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C3 – Cubed x Cursed x Curious Complete Series Blu-ray Anime Review

18 min read

C3 CoverSometimes you just have to live with a curse. It doesn’t hurt as bad when she’s a cute girl.

What They Say:
Haruaki Yachi has seen his fair share of curses, but despite his familiarity, even Haruaki is out of his element when his father mails him a cursed torture cube with the humanoid figure of a cute young girl named Fear Kubrick (no relation). Now, he’s got to help her break her curse and leave behind her homicidal past before dangerous forces get ahold of her deadly powers. Sassy loudmouth Fear has a hard time keeping a low profile, but with the help of Haruaki’s other cursed comrades, maybe this cubed cutie can find her place in the human world – if she can break her curse in C3!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only which is encoded in stereo using the Dolby TrueHD codec. The show is one that does work dialogue more than anything else but it has some solid action components to it that stand out well enough. The dialogue side is well captured throughout with what it needs to do as it’s usually a quieter mix with the way the characters interact but it has some bigger moments as well with more on screen and more of an excited dynamic between them. The action side uses the forward soundstage well with some good movement across it where needed and a pretty good sense of depth as well with some of the blasts that go on and the way they impact characters and locations. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2011, 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 and OVA for this series are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Silver Link, I really like the look of the show since it tends to play a bit darker and that gives it a good sense of mood without overdoing it. The color palette is quite well done here going for a more subdued look but bringing in some real pop and vibrancy with hair design and some of the costuming aspects. The transfer brings these colors out well with a pretty solid look about them in both low and high motion sequences. The show has some big moments where it goes all out with the action and these have a solid and problem free look about them, keeping the same visual appeal as the quieter scenes and how they look.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release is nicely done with what it wants to evoke as we get an o-card that replicates the case artwork itself but with some richer blacks to it through the cardboard. The front cover is a great but simple design with Fear sitting on a cube, showing a little fanservice, while the background is all black outside of two stained glass windows. The difference in color and all the black really makes the whole thing stand out even more, giving it a very appealing feeling overall. The logo is a little more problematic with its stylized design, but it’s using what we had in Japan and it’s just awkward in general. The back cover goes for a murky black background with the cube design lightly mixed in with it while a color image of Fear is on top where she’s twisting her own colorful cube. A few good sized shots from the show are along the right and the premise itself is decently covered. The discs extras are clear and easy to figure out as is the solid technical grid that breaks down everything for the two formats. While there are no show related inserts included, we do get a good two-panel full-color spread of most of the cast on the reverse side that’s bright and colorful.

Menu:
The menu design for the release keeps things simple but works to set the mood fairly well as we get the usual array of clips from the show playing out. With a bit of a darker bent to them and keeping to the right kind of color choices for what clips are used, it sets the atmosphere well for something a little darker but with some playful moments to be had. The navigation is kept to the lower right with a simple strip since there’s no language selection while the logo is along the upper left in oversized mode, which with it being white on the darker colors lets it stand out even more. Getting around is easy enough and everything moves smoothly and without problems both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu.

Extras:
The only extras included with 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 light novel series C3 from Hazuki Minase with artwork by Sasorigatame, Cube x Cursed x Curious is a twelve episode anime series that aired in the fall 2011 season. Animated by Silver Link, it had a solid production team that had Michiko Yokote as the main writer for the series composition and had Shin Onuma directing it. Onuma has worked on some shows that I really liked for its style, such as Tsukiyomi and Kokoro Connect, and a good bit of that overall style and direction is here as well. This series is an interesting one for Funimation because they had simulcast it back when it came out and had it on their site for a while before it ended up drifting away. The eventual pickup was definitely welcome for a home video release, but it’s unfortunate that it didn’t do well enough streaming for warrant an English language dub.

Some shows just go for quirky right from the start and when you have a lead character whose father is a collector of curiosities, you’re going to get that. Especially when what he does is send home packages to his son, Haruaki Yachi, that are like this. What we see in the opening moments is that he’s sent a box that essentially contains a beautiful young woman eating cookies who then decides she’ll place a curse on him. It’s a proper, tried and true anime introduction method. He thinks she’s a thief, she feels her honor is diminished since she’s naked, and that sums up the way they suddenly ease into a casual, friendly relationship that doesn’t stop her from smacking him upside the head when needed.

