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Wolf Girl & Black Prince Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Wolf Girl & Black Prince BD Front CoverSometimes our swagger leads us into more difficult positions.

What They Say:
Everyone knows that lies can come back to bite you, but when Erika makes up a fake boyfriend to impress her new classmates, the results may literally end up hounding her forever!

Yes, it was dumb, but what were the odds that the random guy whose picture she used would turn out to be a student at her own school? Or that said faux-boyfriend’s silence would come with such a horrible price? Now Erika doesn’t just have to run and fetch at Kyoya Sata’s command, she has to bark too!

Because he’s literally treating her like a dog, and she just has to roll over and take it, or he’ll tell everyone the truth! But that’s not the worst part, because even though this wolf in hunk’s clothing has Erika collared, she may be starting to have REAL feelings for him anyway! Is she barking up the wrong tree, or could true love be unleashed in Wolf Girl & Black Prince?

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that works a fairly standard romantic-comedy piece with a bit of silly action into the mix where it has the wild takes and exaggerated moments that just keeps it hopping. It feels a little more traditional in terms of how the show works in that it has the comedic elements and sounds to it and that just keeps it busier than most romcom material tends to be. The result is a busy piece that moves at a good clip in general without going too fast. Dialogue has some solid placement throughout and occasionally some fun bits of depth as well to it that makes for some amusing moments. In general, however, the show works a standard forward soundstage design with a clean presentation that moves across it well as needed. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
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 kept to just one disc since it’s a monolingual release and has more than enough room to work with. Animated by TYO Animation, the show has a pretty fun look about it with a familiar school setting to it but a lighter tone to it that makes it feel a little more ethereal. I like the lighter look to it and the way that it lets the pop of color stand out more with uniforms and some of the character elements such as hair or other costume design pieces. The transfer brings out the detail well with what it has as there are some good backgrounds to be had here and the character animation is presented well with a clean look. It’s not a show that has a standout design but the transfer captures the look of it well.

Wolf Girl Image 2Packaging:
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case to hold the single disc inside. The front cover uses the familiar image of the two leads together but it busies it up in a good way here with the black, white and pink background design that draws you into it. Some might find it a bit too busy but I think it’s one that definitely draws your eye in and works well. The character artwork is pretty well representative of the shows designs and I like the silliness of the logo that’s given a white background to stand out even more. The back cover is a little more traditional where it uses the same background as the front but with more black space for the premise, which has a good border to the text to hold it all together. The shot from the show are small but decent and the tagline is certainly cute. The discs extras are cleanly listed, though done as pink on black, and we get a good clean breakdown of the production credits and technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works with familiar material which works but leaves me wishing it was able to do something different. The static image uses the same character artwork as the front cover but it does a subtler background so that the character material stands out more, particularly with more pop to the colors within it. The right side has the menu navigation which has an elegant kind of design about it but done up in black and white that works really well while adding in the pink for the text of the episodes by number and title. The look of it sets the tone well and the color combination is a big plus in that it stands out and looks appealing, especially during playback as the pop-up menu.

Extras:
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the shoujo manga from Ayuko Hatta of the same name that began in 2011 and has fourteen volumes out as of this writing, Wolf Girl and Black Prince is a twelve episode anime series that landed in the fall 2014 season. Animated by TYO Animation, the series is one that plays to the shoujo styling fairly well but because of the way the color palette operates it just has a kind of off-putting feeling about it at times that keeps the characters feeling distant on top of the way they’re actually written. The manga is pretty well received as was the anime adaptation and there’s also a live-action TV series in the works, which is very easy since this is basic real world shoujo material through and through.

Wolf Girl Image 4The series revolves around Erika Shinohara, a sixteen-year-old high school girl that’s desperate to fit in as the new year starts and she has no friends in the class that she’s in. She ends up befriend the popular and trendy girls Marin and Aki early on, but only because as they talk about their boyfriends and the things they want to do to them she goes on about how she does those things and more with her boyfriend. It’s a situation that spirals out of control quickly and Erika basically comes across as someone who gets down with just about anything, though this doesn’t give her a bad reputation (which is good). The problem, of course, is that there is no boyfriend and after a couple of months of stories both Marin and Aki are beyond suspicious. Particularly as she doesn’t even have a picture of this mystery man.

