What They Say:
Playing Soft Tennis (like regular tennis but with softer balls and lighter racquets) is supposed to be the focus of the Shiratama Soft Tennis Team. And for some of the girls, like farm girl/would-be champion Asuna, it mostly is. But when the team’s worst player, Chitose, is also the team captain, could it be that the club is really more about hanging out and having a good time? To be sure, aces Kurusu and exchange student Elizabeth, are great players. But they also seem more interested in cosplay and the team’s dreamy adviser, while violence-prone Kotone might be more at home in a martial arts dojo.
And it would certainly explain why they get into so many odd adventures involving things like giant bears, whales, and ghosts rather than playing! Either way, whether they’re going for the championship or simply socializing, the one thing that’s certain is that they’ll be forging bonds of friendship that will last forever, off court and on, in SOFTENNI!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only which is done up in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that is largely dialogue driven with what it does but it breaks it up nicely with some good action sequences along the way with the tennis elements. These don’t go as intense as a lot of sports shows might but it plays to it to some degree and that gives the mix a bit more life in general. The show has a fairly standard forward soundstage design to it that works in spacing out the characters and providing a bit of depth and distance when necessary, but mostly it just moves about the forward soundstage well. The tennis match aspects get a bit more lively and spread out but it’s still fairly basic overall. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
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 of this series are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second. Animated by Xebec, the show tends to trend a bit more toward standard and somewhat basic animation design with a focus on bolder primary colors, which at least makes sense with a lot of time spent on tennis courts. The series is not one that has a lot of richness in detail and design for backgrounds or characters but it works in that kind of traditional comedy/spots route that you know what you’re getting in for. The transfer captures this well as it’s a clean and problem free encoding but it’s not a show that stands out in a big way and feels even more basic in terms of animation quality the larger the screen you view it on. Fans of the show will certainly enjoy the high quality presentation in terms of the encoding but it’s not a memorable looking show in this regard.
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the interior walls. The front cover works with a familiar key visual piece of the five main girls together at an angle as they look up and it’s placed well against the tennis court itself, which uses some good material within the segments from the show through the green filter – which hides a whole lot of its pervy side. The character artwork is bright and colorful with a lot to like about it even with familiar designs and it stands out nicely against a number of other shows. The back cover works a lot of green space with the sectioning it does and it works well as it doesn’t feel too busy, though I dislike the angled approach that’s used. The character artwork plays up the fanservice so you know what you’re getting and we get a clean listing of the extras, disc count, and episode count. The summary of the premise works well in what it covers and the technical grid breaks everything down cleanly and accurately so you know what’s involved. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menus for this release naturally play up the green space as you’d expect with some good backgrounds that lets the character artwork pop. The right side gives us different character pairings for each disc that has them looking upward while using different artwork than the cover while the left side has some nicely themed menu navigation items designed using various shades of green and tennis balls to give it some pop. Everything moves and accesses easily since there’s little here on the first volume outside of the show while the second disc offers easy access to the extras without any problems.
The extras for this release bring the familiar with the clean opening and closing sequences but we get a bit more as well. The set has six additional bonus shorts that run between 3-4 minutes each as the girls are at a hot spring and we get all kinds of stories and expansions from there that play up the fanservice even more. It’s about twenty minutes of additional goofiness in the end and it’s certainly amusing.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name by Ryo Azuchi, Softenni is a twelve episode anime series that kicked off in the spring 2011 season. The show actually landed at the same time that the manga ended as it began in 2008 and finished in 2011 with eight volumes to its name. The anime adaptation was produced by Xebec and they went for a bit more of a basic approach to it than something highly detailed and that pretty much works right for the property as it attempts to do a mild sports comedy project with a weirdly big dose of fanservice and sexuality mixed into it. While you might expect it to be a cute girls play tennis thing, it’s more like pervy girls that occasionally play tennis but mostly spend their time naked.
Middle school girls, mind you.
