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Ladies Versus Butlers Complete Collection DVD Review

12 min read

ladies-vs-butlersWho goes to school to learn … when there are so many naked girls running around?

What They Say:
Heavenly school life surrounded by preppie girls & cute maids!

Adopted by his uncle when he lost his parents, Akiharu enrolls at a mostly female academy that specializes in training maids and butlers for high society. At the school, he runs into a devious childhood girlfriend, Tomomi, who humiliates him. Soon, he finds himself at the center of one awkward situation after another as he tries to cope with school, work and his eccentric sexy classmates!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is acceptable for this title considering that it is only available in English or Japanese subtitled Dolby Stereo 2.0 encoded at 256 kbps. However, there are times when the sound is so unbalanced that the background music is blaring in the foreground, thereby drowning out the characters’ voices so that you need to struggle to ascertain what they are trying to say over either orchestral accompaniment or electric guitar riffs. At the other end of the scale, sometimes the special effects are underwhelming: for example there are times when an actor feels frustration and you see a red knot appear on their head so with what is supposed to be a ting sound, but you can strain all you want but it is either not there or so muffled that it is barely a whisper.

Then on the opposite side of the spectrum, the opening and closing themes for the show are supposed to introduce the viewer to the enthusiasm of the series and then calm us down after an exciting escapade. In this case, those joys are noticeably absent since either Anime Works did not receive the license to the songs or chose not to translate the melodies. While you can still appreciate the music, the meaning of those themes is lost in the energetic J-pop opening and the enthusiastic techno-pop dance which closes the episode. Though you can see listed in the credits that the songs are Love x Heaven sung by the girls’ seiyūs and My Starry Boy by Mai Nakahara respectively, why should we need to do our own research to translate the music to understand the themes? While some might not appreciate the songs, I for one would like to know what they are saying, otherwise the series feels like it was only done halfway.

Video:
This series is broken down into three disks expanding the breadth of twelve episodes, encoded in standard MPEG-1/2 DVD media format and 720×480 anamorphic resolution. The 1.78:1 aspect ratio playback is very welcoming for the panoramic views of the school and its facilities, all brilliantly illuminated by sunlight and other luminary sources. The diversely colored environments, even in the enclosed spaces of the classroom are extensively lit due to ample windows and the open spaces of the scenes. However, there are some various shortcomings in this diverse palette and it is all due to the inadvertent lecherous behavior of the main character, Akiharu.

From the very first episode, it is obvious to even the inexperienced otaku that this series is aimed for maximum fan service. While this might not be a bad thing, any seriousness which the series might have tried to pander from the audience is immediately dismissed in the first scene when the studio uses considerable shadowing to accentuate the voluminous expanse and overly animated bounce of the first girl Akiharu bumps into, Sernia. Of course, it only gets worse from there as the animators seem to draw our eyes to every curve in the school by emphasizing those features with either dark crimson of the upper class students’ uniforms, pure white of the maids’ outfits and instructor’s blouse plus any other trick they may need to use to highlight that he is the minority in this academy full of lovelies. So, dark or light colors + abundant shadows = extra prominence too impossible to ignore female features. Either way, we and Akiharu lose or win, depending on which side you are on.

These conditions are only apparent in normally lit areas, so when the girls pass over to places with artificial lighting, such as a bath house, this illumination problem gets even worse. For some reason they decided to add skylights to this location, so by adding moonlight to the indoor sources, the previously focused female parts are now ever more eye-catching, especially when they are all the color of alabaster. Therefore, in this situation and light conditions, everyone looks like they have been freshly oiled down, making the skin glean more than normal.

I can understand the animators wanting to feature all of these circumstances so as to make light of Akiharu’s plight and therefore adding to the amusing effect. But after a while, these situations become tiresome and they begin to lose any comedic value by quickly passing over as blasé and recycled. If so much emphasis wasn’t placed on the video effects than rather addressing the jokes, then perhaps they would have been much more effective.

