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Polyphonica Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

9 min read

polyphonica-coverIt’s all about the music here; unfortunately, the song is completely uninteresting and repetitive.

What They Say:
Phoron Tatara’s no ordinary musician. As one of the rare Dantists who can summon elder spirits using music called Commandia, his gift is so strong that his spirit partner is none other than the infamous Corticarte Apa Lagranges. Sure, she may look like a young girl in her human form, but you don’t get nicknames like The Crimson Annihilator” and “The Bloody Duchess” for sitting back and watching the daisies grow.

Now, at the behest of the Tsuge Divine Music Player Office, this dynamic duet travels the continent of Polyphonica on Phoron’s combination motorcycle/organ, following the song of the open road, orchestrating rescues and generally fixing whatever’s baroque! Some musicians wait for a muse to hit them, but Phoron makes his work for scale!

The Review:
Polyphonica is a monolingual release from Sentai Filmworks where it contains the original Japanese stereo mix encoded at 224kbps. The show is one that is built around music but it doesn’t really take it anywhere exceptional, but it does provide us with a good sounding mix overall that’s full in its design. The bulk of it is dialogue and some action effects outside of the music and it’s all rather basic, particularly as there’s often only one character talking and seemingly near the center of the stage each time. Placement is decent considering what it’s doing and there’s no real noticeable depth for the show. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout though and it works for the material well enough.

Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series is spread across two discs in a six/six format which gives each of them plenty of breathing room as there’s little on the disc otherwise. Polyphonica has a rather bright and clean look to it where it’s almost too clean and digital looking. The character animation comes across well with its vibrant colors and little in the way of noise while the backgrounds tend to be a touch softer and not as sharp overall, though essentially just as free of noise. There are very few night time scenes in this show so it avoids any real issues with artifacting there and line noise and cross coloration are non-issues. Polyphonica has a good clean look but it’s the kind of show that doesn’t stand out because of its animation overall, but it gets a good release.

Polyphonica has one of those covers that I find to be very appealing as it uses a pair of characters with an otherwise indistinct background, but it does it with some really strong colors and interesting designs. Both characters have a fair amount of detail to them which is made all the stronger by the colors, with the blending of the reds and purples to really make it eye-catching. The logo works nicely as well as it has a very distinct feeling to it. The back cover plays to more of the pink and purple hues without coming across as all that girly, though the pair of girls there with their work uniforms ensures that it’s not a girls show. There are a few bright shots from the show included along with a big push for the episode and disc count. The summary does cover the show well enough, though the font is surprisingly small for how little it really does say in the end. The remainder of the cover is given over to the production credits for both the Japanese and English versions and the remainder has the technical grid which conveys the details in a clean, accurate and easy to read manner. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menus for this series are pretty nice even if they are just simple static pieces. They utilize the artwork from the covers with the characters as well as the overall kind of lighting and design to it. The left side has the character artwork, which looks pretty decent and nicely detailed, while the right side has the episode selection and any submenus that may be included. A brief loop of vocal music, running just under a minute, plays throughout it and adds a good bit of atmosphere to it. The background colors really give this some additional impact as well. There aren’t a lot of things to do with these discs outside of the episodes and even language submenus are gone since it’s a monolingual release, though you can change subtitles on the fly during regular playback.

The only extras included are on the first disc with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on a visual novel game that also spawned light novels and manga, Polyphonica is a twelve episode series that deals with a world of spirits and the bond they have with mankind through music. Polyphonica ended up having a prequel series coming out called Polyphonica Crimson S which by all accounts is better than this series, but in all honesty that’s not really saying all that much. Polyphonica is the kind of series where you know why it got made, with popular novels and games, but the anime execution of it is so basic and uninteresting that halfway through the series you’re almost hard pressed to really remember anyone’s name. And while episodic series most certainly have their place in the world and will always be around, if you’re going to do one you need to do it with more memorable characters and situations.

