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Kamigami no Asobi Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

6 min read

Kamigami no Asobi Blu-ray HeaderIf the gods were neurotic

What They Say:
Yui Kusanagi isn’t sure what to do after high school, but when Zeus decides that the Gods have lost touch with the mortal world, he stages a bit of divine intervention and places Yui on the path to education. Okay, it’s more like he drops her into a mysterious garden and tasks her with teaching eight moody and extremely hot young Gods about life, humanity and love. Or else. That’s quite a burden for any mortal girl, especially when the gorgeous Godly gaggle are eight heavy hitters from Greek, Norse, Egyptian and Japanese mythology: Appollon, Hades, Dionysus, Thor, Loki, Balder, Thoth, Anubis, Susanoo, and Tsukiyomi! But while they’re all afflicted with the angst and capricious whims one might expect from such immortal archetypes, and while their “schooling” is further hampered as the mysterious world they’re all trapped in keeps changing unexpectedly, Yui’s going to give this her all. Why? Maybe because she’s the only girl they’re going to see in at least a year and did we mention that they’re all totally babe-a-licious? Prepare to say O.M.G. with multiple Os and eight different Gs as higher education hits the highest plane in KAMIGAMI NO ASOBI!

The Review:
Audio:
Encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0. While there are few reasons for special effects, the audio conveys the action well. Sometimes the balance between the background music and the voices seemed too heavily to favor the music, but there were no moments that it distracted from the action.

Video:
As originally released in 1.78:1, the video is encoded for anamorphic playback. Playback is variable bitrate. Colors have rich depth throughout. I saw no distracting artifacts from a normal viewing distance. A second check through a PS3 on a 24 inch screen showed more artifact noise, but that was expected due to the decreased viewing distance. Forced subtitles also include song lyrics that, with dialog, take up screen space through an important scene. This series depends on a vibrant display of the artwork to convey tone and create emotional and physical settings for the characters. This set delivered solid video throughout.

Packaging:
The standard size keepcase holds two discs with hubs on the inside of the front and back covers. The front cover has image of six of the gods in their “divine” state. Apollon appears at the bottom of the spine with the title framed by two gold compass/snowflakes. The back cover has small images from the series bordering the top and bottom of the summary. The summary is in black font on a white field with an image of Apollon and Hades in a library. At the bottom third, the credits are in white font on the blue field over the technical grid. Copyright information is along the bottom. The discs are printed with a compass/snowflake around the hub with more appearing to hang from string around the surface. The disc number appears at the top and the title and associated companies’ logos appear at the bottom.

Menu:
The menu for disc 1 has the image of Apollon and Hades in their school uniforms in a scene with books stacked on the ground and a window or doorway framing stars on a blue field. In a vertical column on the right side, episodes 1 through 6 and special features are listed in gold text. The special features screen has an image of Baldar and Loki wearing their uniforms in a winter scene with animals. The images have a pastel like quality. Disc 2 has an image of Susanoo and Tsukuyomi in their uniforms with a Japanese garden water feature.

Extras:
The only extras are a clean opening and closing.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally based on a otome visual novel,I wondered where this anime would go. Based on the summary on the back cover, I kind of felt hesitant to watch this since it appears that the entire content will be based on pretty boys infatuated with the protagonist, the soon-to-graduate Yui Kusanagi. Thankfully, the story and characters developed well beyond the reverse harem, and inhabiting a visually interesting and imaginative world, the show offers an engaging if limited frame for an emotional journey.

Kamigami no Asobi Image 1Above all, the anime has a visual aesthetic that really operates in a way to create a conceptual reality. From the first episode where Yui leaves to visit the shrine, the vast Japanese cityscape in the background screams attention to detail. When the setting changes to Zeus’ tabletop garden and the school, the artistry continues to outshine the story. Design elements frame the action with an ever-changing palette that creates the warmth and humidity of a summer garden or the cool interior of stone walls and floors. Throughout the series, the scenery changes and with it the imaginative design. Above all, I cared more about the look of the show than the story.

Action follows the narrative curve of most harem anime or slice-of-life school dramas. Yui has been chosen to be the human representative in the reeducation of mostly teen looking gods. The first episodes set up the story and begin building the foundation for Yui’s interaction with individual gods. They have distinct personalities that make them difficult to get to know, and while Yui has been charged with leading them to graduation, some seem less than interested in school or their own fates if they fail to graduate. To make them less likely to destroy the garden, Zeus seals their divine power, making them mostly human.

While I don’t want to give away any of the story that would make this worth watching for someone who wants to get emotionally involved in the characters’ struggles, I have to say most of the gods have a melodramatic element that has caused them to withdraw from humanity, separate from their communities, or the conditions of their very existence make them lonely. Some of the challenges the group will face include being outcast from a community, feeling the guilt of another’s death, and being focused on the mission so as unable to feel any moment. Yui faces the baggage of each god as she tries to instill in them all the sense of community and purpose. Unfortunately, one of Zeus’ points of emphasis is “love.” This has messy consequences for some of the gods, but unlike an eroge, to conquer means no more than to help another overcome their own emotional trauma.

While the show offers some elevated moments, it does contain many of the cliché tropes. They have a Christmas fair, a beach trip, a play, and they study for their tests. In some ways, these help keep the show grounded, and they act as a space for the drama to grow. The only times it seems to cater specifically to the otome audience will be in a couple of episodes where the pretty boys take off their shirts to go swimming or just play in the rain. Episodes remain somewhat uneven, but the drama intensifies as it reaches its climax.

In Summary:
Kamigami no Asobi offers viewers a slice-of-life drama with real emotional catharsis. Because several episodes offer highly emotional content, it probably would be better viewed over a few days or weeks so as not to become numb to and critical of the melodrama. Artwork in the series raises its value and probably would be appreciated by a larger audience than the target demographic. Since I don’t fit the target audience and didn’t like the basic story, I am surprised how warmly I feel toward the series. The characters developed quickly, and most development feels rushed but natural. Emotional development could feel contrived or raw, depending on the episode and the person watching. If a viewer likes reverse harems, wants stories with emotional catharsis, or just wants to see a spin on the school drama, this series offers a few divine moments.

Recommended for fans of heavy themes and light comedy.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 language with forced English subtitles, Clean Opening and Ending, Sentai Trailers.

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: August 25th, 2015
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Review Equipment:
Samsung 40” LCD 1080P HDTV, Sony BDP-S3500 Blu-ray player connected via HDMI, Onkyo TX-SR444 Receiver with NHT SuperOne front channels and NHT SuperZero 2.1 rear channel speakers.


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