A lot can happen in seven years. Especially when the town you left has changed quite a bit and an unfulfilled wish is holding everything, and everyone, back.
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.
There is a single audio track, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 48kHz 224kbps. As most of the show is talking, it’s pretty much your regular workout for the center speaker with little to no tasks for anything else. Only during musical pieces (the opening and ending animations) did the other speakers have any work to do as the stereo encoding was properly read. The sound was clear with no noticeable distortions or dropouts during any of the episodes. Good for what it is, but not remarkable.
Originally broadcast in 2014, the video is presented in its original aspect ration of 1.78:! with anamorphic playback capability. In terms of picture quality, this is, as usual from Sentai, perfectly respectable DVD-quality video which shows the usual types of compression artifacts when upscaled from standard definition to a high definition screen. During intense movement scenes (which are not many, but there are a few) one can detect noise and even slightly stuttered frames (extremely rare), though there was nothing outrageously distracting during viewing. Your mileage will vary, but obviously the bigger the screen (or higher the resolution, for those few who have moved to a 4k screen), the worse it will probably look at times, but those with higher-end equipment will likely purchase the Blu-ray.
Packaging, Presentation and Menus: B
The three discs are presented in a single normal-width DVD keepcase. Inside, the first two discs are held on a flippy hinge holder while the third disc’s hub is attached to the back of the case. The front cover features a group picture of the main cast with the English logo above them. The back cover has a larger picture of Nonoka Komiya, the lead character, to the right and slightly above the catalog copy which is framed by a star-circle background, a reference to the school logo of the junior high school Nonoka and the others attend. Below Nonoka in the bottom right but above the staff listings and technical grid are six small still frames from the show. In terms of overall packaging, this is in line with the overwhelming majority of Sentai DVD releases from the past couple years.
As for the discs themselves, Disc 1 contains Eps. 1-4 and features an image of Yuzuki Mizusaka; Disc 2 has Eps. 5-8 with a picture of Koharu Shihara; Disc 3 holds the remaining five episodes, 9-13, and showcases Shione Togawa. Note: This release does not contain the OVA which was released later with the Japanese home video release.
The menus are what you would expect from a standard Sentai release: a static image with music background, the main menu featuring direct access to individual episodes along the left side of the frame.
In terms of extras, there are none beyond the minimal inclusion of textless opening and ending animations, as well as an assortment of trailers on the first disc.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Created and written by Naoki Hisaya (one of the key original writers of Kanon from Visual Art’s/Key and the creator behind the anime Sola), Celestial Method (Sora no Method) is an anime-original story (with a concurrent manga, written by Hisaya) that came out in Fall 2014, the anime being produced by Studio 3Hz under the direction of Masayuki Sakoi (who previously directed Strawberry Panic! and Princess Resurrection). It tells the story of Nonoka Komiya, a middle schooler who is returning with her father to the town of Lake Kiriya, where she lived seven years ago. It features the common story device of the now older child returning to a place where she once lived, but she has forgotten most of the people and places she knew from before (which is similarly a feature of Hisaya’s previous work Kanon, but is not something exclusive to him as it is a common device).
Of course, some things are quite different from when she last lived in the lakeside resort town, as now there is a giant floating saucer above the lake. The perhaps utterly fantastical element to all this is that the saucer has become little more than a tourist attraction when we all know in the real world the appearance of such a thing would spark fear and panic and likely a military attack upon the UFO. Not that there is no one upset with the presence of the Disk, as it is called, but too many people seem far too laid back about it. We are told that the Disk first appeared seven years ago.
It’s not just the saucer, another surprise is awaiting Nonoka when she returns to Lake Kiriya as a mysterious blue-haired girl is shown to be very happy about Nonoka’s return…which she just seems to be aware of somehow. When they meet, the girl, who calls herself Noel, is hyperactively awaiting Nonoka waking up from sleep on her first morning back in town. Nonoka has this strange feeling that she knows Noel from somewhere, but can’t place her exactly. Her memories are too distant. We also slowly have the other main cast members from the OP animation get introduced, who all appear to have been childhood friends of Nonoka. There’s Yuzuki, the only person in town who seems to want to get rid of the Disk; Koharu, whose family runs a gift shop that relies on the saucer tourist trade; Yuzuki’s brother Sota; and finally Shione, a stand-offish girl who seems to be holding some kind of grudge against Nonoka, though Nonoka does not understand why.
The most disconcerting thing for Nonoka is that the more she recalls Noel, the stranger the mystery gets: Noel has not changed one bit in seven years. And we learn that it was seven years ago that Nonoka and her childhood friends called the Disk to come to the town. With her memories starting to return, Nonoka gets one more shock: Noel reveals that she is the Disk.
At heart, Celestial Method is a show about how time and distance can separate one from those one was once close to, a fairly common theme in fiction (while a recurring theme for Hisaya, one can find it abundantly on display in a great many anime). It is also about how those broken bonds can be reforged with some effort, some goodwill and the power of memory, which can overcome the distance imposed by time. So over the course of the episodes, we see Nonoka do just that, reconnecting with some of her former friends easily, while others…are a lot more difficult to bring around. Towards the end, a major shift occurs…but everything seems wrong to Nonoka. Will she be able to fix things and get back what she has lost? Fortunately, as this is an anime-original work, we do get a definitive ending and are not left hanging forever, as happens with a great many adapted works.
Heart, that is basically what this show is. It’s meant to give you a heartwarming feeling by the end and I think it largely succeeds in that respect, even if I think the very end could have been handled in a slightly more subtle way (sometimes, you really don’t have to spell things out in such a blindingly obvious way, no matter how obtuse many in your audience may be). If you like shows that are a touch sappy and sentimental, I think this one will bring a smile to your face and a warm feeling in your chest. If you’re an utterly heartless person, well, this one may do little to nothing for you.
That’s not to say that the show is without any faults. Its drama does bleed over to eyeroll-inducing melodrama at times and one character in particular, Shione Togawa, is very unrealistic, yo-yoing between extreme emotional states at times largely for plot purposes. She definitely seems a candidate for antidepressants. For those who have low tolerances for “manufactured drama,” this may be a show that on occasion will evoke a less than pleasing sensation. I think it manages to course-correct enough to make up for those times when it comes up short, but, as always, your mileage can vary.
When Nonoka Komiya returns to the town she lived in seven years ago, she finds out that many things have changed, though she cannot remember much of that time herself. But after meeting a strange young girl, Noel, Nonoka begins to reconnect with her memories and the people she left behind, her close circle of friends from all those year ago. A heartwarming show that might slip over into melodrama a bit too much at times, but it ends on a sweet rather than sour or bittersweet note.
Japanese 2.0 Dolby Digital audio, English subtitles, Sentai trailers.
Content Grade: B+
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: March 22nd 2016
Running Time: 325 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.