Polyphonica has an interesting premise and set up to it as we’re introduced to a world that’s sort of like our own but has some differences in technology. It’s modern, but not quite so and it’s antiquated in other ways, notably in the form of telephone communication that gives it a distinct personality. What makes this world very different is that there are spirits that have crossed over into the realm of the physical and some of them take on human or animal form. Many spirits do show up as Bouri, cute little blobs of spirits that look happy all the time. But it’s the human and animal spirits that are very interesting as they’re able to exist in that form through a bond of music with a particular human.

The story of Polyphonica revolves around the Tsuge Divine Music Players Office in which we’re introduced to Phoron, a promising young man with a lot of skill but not much confidence to really find his way in the world. He works for Eufinley Tsuge, who is quite good with her music and the spirit that she’s bonded with, the very male and goofily aggressive Yardy. Phoron’s the main character of the show and he’s bonded with a female spirit named Coathicarte, affectionately called Coatie by everyone. She’s an attractive young looking spirit who has been around the block for awhile and that means she wears a scowl throughout the series. She has an affection for Phoron that goes beyond their work relationship, their bond means a lot to both of them but she seems to have some feelings just barely below the surface, but since she looks too mean all the time she’s a very difficult character to empathize with.

The office has a few other Players working in it as well, such as Rembart, a male colleague who gets along well with Phoron and everyone else but hasn’t made his own bond with a spirit yet. There’s also the twin intern sisters of Prinesca and Pelserte, attractive young girls who are in the same school that Phoron went to in order to become a Player. The two provide some light atmosphere to the show as Pelse is definitely interested in Phoron in that younger girl crush kind of way, but when the two of them get an episode to themselves they really do shine better. There’s an intriguing secret that one of them possesses which I think could have been explored a lot more as a way of showing the bond between human and spirit and what it means to be one or the other. But that’s not what this show is.

Polyphonica is all about the simple episodic adventures of a group of people with spiritual abilities that deal with spirits and occasionally other issues. Each episode primarily has Phoron and Coatie dealing with a spirit problem of some sort and fudging their way through it to a resolution. There’s the expected episode where Phoron really loses his confidence and it shakes Coatie’s faith in him as well since it reflects on the bond that the two of them share. Each episode brings in a new spirit of some kind, but there’s an overarching one a well. A human similar to Phoron named Dillen has a spirit that he treats cruelly and he’s lost his license as a Player. His role is one that seems to be adversarial as he interferes with jobs and causes problems from time to time. Dillen’s never truly explored in a good way, though we do get an origin episode that explains things, and as such he’s never compelling because he’s simply just there and doing his thing. His motivations are certainly clear, they just lack something to make it work right. And that’s what this whole show feels like.

Polyphonica has a fairly basic feel to its design as it’s the kind of show that’s too clean with its look. The characters don’t look like they’re on top of the backgrounds, but they don’t feel like they’re really integrated into all of it either. The characters all look good and they work it so that most of them are either in their work uniforms regularly or the girls are in their school uniforms. There isn’t a whole lot of creativity when it comes to costume design here but they did a decent job of it overall. The world design is fairly similar to most other real world series, albeit with a slight edge of quaint around it. The vehicle designs are amusingly kludgy (and poorly animated in many scenes, including one truly awful chase sequence) and they make a distinct design for the phones that are used which gives it a bit of an olden time feeling. Polyphonica doesn’t have a bad look to it in the slightest, but it’s the kind of generic show without enough real personality of its own to stand out overall outside of a nice touch or two.

In Summary:
Polyphonica was a show that was very hard to get through because it was simply wasn’t engaging. The characters really don’t make a presence of themselves throughout it and they really dabble only lightly with who they are in the past and what has made them who they are today. It’s an episodic show that doesn’t really give you stories that are fun to watch either. There’s potential with this kind of world design to it, but it’s not executed well and it feels like they haven’t even tried to scratch the surface. They took a picture of it and hoped a postcard would do. What made it even less fun is that when one of the main characters, Coatie, spends all her time scowling and looking unhappy, it ends being reflected by the viewer. When she doesn’t even look like she wants to be in the show, why would I want to watch it?

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 17th, 2009
MSRP: $39.99
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic 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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