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Saekano Season 1 Collection 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Saekano Season 1 Collection 2 CoverThe pieces are starting to come together but the challenges grow as well.

What They Say:
After many agreements and disagreements, the members of Tomoya’s gal-ge production team “blessing software” are finally working hard! Eriri is really into the game’s character design as Utaha is devoting herself more to the scenario than her own novels, and even Megumi exerts her “stealth ability” on the internet. However, there is one problem – who is doing the music? Tomoya tries to convince his cousin, Michiru, who plays in her own band. But Michiru doesn’t only show a lack of interest in games but tells the members to stop being otakus and get a life. Is blessing software breaking up without completing the game!?

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track only, encoded using the PCM uncompressed format in stereo. What we get with this series is certainly familiar as it’s filled with lots of dialogue and overreactions at times that are pretty normal for this type of story, and all of it has a pretty good life to it. The forward soundstage isn’t overly used when you get down to it because of the type of show it is, but it manages the whole field well with what it wants to do. There’s a good range of interactions when everyone is on screen and some of the placement is pretty solid, notably in parts of the first episode at the hot spring. Overall, though, it is a fairly standard slice of life kind of show so there aren’t a lot of really outlandish or big moments. It handles the music well and the opening and closing sequences are some of the strongest in that realm considering how well they’re produced.

Video:
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The seven episodes we get here are spread across two discs with three on the first and four on the second. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the show has a really great look about it with some beautiful designs and some strong areas of detail that really is striking. While some of the CG elements really left me kind of wary of it, especially those that are done for some of the background characters, the core of the show and the backgrounds themselves are just fantastic. All of that comes through really well in this transfer as colors pop beautifully with a lot of range and solidity while avoiding noise or gradations to be visible. The fluid animation sequences come across particularly well with a rich look about them that just sells the show all the more. The transfer really has nothing wrong with it when you get down to it, resulting in a very engaging presentation.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release brings us a single clear Blu-ray case inside one of the soft slipcases that also holds some of the bonus items. The slipcase itself is once again really nice with the artwork that we get of Utaha and Megumi each getting their own side, utilizing the Japanese artwork in a great way with some nice pops of color and raised areas for texture. The logo itself isn’t on the cover panels outside of the top and spine, so the wraparound is where we get that information as well as what’s included with it. The back of the wraparound gives us the clear look at the technical information as well in a crisp and concise form that’s easy to read and figure out quickly.

Within the box we get the Blu-ray case that brings out Michiru in the expected perfect pose that highlights her assets, which is part of the point of the show in how it pokes fun at it. The back cover is also really nice in its simplicity with just Kato with a dirty book with the volume number being what she’s leaning against. The episodes by number, title, and what disc they’re on are listed underneath. The reverse side isn’t done with more Japanese cover artwork but instead has some of the interior location material from the last episode with the concert. The pack-in bonus for this volume is also definitely welcome as we get a great little package of postcards featuring the artwork from the release packaging itself.

Menu:
The menu design for this works really well and is a nice little change of pace from some other Aniplex menus. While it works a semi-static design, we get the good layout of some pictures on the right that are being lightly flipped up from the breeze, giving it some welcome life. The images for both discs are good as we get a really colorful look at the characters. The left side has an artist’s notebook where we get the logo and the navigation itself and all of this is on top of a table, making it all feel lived in and charming with how it comes across. Navigation itself is simple and easy and we get a basic pop-up menu during playback so that everything is functional and works smoothly.

Extras:
The extras for this release are simpler than before as we only get the web episode previews but not the usual inclusion of the clean opening and closing, which are only found with the previous set, an approach I dislike.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The opening half of the Saekano series definitely proved to be a good bit of fun, more so once you adapted to its way of breaking the wall and acknowledging what it really is. Shows that are referential to the fact that they’re anime are few and far between and most that do tend to be more outright comedy pieces as opposed to what we’re getting here. Saekano offered a lot in its first half but it took me a bit to get into its groove, which once again proved true with the second half of the first cour here. Part of this just reminds me of how much a lot of us have adapted to the whole complete season/cour format, so getting this cour in two pieces just feels like the flow is off a bit. Those that watch it with both sets together are likely to connect with it a bit better.

