What They Say:
For some, a home is where the heart is. For others, it’s where people send those whose brains aren’t functioning properly. So, when Kazunari Usa is sent to the Kawai Boarding House, it may take a while for him to figure out what kind of “home” his new “home” is. Let’s just say that the troublemaking college girl and the perpetually grumpy working woman have some serious issues to work out.
On one hand, his new roommate is a pervert and a masochist who peeps at girls’ schools, and the landlady thinks feminine protection means leaving weapons lying around the girls’ part of the dorm.
On the other hand, Kawai is also home to Ritsu Kawai, who steals Usa’s heart the second he sees her on his first day at his new school. That alone may just make living in this strange new house worth every second it takes to learn the complex rules of The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors & Hostel Behavior!
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that while it does have its wacky moments along the way, it really is all about the dialogue. With a decent cast of characters and shifts from the spoken to the internal dialogue, it handles it well across the forward soundstage in a general sense. It’s not a show that’s really looking to stretch itself or doing anything big, but it handles what it needs to do quite well. The fun moments certainly expand the show a bit with the silly things that go on, but for the most part it’s a straightforward design to it that works well and doesn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. Animated by Brain’s Base, the twelve episode series is spread across two discs with with a nine/four split that’s fairly standard. While I had liked what the DVD release was like previously, as the show has a very good look about it with the character designs that are more detailed than usual and some really good coloring to it, it was a series I definitely wanted to see how it was in high definition. And there’s a noticeable difference from pretty much the start as the color quality is much better, the sharpness and richness clearer, and the end result something that stands out all the more because of it. This isn’t a standard palette choice for the colors but something that definitely has a greater attention to detail. Beyond the colors we also get some really good line definition quality along the way, solid backgrounds, and the high rate animation coming across even better, making for a very worthwhile upgrade for many..
The packaging design for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that both discs held against the interior walls of it. The front cover uses the familiar promotional artwork that puts the two leads in the foreground while the rest of the cast populates it behind them, as does the residence itself. It’s not overly bright or colorful but it has a good look that gets some extra pop from the silly logo section with its patchwork approach. The back cover is a very busy piece with a lot of patchwork pieces applied to it as well as a really extended summary of the premise. With a mix of illustration artwork and shots from the show it really lets you get a feel for the style of the show in a good way. The disc and episode count is clearly listed while the extras are laid out clearly as well. The remainder is given over to the production credits and the clean and easy to read technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is pretty nicely done as we get the usual split where the left third is the navigation itself and the rest is made up of some beautiful illustration artwork of our leading lady of the series. They go for very different types of color designs between the two of them and there’s a rich and striking feeling about it. The navigation has a kind of patchwork/homey look about it with a mix of colors and squares of design that makes it feel more personal. The navigation provides the episodes by number and title and since there’s only extras on the first disc and one language, there’s almost nothing in terms of submenus to work with.
The extras for this release brings us the usual in the form of the clean opening and closing sequences but we also get the welcome inclusion of the brief commercial bumpers for the show.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga series by Ruri Miyahara, The Kawai Complex Guide to Manors and Hostel Behavior is a twelve episode TV series plus additional OVA that landed in the spring of 2014. The original work kicked off back in 2010 in Young King OURs and has six volumes released so far while it’s still ongoing. The anime adaptation got a solid bit of work done by Brain’s Base and you can certainly see their style working to the show’s advantage here because it has a fairly distinctive look, even in standard definition. I didn’t catch the show during its simulcast but it’s one I was curious about, especially as the early episodes gives off a very Maison Ikkoku vibe that it builds upon, while not being a Rumiko Takahashi work.
The series focuses on high school first year Kazunari Usa, who has moved into the Kawai Complex dormitory since his parents have moved away due to work, a familiar trope if ever there is one. Usa’s excited for what’s ahead as it’s all a fresh start and a chance to discover who he is and you can see some of the basic character material there. He’s a decent guy, school work itself is rarely mentioned and his family side is made simple. Usa is basically a hugely accessible character because the viewer can insert themselves into him and live vicariously through him, especially since he doesn’t even exhibit anything like interests or hobbies. At most, as a character defining aspect outside of being a generally nice guy, we get that he’s a virgin. Which is no surprise. But he’s also a bit more “open” about his fantasies in a way because he gets turned on by a lot of things. Which in its own way is a welcome change from the usual characters like him that don’t even have that.