C3 Episode 1Haruaki gets the skinny on the girl quickly in that she reveals that she’s actually a tool rather than a real person. She’s a curse that’s been given human form and in essence is looking for that which will break said curse, and either free her from what she is or end her life so that she doesn’t hurt others. Though she didn’t understand it, Haruaki’s father sent her there because he’s resistant to curses and the area he lives in is considered quite pure. He’s even got the right mindset about how to break curses by reinforcing positive thoughts instead. Of course, positive thoughts are going to be hard to come by as others that Haruaki knows won’t be pleased about this new woman suddenly living with him, one who is quick to anger and equally quick to say that she’ll curse them as well.

Things move quickly early on as the girl, who doesn’t come up with a cover name and just calls herself Fear, tries to adjust to life in this place. Haruaki at least gives her a last name of Kubrick, though he keeps saying it’s not because of the director, which amuses me. Haruaki is fairly concerned about her and there’s that kind of child-like nature about her as she explores the town and eventually school life as well, including the whole surprise of the class when she says she’s living with Haruaki.. Amusingly, after spending who knows how much time in unusual places or simply put away, experiencing life in this town is rather fun to watch. Everyone is so friendly and kind of silly that it plays out well from the usual dispassionate background characters who often tend to not even exist. Her time out on her own has her making some friends amongst the adults and her cuteness certainly helps. But in the end, Fear is pretty much what you’d expect, a whole lot of energy in a small space that causes lots of trouble that the viewer can find cute.

C3 Episode 2The everyday school life as Fear gets into her class is definitely cute and silly since she has a whole lot of appeal to kids her own age, but there’s also a dark undercurrent throughout it as well. When we have the sequence with the principal and he’s wearing a gas mask in a darkened room, it almost feels surreal and not silly in the slightest which was welcome. But the show takes those moments and sprinkles them throughout while also going with the more traditional elements, such as all the clubs wanting Fear for their own and the knowledge that Haruaki actually knows her, which in turn sets both boys and girls against him and makes his life harder as is to be expected. You can’t have a cute girl like Fear in your life without things being difficult.

When the show works a more serious angle, and a supernatural one at that by introducing the Battlefront Collection Knights, it definitely turns more interesting. Having one of the agents from it, a rather beautiful woman, arrive near the school and create a barrier in which to confront Fear as she’s with Haruaki and Konha, works well because it makes clear more of what Fear is, her abilities and the intensity of the action that the show may employ. As much as I liked the designs and animation before, it goes up a few notches here to something very well done. And even better, while we do get some background bits brought in, there are some surprises as well that ups the ante in terms of story. While Konoha seemed like the affable forlorn type, she looks to have a bigger role in things and may be far more proactive than one would originally think. It’s not so much that the show surprises you, but it turns away from predictable and offers up something that could be a lot more engaging.

C3 Episode 4While Fear has caused the deaths of hundreds in her time, taking human form was something that made it all the more painful. She may not have wanted to cause what happened, but she did, and now that she’s in human form she’s come to understand what guilt is. And that’s weighing heavily on her now as she wonders where her punishment is for all that she did over the years to others. It’s not something that Haruaki can smooth over with her quickly if at all. And Fear has reached that point that even though she was sent to Haruaki with the hopes of fixing things, nothing can be fixed. And that gets her to simply leave in the middle of the night, something that Konoha does her best to convince Haruaki may be a good thing since she’s not someone that he can help in her mind. That won’t fit with the typical nature of a male lead of course and Haruaki has to go out in the rain and wind to try and find her. It’s no surprise that Fear is acting out, though even Kirika come across her and realized that something is wrong with her. It’s an awkward conversation that she has with Haruaki over what he wants to do as there’s a certain hesitancy on her part to help him, but it’s easy to hear the concern in his voice which does spur her on.

