What They Say:
Between super-powered fighters known as “Bests” battling across the city and fanatical vigilante squads cheering them on from the ground below, it’s easy for an average girl to get lost in the shuffle. But when her town’s Best gets taken out by a rival, Nozomi Moritomo gasses up her motorcycle and sets off across Japan to take her place.
Joined by the feisty wannabe Best, Ai, the wandering artist Yukina, and the spacy but mysterious Chiaya, Nozomi and her makeshift motorcycle gang cross the country settling scores between warring districts. In a world that favors the Best over the rest, it’s hard for an average girl to find where she belongs, but one thing’s for sure–until she gets there, it’s going to be a wild ride.
The audio presentation for this series is done with the original Japanese in stereo while the English mix gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The show has a pretty good range of things that it does as it works across the forward soundstage as dialogue and action is well placed. The show has a lot of characters on stage pretty often so there’s some good placement to be had throughout and there’s good moments of depth as well as needed. The dialogue is kept pretty clean and clear throughout with no problems to be had with it. The action steps things up a bit more and that works well, especially with the 5.1 mix, as it runs across the soundstage and gives the whole thing a fuller and richer feeling in general. Both language tracks are clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
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 twelve episodes are spread across two discs with nine episodes on the first and three on the second. Animated by Wit Studio, the series has a really great visual approach to its design and color palette and it just comes to life in a great way through the high definition presentation here. It’s vibrant and almost too vibrant at times with the level of pop to some of the colors but the result is a series that definitely draws you into it. The transfer brings all the detail to light and with some beautifully fluid animation along the way it’s definitely the kind of show that you’re glad can be presented like it is. It’s very appealing with a clean and colorful look that lets the creative effort come through without problems.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that comes with an o-card for the first pressing of it. This design is replicated with the case artwork itself, though the o-card is brighter and more colorful simply because of the difference in materials. The front cover works with the familiar key visual of the four girls on the bike with all the little widgets and bits that gives it life with the rainbow colors and the star stones themselves. The cityscape is kept simple but it sticks to the design aesthetic of the series in a good way. The back cover is a bit more traditional with some character artwork in the background and a nice shot of Nozomi along the right in the foreground. The summary of the premise is solid enough to make out the foundations of the show and we get a good breakdown of the extras included. The rest of the cover is given over to the usual array of shots from the show and the dual format technical grid that covers everything clearly, including listing how many minutes the extras are – sans commentary tracks, of course. While there are no inserts included we do get artwork on the reverse side that’s done in illustration style as it showcases most of the cast across it in great form.
The menu design for this release works it in a simple approach as we don’t get clip based material here but rather just a static image – and the same one for both discs. That’s essentially just using the character artwork from the front cover along the right with bold swathes of color behind them to give it more pop. With the logo along the upper left, the navigation is kept to the bottom with a nicely colored red stripe with white text that’s very easy to read and navigate. The menu works without problems as both the main piece and as a pop-up menu during playback.
The extras for this release are fairly standard when you get down to it but are welcome. We get the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a collection of all the next episode previews as they aren’t part of the home video version. For English language fans we get a pair of audio commentaries that bring the staff and cast together to talk about the show in the 8th and 12th episodes which is definitely fun as everyone is pretty enthusiastic about the series.
An original series that landed in the winter 2015 season that had two manga series that kicked off just before it to complement it, The Rolling Girls got a lot of attention thanks to Wit Studio being involved in it after their work on Attack on Titan. The show is one that dazzled a lot when it first landed for its visual design and that’s definitely a striking and noteworthy point here. Original series have a lot of work to do in exploring what they are since they’re often not working with the familiar structure of manga or novel adaptations and that can be both good and bad things. You end up having to take a look at this more as an overall project rather than the individual pieces in some ways since they’re largely telling a complete story.
The concept of the show is an interesting one but is also one that essentially fails in the execution. We’re introduced to a Japan some ten years after the end of the “Great Tokyo War” where for reasons unexplained the political and economic masters of the country have disappeared. Without those guiding hands for everyone else the country falls back to its roots with ten prefectures becoming their own city-states once again, though with vigilante agreements that exist in how they interact with each other through sanctioned gangs. It sounds like an apocalyptic setting in the making but instead each of these areas have seen a massive resurgence in color and creativity in how it all looks. It’s almost overpowering in many cases with the visual design because there’s so much to take in and just so much color to it as well.
