What They Say:
Toko Fukami thought she had settled on what she wanted in life: to hang out with her four best friends in their small seaside town, and to eventually become a professional glassblower working in her family’s glassworks. But now two things have happened that may change her destiny forever. First, she’s seeing things. When she looks into reflections in glass, sometimes she catches glimpses of things that haven’t happened yet. And then a new boy, Kakeru, transfers into town, claiming that a voice from the future led him to her. Suddenly Toko is re-evaluating everything she thought she knew, from the proper care of her school’s chickens to how she really feels about each of her friends.
No English dub here! Sentai Filmworks’ DVD release for Glasslip includes just the original Japanese voice track (not a huge loss, since the Japanese cast is quite strong). As with most of things in Glasslip, the audio editing is somewhat peculiar. Under sound director Kouji Tsujitani’s guidance, the overall effect is one of contrasting density and emptiness—shifting back and forth between the two as it complements the story. Tsujitani’s work is also accompanied by the inclusion of a number of classic piano pieces from the likes of Beethoven and Chopin, as well as composer Akito Matsuda’s original compositions. Alongside the greats of Western music, Matsuda’s music generally holds its own. Many of the tracks are fully orchestral pieces, creating a sense of unity between Matsuda’s work and the classical songs played by Kakeru’s mother—among them, “Todoku Koto no Nai Nukumori,” which is easily Matsuda’s best effort on the soundtrack.
Without question, Glasslip‘s biggest issue, visually, is the shoddy subtitle timing work. Subtitles are frequently late, or linger onscreen for up to 20 seconds after the corresponding line has ended. The typesetting isn’t much better, with signs and non-script subtitles poorly placed across the screen (the most egregious example being a translation of a book title that appears completely upside down, thus rendering the subtitles entirely unreadable). Elsewhere, Glasslip has a clean, slightly faded look, which lends an ephemeral effect to the show as a whole. The actual animation in the show is rather limited, but Glasslip being the show it is, this fortunately never feels like it holds the show back. And other than the subtitling gaffes, Sentai has done a solid job bringing Glasslip to physical media—it’s certainly no triumph of video encoding, but (again) Glasslip doesn’t really need a technically perfect transfer to work.
There’s little to like or dislike about the packaging for Sentai Filmworks’ release of Glasslip. The cover art is the same used for the show during its TV broadcast, featuring all of the main cast and offering an early look at Miki Takeshita’s attractive character designs. The back of the case features a quick plot summary and the normal production info—all serviceable, none remarkable. Glasslip won’t be the featured item in anyone’s collection, but it certainly won’t ruin the look of your shelves either.
Glasslip‘s menus, which host an abbreviated version of the opening theme as their background music, are simple and easy to navigate. The episode titles are set off to the right side of the screen, with the language options and extras (if the disc has them) underneath after a small space. The general aesthetic of the menus matches that of the shows, which is a nice touch.
This release includes clean versions of the opening and closing animation sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Among the various concepts floating around within the study of Japanese aesthetics, that of mono no aware is likely the best known. The phrase roughly translates to “pathos of things,” meaning something along the lines of feeling melancholy or wistful from viewing the beauty of impermanent, transient things. However you want to interpret the technicalities of the phrase, I don’t think there’s any avoiding the fact that Glasslip is absolutely steeped in mono no aware. All elements of the show—from its soundtrack to its visuals to the way it tells its story to the story itself—are bent towards achieving both an experience of mono no aware and telling a story entirely about that very feeling. The end result is… unusual, to say the least, but if you consider Glasslip as an aesthetic expression of the concept of mono no aware rather than as a traditional narrative, suddenly the show’s choices make a lot more sense.
Viewing Glasslip from this perspective is particularly enlightening because, at a superficial level, Glasslip presents itself like any other P.A. Works romantic drama. We have a small group of high school teens—Touko, Yanagi, Sachi, Yukinari, Hiro, and Kakeru—all involved in a weird sort of love triangle in a small seaside town during the summer. The plot unfolds as one might expect it to for a show like this. There are confessions, rejections, passive-aggressive social motions, unspoken understandings, and other the other events that make up the lives of teens coming to end of their high school days and wanting to make the most of their remaining time. Kakeru is even a transfer student. Everything is set up for Glasslip to ride on the power of big emotions and broken hearts, and to conclude with a new kind of peaceful status quo.
However, Glasslip has other plans. Although the plot points that make up the show’s meandering story (and indeed, the story of Glasslip wanders with seeming disregard for traditional pacing), occur as one might expect, co-scriptwriters and collaborators on series composition Junji Nishimura (who also serves as the show’s director) and Rika Sato have constructed a narrative that feels more like a collection of scattered events tied together by common characters and aesthetic motifs. Generally speaking, Glasslip is far more unified as a thematic piece than it is as a narrative one—and whether or not that particular effort winds up as an effective, appealing one depends on the viewer.
This isn’t to say that Glasslip functions only on an aesthetic level and fails at being emotionally resonant or telling its story in an engaging way. Having understood that Glasslip is fundamentally a story about a group of teens coming to terms with the transient nature of their lives in their own ways—that is, experiencing mono no aware for the first time—suddenly their actions shine as desperate (in varying degrees of intensity) attempts to cling to or move away from a life they all gradually understand is moving past them.
Again, the efficacy of all of this will greatly depend on the viewer. But in the end, I think Glasslip deserves to be seen as it is, and not as it may be expected to be. This is an exploration of a philosophical idea, of a human condition first, but it is not romantic drama about teenagers second. The two are inextricably linked, and to expect Glasslip to conform solely to the conventions of the latter is, I think, unfair to the show. To compartmentalize Glasslip into a show about mono no aware and a romance is to strip both elements of the companion element that serves to help the other articulate itself. It is a romance told through mono no aware, it is mono no aware seen through romance.
None of this is a guarantee of quality, of course. Those seeking only a love triangle will likely come away disappointed. Those wanting aesthetic free of the trappings teenage angst best look elsewhere. For those that remain, Glasslip is a beautiful contemplation of the wonders (and melancholy) of growing older and understanding that the world will never remain the same.
I love Glasslip. It’s unlike anything else I’ve seen, and its numerous strengths in expressing its core theme make for a show that’s fascinating to watch. It’s not a show that I’d recommend to everyone, but for those who are looking for what Glasslip is offering, you won’t be let down.
Japanese 2.0; English subtitles; Clean Opening Animation; Clean Closing Animation.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B–
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 3rd, 2015
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Insignia NS-32D511NA15 32″ LED 1080P HDTV and Samsung BD-H6500 HDTV Blu-ray player (2014 model) via HDMI set to 1080p.