Though it doesn’t do it much later on, the first half has some decent time given over to the internal struggle that Fear is going through, both in the internal monologue she goes through as well as the general visuals of it as it has a dark look with some neat layouts and a solid sense of direction. There’s a dark look to it that’s definitely appealing and it really shines when it hits the moment when Haruaki finds her because it’s such a brief intense rush of amazing colors. While you know things will be resolved, the fun is in watching how dramatic they manage to make a third episode of a series. Often this comes much closer to the end of a run, or even halfway if it’s decently done, but they’ve hit it early here and made Fear a more interesting character because of it as her flaws and guilt are laid bare.

C3 Episode 5As the series progresses into the second half we’re introduced to Sovereignty, a character that’s easy to get behind with a simple curse background and a whole lot of subtle but effective style. With that introduction taking place in school, it let the kids get together in a different way to deal with a problem that requires a little more fine tuning effort than before, especially since the main problem isn’t Fear herself. Sovereignty offered up some good scenes of confidence without caricature and even Haruaki managed to be manly without seeming out of place as he tries to talk her down from things a bit. And in an effort to get everyone to work together, it started to show a bit of that potential.

While Sovereignty is off doing her thing, which is pretty muted for the first half of her first episode, the focus is more on the kids back at home for a bit as they recover from what happened previously. A lot of the fun initially comes from watching Haruaki with Konoha who is not feeling well and is in bed. It’s rare that you see so much time and attention to making breasts move so realistically in CG form, but they put the extra effort in here and in order to make it a strong scene, I have to admit it works. The tension between the two is palpable and the way that Haruaki is so narrowly focused on the (not so) small things heaving in front of him is very, very well done. It may be pandering fanservice, but it goes to strengthen the way that Haruaki sees her as well as the way she clings to him in real and honest ways.

C3 Episode 7Figuring out the mystery of Sovereignty is fun to watch, especially when they realize that she may not be working alone as it goes a long way towards explaining a few things. Not how she managed to gain an ally though, but at least why the attacks have gone as they have. That puts a fun new twist to the investigation when they get back to the school but it’s just a start to discovering what it is that Sovereignty is really up to. It’s pretty neat when you get down to some of the visual designs of it with the pairing, and how Fear and the others make the accusations, further cementing the strong visual approach the series uses with colors and camera angles.

Another character introduced later with a bit of a lighter approach is that of Kuroe. The young woman who has come back to the house where Haruaki lives discovers that he’s gained some new friends and gets to reveal to him that her own curse has seemingly been broken and lifted. She had previously been designed as a leech towards her owners, sucking down their energy bit by bit, but now is able to live freely without causing that problem anymore. She has a pretty good history with Haruaki and gets to show off a bit with him about how she can use her abilities to heal now too, something he’s completely trusting in which says a lot about him.

C3 Episode 8Kuroe’s return to the town has her wanting to pick up where she left off all those years ago by opening her shop again. Unfortunately for her, she’s been followed for some time by a young woman named Alice who, as part of something she calls the Vivolio Families, wants to take Kuroe for her own reasons. It’s a curious twist because it’s sidelined so quickly, for the moment at least, in favor of Fear working hard in her own way to help Kuroe re-open her hair salon. While Kuroe may not look it, she has a huge reputation in the area and her return is a positive thing, but Fear’s way of doing things just alienates and scares people away, which is pretty much par for the course with her. But there are some good moments where we see the bond that Kuroe shares with Haruaki and in turn shows how he’s managed to improve things with Fear over time as well.

Bringing in Kuroe works well to lighten things up a bit, but the real addition to the series at that point was the introduction of Alice. With her being a part of the Vivolio Families and that being something that Kirika is being forcefully warned away from, it ups the ante in regards to how the rest of the season will play out. Bringing in someone that has some power and backing to them is definitely welcome since Fear will need a challenge but also something that lets Haruaki, Konoha, and Kirika play into things in a different way. And as we see from this episode, Alice is definitely not the kind that will play nice, doing what she can to get what she wants for the Families.