With this half of the show we’re still making progress toward the game creation, though said creation is still in the offing by the end of it as the Winter Comiket is a few months away. Not rushing it definitely works, as it adapts from the manga, because the character dynamics are what’s a lot of fun to watch with the show. There are plenty of familiar archetypes here once again, though thankfully the minor characters are kept to the fringes so that they’re stock nature isn’t as strong and overpowering, That the show does mostly keep to the characters introduced in the first half of the season is definitely a big plus, though we get some expansions along the way. The addition of the childhood friend Izumi has its moments, but she’s there more to change things up for the core cast as opposed to become a mainline major player herself. The childhood friend cliche is strong in this series to begin with and adding another is something that too many properties do these days, so I liked that it kept her role minimal.

For Eriei, however, it’s a huge blow because all she sees is the path that she was on all these years has been whisked away from her and so very easily at that. I’ve liked Eriri from early on since her choice of art style was well played without showing her being so far removed from reality but also digging into how she wears her mask for others to hide that dirtier side. What Izumi’s arrival does is to bring some of the background tensions between Eriri and Tomoya to the foreground as the two had a very bad split years earlier that Tomoya didn’t understand through what she was doing, nor did she realize how much of an impact it made on him to be as dismissive of him as she was. There is that element of that’s how kids are since they don’t really know better, but grappling with those effects later – and that they’ve been able to become friends as much as they have with all that bubbling below the surface, says a lot. Watching it get dealt with, just by talking about it in fact, helps to alter the dynamic for them in a very good way.

My favorite of the eset has to be the first one here though as we get an Utaha and Tomoya episode. While it gives us a nice bit of flashback material at first, most of it focuses on events from six months prior when the two ended up in a hotel room together. His desire for her work is what drives him and the way the episode works where he ends up giving her a lot of inspiration for viewing her characters properly for a story is really nicely done, even if completely ridiculous on the face of it. What makes it work is that we get that closed room aspect of both of them after showing since they were caught in the rain and then just wearing bathrobes while on the bed banging out the story. It plays to the fanservice with such beauty and intensity and emotion that it’s captivating because there’s an orgasmic feeling in the creation that they have here. Their passions toward their work is what drives them and seeing it brought out with such a sexual component was simply wonderfully done. It’s an area where Utaha tends to shine more than the rest of the cast in this regard.

One arc I was kind of worried about as it got underway proved to be better than I expected, mostly for some of the twists along the way. The arrival of Tomoya’s cousin Michiru brings a different kind of female familiarity into his life since she’s very relaxed around family, which makes it uncomfortable for him. She struggles with her dad and her own desires with what she wants to do with her life, which has currently landed her in a band in her school that she’s actually stuck with for a while. Michiru gives Tomoya a lot of grief for his hobbies that she can’t believe he’s still involved with and the two have some good back and forth about passions and what can be done with them. What slowly takes time to take hold for Tomoya is the realization that they need music for their game and she might be a great fit after he hears her play a bit. This leads to its own fun twists along the way, one that results in him becoming the band’s manager of all things, but also some real enjoyment in seeing how the rest of the girls feels about the very hands-on Michiru.

In Summary:
I’ll admit, I’ve got some conflicting feelings about Saekano and part of that is simply the time between episodes as it took a bit to get back into the groove here. I really love the animation quality here and the great focus on fanservice done in such a delicious way. It’s not exactly crass but it doesn’t hold back – yet avoids going into truly creepy territory. The slow build toward the game itself is a really good draw and I love the way we see these various pieces come together across the set. It’s not like there are truly huge breakthrough moments but rather areas that force them all to grow and change, such as seeing the flashback with Utaha or Eriri dealing with Izumi as a catalyst for personal growth. Aniplex has put together a solid release overall, especially with the video and audio quality as well as some great postcards, so fans of the show will definitely enjoy the experience overall.

Features:
Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening and Ending, Promo Videos, Web Previews

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

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: May 31st, 2016
MSRP: $74.98
Running Time: 150 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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