What They Say:
Seiran Girl’s High School’s sorority is the most prestigious social group on campus. When Nanako gets invited to join, it seems like a dream come true. But she will soon discover the cost of popularity…
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.
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.
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 Fukiko running through it with a serious expression but a look that has more life and color to it than the other two installments. 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.
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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After an almost two year break between the first and second volumes, I moved a bit quicker with the third installment, mostly because I just wanted to be done with it. The middle act of the series proved to be somewhat problematic for me as I disliked the way the characters were coming across, had kind of reached a level of little tolerance for wealthy kids in elite schools getting pissy about things, and some slow moving storylines that weren’t hitting their marks well. I still enjoyed the style and design of the show a whole lot so there was plenty to like there, but the story itself was a bit of a slog and that redoubled my efforts to finish out the run and be done with it.
Thankfully, even with the problems it does have, the final act of the series works to resolve a lot of things and work through several character issues. There are complications in trying to keep track of who is related to who, who is a true relative, and who knows what about who, and that just put it into too much of a soap opera territory for me to fully commit to it. But as it progressed and some of the things started way back in the beginning were dealt with it became easier to focus on various smaller pieces and enjoy that. The show also does a welcome thing in this final act by really changing how everything is turning out so that the series doesn’t end with things largely in the same place, a trap far too many shows these days end up having in hopes of getting another season produced for it.
The opening arc that’s dealt with here is that of with Mariko, a character that utterly frustrated me with her man-hating in the previous set as it was overdone to a caricature level. Here, she’s still as intense as before but things start to reveal themselves about the problems with her parents as they’re divorcing, the reasons why (which factors into Nanako’s own situation), and how she’s acting out because of it. To be fair to Mariko, however, while she is spiraling into a dark place while trying to cover it up some of the other girls are just completely abusive toward her, pushing her further and further to a place where she’ll react. With a box cutter, of course, and that turns into a dangerous situation that shows just how much she’s falling apart as she takes a good swing at Misaki and draws blood. The wound feels overplayed, especially by Misaki, but that’s totally up her alley with her personality. I like how this all plays out because it shakes things up significantly with Mariko getting a three-month suspension and tensions running really high afterward.
What becomes interesting is that the event and those involved opens up the whole sorority aspect of Seiran to come into question, made more so by Kaoru getting involved as she’s seeing other students getting abused and truly realizes the kind of danger it represents. While phrasing it as human trafficking may be a bit much, the sentiment is there in aspects of how it operates and the whole thing is thrown into flux as she begins to circulate a petition to end it. Which is dangerous as it’s backed by the board of the school and a lot of former members are big boosters for the place. There’s a lot of infighting that goes on and lots of students that want to sign but are afraid to put their name to it because of potential payback. But as we see it play out, the reinforcement of the rot within the sorority system becomes more evident and it’s fascinating to watch it all fall away with Fukiko in charge and realizing that something so important to her and others is coming to an end. I would have liked to have had more focus on that area but it plays out more through Nanako’s eyes and with what Kaoru is doing.
The whole thing also takes on a darker tone because of the tension that arises from Rei being involved in wanting to end the sorority system as well combined with a lot of time spent on her relationship with her stepsister Fukiko. This ends up feeling a bit drawn out and too flowery for my tastes to some degree because the impact and importance of it feels lost amid it all, but I do like seeing how Rei becomes more invested in life during this phase of things and has a sense of turning around some of her problems, even briefly. Which is not allowed in shows like this because happiness must be taken away unless it’s the last episode. It’s here that we see her getting flowers and wanting to spread some happiness only to end up falling over the guardrail and on top of an oncoming train. It’s a brutal sequence that’s out of the blue in its own way and seeing the fallout and reactions to it works well. Though, like Fukiko’s dealing with the end of the sorority, it really needed more time to be explored beyond largely Nanako and some additional time for Fukiko.
As the series moves toward its conclusion it has a lot to cover, a decent chunk of which focuses on Kaoru and her medical problems that ties into her love for Henmi, who she previously pushed away because of how short her life was looking. It’s not a bad storyline and it’s one that was seeded previously, but it was lightly seeded and it takes up a dominance at the end that just feels a bit more forced than it should be. Her pain and suffering leads to a reveal for Nanako about the truth of her “dear brother” and the real connection the two share, which is how these kinds of things do tend to play out, and it’s a lot of emotional baggage being dealt with as Nanako’s parents pasts are talked about. You can feel for Nanako as she has a lot to contend with, especially after Rei’s death, but it serves as a solid rebirth for her as she finds solid ground to be able to cope with it all and move forward. There are a lot of resolutions that happen in these final episodes but a lot of it just fell flat for me as I had found myself distanced from the characters in the middle arc of the series and became less invested in them at the end.
Dear Brother is an interesting work overall as it adapts the manga and finds some of its own paths along the way. There are a lot of things to like with it, especially in the visuals department, but it’s a series that feels like it would have benefited from some tighter editing and fewer episodes. There are a lot of things going on but it’s so drawn out at times that the point of certain arc lose their impact because of it. The show was a long hoped for one to be released and it’s definitely great to have it in a well done collection that’s essentially problem free. The series may not work for me overall with what it does but there are some very intriguing things done here that I wish more modern shows (and therefore modern manga and light novels) would do by grappling with real issues and exploring them instead of the usual empty bullshit we tend to get.
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
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
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.