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Dear Brother Collection 2 Anime DVD Review

8 min read

dear-brother-collection-2-coverThe spiral and descent of Rei continues!

What They Say:
Seiran Girl’s High School’s sorority is the most prestigious social group on campus. When Nanako is invited to join, it seems like a dream come true. But she will soon discover the cost of popularity…

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release gives us the original Japanese language only in stereo and encoded at 256kbps. The series is one that’s pretty much dialogue based with nothing in what you would call the action area, but what it does is to use the music to create some bigger moments that come across well here. It pretty much goes big and full when some of these kick in and it definitely makes for a more engaging presentation because of it. The dialogue side of it is pretty much your standard forward soundstage mix where it’s largely center channel based for a lot of it but it all comes across in a very clean and clear way. It’s not a big mix but with what it wants to do, there’s plenty to like here and it’s free of problems like dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 1991, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. This set contains thirteen episodes that are spread across two discs with six on the first and seven on the second. Animated by Tezuka Productions, the show has a pretty good look and is one that operates like a lot of older Tezuka adaptations in that it definitely feels like it’s manga lifted onto the screen in a lot of ways. t has that kind of classic coloring to it that gives it a soft but welcome look that helps to create the mood well. The transfer captures the look of the series well as there’s a good bit of detail to the hand drawn animation and the style of the layering which really gives it a distinctive feeling. The colors are good and there’s little in the way of noise throughout it, though the film grain is apparent. There’s little in the way of cross coloration to be had but there is some line noise in a number of sequences during some of the panning sequences. It’s not detrimental by any stretch of the imagination, but it is noticeable at times.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized keepcase that goes for a simple but decent approach. the front cover gives us the English logo across the top in a simple font of purple against white while the rest of the cover is shaded maroon across it. The center is where all the good stuff is as we get a stained glass window piece with Rei running through it in her standard outfit with that sense of sadness about her. The set number and episodes included are listed clearly along the bottom as well. The back cover goes with the same purple background and lays things out in blocks. The top provides a few shots from the show while the center has four blocks where it breaks down the episodes for each disc in two of them, the cast in the third and the main staff in the fourth. Add in a few shots along the bottom with a minor technical grid that doesn’t list enough information and you get about what you’d expect from a crowdfunded release. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for this release works a simple but similarly decent approach where it has a split screen style to it done up in the full frame mode. The left side uses either the shade of maroon on the first disc or blue on the second where we get the navigation selections, which is minimal since it’s just the show itself and the supporter credits to delve into. The first disc gives us a good look at Nanako along the right while second disc puts her together with Rei in a bit of a darker piece. The layout is easy to navigate since there’s not much here and it’s all serviceable and functional without any problems.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first set of Dear Brother arrived in the summer of 2014, it took nearly a year for the second set to arrive and, well, I had lost interest in it by then. That we’re now at the end of 2016 and I’m finally getting around to it says a lot. I had liked some of the setup ideas with the first set and definitely liked that it was a show that dealt with things most others didn’t, but there was an undercurrent to it that just didn’t sit well with me that made it hard to really feel invested in it. Revisiting it now all this time later as I work through the middle arc, a lot of the less than pleased aspects are what dominates it for me and I find myself souring on the show a lot more than I expected. While the visual quality is still there as I love the expressiveness of the characters and the motion of it all, as well as some neat background pieces, the story itself is where it ends up losing me a fair bit.

While Nanako is very much the lead of the series and the center of everything as her arrival causes so much trouble, it’s the other characters that get to do the all important scenery chewing in this segment. Though it happens later in the set, the focus on Fukiko and her past makes for some of the more interesting events here. While she continues to find ways to torment Nanako, which is in effort to secure her own goals, she ends up becoming a bit more humanized as we see her from several years ago with how she ended up really falling for Hinemi and practicing hard for an end of summer recital through which she could express her feelings. That didn’t play out as she wanted as he never arrived and that’s left her feeling both hurt and even more invested in him than before and to this day. Hence her wanting to remove Nanako from the picture because of the whole penpal thing that she’s figured out.

The problem, of course, is that Rei loves Fukiko in her own way and because of their step-sibling relationship it’s even more complicated. Rei’s descent is one that should be front and center what with the pill popping and attempts to kill herself, something that Fukiko joins in on in an effort to draw her away from actually doing it, but it feels like a secondary story for the most part. Nanako becomes involved because she can’t not help when she sees Rei like this, spending her days passed out from the meds, but her caring for Rei ends up reinforcing those feelings in a bigger way and she realizes that she really does love Rei. It’s a difficult situation because the feelings were there in a crush sort of way from the start but as she got to know her more it grew. So when we end up with this situation where the darker truths of Rei are revealed, it just makes Nanako want to care for and help her even more. Or, realistically, want to fix her. Which is not the basis of a relationship.

The set works through these kinds of issues in its own languid and overly dramatic way, which is all well and fine, but with it also involving characters of wealth and a prestigious school it ends up just becoming a bit overbearing. We do get your somewhat more average characters here like Nanako that help to ground it but she’s also caught up in it with what they all do, such as taking yachts around, visiting villas, and all the other little aspects of it. Amusingly, Nanako and Mariko end up getting sucked into helping out for Fukiko’s birthday through Fukiko’s mother as she has them handwriting a couple hundred invitations. That’s a reminder of what people used to do with their time in the olden days that I really don’t want to revisit.

One of the more problematic subplots of the set involves Mariko herself. The character simply has so many issues going on and such a level of just barely below the surface seething toward so many people that she just feels toxic. The way she interacts with Nanako has her placing as the friend that you don’t want but can’t get rid of that’s made worse by Nanako’s attempts to get along with everyone. The man hating side is fine in and of itself as there are things that you can do with that, but Mariko’s personality just makes nearly every scene with feel like you’re with a house mother/dorm mother that’s about sixty years older than the students and has taken on all those decades of negativity in an effort to dole it out on everyone else to make them feel just as terrible as you do. Again, she’s got her reasons, but she proves to be an incredible drag on the series.

In Summary:
I didn’t remember too much of Dear Brother from the first set as I went into this one since it’s been a couple of years but it all came back quickly. Unfortunately, this arc of episodes just rubbed me the wrong way from start to finish and was only salvaged by a couple of fun scenes here and there and the visual design and style of it with the characters and backgrounds. Beyond Nanako, and even just barely with here, there’s nobody to really spend time investing in and wanting to connect with more. Or even wanting to root to succeed with. The release does things well with a clean looking transfer, solid audio, and a decent enough packaging for what little materials are likely available, so those that enjoy the show will mostly be pleased by how it’s produced. This is simply a complicated show in some ways as it does things most other series don’t – but should when it comes to exploring the human condition – but it does it in a terribly awkward and disengaging way.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Content Grade: C
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: N/A

Released By: Anime Sols
Release Date: April 7th, 2015
MSRP: $59.99
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

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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