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Doukyusei Classmates Blu-ray Anime Review

7 min read

Doukyusei - Classmates US CoverA difficult attraction of opposites.

What They Say:
Licht Sajo is an honor student with perfect scores in every subject on his high school entrance exam. Hikaru Kusakabe plays guitar in his band that performs at live events and is popular among the girls. These boys would have never crossed paths. But one day Hikaru offers to help Licht prepare for their upcoming chorus festival and the two begin to talk. As the two meet after school, they bond through songs and begin to harmonize as their hearts beat together. It starts out slowly but soon their feelings for one another grow and suddenly they both realize that they are in love. Hikaru’s emotions are frivolous, pure and direct causing Licht to hesitate at first, but he gradually opens his heart. The boys learn about each other, as well as themselves, as they support one another during this difficult time in their youth. As the time to start thinking about their futures approaches, what do these young men find as they try to move forward…

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track only in stereo through an uncompressed PCM format. With a work like this the audio is certainly important because it has to convey the mood well. It’s not a big and bold piece where there are outlandish and expansive elements to the soundtrack but rather something that works a quieter mood, incidental sounds, and some soft music with moments where it swells. The track here does that very well in bringing the show to life with all of these elements and that makes it fun and engaging where it needs to be but also quiet and appealing when it plays to that strength. The encoding captures it all just right and makes it quite enjoyable to watch because of it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally in theaters in 2016, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the transfer for this looks great as it handles the color palette and almost ethereal designs at times with the right kind of light touch. It’s not an experimental anime design or anything but it does move beyond the usual norms with softer tones and more flowy aspect to it. The color solidity is really well done here with the yellows and greens used and that holds up really well with how it comes across. The detail throughout is definitely very appealing and the look of the show just has all the right look about it with how the transfer handles it. It’s clean, clear, and free of problems, making it a very good experience.

The packaging for this release is a bit of a surprise as we usually get soft slipcase designs for the boxes and instead get a heavy chipboard box. That works to its advantage as the material for it has a great look with the artwork used as it’s soft but solid and definitely really stands out well. The front panel uses one of the familiar key visuals of the two leads in the classroom against the large windows as the curtains float in the breeze. I love the color design of it with what it does and the character designs are certainly distinctive and stand out. The back cover goes very simple with a flat white while the center has a small circle with the name of the film in the middle. The wraparound on it covers everything that you need to know with the technical grid along the back while the front lays it all out in text form with what’s included. The case goes with some good rough illustration material while the reverse side of this clear case zooms in on the window aspect from the front case cover. The first press pack-in material is really great here as well as we get some great illustration postcards and a rich 64-page squarebound book that has some full-color pieces of background and character designs and a short manga story from the original creator.

The menu for this release plays to a simple approach with a static split screen that sets the mood well. The left side has a nice and relaxed image of the two leads in their uniforms while outdoors and the right half carries over the soft greens to it with the film’s title in the middle in a light tone. The navigation along the bottom is minimal as you’d expect from a monolingual film and that helps to pull it all together well. It also works nicely as a pop-up menu as well with a simple approach to it. Everything is basic but it fits in tone well while the navigation is smooth and problem free.

The only extras included with this release are a brief selection of promos and commercials for the project.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the short six-chapter manga by Asumiko Nakamura that ran from 2006 to 2007, Classmates is a simple sixty-minute theatrical film that Aniplex brought out earlier this year in Japan with some limited screenings in North America as well. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the film is one that works more as a series of vignettes to tell the tale in the kind of wispy and almost ethereal way that a lot of boys-love manga tend to come across as. I’ve read a fair bit of material from the genre over the years and from this particular time period and earlier more than more current works. This one is the kind of film that works a light touch as it’s more about feelings than digging deep into character.

Focusing on a couple of high school seniors, we’re introduced to the studious and honors level Licht, a serious young man in all the classic archetype ways from glasses to hair and body frame. To contrast him we get the more loose and carefree Hikaru, a blonde haired young man that plays in a band and has a kind of laid back love of life that’s infectious and frustrating at the same time. The two don’t have much of a connection prior to the start of the film but it’s a choral piece in school that brings them together as Licht struggles with it while Hikaru is obviously a natural. Hikaru’s drawn to him as he watches this and ends up spending some one on one time with him to try and help draw out the music in Licht’s own heart. You can see the interest grow right from the start of this as well as Licht’s own curiosity mixed with uncertainty and hesitation that keeps him at a distance even as Hikaru makes small moves.

The film follows them over the space of a school year through various small situations. Some of it digs into how Licht is preparing for what comes next in his life with school choice and just being the student that he is. Hikaru’s is a bit more interesting as it delves into the band he’s a part of and some of the struggle going on there but also the real and pure joy that comes from him when he plays, which sends some real feelings through Licht. But we also get that very minimal kind of romance that’s brewing here because over so much of it the two barely hold hands and only kiss a few times as Licht isn’t sure what he really wants and is drawn in different directions of expectations. It’s charming and engaging to watch as it unfolds but it really leaves you wanting more to happen. Even Hikaru toward the end lets his frustration come through about just what it is that Licht wants and tries to draw him out about it. It may not go as far as some may like, myself included, but there’s a lot of charm in watching the slow orbit these two characters are drawn into.

In Summary:
While Classmates may not be an experimental show in the classic sense, it is that kind of short feature film that doesn’t play to the usual structure and style. I enjoy a lot of boys-love stories and they’re made of all stripes and intents so you can get a really good range of romantic stories. This one has a lot of potential and fun to it but it doesn’t quite grab as strong as it should with the characters and their relationship. What it does provide is for a really great visual experience that evokes a lot of emotions and feelings and that’s something that a lot of films struggle with it. Aniplex’s release brings all of that out in all its glory as the visuals are fantastic as it captures this atmosphere just right. With a great package with the box and book as well as the postcards, fans of this project will absolutely love it.

Japanese PCM 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, PV & CM Collections

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

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: September 20th, 2016
MSRP: $74.98
Running Time: 60 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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