sota for the most part, but these girls really don’t have much personality outside of interacting with Sota. As it progresses we get a few other girls, an android named Ruri that solves lots of problems for Sota, and even another boy named Megumu who prefers to dress in ways that accentuate his feminine features to the point where nobody realizes he’s actually a boy. He kind of plays it to the hilt as well, making for some amusing moments all around.

You can easily imagine the various things that unfold in tried and true tradition in any school based show where there’s barely a whisper of an adult around for the most part. There’s a lot of character introductions to the point where it really feels overstuffed, especially when the seemingly lead characters of Nanami and Akane are pushed off screen and have little impact on events. Which is unfortunate because I could have enjoyed a run with just the lead trio and the quirkiness of the flag problem. A lot of what we get is your familiar things though such as the sports festival, summer break and the culture festival itself amid a few other standard things. It’s not bad or executed poorly, it’s just a matter of being far, far too familiar.

Where the show takes its really odd turns that aren’t really explained until the final four or so episodes where Things Get Serious, is when we discover that there’s far more going on with secret organizations and the fate of the world at stake. A fate that has placed Sota as the once in a generation superhuman of sorts that can deal with it. There are a lot of odd aspects to Sota’s life that we see with the flags and events in Bladefield that are revealed as it progresses alongside his connection to it, and it’s really odd to see how it puts him in a dark place from almost the beginning with an outsized Death Flag on his own head that only he can see. It has the makings of a mystery that we get plenty of details for but nowhere near the right layout of information to be able to break it down.

So when it introduces us to the Angel Boat concept at the end and all that’s involved with it, it’s just kind of surreal. Particularly when Sota enters this virtual world that he’s been unknowingly a part of to some degree for awhile and ends up in a coldly confident position to deal with again outsized enemies. With the mysterious Virtue group operating for the kind of Bladefield to try and deal with the problem of Angel Boat and how it’s attempting to wrest control of the world from mankind, it just spirals into this larger and larger problems and events while trying to keep it connecting to a gaggle of high school girls and one weird guy. It’s not unfamiliar of course to anyone that watches anime, but the weaker setup of the foundations of the series has this just coming across in that mix of wish fulfillment in a sense (I am the reluctant hero) and wisps of a complex narrative of the power structure of the world. It just lacks a lot of the necessary context to come together right and simply feels weak because of it.

In Summary:
Going into this show having not seen the simulcast, it’s definitely one of those oddly titled works that could be really neat to see what it is it wants to do. There are some interesting ideas in here and I’d be really curious to see the whole flag concept explored more with a different direction taken. The ideas in here are familiar ones, but the way they’re blended together with some blunt aspects of RPGs and the like just makes it feel clunky. The areas that I found interesting are the ones that got pushed to the side as it progressed while it focused on this larger world that it couldn’t quite define well enough to connect. NIS America has given this release just as much love and attention as every other release and that plays out well for fans of it. There’s a lot to dig into here and those that enjoy the show will really be glad to have a high-quality presentation on their shelf.

Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening and Endings, Character Trailers, Commercial Bumps, Japanese Commercials

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

Released By: NIS America
Release Date: November 3rd, 2015
MSRP: $64.99
Running Time: 306 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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