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Mikagura School Suite Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read

Mikagura School Suite CoverSometimes the best club is no club at all.

What They Say:
Eruna Ichinomiya has no desire to focus on what high school to pick. She’d rather spend her time chasing after pretty girls or playing dating sims. After all, when the only job you want is to watch TV all day, who cares what school you attend? But when her cousin Shigure Ninomiya shows her the pamphlet to Mikagura Academy, Eruna finds her picture-perfect reason to go to high school: the beautiful Seisa Mikagura.

After a bizarre entrance exam and interview with a flying, talking cat, it’s clear that Mikagura is not a typical high school. Students are focused more on clubs, battles, and their special magical attacks instead of regular studies. And if Eruna wants to win over the cool, powerful Seisa, she’s got to join a club and hone her own special attack. But that’s easier said than done. Especially when there are so many cute girls to distract her!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English language dub, which was done as a SimulDub previously, is done with a 5.1 mix, both of which are encoded with the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series is one that is very active as it feels like there’s little downtime in it and that means a fairly busy mix. This stands out more on the English side with the adjusted volume levels being a bit higher and the 5.1 aspect that has a bit more to the bass and some occasional material to the rear channels. The activity is fairly regular with some solid placement throughout and good use of depth on the few occasions where it’s needed to enhance a scene. The stereo mix works pretty well alongside it, though the differences are notable, but in the end it captures the tone of the show right. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twelve episodes are spread across two discs in a nine/three format. Animated by Doga Kobo, the show is a very busy one with a lot going on throughout, not one of those quieter shows with simpler animation, and it has some good design details about it that makes it pretty active. The encoding captures all of this very well as colors are solid and strong without being overly vibrant and the busier animation sequences hold up with a clean look that has no breakup or noise in it. The backgrounds have a good bit of detail to them as well and those maintain a solid feeling throughout. There’s a lot going on throughout the show and it’s a pretty good encoding overall.

The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case with an o-card that replicates the artwork from the case itself, albeit with a bit more brightness thanks to the paper quality. The front cover gives us a good look at Eruna and Seisa together with nearly full body shots and it’s appealing with the color combination as we get the Blu-ray stripe along the top and the logo is done with a red stripe along the bottom. Mixing in a lot of white through the uniforms and background as well as the text and it all stands out nicely and catches the eye. The back cover does the same with the color combinations, moved around a bit, and that makes it a bright and engaging piece. The episode count is clear and the premise is covered well with the summary. The extras are broken out well and the shots from the show are of a decent enough size to be worthwhile in showing off designs and locales. The production information is given its usual small block while the technical grid covers everything cleanly and clearly. While there are no inserts with this release we do get artwork on the reverse side where the left panel breaks out the episodes by number and title as well as listing out the extras while the right side has an appealing illustration image of Eruna.

The menu design for this release works the static approach to good effect as each menu has a very busy cast image that looks great on a big screen with the detail and amount of real estate they use up. It’s colorful but not too vibrant and comes across with a good tone to it. The logo is kept to the upper left with the partial red stripe while the navigation along the bottom goes the whole length in a similar style, providing for some nice structure to it and a clean and easy to use look both as the pop-up menu and as the main menu. It may not be the most outgoing menu but it works well and looks good, doing the job it needs to.

The extras for this release are pretty good as we get a couple of newly produced audio commentaries from the English cast and production talking about the show as a big draw. On the Japanese side, we get a lot of the basics that are well presented with the clean opening and multiple closings as well as a host of promotional spots for the series itself, the home video release, and TV spots. Add in the localized dubbed trailer as well for a decent mix of how the project was presented.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series from Last Note that was illustrated by Akina, which began in 2013 and has seven volumes to its name so far, Mikagura School Suite is a twelve episode anime series that debuted in the spring 2015 season. Animated by Doga Kobo, the show is one that’s definitely busy and fun with its own quirky sense of humor and self but also pushes into that realm where some of the usual staples don’t quite apply. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this series since Last Note hasn’t exactly thrilled me with some of the things they’ve been involved in, but each project is its own thing and I was curious to see it because some of the promotional clips and the like for it painted a very fun tone about it.

