Nothing will stand in the Student Council’s way … not even Medaka herself!
What They Say:
When newly-elected Student Council President Medaka Kurokami started a suggestion box where people could suggest problems that needed to be solved, she wasn’t expecting to have to do more than give advice and maybe rescue lost puppies. Instead, what she and her best friend Zenkichi discover are the first hints of an unbelievable secret! A secret that their school, Hakoniwa Academy, their fellow students, and Medaka herself, are somehow at the very center of! As what seemed like an innocent pastime turns into something far more dangerous, Medaka and her recruits to the Student Council are caught in a growing maelstrom! Now they’ll have to discover new depths to both themselves and their own unexpected abilities, before things go completely out of control! Or is it already too late? Get ready for a battle royale unlike anything you’ve ever seen before as the simple power of suggestion unlocks the secrets of MEDAKA BOX!
The audio presentation for this release is very nice considering it is only available in English or Japanese subtitled Dolby Stereo 2.0 and encoded at 224 kbps. However what makes this soundscape so stirring and moving to the visuals is the usage of warm musical accompaniment and brightly cheery voice acting for every episode. I love how they stir the emotions with music that gives each scene weight, almost as if the orchestra itself is its own separate character interacting with the person in the forefront, as if they are debating and trying to get attention from the audience in a friendly competition, by which the instruments allow the actor to finally win. While the booming background sound may at first seem overbearing, as you watch, the moving rhythms smoothly blend in, dancing with the cast in an inspiring waltz, making the intonations of the voices all the more dramatic.
But of course, none if this would be as effective if not for the themes of the series. Every one either sets the mood of the episodes or closes it with a melody which solidifies the effectiveness of what we just saw. And since this collection is a compilation of the two series, they of course changed the music to reflect the mood of each show.
Medaka Box opens with an upbeat J-Pop dance theme called Happy Crazy Box, performed by Minami Kuribayashi. This optimistic song reflects our heroine’s initial attitude by calling upon us to grasp the dreams of the future with friendship and not letting us feel down if things don’t go your way. She then reinforces that feeling by stating that there is no time in life to let negative emotions drag you down, for there is no limit as to what the future will bring, if you allow hope to move you forward. We then close with an equally charming guitar ballad named Ohanabatake ni Tsuretette, sung by Medaka’s seiyū Aki Toyosaki. This song is sung more like a statement of fact, both to Medaka and her best friend Zenkichi, imploring that her attitude toward life has always been this way and it won’t change anytime soon. And while most people may think of her as arrogant, Zenkichi knows the real her and tolerates this mentality even if he may gripe and complain, and yet he still stays by her side, never to leave it anytime soon. This pair of musical themes is so warming since they brilliantly encapsulate the show and the lessons which each episode teaches, no matter how ridiculous the path may have been toward those final results.
However, once we shift over to the darker sequel Medaka Box Abnormal, the opening and closing themes of course also downplay the frivolity of the previous series. The opening theme called Believe, sung once again by Minami Kuribayashi, is a dramatic rousing ballad, almost like a plea to the coming storm. She will still allow her dreams to soar past the howling wind of oppression, as long as you can search for something to believe in. All you have to do is overcome your own weakness and grasp the passion your heart, surging forward to the future on the other side. This optimism in the series is closed by the warm dance beat of Shugoshin Paradox, sung by Aki Misato. We can see Medaka’s steadfast determination in this music, stating to Zenkichi that she wants him to open her closed off heart, so they can end this conflict. She will let her feelings do the talking for her, no matter how deep into tragedy she may fall, his gentle shining eyes will help her to move on. How can you not love this friendship, even if they will not admit it may be romantic, that will help Medaka overcome anything her enemies may use to block her path? This is why music is such a powerful motivator and helps us to conquer the tragedies in life.
The series is broken down into five disks expanding the breadth of twenty four episodes, encoded in standard MPEG-1/2 DVD media video format and 720×480 anamorphic resolution. The 16:9 aspect ratio playback is extremely vivid for both series, and visually helps to solidly represent the joyous story of the first series and the vileness of people’s ambitions versus Medaka’s compassion in the second.