The focus is on one particular group that’s lead by Maccha Green, who is known as Masami, a young woman that wears your traditional green sentai suit as she works with others in group to handle Tokorozawa. She hides her identity for a few reasons, one of which is so that her childhood friend of Nozomi doesn’t figure it out as she just wants to enjoy her time with her. Of course, everyone but Nozomi knows that she’s actually Maccha Green so it’s kind of comical when she’s forced to reveal it by a rival group that’s threatening a number of new recruits to her group known as the Propellers. For Nozomi it’s a shock and one that leads to Maccha having to take some time off from the group due to injuries. That sets things in motion for Nozomi to try and help out in doing the jobs and requests that come in for Maccha Green. A simple enough setup and one that will take her to several prefectures and meet a range of people.
And that’s what the show essentially is, a series of mostly one-off episodes that introduces to a variety of stories and characters where the focus is more on the characters of the week than the core group. Nozomi’s looking to learn how to be a Best like Maccha Green is, which is seemingly tied to a heart shaped stone that most of them have, and naturally the discovery along the way is that what gives them their abilities is already within them. The stone seems to simply magnify it all, enhance it to another level, which provides for these kinds of over the top aspects that we see in the fights with the abilities and overall style that we get. It’s visually appealing and makes for some really great sequences as each episode brings us a different setting and characters that have the stones. For Nozomi, it just reinforces her own desire to be like this beyond just wanting to be like Maccha Green and she draws a range of influences while being that standard good character that only wants to do right by others.
Nozomi isn’t the only one that goes on this journey as she gets three others that come along for it. Yukina is a quiet girl that gets lost easily and ends up visiting the Propellers early for help only to end up becoming a member without realizing it. She has her useful moments but is essentially the quiet wallflower type that doesn’t have much going on here and in the end really doesn’t change that much. Similar is Ai, the outgoing sporty type that wears little and is looking for a place of her own after being kicked out of the group that she was involved with. She provides the physical side of things but also some of the more playful things, such as the whole pillow fight sequence that was cute. The weirdest character in the end is that of Chiaya, a short girl who is looking for the stones herself and she’s someone that seems to know a whole lot about things she shouldn’t when it comes to the other three when she first meets them. That it turns out along the way that she’s an alien? Well, that’s just one more weird piece to a weird series.
The Rolling Girls is a show that introduces a lot in the first episode and just keeps doing that episode after episode, to the point where it really became too much after just the first couple of episodes. That reinforced the idea that this likely works better in smaller doses than a full on marathon, especially since it’s a series that’s fully about the journey rather than the destination. The overall idea behind it is discovering that you have what it takes to be the best in yourself and you don’t need anything else to do that, though friends are certainly a big plus. Each episode works a standalone tale that introduces a new area with its own quirks to that locale, which may mean more to those far more familiar with those areas and their histories. For me it turned into an experience where it all just blurred because of how often it shifted and the fact that the four girls, central as they are to the series, often took a back seat to the characters introduced every week with their problems. A familiar thing to be sure in many series but here it just became something where it was overwhelming.
The Rolling Girls is one of those curious series that is full of creativity and design that really showcases what anime can do and become. But it’s also one that’s so overflowing with creativity that it’s not channeled enough to tell an engaging story. I loved the visuals for it and what it did in presenting an intriguing world but it’s also a world where you just have to accept that weird things happen and how its setup doesn’t make a true lick of functional sense. I can see this being something that worked very well in a weekly format where you just soak up the single episode at a time and all that it presents rather than everything all at once. A show like The Rolling Girls has a strong sense of being a cult title and one that will have a very faithful following simply because of what it achieves visually.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 8 Commentary (Monica Rial, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Jad Saxton), Episode 12 Commentary (Clifford Chapin, Felicia Angelle, Leah Clark), Textless Opening and Closing Songs, Previews for Episodes 2-12,
Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: August 2nd, 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.