The show revolves around the Shiratama softenni team that Asuna has put together where they’re all about going the distance but really don’t have the skill or drive to do so. They want it and end up in some competitions along the way, in a kind of light form against the Akadama middle school powerhouse club, but mostly they’re involved in all sorts of training here and there and then the kind of slice of life elements you’d expect from a sports comedy like this. Asuna’s the type that has a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the game but isn’t the greatest player by any stretch and partially joined just to get herself fit. Amusingly, she’s the resident pervert in a big way as she mis-hears a lot of things or imagines a whole lot of situations with friends that are barely a step below hentai level in how they’re presented visually. Which has its moments of amusement to be sure, until you remember we’re talking about middle school girls here.
The team that works here is pretty straightforward as we get the standard template type of characters. Kotone really wants to win and puts all her effort into the game and she provides the main romantic point in the show as well as she’s got a huge crush on their coach Mishimagi, something that Asuna visualizes quite often as does Kotone. Mishi’s rather amusing as a kind of lazy type that half-asses his way through coaching, you again get that uncomfortable element with the visual presentation of them two of them in dream sequences together and some of the other misunderstandings. The other girl early on is that of Chitose, the actual club captain that’s the worst of the players on the team but provides the girl with glasses quota as well as the green hair quota. She’s got the enthusiasm and really pushes everything forward in terms of training and competitions, but she’s not able to follow through with ability.
The most comical addition comes later with a transfer student from England named Elizabeth Warren. Yes, common name components to be sure that you can imagine someone from Japan picking because they like how it sounds. But coming from a place where someone with the same name is my Senator, it gets to be a little comical watching how things play out. Elizabeth provides for some cuteness in the show as she deals with some of the learning curve with things and provides a little exotic element for the girls as someone who comes from overseas. But it’s not something that’s played up in a big way and while it may be more in the manga, what we get here shifts to the norm quickly and outside of those couple of cute nods here and there it isn’t much of a story point. That said, she’s a cute character that complements the cast well as they check off the necessary boxes.
Beyond the basics of the characters, Softenni doesn’t really offer much more beyond that. This is very much a formula show with its comedy and characters as they play some tennis and engaging in a bit of competition along the way that reminds them that they have a long way to go. We even get an episode with another top tier player that shows them just how much they have to learn with a training course of sorts to get through that’s more like American Gladiator than anything else. It’s comical to watch it because it hits the right kind of silly points, but it also stretches the show from the slightly more real world elements it was trying to keep to when it came to the tennis play itself. The show also doesn’t do much with its characters outside of these areas as there’s little to nothing for most of them when it comes to family and other friends and even the scholastic side gets little attention.
Where the show steps away from the usual, as we mentioned before, is in the fanservice department. It feels like a good half of the show focuses on the girls in various states of undress and just going about things in that manner in locker rooms and elsewhere. There’s certainly comedy to be had here and I certainly laughed at it and we get pieces that definitely fit the age and interactions that they’d have. The dream sequences certainly are racy and there’s lot of upskirt looks and shots with the way some of them, such as Asuna, leer at the others as she processes many things in the world through an erotic lense. It just ended up feeling like the show was more about this than anything else and it became a kind of crutch for events rather than something that complemented it or just added a bit of additional color.
Softenni is the kind of show that certainly has an audience and will have a lot of fun with this. Honestly, this is a show that if I was in the actual target range of the show I would have enjoyed immensely at that point. I’m a big fan of fanservice and sexuality to be sure as folks know from other reviews but there are areas where it just works against the show, which it does for me in Softenni. The series has some cute bits and gags along the way – I loved the quick Evangelion bit in it – and we get some silliness with the character interactions that I like. I even like that we’re getting more female characters that are openly engaged in erotic interests as opposed to the way they’re usually presented of finding it abhorrent. But in the end, Softenni just didn’t click well for me.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Softenni Shorts, Clean Opening and Closing Animations
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 19th, 2016
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 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.