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Labyrinth & Eden of Grisaia Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Eden of Grisaia Blu-ray Front CoverThe tragic past explored as it resonates loudly in the present for Yuji.

What They Say:
Yuji Kazami fulfilled a promise, but that promise was made long before he reached Mihama Academy. The seeds of the future are sown as young Yuji’s family is ravaged and his psyche is shattered, only to be reshaped in the fires of violent training and war in The Labyrinth of Grisaia. However, Yuji’s saga continues as his past catches up with him, and he is defended by the most unlikely guardian angels in The Eden of Grisaia. Follow the grisly journey as the boy is forced to become a man, and delve into the aftermath of THE FRUIT OF GRISAIA in this special complete edition that contains both parts of the untold story: THE LABYRINTH OF GRISAIA and THE EDEN OF GRISAIA.

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only which is in stereo and encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The show is one that works a mostly dialogue oriented approach for the bulk of it but it has some good action moments from time to time and some good use of directionality and impact across the forward soundstage when it deals with the weapons and similar types of scenes. The music comes across well with a warm feeling, particularly in the opening and closing sequences, while the dialogue itself is well handled as we get some good placement with the characters moving about and several people on screen at the same time. We didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The episodes are spread across two discs with the double-length TV special on the first by itself and the ten episodes of the Eden series on the second. Animated by studio 8-Bit, the show goes for a high-end look with its designs and backgrounds and this is made all the better by the widescreen framing. The use of this is rare for TV series but it makes for a starker series of visuals across the run and it provides more distance for the viewer from the characters as close-up shots are a lot rarer, which is a welcome change of pace. With some really great looking designs and detail to it, the transfer captures the look of it very well. Colors are solid with some great pop throughout and the detail holds steady during panning scenes with a lot of the line work. The end result is a very appealing show that made it even easier to get into because of it.

Packaging:
With this release containing two different shows, though they’re obviously connected, it’s a bit trickier than how the Japanese releases were done. Here, we get the colorful Eden logo along the top and the darker Labyrinth one along the bottom that’s bound together with some purple framing that works nicely. Within it, we get a really appealing group shot of the main girls, though they’re not as big a factor in this series as before. With some good detail and plenty of color that catches the eye, it definitely works. The back cover goes darker overall with a framed design that holds all the details. We get an interesting design for the selection of shots along the top that are all cut up in different ways while getting a decent character image along the right of Asako with her glass of win. The premise is easy to read with white on black and the discs features are clearly listed as well. The bottom runs with the familiar layout of production credits and a clean and accurate technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works an expected approach of static menus that ties to the stories for each of them in different ways. The first one is a pretty serious one with Asako in full uniform while we get a pile of guns and bullets behind her with blood streaks that gives it a really good feeling. The second disc that has the Eden story, which is just as serious, plays more for the fanservice with the girls though as it gives us a beach scene with all of them in bikinis having fun in the sun. It’s brighter and more colorful to be sure and is almost a little surreal to have considering the atmosphere of the show. The navigation itself is less impressive as we get the vertical strip along the left that’s done with a pale yellow background with blue stripes that has the episodes by number and title. With a green highlight when selected, the combination is fairly garish and hard to read with the small font – even on a 70” screen. It’s all easy to access and navigate both as a main menu and a pop-up menu but the navigation itself is uninspired, especially in contrast to the static imagery.

Extras:
The only extras included with this release are the various clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the adaptation of the Fruit of Grisaia in October 2014, things were in place for what was to come next as the project as a whole was mapped out. April 2015 saw the debut of the hour-long special for Labyrinth of Grisaia and then a week later we got the debut of the ten episode Eden of Grisaia series. Studio 8-Bit did some great visual work for the first series in my view and that carried over really well here as the show darkens up more and a lot of different themes are explored all while keeping it within the same tone, just with new levels of shade thrown over it. I totally get the divisive nature of this series with a lot of fans but with the pacing it takes and the overall structural choices it ended up leaving me surprisingly invested and interested in it. That said, the back half of the Eden series is where chunks of it started to lose me.

The structure of how this set plays out is definitely interesting and I can see where it broke down for me pretty clearly. We essentially get a two-act show split into three parts. The Labyrinth OVA tells one tale but it’s foundational for the Eden series where that starts off with a four-part arc that’s essentially flashback. It then segues into the ssix-partpresent day storyline which is focused on the girls and less of Yuji. Which works in its own way because it takes everything that’s occurred and wraps it all together well but I just found it less compelling than what’s essentially the first half of this set. Labyrinth of Grisaia is a very strong piece that delves into Yuji’s backstory with his family and his sister that shows just how dangerous things got and, to some degree, how oblivious others were when it came to what they were putting their children through and the suffering caused.