You cannot but help to be caught up by the joy of school life in Medaka Box as we are enveloped by the student body president’s bubbly personality, from the bounce of her ample cleavage to the ludicrous situations which she drags Zenkichi into, always expecting him to clean up her messes. Sunlight brilliantly illuminates the diversely colored environments, even in the enclosed spaces of the classroom due to ample windows and the open spaces of the scenes. This inspiring background only enhances the optimism of Medaka as she always tries and hopes for the best in everyone she meets, no matter how dominating their attitude may be, this ever lively girl always looking at the bright side of life. There is nothing static in the backgrounds with the odd students either running away from the chaos or as the show progresses, passing off the destruction as a part of everyday life in Hakoniwa Academy. And finally as the student council advances in enriching their fellow pupils’ lives, Medaka chooses to decorate the office with a flowing plant after every request, gradually turning the place into an overwhelming garden of pale petals and striking blooms. This rich presentation of flora only mirrors and bolsters the president’s sunny disposition, for while she may be clueless at times as to her actions, the results of that energy is so contagious you cannot but help to be infected by her personality, and cause it to grow and spread to the rest of the council – seeing her in a different light and welcoming that spirit to enrich your own heart.
But even as the opening act wraps up, we are embroiled in the school’s dark underbelly as the plot progresses and eventually erupts into the sequel Medaka Box Abnormal. This somber descent into the true meaning of Academy politics and the gathering of these extremely talented individuals serves to drag our cast of heroes into the very depths of depravity, and thus this change of attitude is reflected in the atmosphere for the rest of the show. In order to investigate the sinister shadows which motivate the special ones to try their best, the Council must go underground and this journey is surrounded by dingy metal corridors illuminated by sterile florescent lights; even while Medaka tries to keep her friends’ enthusiasm up by her charming comments, you cannot but help notice that the monotony of the landscape is also draining them of their eagerness to solve the problem. The dark blues of their school uniforms blend into the metallic greys of the surroundings – dragging them down even more. And when they finally reach the lower depths, scarred rumble take on even more depressing tones, causing the light which once guided them to doubt her own mission. However, forever her own irrepressible self, Medaka will not be denied as her stained white garments fall to the wayside, not dragging down this self assured girl into what may truly be the end.
Sentai Filmworks did a great job publicizing this series with the self-promoting front portrait of Medaka and Zenkichi, leaning back to back against each other, just like they do in the show. A daring look on their faces is the same attitude they display in the series, meeting any challenges to the Student Council head-on, standing amid a storm of chaos like the crackling energy surrounding them in the cover. While the back layout is the average disappointing collage of snapshots from the episodes, they are outshined by the beautiful artwork silk screened on the disks inside; each of the five DVDs has an impressive illustration of a select cast member/s, further reinforcing their dominance in the show with these simple pictures.
Just like any other from one of Sentai Filmworks properties, the menus are the least imaginative ploy for marketing. While this series does have amazing artwork for the menu backgrounds with delightfully colorful character illustrations and the title plastered in the lower right of the screen, the displayed static material on top drags it down. We are then left with a standard layout: episode titles displayed on the left with an arrow cursor to make the selection, Languages (which you will be visiting quite often since English is the default setting) and either Sentai Filmwork Trailers on the first disk or Medaka Box/Medaka Box Abnormal promotional materials reserved for the last disk, with nothing left for the disks in between; it would have been nice to divide the all of these extras throughout the set, instead of using this isolated mode. But, the most discomforting flaw in this area is the repetition of the first minute of Happy Crazy Box echoing in the background; though this may have been done to get the viewer ready for the show with its energizing beat, it quickly gets tiresome once it restarts at the end of the cycle. Sentai should have given us an option to turn off the music, but they might not anticipated the viewer to spend that much time in this area by driving us away with this endless, if however charming cacophony.
I always thought that the studio was supposed to dazzle us with the extras that they put on a collection’s disks, but this time it is very disappointing. While I would have been satisfied with a few special trailers for the Japanese audience, that is not what we get. When you see this impressive listing: Medaka Box Jump Festa Promo, Medaka Box Teasers, Medaka Box Promo, Medaka Box Abnormal Home Video Spots, Medaka Box Abnormal Teaser and Medaka Box Trailers, you would think the line up would be equally dazzling. But that is not the case when everything is the same set of ten to fifteen second commercials recycled over and over again with either a different voice over or promotional information. Even the promo for Jump Festa, which is supposed to be this extravagant annual exposition for Jump Magazine to show off new movies, manga, games and merchandise is the same material they had shown previously, just in different packaging. Why bother teasing us with this list if they are all essentially the same thing?
Medaka Kurokami is an impressive and overly charismatic freshman attending Hakoniwa Academy who decides to enter the race for student body president; however, she resolves to promote a new platform which no one else has ever done before: she herself will take on any problem the students may have, whether it be academic or personal, by making herself available to solve any disagreement 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. It will be her duty to make their life at this academy the least stressful and most productive for those who will vote for her, all they have to do is drop a message in the suggestion box. And as a result of this promise, Medaka wins an unprecedented 98% of the votes. However, she still does not have any members for her student council and this makes her best friend Zenkichi moan in resentment from the looming dread. As he explains to his forever eating comic sidekick Shiranui, he knows that Medaka will eventually ask her childhood friend to join since he has always been dragging her out of trouble. It is her domineering personality and forever optimistic attitude which causes him to stand by her side, even though he knows whatever path they may take, it will always end in a headache for him.