C3 Episode 9And having a good chunk of the episode dedicated to the group going up against Alice works rather well, though it’s kind of awkward slide into things. It goes big fairly quickly with the power sets involved, but as we’ve seen from earlier episodes in the series, this isn’t a bad thing as the team here has a strong visual vibe to things and it comes across beautifully. The intensity of the battle is brief but it has the right feel as the gang, and Fear, in particular, realize just how powerful of an opponent they’re going up against, especially as Alice has some sort of teleportation device. And even more frustrating for everyone, and again for Fear especially, is that Kirika is unable to help with any of this due to the instructions she’s gotten.

Kirika’s story continues to be the strangest one in the series because of how her abilities work and the suit that she wears, which leads to some disturbing sequences. We get her mostly playing the class president role early on but when we see her finally revealing her powers through the costume there’s an amusing level of sexuality and pain mixed with the power that makes her somewhat controversial. Within this final arc, she tries her best to stay out of everyone’s way when it comes to Alice. Giving Haruaki the full understanding of how her suit works, what it does to her, and the mixture of pain and pleasure that comes from it is really fascinating to watch. There have been shows that toyed in this realm before, but C3 seems to take it to a whole other level when it comes to the quasi-bondage side without making it a completely silly fetishistic festival of delights. It’s given a dark and serious tone to it that is definitely appropriate, especially since it’s all tied to the curses that she has.

C3 Episode 10Interestingly, Alice is pretty blunt yet mysterious about what she’s doing as she approaches the group as Haruaki’s house without an issue. She tries to be divisive, but it’s apparent what she’s doing which makes it easy for them to realize it and not fall for it. It’s something that doesn’t drive wedges specifically but breaks up the easy camaraderie of the group. Amusingly, Kuroe is the first one to be taken down and left pretty much as a doll that can’t move. It’s a nice little trick that lets Alice take control of Kirika and Haruaki, binding them in her control for the time being in order to get them to work for the Families so that she can draw Fear into it as well, as Fear continues to be her main objective at this point. If Alice can be trusted to be truthful at all, as she hasn’t exactly offered up much that makes her so since her introduction.

As the series barrels toward its main conclusion, the majority of it is given over to the action as Fear takes things hard against Alice while others offer up supporting positions and do their best as well. We’ve had some spectacular episodes in the show’s run when it comes to the action and there’re no disappointments to be had here, especially as Fear is a pretty active and stylish character when it comes to these kinds of moments. And it works well in that she’s not alone either, as even Haruaki gets some really good, key moments to help her without being a distraction or something that could only be done by him. It is largely a team effort, but like it happens with almost every team, there are the real stars of it. And backing all of it up is the way that Fear has changed in personality from the start by having made friends and feeling connected to things in a way that she hasn’t before.

Alice herself is definitely an intriguing character and I do like that even though they do settle things here for the most part, she’s not swept under the rug and is considered a closed case at this point. The series instead provides for a solid conclusion to the events that have happened, with some neat little nods towards relations that can be explored more, but also leaves more than enough open for more episodes down the line. The series is still ongoing in manga form so this is a given, but there’s something to be said for providing something that feels complete within the season that we get in case there isn’t more. And even better is that while the episode does focus on action and intensity for most of it, they are smart enough to save a few minutes towards the end for character epilogue material, especially in regards to Kuroe who has been an absolutely delightful addition to the show for the last couple of episodes.

In Summary:
C3 does about what I expected here at the end by giving us a good conclusion to events that have unfolded but largely working towards establishing what kind of family Fear now has. Following it up with an OVA school trip to the countryside episode is about what’d you’d expect, though it’s surprisingly mild on the fanservice all things considered. Look at the series as a whole, Fear, in particular, has grown a good bit since the beginning but everyone else has as well to different degrees. Even Kirika has a couple of good bits here at the end as she makes the reveals about how she changed and what her abilities are like. I definitely liked C3 overall as it was a fun series, but what it’s most memorable for is its solid use of animation and designs as well as color to show something that really was very appealing. The story is decent if familiar and predictable and the characters have their moments, but they don’t stretch much beyond the obvious. It has plenty of room to grow though and is the kind of show that could easily support another season without any issues while making things clearer and more enjoyable.

Features:
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening Songs, Textless Closing Songs

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: March 15th, 2016
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 330 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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