What They Say:
Yuji Kazami thought that all he wanted was to attend school like a normal teenager, but Mihama Academy is nothing like the places of education he’s dreamed of. And it’s not just that Mihama seems eerily like a prison. There are also only five other students, and all five of these girls seem to have special reasons for having been placed in this institution. Sachi Komine, who always wears a maid outfit and seems to be compelled to carry out any order given her. The unsettling Makina Irisu, whose parents are tied to Japan’s shady underworld. Michiru Matsushima, a combative girl afflicted with dual personalities. Car and motorcycle obsessed Amane Suou. And Yumiko Sakaki, whose “welcome greeting” to Yuji involves the deadly use of a box cutter. Of course, Yuji himself has his own dark secrets, as one of his new fellow students may be the next deadly target on his own hit list in FRUIT OF GRISAIA!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only which is in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that works a mostly dialogue oriented approach for the bulk of it but it has some good action moments from time to time and some good use of directionality and impact across the forward soundstage when it deals with the weapons and similar types of scenes. The music comes across well with a warm feeling, particularly in the opening and closing sequences, while the dialogue itself is well handled as we get some good placement with the characters moving about and several people on screen at the same time. 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 2.35:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by studio 8-Bit, the show goes for a high-end look with its designs and backgrounds and this is made all the better by the widescreen framing. The use of this is rare for TV series but it makes for a starker series of visuals across the run and it provides more distance for the viewer from the characters as close-up shots are a lot rarer, which is a welcome change of pace. With some really great looking designs and detail to it, the transfer captures the look of it very well. Colors are solid with some great pop throughout and the detail holds steady during panning scenes with a lot of the line work. The end result is a very appealing show that made it even easier to get into because of it.
The packaging for this release goes with the familiar promotional image, which was a given considering its overall appeal, as we get the range of girls that populates this series lined up from a lower camera angle so that we get a good look at them all. With a sunset design behind it and all the colors that it entails, especially with some clouds mixed in, it’s a highly eye-catching piece with how it looks. The color design is solid and the colors are fantastic as it works in with all the detail of the character artwork. The logo is kept simple to the top as it uses the original one and all the murky aspects of it while making clear the episode and disc count above it. The back cover goes darker overall with a framed design that holds all the details. We get an interesting design for the selection of shots along the top that are all cut up in different ways while getting a decent character image along the right of one of the girls. The premise is easy to read with white on black and the discs features are clearly listed as well. The bottom runs with the familiar layout of production credits and a clean and accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release works an expected approach of static menus that works plenty of fanservice into it. The first disc provides for two of the girls in their underwear laying down while the second disc does the same with more of the cast in similar poses. It’s simple and effective as it showcases the quality and detail of the designs while providing for some titillation that permeates much of the show. The navigation itself is less impressive as we get the vertical strip along the left that’s done with a pale yellow background with blue stripes that has the episodes by number and title. With a green highlight when selected, the combination is fairly garish and hard to read with the small font – even on a 70” screen. It’s all easy to access and navigate both as a main menu and a pop-up menu but the navigation itself is uninspired, especially in contrast to the static imagery.
The only extras included with this release are the various clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the visual novel game of the same name from Front Wing, the Fruit of Grisaia is a thirteen episode TV series that aired in the fall 2014 season. Animated by studio 8-Bit, the show certainly worked some great designs in its promotional side to catch my attention. I didn’t get to watch it in simulcast form but there were a fair bit of controversial opinions about it as it progressed that got me more curious about it. Being able to marathon a series in full over the course of a day months or more after it was broadcast definitely provides for a different view of a work and it’s one reason that binge viewing is up – beyond the whole hate to wait aspect a lot of people have. For shows like this with its character ties and building, taking it all in over a few hours gives it greater impact.
The premise of the show works a slew of formulaic pieces that we’ve seen before and I’m in no way really calling this show original. Originality really isn’t a thing for the most part in storytelling as it’s about how you pull together familiar things with new twists and trappings. Here, we’re introduced to the high school student Yuji Kazami, the typical male lead that’s capable of everything. He’s an operative for the the government that has essentially retired to some degree and they’ve found him an out of the way school where he can go to in relative peace without worry. Of course, you do wonder just how much of that is a cover of some sort or if he’s being put there to deal with other things without realizing it. But let’s be clear, Yuji is our Larry Stu here. He’s a capable assassin that doesn’t do that anymore, an expert in most things, calm, cool, collected, and the one that catches the interest of just about every woman at the school since there are no other males here. It’s pure fantasy that you have to accept going into it.