When he eventually caves in after their first misadventure on the pretense of protecting her, Medaka eventually designates Zenkichi as general clerk and they dive into what is now called the Medaka Box. While they wade through the various requests, never rejecting even one, the student council eventually attracts two more members: Kouki, another childhood friend who is given the title of secretary and the greedy swim team ace Mogana is appointed appropriately, treasurer. Although this new group may seem content to solve the troubles in front of them, those who are watching from the shadows will not let this upstart president and her followers always have their way. Through all of their wild antics in solving the problems from the Box, the school police’s attention has woefully been drawn. This group of individuals has full jurisdiction over the entirety of the Academy to punish as they please, answering to no one, not even the faculty. However as if this wasn’t bad enough, Medaka’s carefree flaunting of the rules has attracted the ire of the Disciplinary Committee’s leader, a ten year old prodigy named Myouri. While his genius may have allowed him to skip grades and attend this prestigious high school, it is his warped sense of justice which makes him feared. After a series of complaints from the surrounding classrooms that the orchestra club has been too loud, this sadistic preteen sets out to eliminate the problem – in the most bloody way possible.
After the massacre comes to a close, Medaka cheerfully walks into the music room, only to be greeted by a horrifying sight: the once melodious ensemble has come to a dead silence. Where there once was the sound of woodwinds, brass horns, string instruments and students laughing, all that remains now is the stench of iron and fallen bodies littering the floor. As the president attempts to take in all of the carnage, Myouri gleefully states that this same fate is in store for her student council unless they fall in line. But instead of the fear he is used to seeing from his victims, Medaka stands tall and suggests that they try to settle the matter without violence. The DisCom commander bluntly states that he is not interested in such a comprise and sternly states that he has already sent assassins after her friends, since she will not agree to his judgment. After a tense countdown, Medaka handily eliminates the killers, with no one from the student police being injured, aside from some minor abrasions. This of course infuriates Myouri even more and leads him to confronts the student council president, determined to pacify her by any means necessary – which of course means with extreme prejudice. Will Medaka, the one person in the school who is determined to see the innate goodness in anyone be able to hold her own against a monster who only sees the innate evil in everyone? We can only hope … and perhaps also wish not to see what lies underneath?
This series is one of the best high school animes I have seen in a long time, and it is mostly in part thanks to Medaka’s endless charm and almost Buddhaesque temperament. No matter who she may confront, whether it may be through the Medaka Box or interaction with the range of goofy individuals in the series, she will always see the innate goodness in everyone – no matter how major their crimes may have been. Of course, this attitude and a hint of naiveté also results in all of the misunderstandings which Zenkichi must then clean up afterwards; but then again, it is this same build up and the aftermath which makes this comedy such a delight to watch. While you may not be able to ignore all of the fan service which Medaka presents with her bouncy cleavage, lack of modesty and her overwhelming need to get involved in everything, no matter how embarrassing it is to others, you cannot overlook how this also fits into her shining personality. We all know someone one brightens a room when they come through the door, but at the same time, we shutter to acknowledge that person for what they can make others to do. This is Medaka, the one who will lead others into doing their best, without knowing that their influence may also make it awkward to be around her due to that same brilliance that we see ourselves lacking.
Although Medaka Box and the sequel Medaka Box Abnormal do have their own outstanding moments of lighthearted school mischief and extreme violence in the latter, the dismissive ending for the collection is the reason I cannot give this show a higher rating. After all of the build up alluding to something more sinister in the first series and then revealing the Machiavellian reasons behind the Academy, we are given a preposterous cliffhanger from which leaves us with more questions than answers. Why present a new character in the finale when the rest of the cast and the viewer thinks that the current storyline is over, give him his own introduction in the last episode and then … nothing?! It has been over four years since the show finished so it is rather obvious that there will no OVA either. In other words, the only way the we can find out what happens is to read the manga? Not only is that derogatory, but why show this new actor if they have no intention of using him? Wouldn’t animation studio Gainax have known if they had a release for a new season before the end of the last one? I just wish the series could have ended on a more satisfying tone than on something that only a true villain could have done.
Clean Opening Animation, Clean Closing Animation, Sentai Filmworks Trailers, Medaka Box Jump Festa Promo, Medaka Box Teasers, Medaka Box Promo, Medaka Box Abnormal Home Video Spots, Medaka Abnormal Box Teaser & Medaka Box Trailers
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Review Equipment: Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player