Packaging:
The arrangement for this set is clumsy to say the least and slipshod to spotlight the worst of a marketing technique. The first thing which catches your eye is an almost nauseating color choice for the cover art: I can understand using a cast portrait to focus the buyer’s eye on the main draw for the series, but why did the art department choose colors akin to split pea green and borscht or beet red for the background? If I remember correctly, neither of these choices have any value in the animation, so why are they here? Also the overuse of black on top of these dull colors brings it down to another level; while I can accept it in the butlers’ costumes, this unnecessary addition to the bright yellow of title with a big black X and then the entire back side of the cover may be a bold statement, but with all of the shadows in this tone, it makes everything else look grimmer. This is supposed to be a comedy, so why not use brighter tones to set the mood instead of something so glum and depressing?

Then we have the disks, which are another thing entirely. Although the appearance of these items is better and more attractive due to the addition of nearly naked girls in skimpy bikinis, the studio’s choice of the backgrounds is once again in question again. The pallid selection of dual pastels may not make such a big impression due to being overshadowed by the girls, but is it still is pronounced since the backdrop stands out more against the pale female skin and slightly glossy lacquer applied on the surface. However, when you pick up the actual disk, you immediately notice that the weight is off; this is due to a different media being used in Anime Works’ production of this product – instead of a commercial grade material, it appears that the disk is consumer grade, the shiny silver finish substituted by that deep royal purple. Unfortunately as those who have burned their own DVDs, many know they do not last long as their opponents. So why would Anime Works create an inferior product when the longevity comes into question? Who knows … guess we’ll find out in the long run.

Menu:
Just like the rest of this collection’s decoration, the menu is the least imaginative part of this set. Anime Works once again utilizes the dull duo pastel coloring scheme used on the disks with one of the girls plastered across the screen in a skimpy bikini. However this time, the display appears to be a bit darker due to a larger amount of real estate being exposed to this pallor and the title shamelessly tacked in the right corner does not help the pleasantness of the static portrait. Menu selection is not better either since the choices are plainly laid out under the title logo with no cursor, so no way to notice which is your choice aside from the brighter lettering. But, the most discomforting flaw in this area is the repetition of the first minute and a half of Love x Heaven echoing in the background. Though this may have been done to get the watcher ready for the show with its energetic beat, it quickly gets tiresome after it restarts at the end of the cycle. Anime Works should have given us an option to switch off the music, but they might not anticipated the viewer to spend much time in this area.

Extras:
This is the first time I have ever reviewed a property from Anime Works, and so far it has been very discouraging. And now that I have reached the Extras section, this has pushed the disappointment envelope as far as it will go since there is nothing to speak of in this section. While most companies would consider adding at least trailers for their other properties or at the very least clean opening and closing animations, for some reason Anime Works deemed not to even do that consideration for the viewers. Why they passed up this opportunity to advertise their products is questionable and at the very least it should not have been much trouble to do so in order to sell other disks from their title collection. Even if I wanted to, you should not consider the Languages selection as an extra since it is deployable for all translated titles. So there is nothing to do on the main menu aside from choosing which episode and what language, with English subtitles available for both English and Japanese versions.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Akiharu lost his parents a long time ago and since then has been living with his relatives, but now about to enter high school, he no longer wants to be a burden on them. So in order to avoid any tuition fees, he enters Hakuryorei School which trains young women and men to become maids and butlers for high society; however at the same facility, they also groom daughters from those same families on how to behave in a proper manner. But on his first day upon entering the academy grounds, Akiharu’s delinquent appearance gives the wrong impression on the first girl he meets – Sernia. Of course due to her upbringing, she assumes that he is here for some notorious deed and attempts to report him to the authorities. In trying to explain himself, the couple wind up tripping over their own feet and end up in a very compromising position, with his hand on her breast and she screaming in terror. Panic causes him to flee with the blonde debutante chasing, causing an uproar through the mostly female student body, confused as to the situation.