Within the school we get the principal and five female students that go here – and that’s it. We get a few other characters along the way in bite sized roles, such as his government boss (also a woman) and a few supporting characters for various arcs, but at it’s core it’s Yuji and the fellow students. Principal Tachibana knows his deal to some degree and is ensuring he has a good school career here but her role is more of a cursory one, designed to set the basics and provide a little bit of help along the way, making her similar to his boss of Julia Bardera. This gives us the adults in the room from time to time amid the situations, but Tachibana essentially looks like a student and Yuji himself comes across as an adult more than most of the rest because of his background and seriousness. All of it is in service to him as one would expect of a show like this.
What the series wants to do is work through each of the character arcs where Yuji becomes truly aware of their backgrounds and what makes them tick. Each of them gets a couple of episodes in general, though Amane gets the biggest one where it’s a three episode flashback piece to her junior high school days. Amane in the present is the intriguing one as she introduces herself as his new big sister when he arrives, but she’s a secondary character for most of the show, almost gone for a lot of it, until she begins her push to be his girlfriend. Exploring her past is one that frustrates me because it works the story of how she was part of a group of students on a trip who got into an accident and they had to survive for over two weeks before being rescued. These are far too common stories in anime that show how primal people revert, which I get, but the setup and the problems they face by simply staying put just frustrate me since it feels like a copout in a lot of ways. What the storyline does serve is why Amane is as interested in Yuji as she is and why there are conflicted feelings within her because of it. I liked her well enough at the start since she’s fun without being too forceful, but after this arc and the fallout from it she really comes across well and has me wanting to see more of how she and Yuji will get along as their arrangement changes.
Like a lot of shows of this nature, the character stories are a bit hit or miss depending on what you’re interested in. The material with Sachi goes for the cliche that I dislike with her going around with a maid uniform because she likes helping people and her main story later in the season just comes across weird with her falling into wanting to blow up the school – which allows Yuji to save the day by disarming everything before she even realizes it. I like the character at her core and her designs, but the story material is just problematic. Similar but not as bad is that of Yumiko, the young woman who spends her early time here trying to kill Yuji but failing since he’s so skilled. While it does dig into her background and parental/family problems, it’s all in service to showing what Yuji is capable of and that in turn makes Yumiko come across poorly. Again, like Sachi, she has some really good moments when not dealing with these things and some playfulness with the other girls, so it’s not a complete loss.
Against my better judgment, the other two arcs work well for me because… I’m not sure why. One works with the younger character of Makina, a first-year student. She ends up buying Yuji into being her father figure and he reworks that into her having to accept that he’s not going to be her idealized version of it. Again, family issues abound, but it works because he essentially hardens her up by teaching her the things he knows as a soldier/survivor and it has the whole Leon/The Professional angle to it in a way. It’s when Yuji feels the most engaged because he’s actively involved with her and her training while also dealing with the attempt on kidnapping her, which has its own weird and convoluted family issues that ties into the government, hence it drawing in Yuji’s boss for some of it. Makina is that typical cute younger character – but not tiny looking – that can frustrate me since they rarely find a middle ground for her, but she comes across better here than a lot of others as she’s not too innocent and not too world weary and wise.
The more complicated arc is the one that involves Michiru, the twin-tailed blond that’s actually got some really big personality issues at play. This means she’s all over the map to some degree but it digs into it in a really neat way that’s likely completely out of the realm of reality in general. With a dissociative identity disorder at play related to her getting a heart transplant, she’s like a see-saw in dealing with life. But she’s pushed so far over the edge when a stray cat she befriended a while ago gets killed, resulting in some really engaging dialogue pieces for Yuji in working with the secondary personality that’s concerned about the primary being lost in despair. It’s typical TV/anime approach to some serious issues but through all of it I found myself like both sides of Michiru more than I expected considering how the flat-chested twin-tail types are usually treated in series like this.
While I can pick apart the individual pieces that bother me and some of the usual cliches that are strong here, I can also easily admit that as a whole I quite enjoyed the show. It unfolds these cliches slowly and with skill through the mix of design and animation to make it interesting and appealing in a way that surprised me. Yes, I can see most of the paths – especially considering its origins as a visual novel (and eroge one at that, so we do get some nudity here), but it’s generally well constructed and done with skill. This series serves as an opening chapter to a larger work as there are two more series that were produced after it so I’m definitely curious to see if the things put into play here make those works more engaging because it does deal with things here and bring closure to various character arcs. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this show but it pretty well pleased me as a whole and has me looking forward to what’s to come next.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: May 10th, 2016
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 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.