What sets his heart aflutter though is a second year student named Ritsu Kawai. She’s a complete bookworm, one that’s so focused that it’s really a wonder she manages to get around without getting killed in some ways, either from car accidents, stairs or other elements. Usa catches sight of her in the school library before he gets to the Kawai Complex and just finds her compelling without knowing a thing about her and who she is. So when he does get home, it’s there he discovers that she lives there too. And not just lives there but is the granddaughter of the man that opened the place and her mother owns it. Her mother doesn’t participate in the show though and instead has it managed by an older woman named Sumiko. For Usa, it’s a hard and fast learning curve about the men’s section and women’s section of the place as the women have lots of violent weapons on hand in their hall to deal with men who might think of visiting.
The makeup of the Complex is familiar enough. Sumiko’s a fun type of manager as she‘s more carrot than stick and that has her staying involved and friendly with everyone while also teasing from time to time. The other male in the Complex is Shiro, a young man out of school that looks like an old school Hikkokomori but is often accused of being a pedophile, stalker or general ne’er do well that has people calling the police on. Unfortunately for Usa, the two are roommates that share the same room separated by a simple curtain. Shiro’s also a heavy masochist that loves it when he gets beaten on, physically and verbally, and he finds plenty of opportunities here. He’s the type that really does beg for it regularly. A lot of it comes from Mayumi, a young women also not of school age that resides there and deals with the fact that she gives herself too easily to men and ends up with a broken heart constantly. She’s sexy and strong in her own way, but she’s completely dependent on having a man in her life isn’t able to do so. Which is made worse by the other female resident, Sayaka, a college student who used to be an quiet introvert herself but shifted to being all about makeup and appearance. She’s not involved with anyone but basically torments everyone with their various statuses.
With a familiar vibe in some ways to Maison Ikkoku, especially when Mayumi begins walking around more in her lingerie, the show focuses heavily on the interpersonal relationships that form amid the group upon Usa’s arrival. He’s the easy catalyst because he reacts so quickly and honestly to things said to him and about him that he’s an easy target. Especially because it becomes apparent very early on that he’s crushing on Ritsu. And Ritsu is completely oblivious to it, which means the rest of the Complex does their best to mess with him. Sometimes he gets good advice but he also gets some less than helpful stuff from time to time, making his relationship with her more complicated. Ritsu’s a hard one to connect with since she’s quiet and mostly focused on her books, but the two do begin to find some paths to being mildly friendly. And for Usa, just being in her presence and almost guiding and protecting her in a way means the world to him.
But man is it an unhealthy relationship in so many ways. I completely get the cultural and cliche aspects of what they’re doing here, but all I see is Usa setting himself up for a real struggle. Which isn’t a bad thing in a certain way, because he wants to help draw Ritsu out of her shell a bit and views it as being completely and utterly worth his time and investment. But we don’t really get why he falls for her. Of course, plenty of loves are unexplainable and I’m fine with that, but both of these characters are really ciphers in most ways. Ritsu talks about her books sometimes, but even then it’s just very, very light and vague so as to not tie the show down to anything. Usa gets drawn into it as he starts to read, but she never partakes of any of his interests. Because he doesn’t have any. And she’s got nothing going on about her other than her reading habits. Which has cute moments when we see her room.
Kawai Complex is the kind of show that’s really all about the characters, and the lack of depth is what keeps it from really excelling even though it’s working from some solid ideas. Revisiting the show after watching it on DVD, the season as a whole is one that’s admittedly fun while watching, but I’ll be damned if just a few hours later I can pull out any particular story that happened during it. It’s really a semi-romantic slice of life comedy piece that has its moments and is quite enjoyable while watching it because there are lots of little silly moments.
But it’s not a show that makes for a compelling romance that’s about to blossom or members of a dormitory that have some great adventures together. Considering the antics of those that do end up in situations like these, it feels like it should be a lot more meaningful. The show is definitely appealing with its animation and I really like some of the concepts put into play here, especially the Maison Ikkoku riffs, but it’s only able to go so far because it’s an adaptation of the manga and one with a long plan to bring these characters together. For those that held out for the Blu-ray, well, you’ll find yourself rewarded with a better visual presentation overall and better audio quality as well with far less compression. The visual is where it really wins as you get to see just how much work went into its design and that’s a huge plus for this release.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Commercial Bumpers, 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: December 6th, 2016
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.