While the two race through the area, the young women Akiharu meet also suspect he is a wrongdoer due to his scruffy appearance. Through a series of coincidences, accidents and bad luck, not to mention his pursuer calling him an enemy of all women, he leaves a wake of girls fainting at the sight of his approach, further damaging his tarnished reputation. By a thorough pursuit through the school, the harried boy finally arrives in the central courtyard with Sernia close behind. Now out of breath and collapsing due to exhaustion, the wrongly accused suspect once again tries to justify his actions to an infuriated chaser and the throng which has gathered. However his flaxen indicter will have no more excuses and is about to pounce when someone approaches from the wings. This lone female begins to calm the crowd by asking Sernia to elaborate as to her claims against the poor boy; but since she is too embarrassed to retell what happened, this defender is able to ascertain that this was all a misunderstanding, and that Akiharu would never do such a felonious deed.

With the pack now dispersing, this lone boy begins to question how this girl knows who he is and more importantly, why does she know his name? She slyly grins and states the boy she knew wouldn’t do such a thing since all he wanted to do in elementary school was to become a bride. Then clarity comes for there is only one person who would remember that situation, the one who put him up to what seemed an innocent mistake when the teacher asked what they would like to be when they grow up. She is as conniving as she was then as she is now, the girl he thought was on his side then and now is the only one who would protect him from that maddening crowd … his childhood friend Tomomi. If she hasn’t changed from the sadistic child he once knew, then this school year has begun on a low note instead of what he hoped would be a fresh start.

In Summary:

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, Ladies Versus Butlers is supposed to be a harem comedy with your typical array of standard female archtypes from tsundere to kuudere. The influence of maid and butler themes which has become so popular in Japanese culture as of late has shown in other series like: Black Butler, Hayate the Combat Butler, Maid Sama, Victorian Romance Emma and He is my Master, so what harm is there with one more? However this animation is much different from the previous list in several glaring distinctions – while this is supposed to be rated 16+, the subject material and the method by which it is presented teeters this show into the ecchi genre, bordering ever so close as to being hentai.

While no loyal otaku would object to some fan service in their anime, this show pushes those limits to the extreme: excessive bouncing and squeezing of breasts, panty shots, a girl who strips at the drop of a hat and face sitting … and all of this happens in the FIRST episode! Of course we would expect this kind of juvenile behavior to be sprinkled within a mature series, but studio Xebec has taken mangaka Tsukasa Kozuki’s series of innocent mistakes on Akiharu’s part and then magnified them; instead of having something as suggestive as nipples poking through clothes or an occasional panty shot, this animation has exaggerated it by changing what used to be sexual innuendoes and censored moments into an overemphasis of nudity. There is not one episode in which there is not an exposed breast or naked bottom, all to make a joke of Akiharu’s bad luck and the coincidence of him being in the wrong place at the right time, including one girl who looks so young that it might be considered a case of pedophilia.

However while you might be able to overlook these as a new translation of old material, what does not make this show enjoyable are the numerous mistakes made by the translators. I can understand if Anime Works couldn’t get permission to license the opening and closing songs, but that single error cannot explain the other grammatical and spelling inaccuracies littered throughout the show. A few are acceptable, but then again, why hire proofreaders? Also why did they omit things which are essential to the story like letters and book titles? And finally, when you make one on a main character name like Sernia, which in the Japanese dialogue is four syllables instead of three, then you have to question what the company was doing with this adaptation. Anime is supposed to be a joy to watch while reading the subtitles as nothing more as a minor inconvenience. But this show introduces a whole new hurdle for the viewer to endure: there are so many spelling and grammar mistakes in Ladies Versus Butlers that watching it has become more of a chore since you need to stop, re-read and try to make sense of what they are trying to say. I know some will ask why not then watch the English version? And I will simply state that this is a Japanese anime and it is supposed to be viewed as it was intended – in its original state with as little changes as possible.

Ladies Versus Butlers is supposed to be a fun romp into that conventional harem comedy of one unlucky guy’s misadventures into school, but this series seriously falls short of expectations. The perversions to the main premise so as to make them lewd is disturbing, the incalculable number of spelling and grammar mistakes and of course to change one person’s name, what was Anime Works thinking? Sorry, but while you may be able to suffer through watching the show, unless you enjoy hearing the Japanese characters speaking English with changed dialogue and names, then you might want to pass on it.

Features:
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles

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

Released By: Media Blasters
Release Date: February 02, 2016
MSRP: $24.98
Running Time: 306 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

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