So, luck has it that she ends up kind of accidentally but not takes a picture while out and about of Kyoya Sata. He’s the very attractive young man type that could easily be doing modeling on the side, which is kind of risky on Erika’s part to go so bold. What turns into the real problem, however, is that upon showing the girls the picture they realize that he’s actually in another class in school that Erika was unaware of. Erika does her best to convince him to play the role when forced into the situation and she’s quite grateful for it since it buys her some time. The problem is that Kyoya may have the Prince Charming look down and acts that way with most, but he’s really the Black Prince in how cruel and mean he is. His agreeing to be seen with Erika is more for him to gain what’s in essence a pet, as he calls her his dog to do whatever he needs. And he really does run with that in a big way.

And therein lies the problem with the series as it moves forward. We’ve seen this setup before and it’s not original but can be well executed to make something engaging and fun. But Kyoya just comes across as truly uncaring and cruel throughout much of it as he puts her in these positions in order to have her do what he wants. He doesn’t do anything sexual or physical with her but rather just the continual demeaning elements. To make matters worse, it doesn’t take long before Erika sees some positive aspects to him – not in regards to her, just who he is – and that gets her to fall for him. So she falls into the camp of trying to change him and she actually admits her feelings towards him very early on in the show, resulting in a “power” imbalance between them since he’s not feeling that way. But, as time goes on, he starts to fall for her more. The problem becomes that we’ve had so much material that has made him unlikable at this point that I found it near impossible to come around to his side. Even worse was that as we see him interacting with her it turns into a position where a lot of what he does is territorial in protecting her, being the white-black knight of sorts to keep other guys away since he’s claimed her. But his claim feels utterly wrong and there’s a very dark side to it that I just couldn’t shake. It was bad enough with Erika herself but it just takes on a worse tone with the guys that come into her life.

Wolf Girl Image 3And it’s not that the other guys are great or anything as there’s a mixed bag. Takeru isn’t actually interested in her and his being Kyoya’s friend means he works to help get Kyoya to realize what he a good thing he’s got. The bit of potential comes from Yu Kusakabe, a typical teenage guy who is a bit shy and lacks confidence but gets a boost when Erika is simply nice to him – something that just sets off Kyoya in a terrible way. Kyoya is brutal towards him because of the lack of confidence and degrades him as not being man enough to go after what he wants. Yu does stand up for himself in a couple of ways, but while it doesn’t paint Yu in a great light, it puts Kyoya in a worse one and just made me dislike him more. I can understand completely where Erika is coming from as she really does like Kyoya, but she misses out on so much of his cruelty to others that she becomes blind to it and just deals with what he throws at her.

The worst addition comes towards the final arc as we get Nozomi Kamiya arriving in the school. He’s utterly the player character here who sees Kyoya as competition of sorts and goes after Erika simply because he can. From what little we know of Kyoya prior to Erika, you get the sense that Kyoya was the same but just a hell of a lot more subtle. So there’s a natural friction between the two men that comes out and it kind of puts Kyoya on overdrive in trying to push Kamiya down in order to feel better about himself. It doesn’t make him a better boyfriend in the slightest, but it does get him to recognize parts of himself in Kamiya and there’s a touch of introspection to it. But Kyoya is still that uncertain and panicked little boy inside in the end of it and the way he turns to being so worried in his own way about losing Erika just makes him all the worse since he doesn’t give her any chances herself to deal with situations. He’s the super protector of someone who can (and should) “defend” herself as necessary. But he’s intent on keeping her protected all while keeping dominance over her.

Wolf Girl Image 1

In Summary:
Admittedly, part of my problem with the show is based in what far too much shoujo material is about, which is part of the reason I abandoned a lot of it a while ago. The show is solidly animated, though some of the design elements just feel a little off, and the pacing overall is solid as it doesn’t belabor things and moves us through several smaller arcs over the course of several months. But in the end I just couldn’t deal with Kyoya as his character is the type that just gives men/boyfriends a bad name. All I could see was a future path of abuse coming from him towards Erika all while she believes he’ll change someday. It’s not something that became compelling and instead just became frustrating the more it went on. I definitely liked Erika and how she did her best to cope with it and her emotions as she engaged in her first true love and that helped to salvage aspects of it. But as a whole the work just left me frustrated and sometimes outright angry.

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

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
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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