And it is very fun if you can align to its slightly skewed sense of self. The show revolves around ERuna, a first-year high school student who has chosen to go to Mikagura Private Academy after seeing the girl on the pamphlet and kind of crushing on her to a good degree. With the girl being Seisa, the granddaughter of the principal, that means she’s got a shot at actually knowing her. Eruna is someone that’s definitely interesting romantically in girls and it plays to the mildly pervy side with how she interacts at times, but that’s mostly earlier rather than later as he focus is mostly on Seisa. And Seisa is, unfortunately, kind of sidelined for a good portion of the show so that means Eruna’s personality in that regard doesn’t come out as often. It has its fun moments with games and the like and some offhand comments so there’s a welcome aspect to it but I kind of wished that it had embraced it more.

The academy is one that’s fairly unique in that those that go there tend to have various kinds of powers, though in its own way it’s kind of vague about it. The real quirk to the school is that it relies heavily on a club system where what you get in terms of lodging, food, and other rewards is based on the popularity of your club and your performance within it when it comes to the club battles. Eruna has a hell of a time finding a club and initially starts if basically sleeping in a sleeping bag in a hallway while trying to figure out what she wants to do. The problem is that she wants to do what Seisa is doing, but Seisa is in the going home club, something that almost nobody else does because they can’t get away with it like she can because of her family side. Eruna’s intent on getting closer to Seisa but Seisa really is on that pedastal and the distance is hard, making their time together very minimal. So much so that when we get Seisa’s story toward the end of the season it felt like she was a brand new character that wasn’t worth investing in.

What Mikagura School Suite wants to spend its time doing is taking us through various club battles, getting to know how some of these clubs operate, and showing us the stories behind some of the characters that populate them. And it has Eruna coming up with clubs of her own along the way that invariably fizzle out while also just struggling with the basics of school life. Not that we see anyone doing any actual school work, home work, or even any teachers that I can remember. This is another project where the kids rule and manage everything, which is a thing to a degree to be sure, taken to to the extreme. It’s focused on the humor and wackiness of it all and it does it well there, but it also ends up coming across as a rollercoaster ride the more it goes on because it hits these events and pushes them well, but it does it so regularly that you’re just kind of numb to it as it progresses.

The various clubs are fun and some of the character stories work pretty decently as well. The club battles have their own quirks to it and it’s really its own thing that has touches of the familiar but executes it with style and skill that makes it feel a little fresh. A lot of what makes the show work in its most basic way is that Eruna has such an energy about her and a constant drive to do more that it’s pretty infectious. There’s the expected outlandishness to it, such as Seisa’s Killing Art skill, or seeing the Flower Arrangement and Calligraphy Clubs going all out with some creativity. But each of these clubs present the viewer with its own cast of characters and notables and they end up blending into the background because there are so many as Eruna works through a lot of them. She makes a lot of friends and you can see how she can formalize her own club that dabbles in everything because of it, but the lack of a clearer focus and so much exploration that’s then mostly ejected in favor of the next thing means there are some real commitment issues going on here. And as a viewer that can be hard to connect with.

In Summary:
Mikagura School Suite is the kind of series where it has a kind of infectious fun about it but it’s a kind of empty fun in the long run. These characters exist solely for the gags and club battles as opposed to existing for themselves, which makes it fairly shallow. There’s a lot of fun to be had with shallow as the battles are engaging and I love the energy of the series combined with its designs. But it feels very light and fluffy where things can twist and turn as needed to achieve a goal rather than feel concrete and thought out in a way that makes it tangible for the viewer. The big win is with Eruna as she’s a charmer, but she’s one that left me wishing her opportunities for romance were greater and that there were more successes for her. Her arc here is one that’s definitely decent and fun to watch play out, but she doesn’t have a compelling partner to work with and that undermines the effort as a whole.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Audio Commentary, Textless Songs, Promo Video, TV Spot, BD/DVD, Promos, U.S. Trailer, Trailers

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

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: September 27th, 2016
MSRP: $64.98
Running Time: 300 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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