What They Say:
It’s been seven years since Nonoka Komiya last lived in Lake Kiriya City. However, while she knew that there would be changes in the town, she’s still unprepared for what she finds upon her return: A giant saucer hovers over the entire city, as it has since shortly after she and her family left.
Stranger yet, a girl she doesn’t know, Noel, is waiting for her, claiming that they have met before. Confused, Nonaka tries to focus on reconnecting with her old friends, but odd memories, suppressed in the wake of her mother’s death, begin to float to the top of her consciousness.
Can it be that she has met Noel before? And how does this connect with the appearance of the saucer itself? To solve the riddle, Nonoka must join with her friends and rediscover the events that occurred before she left Lake Kiriya. Because there’s more than a mystery that must be solved: there’s a promise that has to be kept in Celestial Method.
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track only in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that is all about the slice of life feeling which means lots of small scenes with incidental sounds and light music touches in order to build the right mood and atmosphere. It works well in this regard because the light touches work to really draw you into the mood of the moment while being subtle in the right way. The dialogue side of it is what dominates otherwise and that’s fairly straightforward as it’s just the main cast chatting with each other that doesn’t involve a lot of placement or depth when you get down to it. There are a couple of scenes that bump things up a bit in the emotion but that’s about the extent of it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular 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 episode series is spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Studio 3Hz, the series has a very clean, bright, and vibrant look to it that’s definitely appealing. The detail to the character designs and backgrounds makes it an engaging world that feels real enough with all of its locations while also having some really good flow to the animation itself. There are some very smooth sequences that definitely stand out here and the visual design across the board is strong. There’s a lot of detail in the show in general and it all comes across well and the transfer just allows you to be drawn into it, especially with the backgrounds and locations that it takes place in, particularly with the observatory.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover uses the familiar promotional artwork with the six main characters in front of the sunflowers with a lot of the background given over to the sky itself, with a touch of the Disk sa well. The character artwork is good and mostly reflective of what we get, but it really does push some of the secondary characters to the background in a big way and really minimizes the only noteworthy male character as well. The back cover carries over the cloudy blue skies for the background in a good way while letting Nonoka stand out as the main character artwork piece with her school uniform. The premise covers things well if a bit wordy and the layout brings some good shots from the show into it all as well. The episode count and disc count are clearly listed as are the extras, making it easy to figure out what’s included. The remainder is fleshed out with the usual round of production credits and technical grid that covers everything in a clear and easy to understand way.
The menu design for this release goes for a simple approach but with some nice design elements to make it feel more than just a barebones design. Both discs feature a static image for the main background where it uses different cast combinations and it goes for an almost illustration style that looks really cute as it brings in the anime style to it instead of fully committing to illustrated in a way. The blue backgrounds with the clouds and the Disk from the main cover is used here as well and there’s a good light and airy feeling about the whole thing. The navigation itself along the left works a simple block design but has some good color design that accents it well with red, white, and blue in a good way. It adds to the lightness of the main image itself and also looks good during playback when used as a pop-up menu.
The only extras included in this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Known originally as Sora no Method, Celestial Method aired in the fall of 2014 and comes from Studio 3Hz. The initial draw of the series, at least beyond its strong visual design, is that it was an original series created and written by Naoki Hisaya. Hisaya’s credits are varied but his work as the main writer on Kanon certainly earned him interest in whatever projects he worked on afterward, especially since I enjoyed that series a great deal. The series is one that certainly caught a lot of attention for its design and being the first project from Studio 3Hz, whose second and latest show is Dimension W. From an animation and design standpoint, Celestial Method certainly delivers in a strong way as there’s a whole lot to like there from top to bottom.
The series revolves around a group of ninth grade students that focuses largely on Nonoka, a young woman who lived in the Hokkaido city of Lake Kiriya but had left for seven years. Her returning to the city finds her discovering that things are nothing like how she left it since she left it in a mess all those years ago and a dramatic event happened at the same time. The dramatic event involved the arrival of something called the Disk, a giant structure floating above the city with pretty lights and designs that overall appears to be harmless and mostly just a curiosity. While I imagine there must have been a worldwide presence early on, things are just normal with it now and it’s a tourist attraction because practically nobody pays attention to it. The only impact of it is that it appears locals can’t shoot off fireworks for their festival since it would hit the ship. I guess. The whole Disk aspect is a looming presence in the series that has its reason for being there, which you can figure out in the first few minutes easily enough, but its place in the larger world and impact is just ignored. Which is hugely frustrating even if that’s not the story you want to tell. It just smacks of lazy writing.