Labyrinth of Grisaia Header HuluYuji’s descent isn’t one that comes quickly because he’s mostly under the protective care of his older sister, the artistic genius that’s also quite good at many other things in a way few people are. We see how she protects him yet is herself unaware of just how robotic he’s become and just how far things have gone with their parents as all attention shifted to her. With her artwork becoming the income for the family, her star rose and the psychological abuse on Yuji only grew. But as she’s pulled away more and more she’s unable to see it. It’s a familiar story but it’s told so brutally and honestly that you desperately want to look away times but are unable to because of just how compelling it is through the visuals, music, and the acting. When Kazuki does discover what her brother has been going through she ends up making quite the pivot in an attempt to just be normal and ensure that he’s well taken care of.

Her path is… unsettling. I do like what we see of her in the past and how she handles things as well as the level of manipulation she goes through in a grander sense because people are just playthings to her – though she never seems to go too cruel. Her fate is one that we’ve seen before in manga form and the occasional anime story and I always find it disturbing because it feels like kids in this situation are unable to think enough to find a path to survival, or most of the time even attempt anything and instead just get all Lord of the Flies on each other. Her death in this regard is brutal and seeing the way it plays out with the family, especially her father, just paints an even clearer picture of what an abusive person he is and how far he’ll go. The psychological damage he does to Yuji for so long is only the foundation of what he wants to do and seeing that unfold after Yuji’s mother runs away with him to get away from his father reinforces that. These are people being boxed in and cornered in a tragic way, unable to escape, because there are such malignant forces aligned against them. You want to know what pushed their father into this position because you want to understand it, to find an opportunity in some way to forgive the unforgivable, to find the root cause of it all. But there is nothing like that here and it’s left to him simply being a cruel villain, which is more than enough.

Eden of Grisaia Header HuluWith the Eden series, that four episode opening arc takes us to Yuji’s recovery period as he ends up with Asako after surviving a lot of challenging things. He has to try and find his humanity again and instead ends up in the military. There are a lot of things in here that’s standard Big Hollywood pieces with how he finds his natural talent lies in killing other people and there are some very fun things in this with how it’s presented. The path for Yuji during all of this is definitely fascinating to watch play out because it reinforces more of what he’s capable of and how far he’ll go to atone for past sins. There are things that connects him up to other people, such as JB, but it’s his time with Asako that’s the most humanizing for him. With the two of them having gotten close yet keeping a kind of professional distance between them, you have to love how it comes full circle and she places a real burden on him by telling him that he has to live for himself. With all his years so far being about doing what others have told him to do it’s like casting him off into the wilderness.

Which is what eventually took him to Mihama Academy where he saved the five girls there in different ways and grew a new kind of family. When the final arc kicks off here it’s definitely disconcerting to some degree because it takes Yuji and his story and puts him firmly in the background as a former controlling adult in his life is coming back into play and the government is using Yuji to achieve their own ends. There are interesting yet weird aspects to this part of the story as it ties back to his sister and big government in a bizarre way, but I’ll easily admit that when Yuji enters this background status for about five episodes here that the show became harder to watch. Some of that comes from the distance between releases as it took me a bit to remember the larger storyline at play. The other is that while I rather quite enjoyed the Fruit of Grisaia, it wasn’t because of the girls themselves but rather the execution and pacing of the story.

Now that Yuji is seemingly public enemy number one, the girls – who have been reading a pieced together shredded report Yuji wrote for JB about his past, thereby filling them in on everything – start working to figure out how to help. This is just comical in general, no matter how good they may be at certain skills, but it also plays to the sister subplot going on here with how a lot of it is achieved. When you look at it from a broad perspective you can see how Thanatos is simply manipulating everything to where it needs to be in order to ensure a Good End, but on an individual episode basis it just kind of drags at times with them since they’re not fully defined an on board with a goal beyond “save Yuji.” The last episode does bring him back and there’s some fantastic action to be had there, both in animation and choreography, but it just reinforced for me that it’s a rare show where I have almost no interest in most of the girls (Asako excepted) and have an active interest in the male lead’s story.

In Summary:
When viewed in full between the three series, the Grisaia material is definitely a lot more fun than I expected. Based on some of the initial reactions and just the presentation of it I expected the usual modern harem kind of storyline. Instead, this proved to be a lot more interesting and darker than I expected, particularly with this set as it mixes in a lot more assassination, suicide, cannibalism, and more. Though I think some of the structural aspects of it worked both for and against it, it’s the kind of choice that’s a welcome deviation from how so many of these shows are done. The whole is better than some of the parts but some of the parts are just fantastic. It’s the kind of flawed work that can definitely be incredibly appealing for what it does and this one has me curious to revisit it in a year or so as a full on collection of all three works to see how that kind of marathon session changes my views of it.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

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

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 27th, 2016
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 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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