Nonoka left when she was a child because her mother was ill and her father was moving them to a larger city with better care facilities to help her out. With her death at some point in time, he’s decided to move back here and pick up their life again. Nonoka is excited to connect with her friends from that time but she discovers that they’re all disinterested in her to varying degrees since she just left without saying anything all those years ago. Part of it is her fault for not telling them when they were all together for the last time, but she was afraid of how it would play out. And as a young kid I totally get that. And I understand the way the others felt in that they were abandoned, particularly since at the time they had just made a wish about all being together and connected for the rest of their lives. So there’s resentment to be sure.
And that resentment factors in for one of her former friends with Yuzuki as the Disk arrived at the same time as all of this went down and she puts some blame on that for ruining their friendship and lives. She has problems with her twin brother that has kept them at a distance for all these years as well but the truth of it all is so mundane overall as to be utterly forgettable when they get to it towards the end of the series. Sota is pretty much a non-entity for much of it as the main male presence outside of Nonoka’s father and while he does have his usefulness from time to time, the show would function perfectly fine without him. Yuzuki’s presence is a bit more interesting as she’s seemingly the only one in town with a real dislike towards the Disk as she actively campaigns to try and get rid of it and to get more people to join her side through protests and leaflets. She does this by accosting those that have come to the area as tourists, which means she doesn’t get a lot of support. And she gets none from those in town either, making her a lonely figure.
The show complements the outgoing Yuzuki with Koharu, whose family owns the local shop that converted into being all about the Disk once things shifted in that direction. She’s sort of the peacemaker of the group in a way, quiet and friendly while being understanding of others, and it provides a place where things do happen and connects to the outside world. But she’s still a minor character overall as the real focus is on Shione, another of the friends from seven years prior that felt closer to Nonoka and took her sudden disappearance a lot harder than the others. So when Nonoka comes back and everyone is dismissive of her, Shione is even more like this and it takes a lot longer to try and reconnect with her since there are more issues at play here. Granted, as is the case with all of them, the simple fact is that if they actually just talked for ten minutes most everything could be solved. Nonoka does try to do this but is rebuffed and she ends up kind of hemming and hawing over how to get things across since it doesn’t seem like anyone really knew what she was going through as a kid and the longer impact of her mother’s death. Though they all go to where her mother is buried eventually as a kind of road trip it doesn’t feel like there’s a strong enough connection there.
Where the show ends up really bothering me in a way, however, is with Noel. Noel is the blue-haired girl that appeared with the Disk and has waited for Nonoka to return in order to grant her wish. It’s obvious who she is and what she represents, particularly as she hasn’t aged or grown since Nonoka last saw her seven years ago, but it’s just treated so matter of factly that it takes me out of the experience – even if it is a tried and true cliche of the genre. Which I think bothered me even more because of that. Noel’s like a light and almost silly whisper throughout the series and at first you can’t be sure others can see her, though they do interact with her more as time goes on and there’s a renewed bonding of the group in Standard Operating Form as you’d expect from a show of this nature. But nobody questions Noel, this young girl with no family, no attendance at school, and so obviously connected to the Disk with the things she says. I know better than to expect realism in this regard but I do hope for a little smarter writing than this.
The bulk of the show isn’t about Noel so it doesn’t hinder it too much, but she is a part of the group in how they do slowly come together again. Which is actually the real focus here on fixing broken bonds and the different levels to which friendships can break. There are some lighter breaks that are worked out early on while Shione’s repair work is the longest, but at the same time these kids are largely ciphers outside of these relationship aspects. There’s nothing there to them in terms of personality or lives that makes it feel like they exist if not for Nonoka and her return. Their lives are on pause until this moment where they can move forward. Which does happen to people to some degree, but with kids that were seven or eight and now in their early teens, lives change dramatically from year to year with who they were before. Which is why they end up feeling like they’re written more as young adults than actual teenagers, making the movements all the more conflicting.
Celestial Method works a familiar pattern and there’s a lot to like here if you’re into this particular genre. The characters are standard and familiar but with some good design elements that make them engaging to watch as everything plays out. There are bigger questions that I really wanted answered overall but this wasn’t a show that was interested in any of that and just wanted to tell the character story, which is frustrating for me. There’s a really strong visual design to this show that was highly appealing and made it an enjoyable enough series to watch and I can easily imagine getting into anything they put out if it’s of similar animation quality. Celestial Method’s not a bad show but it’s a show that’s familiar to fans of the genre that doesn’t do anything to separate itself from the pack. Sentai’s release is solid to be sure with a great looking transfer and solid audio presentation that does what it needs to do.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: C+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 22nd, 2016
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.